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I have fallen in love with American names, the sharp names that never get fat, the snake weak skinned titles of mining claims, the plumed war bonnet of Medicine Hat, Touson and Deadwood, and Lost Mule Flat. I shall not rest quiet in Monpanaise. I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea. You I bury my body in Sussex grass. You may bury my tongue at Champ-Meddy. I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass. Bury my heart at wounded knee. That was a A poem written in 1927 by Stephen Vincent, who was from an army family, Dominic. It was. I assume had been to France and England, maybe with the Great War. Help me out here.


I'm reading your notes. I don't know. It's this great celebration of American place names, isn't it? And saying, you can shove your European place names. I don't know if he'd been to Monparnasse and Sussex.


Or Winchelsea. I mean, it's not an obvious. No. Anyway, listen, this is by the by. Of course, the reason why we have read that is that, Bury my heart at Wounded Knee has given its name to perhaps the best known work of history on Native Americans. And it foregrounds its ending. It does. Because the Massacre at Wounded Knee is generally seen as providing the terrible coda to the tragic history of Native Americans over the course of their encounter with European settlers. Yeah. And this is going to be the climax of our story, too.


It is indeed. It's extraordinary that he chose to end that way because today we think of Wounded Knee, and we think of D. Brown's book, which was published in 1970, and then the occupation of the site a few years later by Native American activists protesting against what they saw as their mistreatment by the federal government. But I'm guessing maybe in 1927, Wounded Knee didn't have that resonance. It just seemed like a very American name. And so he ends his poem with those words.


Well, it's right in the middle, isn't it? It's in the middle of America. Yeah.


So we'll come to the Wounded Knee Massacre, which, as you say, is an extraordinary ordinary story, and we'll explore it in some detail, because it's all about this religious movement called the Ghost Dance, which is itself absolutely fascinating.


Dominic, you know I love a religious movement.


I know. But listeners who are still with us after 63 episodes of this mighty series will know that, of course, Costa was killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, but afterwards the Lakota dispersed and were basically rounded up and picked off by Crook and Miles and these other very ruthless American, very effective US Army officers. Crazy Horse was killed. We described that last time. Terrible pitiable end that he came to, lying on the ground as you described Tom, not on a cot because he was still at one with the Earth. A Sitting Bull had fled to Canada, then come back, been incarcerated in Fort Randall. And finally, in May 1883, he had arrived at the Standing Rock Reservation. And he hopes, I think at that point, that that's the end of it. He can get on with this life, and he will be left alone, which is what Crazy Horse wanted. But what he realizes when he arrives in Standing Rock is that everything has changed while he have been away. That those processes of change have now worked themselves out, and what was once Indian country has been completely transformed.


So the railroad, after After the US economy recovered, after the panic of 1873, there is an explosion of railroad building, 2,000 miles of track across South Dakota alone between 1878 and 1887, bringing in the settlers and food and supplies and all that stuff.


And also, of course, Dominic, Buffalo hunters.


And Buffalo Hunters. Yeah.


And finishing off the process of destruction that Sitting Bull was already all too well aware of in the aftermath of the Little Bighorn because they can't find any game then. That's right. And this This is the theme of the terrible ending of Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy's great novel. So he has this awful description of what the planes look like, and it's too long to read, but it's just a little excerpt. The Flint hides by the hundred ton, and the meat rotting on the ground, and the air winding with flies, and the buzzards and ravens, and the night, a horror of snarling and feeding with the wolves half crazed and wallowing in the carrion. And then when the carrion is gone, nothing but the bones. And then when the bones have been shipped off, just emptyness.


Yeah, that's exactly right. So as late as 1876, there were still 2 million Buffalo bison, technically, in Wyoming and Montana. Six years later, a rancher was traveling across the plains, and he said, In all that time, I was never out of sight of a dead Buffalo, and I never was in sight of a live one. There are actually now more cattle, far more cattle, that have been brought in.


