Wounded Knee:The Ties of Religion and Violence Essay

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Wounded Knee: The Ties of Religion and Violence

On the morning of December 29, 1890, many Sioux Indians (estimated at above two hundred) died at the hands of the United States Army near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Indians were followers of the Ghost Dance religion, devised by Wovoka, a Paiute prophet, as a spiritual outlet for Indian repression by whites. The United States Army set out to intercept this group of Native Americans because they performed the controversial Ghost Dance. Both whites’ and the Sioux’s misunderstanding of an originally peaceful Indian religion culminated in the Battle of Wounded Knee. This essay first shows how the Ghost Dance came about, its later adaptation by the Sioux, and
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Unfortunately, the Sioux population misconstrued Wovoka’s teachings and adapted them to their own personal needs. When the Sioux adopted the Ghost Dance, they turned it from a religious ceremony into a violent act. When Wovoka had preached to be passive and patient for God’s intervention, the Sioux thought this meant to rid their land of the white population (Malinowski 467). For example, the militant leaders Short Bull and Kicking Bear attended the Ghost Dance and went home with the interpretation they should proactively rid the continent of whites through any means necessary (Malinowski 467). The Sioux had always been recognized as warlike, but now with the Ghost Dance, they were viewed as “half-crazed ‘savages’” who set out to be “demonic killers” (Moses 342). With this misunderstanding, the Ghost Dance received a bad reputation. If the Sioux did any killing in the name of the Ghost Dance, all tribes associated with the religion were also seen in a negative way.

The Sioux also misunderstood Wovoka’s teaching that a gun could not kill him. He unknowingly misled the Sioux who took the teaching literally and adorned what they thought to be bulletproof shirts. The Sioux believed that a bullet physically could not harm them, and this gave them false confidence. Many felt themselves to be invincible and this resulted in disaster when shots were fired at them. The U. S.

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