Ursidae: The Undergraduate Research Journal at the University of Northern Colorado


Owen Volzke


This study examines the role history and memory played in the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee by Oglala protestors. The research demonstrates that a historical and memorial understanding of Lakota culture and relationship with the United States played a critical role in the identity protestors consciously sought to create for themselves. In particular, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 and the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 were key events legitimizing the struggle of Oglala protestors seeking an improvement in their living conditions. Furthermore, Oglala protestors cultivated the resurrection of a Lakota culture long suppressed within the Pine Ridge Reservation, with memories of Lakota tradition providing the crux of this revived culture. Although unsuccessful in its immediate efforts, the Wounded Knee occupation demonstrates the power associated with historic interpretation and memorial remembrance, particularly when applied towards the creation of a collective identity rooted in the past and directed towards the future.