Right. And so this is when the cowboys turn So the cowboys are not fighting Indians. No. The cowboys come when the Indians have been cleared off, and they're bringing barbed wire, aren't they? And then legislators in Washington in the 1880s start parceling up what had been Indian land and handing it out to farmers. That's right. And the process of Western civilization kicks in.


Yeah. Barbed wire is a really big thing. It's also bad luck, I suppose, for those people who want to preserve the old way of life. In the late 1870s, very early 1880s, you have a wet weather cycle. So a lot of rain, the soil is unusually fertile. The railroad companies are advertising this, and they say, wow, this is incredible. This is the promised land of America. You can come here and start a farm, and you'll be growing all these amazing things. And so in 20 years or so, six towns in South Dakota become more than 300 towns. There were fewer than 2,000 farms in 1860 or so. Now, there are 50,000. There are people flooding in.


And that top soil is not going to stay there for long, is it?


No, exactly. Actually, they're being sold a-A lie as well. A lie, because actually, it's not terribly fertile land, and it's not going to prove incredibly productive.


So it's eerie to cross the Great Plains because it's haunted by the ghosts of the Buffalo. It's haunted by the ghosts of the Native American communities that lived there, the peoples that lived there. But it's also haunted by the relics of that very brief boom period that follows in the wake of the ending of the Indian Wars. Yeah.


The disappointed hopes of the people who move to the Great Plains and end up joining the populace movement at the end of the 20th century. And then later on, of course, they've got the Great Depression to come. I mean, that would all happen in one lifetime. Anyway, so Sitting Bull arrives at the agency, and what does he find? There are now about 17,000 Lakota left. Only 17,000. They are corralled in this tract in what is now South Dakota of about 35,000 miles. One historian describes it as six Sees of Misery, each swirling around a single agency island. So the different Lakota tribes have been allotted different agencies. So Pine Ridge, the Rose Bird, Standing Rock, the Cheyenne River, and so on. And each of those has an agent who looks after it, who gives out rations and so on. And there will be a little encampment and whatnot, and there'll be a school and these kinds of things. The historian Peter Cousins, who wrote a really detailed book about the Indian Wars, he says, What had happened to the Great Sioux Reservation is that it had become a sealed laboratory for social engineering. So we talked before about how there was this Christianizing mission in the 1870s and 1880s.


People who saw themselves as reformers and kind-hearted progressives who wanted to lead the Indian, as they would have called the native population, to lead the Indian into the new dawn of civilization.


Well, the whole thing of taking children and educating them, which has been It's a topic of immense controversy recently in Canada and Australia, hasn't it? Yes. I mean, it's happening in the Great Plains as well. We talked about in the last episode how Sitting Bull said that he wanted his children to be raised as Americans. It's interesting. The very last war party is actually five boys who break out of a boarding school. Really? Indian boys who break out of a boarding school go on the rampage.


So what happens is, I mean, the Commission of Indian Affairs said, To domesticate world Indians as a noble work, the Crown of glory to any nation. We're not going to allow them to drag along in their old superstition, laziness, and filth. We can elevate them in the scale of humanity.


But also it breaks down what we would call the tribes.


Totally. They want to break down the tribes.


The ambition is to make them Americans, individuals.


Stamp out what they call demoralizing and barbarous customs. They want to remove the sandance, so no more Sundances. Violent, barbaric, bloody. Why would we want this to continue? And as you said, putting kids into boarding schools. So the first boarding schools were open in Pennsylvania in 1879. The kids arrive, they have their hair forcibly cut. They are baptized as Christians without their parents' consent. All this stuff, which, as you say, prefigures what would happen in the 20th century in the US, in Canada, in Australia, and so on.


No bear grease.


No bear grease in a crow's hair. The tragedy, of course, is that the natives cannot resist because they are now totally dependent on the government doll, on rations, on the agents, the agent's goodwill, because they can't just say, No, I don't fancy this. I'd like to carry in my own life, my old way of life. I'm going off. They're not allowed to do that.


Well, they can't because they'd starve, wouldn't they? They would.


