Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee | Study Guide

Dee Alexander Brown

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Study Guide." Course Hero. 24 Feb. 2018. Web. 19 June 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bury-My-Heart-at-Wounded-Knee/>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2018, February 24). Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 19, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bury-My-Heart-at-Wounded-Knee/

In text

(Course Hero, 2018)



Course Hero. "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Study Guide." February 24, 2018. Accessed June 19, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bury-My-Heart-at-Wounded-Knee/.


Course Hero, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Study Guide," February 24, 2018, accessed June 19, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bury-My-Heart-at-Wounded-Knee/.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee | Chapter 19 : Wounded Knee | Summary



The Hunkpapas leave Standing Rock after Sitting Bull's death. Some go to Ghost Dance camps, others go to Pine Ridge to be with Red Cloud, and some end up at Big Foot's Minneconjou camp. Big Foot is worried about what the soldiers will do next, so he moves everyone to Red Cloud's camp. It is the end of December 1890, and Big Foot is dying of pneumonia.

Soldiers catch up to the Minneconjous en route to Pine Ridge. Major Samuel Whitside of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry wants to disarm the Minneconjous, but his scout, John Shangreau, tells him it's a bad idea. They decide to have the Minneconjous set up camp at Wounded Knee Creek, where they will disarm the Indians and take their horses. It is dark by the time they reach the campsite, and the soldiers decide to wait until the morning to take everyone's weapons and horses. Two cavalry troops of soldiers guard the tepees, and four Hotchkiss machine guns are placed on a rise overlooking the camp.

The soldiers ask for all the Minneconjous' weapons the next morning. Suspicious some weapons are missing, they search the tepees and have the warriors remove their blankets. Two rifles are found. One is a new Winchester belonging to Black Coyote. Black Coyote, who is deaf, raises the gun over his head and starts yelling that it belongs to him. He is about to put it down when the soldiers grab it. The gun goes off and "immediately the soldiers retur[n] fire." A massacre ensues. The unarmed Indians flee, but the huge guns on the hill mow them down. Survivor Louise Weasel Bear later said, "They shot us like we were a buffalo." Only 50 of the 350 Minneconjous at Wounded Knee survive. They are loaded into wagons and taken to Pine Ridge, where they are given shelter at an Episcopal mission. It is December 29, 1890. Over the pulpit is a banner reading "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men."


Sitting Bull's death is a devastating blow to all the Sioux. He was a spiritual leader for his band, and a symbol of hope for dozens more. After his death, faith in the Ghost Dance religion is really the only thing keeping the Sioux from "against the guns of the soldiers." They believe the Messiah will take away the white men soon and return their land to the way it used to be. It's almost as if they have to believe it in order to cope with the incalculable losses of their land, their people, and their very way of life.

The Ghost Dance was outlawed by the American government after the events of Wounded Knee. Government officials blamed the "battle" on the Ghost Dancers, although there really wasn't any battle to speak of. The Minneconjous were largely unarmed. The massacre at Wounded Knee was also the symbolic end of the age of the American Indian. Indians from all across the United States had been moved to reservations. Their land and their freedom had been taken away, and their leaders were dead. The U.S. government finally got what it wanted—complete submission on the part of the Indians.

Brown ends Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee with the heartbreaking image of battered and bloodied bodies underneath a "crudely lettered banner" espousing traditional Christmas sentiments about peace and goodwill toward others. This moment is impactful because of its dramatic irony. The reader has seen all along that there has been no peace, nor any goodwill, for the injured lying on the hay-strewn floor. These last few words are a poetic and fitting finish to a story about unwavering trust in the face of self-serving deception.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!