Wounded Knee Descendant Apologizes for Massacre

His great great grandfather commanded the cavalry that carried out the massacre.

U.S. troops killed over 250 Native Americans in the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. Now, almost 130 years later, a descendant of a U.S. commander who was in the battle is apologizing.

Brad Upton is the descendant of James Forsyth, who commanded the cavalry that carried out the Wounded Knee Massacre, and said he was sickened when he first learned about his family’s connection to it.

Upton got in touch with a Lakota elder and made a visit to the Cheyenne River Reservation in early November to meet with the victims’ descendants.

“This has been incredible. I have never felt so welcomed by a community,” he said, of his time with the members of the reservation. “[They] basically went out of their way to welcome me as family, and they’re very appreciative of the beginning of a long process of getting to know each other, and heal, and work on forgiveness, because I can’t forgive my ancestors without working with them to help them heal, as well.”

Wounded Knee, located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, was the location of the violent battle that left hundreds of Native Americans dead. The U.S. government was concerned about the influence the Ghost Dance spiritual movement was having on Pine Ridge. In December of 1890, they attempted to arrest Sioux chief Sitting Bull, because they believed he was a Ghost Dancer, and killed him in the process. On December 29, 1890, the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry surrounded a group of Ghost Dancers near Wounded Knee Creek and tried to get them to surrender their weapons. Conflict broke out and ended in a violent massacre.

For years, Native men and women have pushed for restitution for the massacre and the trauma it incited. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), who is one of the first Native Congresswomen, even co-sponsored a bill that would rescind 20 Medals of Honor that were awarded to troops involved in the massacre.