There's nothing to hunt. There's no bison out there. So they are totally in the power of the agents. So when Sitting Bull arrives at Standing Rock, he is totally in the power now of a man called Major James McClauchlin. Mcclauchlin was a former blacksmith. His wife was a, and she spoke Lakota language fluently, so she was the interpreter. Mcclauchlin is a... He has an enormous mustache.


Bigger than Wild Bill Hiccup?


Probably similar. Times have changed, Tom. The beard has been consigned to history, a very bad sign.


This is the age of the mustache.


A more ruthless pragmatic mustache has entered. Yeah.


I mean, he's not an evil man, is he? No. He's a man of high principle. He's a devout Catholic. He thinks that to essentially eradicate what he sees as evil customs is the best course. But reading about how he treats Sitting Bull, there is something of Hudson Lo, the British jailer on Saint Helena, and the way that he deals with Napoleon.


Yeah. His autopography was called My Friend, the Indian, but Sitting Bull would not have approved of that title. He is very pragmatic, very ruthless about dividing and ruling among the Indians. So he recruits It's a man who we encountered earlier in the podcast, one of Sitting Bull's old lieutenants, a man called Gaul. I mean, he really is the flashman of the Lakota because he was in trouble for bullying, wasn't he?


He was. But as a young man, I think as a slightly older man, he's seen as almost placid And he explains his behavior at the Battle of the Big Horn, where he is the guy, really, who leads the charge that overwhelms the first stronghold of the seventh Cavalry because he had lost two of his wives and three of his children.


That's right. Yeah. I always think of as somebody who had made the journey from being Captain of the Rugby 15 or disputatious boy, the boundary of the class school. He's now the Chapel Prefect, isn't he? He's the goody two shoes of the Standing Rock Agency for Agent McCoughlin.


Well, you say that He's a very fine figure of a man. And Elizabeth Custer, of all people, meets with him five years after the battle. It's painful as it is for me to look upon the pictured face of an Indian. I never in my life dreamed there could be in all the tribes so fine a specimen of warrior as Gaul.


Wow. Is that how she spoke?


And compares his bearing to that of a gladiator. Crikey. And he's much photographed. And the guy who takes the photograph of him says that he's worried that his lens will burst trying to contain the image. Wow. He has a tragic story. I mean, just to preempt it. So as you say, he basically, I mean, he switches his side. He wears European clothing. He becomes a big fan of Mendelssohn, rather improbably. He loves the wedding march. And he ends up very fat because he does profit from the amount of food on the reservation. He's not being starved. And he worries about this. And so he asks, is there anything that could help me get thin again? And he gets given a tonic, but he gets told very strictly, do not have more than a couple of sips a week because otherwise it'll kill you. And so he has a couple of sips, doesn't seem to have any impact. So he necks the entire bottle and it kills him.


Oh, my God. What was in the tonic? What What diet thing is that?


I don't know. Evan Connell reports it and he says, If true, it sounds like a checkoff story. So it may not be true.


It's a great story, but that if true is a bit... There's a lot of hanging on that, isn't it?


Yeah, it's very sad.


But anyway, Gaul, he's an example of many people who actually they can't go off having fun on the plane. You talked in, I think, our third or fourth episode about how fun, how exhilarating the plane's life could be, the fighting, the hunting, and so on. And for those people who can't do that anymore, all you can really do is to join this agency police. You join this police force. They're called the Metal Breasts because of their badges. And that's your new status and your prestige. That's what Gaul and lots of other people do. Now, Sitting Bull doesn't fit into that world. His appeal, his leadership is based on-The old ways. Conservatism, I suppose, on tradition. Yeah.


Well, but also his powers of vision. Exactly. Hooking up his chest to hooks things.


Yeah, to poles. Yeah.


And there's none of that going on now.


No. Mcclocklin is very down on that. Actually, when Sitting Bull arrives, McClocklin effectively says to him, You're not going to be the big man around here. Times have changed.


Yeah. So he's always doing him down, isn't he?


