Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Battle of Wounded Knee Creek

The need for true historical accounts of our past as a nation is sorely lacking in our public schools. Misconceptions perpetuated for political reasons often trump that of truth in telling. Why is it necessary to know where we've been as a nation? Because unless we know and understand true history, we run the risk of repeating it. The Battle of Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the state of South Dakota, is one of those incidents that we, as a nation, should never forget. It was the last bloody war to occur with the Sioux Indians.
“Our troop was simply cut to pieces by the brightly painted Sioux. The Savages made their break for freedom through our ranks wielding war clubs, knives, and hatchets and I doubt that a single member of our troop escaped their fury unscathed,” said Hugh McGinnis, the last known survivor as told to O.M. Glasgow in the faded but potent pages of True West magazine (March/April 1961).
According to McGinnis, 29 soldiers perished and 29 were seriously injured in that last altercation with the rightful owners of the Black Hills and surrounding plains per agreement, the Treaty of 1868, with the government of that day. McGinnis was part of the famous 7th Cavalry K Troop.
“Although 70 years have passed since that inglorious blood bath, the wound in my thigh throbs sufficiently during bad weather to keep the memory of that fracas etched indelibly on my brain,” McGinnis adds.

McGinnis said that 200 women and children died. McGinnis adds, “The Messiah War was the last bloody struggle between red and white men on this continent.” The US Government decided to infringe on the treaty by opening up the Northwest Territory, as it was called during that time, thus allowing a railroad to be placed through the very heart of Sioux territory. People naturally followed along with forts and settlements, ultimately encroaching on the supply of wild buffalo on which the Sioux relied for food, clothing, and much more.\

During this time an agreement was struck between the Indians and the U.S. Government for a 65-mile swath of land in exchange for much needed beef, which was to be delivered to the Sioux on their reservation every August. However, this agreement went largely unfulfilled. Not only did the white man break their promise to the Sioux, but settlers and others, including military personnel, hunted the buffalo to the extent that these animals became largely extinct by 1875, further exasperating the situation.

Take 15 to 17 minutes to watch a documentary on the battle:

During this time period, the U.S. Government ordered military personnel to look for gold in the Black Hills, which could be used to pay soldier's wages. The needle that broke the camel's back was an order decreed by the U.S. Government that all Indians were required to remain within the bounds of their reservations. But Sitting Bull's tribe was over 200 miles away and could not, even in good weather, make the trip in time to comply with the decree. Between starvation and the various diseases wrought upon the red man through measles, whooping cough, and influenza, Indians were forced to go off of their reservation in order to find sufficient food for their tribes.
The single most thing that led up to the battle itself, according to McGinnis, was
something called “The Ghost Dance” as it effectively incited the Sioux to take action. McGinnis said that it originated with a Paiute in Nevada called Woucka who, during a total eclipse of the sun, fell into a trance state during which the Great Spirit told him he was selected to “lead his people out of bondage.” Woucka said that the Great Spirit told him by 1891 the white man would be defeated and driven out of their lands. Sitting Bull, having heard this, ordered his people to effect The Ghost Dance in his own tribe. Many of them danced so furiously and with such emotion that they also fell into a trance-like state, eventually adorning war paint and going on the war path against the whites. For more information on the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek, you can:
  1. Read about it on Wikipedia (
  2. Read about it directly from the last living survivor of the battle, Hugh McGinnis (

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Why I Chose This Subject
to Write About

Allan Colombo
It was while thumbing through the pages of the March/April 1961, issue of True West magazine that I happened upon an extensive story on the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek that took place on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. This story, as I read through it, touched me in a way that made me realize that I'd heard about it before. Yes, it was some kind of political statement made in the early 1970s (February 27, 1973). It left a lasting impression.

“The Wounded Knee incident began on February 27, 1973, when approximately 200 Oglala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The protest followed the failure of an effort of the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO) to impeach tribal president Richard Wilson, whom they accused of corruption and abuse of opponents. Additionally, protesters criticized the United States government's failure to fulfill treaties with Native American people and demanded the reopening of treaty negotiations” (Wounded knee Incident,

As I read Hugh McGinnis' story, I knew I had to share it with our readers on the Western Magazine Digest. McGinnis' story is worth the time and effort it takes to read it. Besides the authentic, original photographs, some of which are included in this article, there is many more, including more first-hand information within the pages of the March/April 1961, issue of True West magazine (click here).

Allan B. Colombo
WMD Publisher

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1 comment:

  1. Something I did not include in this story is the fact that Mr. McGinnis was 89 when he gave his story to True Wests magazine in 1961. He passed on in 1965. Here's a story about him in Wikipedia:


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