Sam's Reviews > Surviving Wounded Knee: The Lakotas and the Politics of Memory

Surviving Wounded Knee by David W. Grua
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bookshelves: wounded-knee, indian-wars

Phenomenally researched and documented, Grua explores the aftermath of Wounded Knee and ably documents Lakota efforts to receive reparations for its survivors of that bloody affair. Like most modern day historians, Grua presents the case of the Lakota people suffering from the yoke of European-American oppression and conquest. However, rather than dismissing U.S. Army accounts out of hand, he provides ample primary source material from the government and Anglo-American sources, making a far more informed, if not compelling, argument for accepting the Lakota version of Wounded Knee as a massacre, vice a battle. That being said, I fundamentally disagree with Grua's position. Based on my own research, I remain unconvinced that the Army's version was contrived in order to cover up a dastardly slaughter of innocence, and, thus, protect reputations and careers. The presentation of my own position will continue to unfold on
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Reading Progress

December 29, 2015 – Shelved
December 29, 2015 – Shelved as: wounded-knee
December 29, 2015 – Shelved as: indian-wars
January 2, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
March 17, 2016 – Started Reading
May 19, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Howard (new)

Howard Even though you maintain that there was no army cover-up, do you consider the outcome to be a massacre?

message 2: by Sam (last edited May 23, 2016 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam Following is what I wrote 14 years ago in my master's thesis on the subject.

In the most recent Congressional hearings on Wounded Knee, Senator James Abourezk, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation in February 1976 “to award compensation to descendants of survivors of the Army’s massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee Creek” calling for “$3,000 to be paid to descendants.” This was the third time such legislation had been proposed, and the third time it had been defeated. The hearings produced almost 600 pages of invaluable testimony from expert historians such as Robert M. Utley, Dee A. Brown, and Rex A. Smith. At one point the hearings went to great pains in defining “massacre” and “battle” in attempts to properly describe the events at Wounded Knee by introducing definitions from numerous dictionaries. One definition read “the indiscriminate, merciless killing of human beings….” Dr. Utley, whose 1963 landmark work, The Last Days of the Sioux Nation, more than qualified him as an expert historian, provided testimony that perhaps went the furthest in putting Wounded Knee into a proper context.

“I am fully aware that contemporary evidence can be extracted from the vast body of original sources to support almost any interpretation one wishes to place on Wounded Knee or any other controversial historical event, for that matter. Sound history, however, is careful synthesis of all the evidence, in which corroboration of individual testimony is sought and the possible and the probable and the credible carefully weighed. Studied as a whole, rather than in isolated bits and pieces, the historical evidence, from both white and Indian sources, does not substantiate Wounded Knee as a massacre in terms of premeditation or lack of discrimination between combatants and noncombatants.
“Assuredly it was a terrible, lamentable tragedy. But it seems to me that we should be a mature enough people to view it not in terms of the easy, conventional stereotypes of good guys and bad guys but in terms, rather, of decent, ordinary people caught up in the passions and insanities of an armed conflict that none of them intended or anticipated.”

With all that I have read since 2002, there is nothing that causes me to change my concurrence with Dr. Utley's Congressional testimony.

message 3: by Howard (last edited May 23, 2016 01:35PM) (new)

Howard Sam wrote: "Following is what I wrote 14 years ago in my master's thesis on the subject.

In the most recent Congressional hearings on Wounded Knee, Senator James Abourezk, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary C..."

I don't believe there was premeditation either and I do respect Dr. Utley as an historian, but the firing on the tents where the women and children were located as well as on those fleeing down the ravine would seem to indicate a lack of discrimination between combatants and noncombatants.

Of the Sioux deaths, what percentage were women and children?

I am curious as to what the other two historians had to say about the incident. Did they agree or disagree with Utley?

Also, would you call the conflict between Custer and the Cheyenne on the Washita a battle or a massacre?

Thanks for taking the time to give me such a complete answer. I have visited your blog on several occasions and found it to be most informative.

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