Surviving Wounded Knee: The Lakotas and the Politics of Memory

ISBN : 9780190249038

David W. Grua
288 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jan 2016
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On December 29, 1890, the US 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 Creek, the work of memory commenced. For the US Army and some whites, Wounded Knee represented the site 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 people it was the site of the "biggest murders," 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 US's conquest of the indigenous peoples should be remembered. Opposing efforts to memorialize the event ultimately proved a contest over language and assumptions rooted in the concept of "race war" or the struggle between "civilization" and "savagery." Was Wounded Knee a heroic "battle" - the final victory of the American empire in the trans-Mississippi West? Or was it a "massacre" that epitomized the nation's failure to deal honorably with Native peoples? Even today, over a century later, the transmission of memory to survivors' descendants remains potent, and December 29, 2015, the 125th anniversary of Wounded Knee, will be marked by commemorations and lingering questions about the United States' willingness to address the liabilities of Indian conquest.


Chapter 1: The Road to Wounded Knee

Chapter 2: Exonerating the Seventh Cavalry

Chapter 3: The Last Battle

Chapter 4: In Memory of the Big Foot Massacre

Chapter 5: No Thought of Hostility

Chapter 6: Irreconcilable Memories

Chapter 7: Liquidating the Liability of the United States for Wounded Knee

Chapter 8: The Survivors' Legacies

Appendix: Survivor Lists




About the author: 

David Grua is a historian and curator at the LDS Church History Museum. He holds a PhD from Texas Christian University.

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