Representing the Massacre of American Indians at Wounded Knee 1890-2000

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At Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota in 1890, the majority of Big Foot’s band of Miniconjou Lakotas was massacred by the Seventh Cavalry of the United States Army. Wounded Knee has gained great symbolic significance over the years. It is often linked with the end of the frontier and the Lakota nation, and as symbolic of broken treaties, US military aggression, and subsequent injustice toward Native Americans. This study examines 110 years of representations, including conflicting newspaper and journal reports, survivors’ testimonies, official reports, compensation hearing claims, history texts, autobiographies, fiction, Oscar Howe’s painting, Wounded Knee Massacre, the film Thunderheart, and displays in museums of artifacts. The text confronts the many problems relating to the representations: the ease with which stereotypes are adopted and accepted, the assumption of objectivity in historical texts, the complexities involved in collecting Lakota stories, the tension between the freedom encountered and limits imposed on writing historical fiction, and the ethical issues confronted in the memorialization and display of the Wounded Knee site and artifacts.


“The result of careful and painstaking research in archives and libraries in the US and Britain, this is a measured and fully nuanced account of a wide range of representations….This event has increasingly become iconic, and a study of its various and changing representations is therefore instructive not only about the work of early reporters and later historians, but about the ways in which American Indians in general have been represented…. Forsyth provides the rich texture necessary to move us beyond this image of Indians as just anonymous, doomed and disappearing victims, without losing any sense of the enormity of the original crime. She traces the reactions to the massacre from the original accounts by survivors and perpetrators, through historical reassessments and varying popular dramatizations in fiction, film and painting. Her discussion of the current continuing attempts by various Lakota groups representing the survivors and their descendants to find adequate and agreed ways to memorialize the events, allows her to explore the ways in which representation is always related to who has the power to represent….an invaluable study of an important topic of use to students and scholars alike.” – David Murray, The University of Nottingham

“… passionate, but also closely argued, and is the product of remarkable original new research. It will add significantly to our understanding of white/Native American relations during the last 112 years…. fascinating, illuminating, though often painful account.” – Helen Carr, Goldsmiths College, University of London

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Foreword by Professor Gordon Brotherston
Prologue: Oscar Howe’s Wounded Knee Massacre
Introduction: Representing a Massacre
1. Immediate Responses: ‘Friends’ and Neighbours
2. Remembering and Re-presentation: Survivors and Collectors
3. The Circular Official Record: Officers and Gentlemen
4. Writing Other Lives: Autobiographies and Amanuenses
5. Fictional Narratives: Novelists and Moviemakers
Afterword: Museums and Monuments: American Indian Activists
Bibliography; Index

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