There have been many in every tribe and every time who have brought shame on their people. There have been whole tribes who forgot their race's high ideals. From time to time great prophets have arisen amongst them to stir up these backsliders, and bring them back to the faith of their fathers. The last of these was Wovoka, the Piute - the Mystic Dreamer. About 1887 he began preaching his doctrine of the coming Messiah and taught the Redmen that they must worship him by the Ghost dance. This is his own simple setting forth of the doctrine:
When the Sun died I went up into Heaven and saw God and all the people who had died a long time ago. God told me to come back and tell my people they must be good and love one another and not to fight or steal or lie. He gave me this dance to give to my people. - (Ethn. Ann. 14. p. 764).
At Pine Ridge, S. D., in the winter of 1890, the Sioux were learning this dance with its songs and its Christ-like creed. It meant the end of war. War had been their traditional noblest pursuit. But now at the bidding of the new prophet they agreed to abjure it forever; and they prepared to take up the new religion of love.
The Indian agent, like most of his kind, was ignorant and utterly unfitted for his position. He said it was some new sort of a war dance. The troops were sent for and the Indian populace was gathered together at a place called Wounded Knee near Pine Ridge (Dec. 29, 1890). They had submitted and turned in their rifles. Then, maddened by the personal indignities offered them in searching for more arms, a young Indian who still had a gun fired at the soldiers. It is not stated that he hit any one, but the answer was a volley that killed half the men. A minute later a battery of four Hotchkiss machine guns was turned on the defenceless mass of virtual prisoners; 120 men, and 250 helpless women and children were massacred in broad daylight, mown down, and left on the plain, while the white soldiers pursued the remnant and the cripples, to do them to death in the hills.
Almost all the dead warriors were found lying near where the "fight" began, about Bigfoot's teepee, but the bodies of the women and children were found scattered along for two miles from the scene of the encounter, showing that they had been killed while trying to escape. - (Ethn. Ann. 14, pp. 868 - 870).
As the men were in a separate company from the women and children, no one pretended that it was accidental.
The women, as they were fleeing with their babes, were killed together, shot right through, and the women who were very heavy with child were also killed. All the Indians fled in these three directions, and after most all of them had been killed, a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys who were not wounded came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight, a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there. - ("Ghost Dance Religion," Mooney; Ethn. Rep. 14. 885-886).
Nothing in the way of punishment was done by the authorities to any of the assassins. When the guards of Czar Nicholas shot down some scores of peasants who, contrary to orders, marched in a body to his palace, all America rang with horror and indignation, but nothing was said about the infinitely worse massacre at Wounded Knee.
As sure as there is a God in Heaven, this thing has to be met again, and for every drop of righteous blood spilled that day and on a thousand other days of like abomination, a fearful vengeance is being stored and will certainly break on us.
As sure as Cain struck down himself when he murdered Abel; as sure as the blood of righteous Naboth cried from the ground and wrecked the house and the kingdom and the race of Ahab; so surely has the American nation to stand before the bar of an earthly power - a power invincible, overwhelming, remorseless, and pay the uttermost price.
As sure as this land was taken by fraud and held by cruelty and massacre, we have filled for ourselves a vial of wrath. It will certainly be outpoured on us to the last drop and the dregs. What the Persian did to rich and rotten Babylon, what the Goth did to rich and bloody Rome, another race will surely do to us.
If ever the aroused and reinspired Yellow man comes forth in his hidden strength, in his reorganized millions, overpowering, slaying, burning, possessing, we can only bow our heads and say, "These are the instruments of God's wrath. We brought this on ourselves. All this we did to the Redman. The fate of Babylon and of bloody Rome is ours. We wrote our own doom as they did".