He hates Sitting Bull. He says, Sitting Bull was a man of very mediocre ability, rather dull and much inferior of Gaul and others of his lieutenants in intelligence. He's pompous, vain, and boathful, and considers himself a very important personage. Sitting Bull knows this, and he's very miserable about it. You know, When we talked about how miserable Crazy Horse was, the Sitting Bull is, if anything, even more miserable because he just can't understand why he's being belittled.


But it's more than that, isn't it? It's not just that. It's that everything that had sustained him has gone. Totally, yeah. I mean, the entire way of understanding the world has gone. Yeah. Wherever this happens, wherever Europeans intrude on a society and the impact of modernity and industrialization just destroys that society, people seem left utterly disoriented by it.


Which remember, Tom, when we started this series, I said, I always thought of the story of Costa as the bridge between the story of first Columbus and then the Aztecs on the one hand, and then Titanic on the other. Yeah. And if When you think back to that Columbus series, when Columbus landed on Hispanaela and then the Spaniards started arriving, the Tainos, the indigenous people, were just totally wiped out through disease, but also through the cruelty of the Spaniards. But also because there were descriptions of them as just sitting down, staring into space, baffled that everything they had taken for granted, the rhythm of their life, their faith, their sense of what the world was and what the human condition was, had just been utterly destroyed. And I think there must be something similar going on for sitting bull here.


I think so. Well, I don't want to go all Foucault, but the idea of industrial society as putting a premium on the prison house, on blocking people in within walls, people in Europe find that tough to deal with. But For someone like Sitting Bull, who physically has been used to roaming the planes and spiritually, consorting with the spirits, being granted visions that open up the heavens, must just be tortured to be stuck in this.


Yeah, in the reservation. He's got his little cabin that he's built himself. He says, Can I be any lower than I am? Once I was a man, but now I am a pitiful wretch. Actually, what I think makes it worse is that he is now treated like a performing there. So McClocklin decides he wants to make some money out of Sitting Bull, and he decides he does a deal with our old friends, the Northern Pacific Railroad. They are going to supply passes, and they're going to sort out hotels and all that stuff. It's basically Sitting Bull will perform in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He will do his act. He will do an act, and they will organize dinners, and there will be big wigs, and people will come and get his autograph. They put them up at the merchants hotel. Thousands of people come to see him. Sitting Bull is given tours of the schools, of the fire department, of the post office, all of this stuff. He's made to use a telephone. His nephew, One Bull, is in the next room and they have a telephone conversation. Sitting Bull does say, Well, that was pretty remarkable.


But there's a terrible poignancy to this whole thing that he's been treated as a relic and as a walking gimmick.


And so that's in 1884. And then in 1885, I think even worse because two terrible shysters get their claws into him. Oh, yes. So he gets approached by an agent called John Burke, who is known variously as Major John Burke, despite the fact that he's not a major. An Arizona John, despite the fact that he never went to Arizona. And he is acting as the agent for Buffalo Bill Cody. Oh, yeah. Who I think we've already met. Bill Cody has got his name Buffalo Bill from the sheer number of Buffalo that he's wiped out. So he has acted as a scout for the army. And at one point, actually, in the wake of Little Bighorn, he is serving with the army, and he has this absolute cock and bull story. He's with the Fifth Cavalry. He rides out because there are just a few warriors out there. And he's dressed up exactly like Custer has in all his gladrag, so not in a uniform. And he kills and scalps, supposedly, this Cheyenne warrior who he calls Yellow Hand, who he says had killed Custer. And this becomes a big story And it spreads across America.


And this is what then makes Buffalo Bill a big name. And he stages this show the following year in which he restages it. And he pulls off this scalp, and it's supposed to be yellow hand scalp. And he waves it in the air and he says, The first scalp for Custer. And so this gives him the idea, well, I can make money from this, from restaging scenes of the West. And he ends up restaging the Battle of Little Bighorn. And for that, That he wants Sitting Bull, and Sitting Bull agrees. And he goes off on this tour, and Sitting Bull comes out, and he's riding around the arena, and all the crowd are booing him. I mean, they're showing him no respect at all because it's been built up that he's the villain. And I just think it's terrible. Actually, Gaul, to give him credit, he said, no, I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to be a performing animal. But Sitting Bull does it. And you wonder, why does he do it? To get out? But it's awful.


