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What really happened at Wounded Knee, the site of a historic massacre

A Return of Casey's scouts from the fight at Wounded Knee, 1890-91. Soldiers on horseback plod through the snow.

Erin Blakemore

In January 1891, a group of U.S. Army soldiers marched past their general for a final review. Though their setting was a windswept, seemingly empty South Dakota valley, it was a festive occasion. Company after company paraded past, observed only by their general and small clusters of the people they had recently subdued.

Just a few weeks before, 500 of these marching men had massacred at least 300 Lakota men, women, and children. Twenty of the soldiers would soon receive the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest and most prestigious commendation, for their actions at Wounded Knee.

More than a century later, legislators and activists are calling on President Joe Biden to revoke the medals awarded to the soldiers who participated in the killings. Once touted as a victory against an intractable enemy, Wounded Knee is remembered today as an outright massacre.


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