Today marks the 126th anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, when a U.S. cavalry regiment killed more than 100 members of the Lakota tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1890. The number of casualties varies among accounts: Some put it as high as 400. The dead included men, women and children.
• Related: Grief, hope mix on Wounded Knee anniversary
Immediately after the killings, the narratives over what had happened varied widely. The U.S. military originally referred to it as a battle or a fight, and even awarded Medals of Honor to several soldiers involved. Native American groups, meanwhile, pushed for the incident to be recognized as a massacre. It wasn't until 1990 that the U.S. Congress issued an apology, expressing "deep regret" for the event.
On this anniversary, several books offer perspective on what unfolded at Wounded Knee, and the scars that are still felt today.
'Black Elk Speaks' by John G. Neihardt
This influential book is not without its controversies. The book was written by Nebraska's poet laureate, John Neihardt, based on interviews in 1930 with Black Elk, a member of the Oglala Lakota living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It is presented as Black Elk's story, which runs parallel to many tragedies: He was present at both the Battle of Little Big Horn and at Wounded Knee.
Neihardt reportedly worked from his notes in composing the final draft, though some have called the accuracy of the book into question. In the 1980s, Raymond DeMallie released transcripts from Neihardt's interviews with Black Elk in a new collection: "The Sixth Grandfather."
'The Sixth Grandfather,' edited by Raymond DeMallie
This collection serves as an important companion to John Neihardt's more well-known book, "Black Elk Speaks." It includes the interview transcripts with Black Elk that became the basis of Neihardt's work.
'Killing Custer' by James Welch with Paul Stekler
Native American novelist James Welch turned to nonfiction for this account of relations between indigenous tribes and the U.S. government. He traces the history from the time of Lewis and Clark's cross-country trek to the second half of the 20th century, offering a Native perspective on the subject.
'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' by Dee Brown
Dee Brown's account of the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans was first published in 1970. It drew on tribal records for personal accounts of broken treaties and armed conflicts. Brown wrote:
"Out of all these sources of almost forgotten oral history, I have tried to fashion a narrative of the conquest of the American West as the victims experienced it, using their own words whenever possible. Americans who have always looked westward when reading about this period should read this book facing eastward."
Much has been made of the confusion on the ground on the day of Wounded Knee, but historian Heather Cox Richardson traces the roots of the killings back to policies formed in Washington. According to Publishers Weekly, Richardson explores how the killing of so many Lakota at Wounded Knee "was not just an appalling act of racist brutality" but "the outcome of roiling partisan politics."