In 1889, a new Native American religion called the Ghost Dance emerged. Its popularity quickly spread from one tribe to another. This great religious movement started with the teachings of a new messiah called Wovaka. According to historians, during a solar eclipse Wovaka had a vision, and in this vision he saw the Indians and the buffalo returning to live again on the Great Plains. He also saw the disappearance of the long hated white settlers and soldiers. The Cheyenne, Lakota, and Arapaho, all sent emissaries to the Paiute Reservation at Walker Lake, Nevada, so that they also could learn about the Ghost Dance.
Soon afterward, Jack Red Cloud, son of Chief Red Cloud became one of the first Native American leaders to endorse the religion. Before long, 6,000 Oglala Lakota Sioux at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota were dancing the Ghost Dance night and day. At the same time, articles about the religion began to appear in most of the popular publications. It didn't take long before the Indian agent at the Pine Ridge Reservation started worrying about the aggressiveness of the movement. He soon requested troops. The message was quickly forwarded to General Miles, who declared that the Lakota had armed themselves with deadly rapid fire Winchester rifles, and that they were now more prepared for war than ever before.
As soon as the first troops began arriving on the reservations the Oglala Lakota Sioux knew that they were there to put a stop to the Ghost Dance. Overnight 3,000 Lakota fled the reservations. Then, in early December, General Miles ordered Colonel William Drum to put a stop to the Ghost Dance at the Standing Rock Reservation and arrest Chief Sitting Bull. Drum and his men rode furiously toward the Standing Rock Reservation. Then, at dawn on December 15, 1890, they attempted to arrest Sitting Bull. Sitting Bull would have nothing to do with it. At once, he cried out to his people for help. Sitting Bull was killed in the scuffle that ensued, along with 8 of his men, and 6 members of the reservation Indian police.
Colonel Drum immediately sought the arrest of the two other chiefs who were active in the Ghost Dance movement. Scared for his life, Chief Hump turned himself in to the authorities. However, Chief Big Foot escaped with 340 Lakota before he could be apprehended. The weather conditions were horrible. Red Cloud, now extremely ill and hungry, decided to agree to an unconditional surrender, and he was taken away by army ambulance. His people were then escorted by the Seventh Cavalry towards their destination of Wounded Knee Creek, which begins in southwest South Dakota.
In Wounded Knee the army set up four rapid fire Hotchkiss cannons on a hill overlooking the Indian camp. Flying from Big Foots tepee was a giant white flag. The next morning Colonel John Forsyth, the commander of the Seventh Cavalry ordered all of the tepees searched for firearms. He was looking for the Winchester rifles that he believed the Lakota possessed. Instead,all he found were rusty old guns. Then things went crazy when one young Sioux named Black Coyote fired his gun. As many as 300 Native Americans were killed in the ensuing barrage of gunfire. Many of them were women and children. Bodies of Lakota women and children could be found as far as three miles from the site of the original outburst. The survivors said the military shot them like buffalo. In addition, 25 members of the Seventh Cavalry were killed when they were caught in the crossfire of their own Hotchkiss guns.