It's really awful. It is awful. I was going to say it sounds a little bit like the rest of Sister's Life shows, Tom.


It does. Going around America, being humiliated.


But it is terrible. I do think it's terrible. I've thought about this a lot. I was in Monument Valley a year ago. And there are Navajo there, Dine, as they prefer to be called, who organize rides. You get on a horse and you go and you have your photo taken by the rock and they stand beside you and look fearsome. There's John Wayne's point, there's all of stuff. And I often have thought to myself since then, how different is that really? We're all partaking. They have little shacks selling Tomahawks, stuff like that. That spirit of the reenactment for, frankly, wealthy white audiences, that has never quite gone away. And there is something dreadful about contemplating that scene of Sitting Bull.


And also, he's clearly left overwhelmed by what he sees in the West. And he comes back and says, They're all terrible. It's awful. But I think he's gazed into the abyss of what the future will be. And it's a future in which everything that he is, there is no place. And so he does try and knuckle down, doesn't he, to become a farmer?


He does.


But it's not Sitting Bull. And then Dominic, amid his depression, amid the tedium and flatness of his existence, news reaches him of something extraordinary, doesn't he? Something utterly convulsive.


Exactly. Rumors are coming into the reservation of something going on out there beyond the mountains to the West. Is it a cult? Is it a new religion? But whatever it is, it seems to offer salvation for Sitting Bull and for his people. And this is something called the Ghost Dance. Tom, should we come back after the break to find out what it is?


Hello, listeners. It's Anita Arnind here from the Goalhanger Sister podcast, Empire, which I host along with...


Me, William Dalrimple.


We are here to tell you about our new series on the Founding Fathers, The Men Who Made America.


We wanted to look at the men who actually founded the country, who dreamt the dream, who wrote the words upon which a country would be born. What were they like? What made them do what they did? What did they actually believe in? And how did they come to play the role that they did in the American Revolution and the creation of America?


What really interested me about this was the contradictions.


I mean, we expect these to be great figures.


We've seen the portraits in the galleries. We know the faces from the banknotes, but they're deeply complex figures. But in that, and in that blend of contradiction and intellectual power and writing genius and curiosity and raw ability, lies the nuance of complexity that allows us to understand them. The United States is in many ways a reflection of their beliefs, their experiences.


These are the men who wrote the Constitution. These are the men who created the federal system. In every way, they are totally fundamental to what American politics looks like today.


It all goes back to this extraordinary group of men.


Yeah, and they have rip-roaring yarns as well, let me tell you. If you want to know why America is the way it is and who the men were who made it, you can listen by searching Empire wherever you get your podcast. Hello.


Welcome back to The Rest is History. Dominic, just before the break, poor old sitting Bull. He's been having a terrible He's out to become a farmer. He's been exploited by Buffalo Bill. It's all terrible. But then news of this extraordinary development, the Ghost Dance. So what is the Ghost Dance? What is going on with this?


Right. We need to explain where the Ghost Dance came from. So a little bit of politics. So he hears that there is a cult or a religion or a movement, call it what you will, that offers at last a change in the narrative and salvation for the native people. But this hasn't come out of nowhere. It doesn't sweep as it does through the reservations out of nowhere. And actually the politics is really important. So Sydney Bull probably hears about this movement in the very end of the 1880s. In March 1889, America had a new President, Benjamin Harrison, a Republican who was very pro-business, Civil War general. He'd been very narrowly elected in November 1888. He'd lost the popular vote, but he'd won the Electoral College. He's facing a tricky re-election in 1892. Now, both parties know that the future of American politics lies in the West because they're going to admit a lot of Western states want to come in and you want to win them for your party. Harrison and his backers believe that they will be Republican states, that there will be full of Protestant farmers who will vote the Republican ticket. Their priority is to bring those states in as quickly as possible.


