SURVIVING WOUNDED KNEE: The Lakotas and the Politics of Memory

SURVIVING WOUNDED KNEE                                 DAVID W. GRUA

On December 29, 1890, the U.S. Seventh Cavalry killed more than two hundred Lakota Ghost Dancers- including men, women, and children-at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. After the work of death ceased at Wounded Knee, the work of memory commenced. For the US Army and some whites, Wounded Knee was the site where a heroic victory was achieved against the fanatical Chief Big Foot and his treacherous Ghost Dancers and where the struggle between civilization and savagery for North America came to an end. For other whites, it was a stain on the national conscience, a leading example of America's dishonorable dealings with Native peoples. For Lakota survivors it was the site of a horrific massacre of a peacemaking chief and his people, and where the United States violated its treaty promises and slaughtered innocents. 
Historian David Grua argues that Wounded Knee serves as a window into larger debates over how the United States' conquest of the indigenous peoples should be remembered. During the five decades after Wounded Knee, the survivors pursued historical justice in the form of compensation, in accordance with traditional Lakota conflict resolution practices and treaty provisions that required compensation for past wrongs. The survivors engaged in the politics of memory by preparing compensation claims, erecting a monument "in memory of the Chief Bigfoot massacre" at the mass grave on the Pine Ridge Reservation, by dictating accounts to sympathetic whites, and by testifying before the U.S. Congress in the 1930s in support of a bill intended to "liquidate the liability" of the United States for Wounded Knee. Despite the bill's failure, the survivors' prolonged pursuit of justice laid the foundation for later activists who would draw upon the memorial significance of Wounded Knee to promote indigenous sovereignty. 
Published on the 125th anniversary of this controversial event, Surviving Wounded Knee examines the Lakota survivors' half-century pursuit of justice and points to lingering questions about the United States' willingness to address the liabilities of Indian conquest. 
An excellent researched and documented book about the events that took place on December 29 1890, where the 7th Cavalry killed more than 200 Lakota, men, women and child. Throughout the author's research the only official reports were that of the 7th Cavalry, the stories from the few saviors were not taken in because they were deemed to be of “hostile”. That term “hostile” would be used by men from the Indian affairs department for decades, and then used by congress. First just let me say that I for one do not believe the official report from the 7th the same unit that was Custer’s and I do believe that they were looking for revenge. On top of everything else the government officials always deflected the case back to the Indian affairs office who then would hire someone likely a farmer from the area of Pine Ridge to look into it and lo and behold they found no just cause for the Lakotas charges. Go figure. Decades would pass and even into the 20’s the Lakotas were fighting for justice still to be denied. It did not matter that men from the tribe fought in WWI they were still turned away. If they did make it farther than the last time then they would have to fight the Army once again who have spent more time and money protecting these soldiers than they do for the soldiers of the current war. Now they will take foreign enemy testimony over their own, but they will fight tooth and nail with the Lakotas over these killings. I believe were a massacre. You can write it up any way you want but killing women, children, unarmed men and then hunting them down is sickening. If you can a soldier’s testimony then you can take one from a mother who lost her child and has the wounds from being shot. He goes into how most of this started over a dance called the Ghost dance, that’s’ right the Indian’s were forbidden to dance, also the had to get a pass to leave the reservation, and they could not hire attorneys to fight their cause because they were the guidance of the dept. of Indian affairs and that dept. would look at the case and then decide if they could hire an attorney. I could go on and on but I just get more and more frustrated. The U.S. government broke every treaty it made with every Tribe but yet they take no responsibility for killing 100 of thousands of Native Americans. Also not in the book we as a nation still took more of their land where almost every dam was built it was done so on or flooded a reservation, just a little bit of information. This was done after WWII. This is a book that should be taught in our schools and if you get a chance read it. Yes there is some dry reading but overall a good book. I got this book from netgalley. I gave it 4 stars. Follow us at

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