A Dark Moment in History
The Mormons and the Ghost Dance of 1890
GREGORY E. SMOAK
On 6 November 1890, Maj. Gen. Nelson A. Miles passed through Saint Paul, Minnesota, after a tour of Indian reservations in Utah, Montana, and Wyoming. During his stop in Saint Paul, the general spoke with reporters and speculated on the origins of the so-called messiah craze that was sweeping the western reservations. "Several small parties of Indians have gone west-ward from their tribes to some point," Miles began, "which, as near as I can locate, is in Nevada, and there they have been shown somebody disguised as the Messiah and have spoken with him." Since Indians from several different tribes had reported speaking with the "Messiah" in their own tongues, Miles concluded that a number of conspirators carried out the impersonation. As to who was instigating the movement, the general stated, "I cannot say positively, but it is my belief the Mormons are the prime movers in all this. I do not think it will lead to an outbreak," he added, "but where an ignorant race of people become religious fanatics it is hard to tell just what they will do."' The general's opinion proved to be wrong. In less than two months, the "Sioux Outbreak of 1890" led to the infamous Battle of Wounded Knee on 29 December 1890. Miles, in fact, directed the Sioux campaign and had sent the first troops to the reservation.
Quoted in "Probably a Mormon Trick," New York Times, 8 Nov. 1890. p. 5.
Mormons and the Ghost Dance
go to Wounded Knee Museum here