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The month of December marked many tragedies for the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people

Wovoka (c. 1856 – September 20, 1932), also known as Jack Wilson, was the Paiute religious leader who founded a second episode of the Ghost Dance movement. Wovoka means “cutter” or “wood cutter” in the Northern Paiute language.

On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull was shot to death on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. In order to justify his murder the newspapers and the federal government attempted to paint him as a terrible man, a war monger and the leader of a new religion called the Ghost Dance. None of this was true.  Catherine Weldon, a teacher and missionary who spent much time among Sitting Bull’s people, describes Sitting Bull as a good man. She wrote:

“Sitting Bull was not treacherous, nor cruel. He was not a liar, nor a murderer, as has been charged. He was a man of true nobility of character and generous deeds. As a friend, he was sincere and true, as a patriot devoted and incorruptible. As a husband and father, affectionate and considerate. As a host, courteous and hospitable to the last degree.

He was a typical Indian, and he held tenaciously to the traditions, of this people as sacred legacy. He distrusted the innovations sought to be forced upon the Indians. He believed that all the white men cared for was to get the Indian’s land from him. He had no faith in Government Commissioners or Christian missionaries. What he saw of white civilization did not impress him favorably. There was too much avarice and too much hypocrisy in it.

He never signed a treaty to sell any portion of his people’s inheritance, and he refused to acknowledge the right of other Indians to sell his undivided share of the tribal lands. For this he was denounced as obstructionist, a foe to progress … His influence with his people was very great. This fact made him unpopular with all who saw in his policy and influence obstruction to their selfish schemes, hence they demanded his removal.”

One of the excuses given by the government for the murder of Sitting Bull was that he was fostering the Ghost Dance, a religious dance brought to the Lakota by a Piute Medicine Man named Wovoka. Chief Big Foot feared for the lives of his followers because they were also accused of doing the Ghost Dance so he fled to the Pine Ridge Reservation seeking the protection of Red Cloud. He and his followers were stopped by troopers of the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee.

The horrible massacre at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890 followed in the wake of the assassination of Sitting Bull. Nearly 300 Lakota men, women and children were slaughtered by the U. S. Army on that day of infamy.

On December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota warriors were hanged in Mankato, Minn. The trials of the Dakota prisoners were deficient in many ways, even by military standards; and the officers who oversaw them did not conduct them according to military law. The hundreds of trials commenced on 28 September 1862 and were completed on 3 November; some lasted less than 5 minutes. No one explained the proceedings to the defendants, nor were the Sioux represented by defense attorneys. “The Dakota were tried, not in a state or federal criminal court, but before a military commission. More than 4,000 white people gathered to witness this mass hanging, the largest in American history.

December has not been kind to the people of the Great Sioux Nation, but as survivors we continue to carry on our spirituality and traditions and we always hope that each December will be better than the last.


(Contact the Native Sun News Today Editorial Board at

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