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American history

Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre

Heather Cox Richardson.
Publisher Basic Books  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
ISBN 9780465025114
Pages/Publication Date 363/2010
Daedalus Item Code 30263
This item is not available.
On December 29, 1890, 500 American troops encircled 350 largely unarmed Lakota men, women, and children near Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. Led by Big Foot, who was determined to cooperate with the government to ensure the survival of his people, the Lakota offered no resistance, says historian Heather Cox Richardson, until a chance misunderstanding led to a Lakota rifle discharging. The cavalry opened fire indiscriminately with heavy guns, killing some of their own as well as nearly 300 Lakota men, women, and children—some of whom were chased over two miles and shot down, still clutching their babies. Various tellings of this event have been recorded, but Richardson argues that the origins of this tragedy lay not in the West but in Washington, where would-be lawmakers in a midterm-election battle demonized Native Americans to drum up votes.

"Heather Cox Richardson's superb new book should come labeled: Warning! Reading the contents may lead to depression. A disclaimer might also be helpful: Author is not responsible for disturbing recurring historical themes such as: the perils of partisan politics, patronage, and news reporting; the dangers of doing the bidding for big business; the battle for turf between the military and the civilian bureaucracy; the mistreatment of the disenfranchised in the name of American prosperity; and the cover-up of a deadly military miscalculation.... Richardson's greatest contribution is her meticulously researched, groundbreaking analysis of the tragedy's root causes."—Chicago Tribune

"The latest scholarly analysis of the causes leading to this tragic event takes a unique tack. Richardson attributes the fate of the Minneconjou Sioux massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890, not only to growing tensions between the Indians and the burgeoning numbers of settlers, but also to 'grandstanding' by President Benjamin Harrison, who was trying to attract western voters and thus secure South Dakota's U.S. senate seat for the Republican Party. To aid in this effort, he ordered a huge army presence in the state to protect settlers from an Indian 'uprising,' despite the fact that his general saw no danger of an insurrection. Richardson's meticulously documented account includes extensive historical background of the treaties and events preceding that fateful winter, including the Compromise of 1820, the Treaty of Fort Laramie, and the Dawes Act of 1888, which drastically reduced Indian landholdings. Bitterly enough, the Republicans lost the senatorial race, and Harrison lost the 1892 election, falling into 'an oblivion from which he never recovered'."—Booklist

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