It will give them the balance of power in Congress, and it will change Change the makeup of the Electoral College. And what they want to do is they think, they look at the Dakota Territory where Sitting Bulls Agency is, Standing Rock Agency, and all the Lakotas, and they say, We want to bring that in as two states, not one. We'll have a North Dakota and a South Dakota. But the problem is much of South Dakota is the Great Sioux reservation, so it's not really viable as a state. So ideally, they want to break up the reservation into six smaller reservations and encourage lots of white settlement. Now, people have been talking about this for quite a while. There was something called the doors act a few years earlier. But Harrison really wants to accelerate it. And in 1889, Congress approves that they're going to break up the Great Sioux reservation, and they send General Crook. Remember General Crook from the previous episodes? Yeah. They sent him. They said, The Indians know him. He's an old hand. He'll know how to handle them. Actually, they're right. Crook goes to meet the chiefs and he says, Look, you don't like it.


I understand that. But you're in the position of somebody who stuff his belongings. They're in a dry stream and there's a flood coming. And you can either stand there and moan and groan that the flood is coming or you can move your belongings. And that, I'm afraid, is what you're going to have to do.


It is what it is, babes.


Correct. And that's what they do. That's a very unexpected remark there, Tom, but I enjoyed it.


You know, sums it up, really.


I got the reference. Now, 99.9% of the listeners won't, if they haven't read the rest of this history book, which I heartily recommend. So this decision, which is basically done so that the Republicans can get these two states in, is a total and utter unmitigated disaster for the Lakota. They lose half of their land overnight. What little hunting they had left is completely obliterated. They are now totally the prisoners of the agents on the reservations. And what is more, this coincides with Congress deciding that it'd actually like to make something economies, so they slashed their rations, even though Crook promised that they wouldn't. In the winter of 1889, 1890, they starve, terrible hunger, disease, measles, hoop cough, influenza. They sweep through the reservations. Some people may remember that when we did the battle of the Little Bighorn, there was a character called Black Elk. Remember Black Elk, Tom?


Yes, the little boy.


He was a teenager who scalped a trooper. Dreadful scene.


Hunted him like a rabbit in a bush.


That's right. He later gave it. There's a book called Black Elk Speaks, one of the great classics of writing about Native Americans. Black Elk says of that winter, The people seemed heavy to me, heavy and dark, so heavy it seemed they couldn't be lifted, so dark they couldn't be made to see anymore. Hunger was among us now. There were many lies, but we could not eat them.


I mean, that's a terrible sentence, isn't it?


Yeah, it is. It's in that context that the Lakota hear a rumor that far away beyond the Rocky Mountains, a Messiah has come who will liberate them. They send a little party in the two most prominent people, a guy called Kicking Bear, who is a cousin of Crazy Horse, and a medicine man from the Bruleys called Short Bull. Off these guys go. Obviously, it's a long way away, so they're gone for ages. And they come back in March 1890, and they say, unbelievable news. The Messiah is there, the Son of the Holy spirit, of the Great spirits, rather.


Well, I mean, that's a Telling stip, isn't it? Because this is what's so fascinating is that it's a conflation of traditional beliefs with Christianity.


Yeah. And he has come to basically liberate us. So wonderful news. Liberation is at hand. And it's going to happen actually next spring, spring of 1991, '91. Brilliant. This bloke, this Messiah, his name was Wawavaka, or his white friends knew him as Jack Wilson, which is a little bit less inspirational, I suppose, than Wawavaka. He is a Paiute in his 30s, and he was a medicine man with the Paiute, but he was very Westernized, as it were, Christianised, I suppose. He dressed like the white man's clothing. He worked for a rancher. He spoke English. He had clearly learned about Christianity from this rancher out there in Nevada. And the story goes that it was during a solar eclipse in 1889 that he had fallen very badly ill and he had had a vision and he had ascended into heaven and God had given him the good news and said, Jesus is on his way, fantastic scenes, and he's actually coming to help the native people.


But it's unclear, isn't it, whether he is actually Jesus? Because doesn't he have stigmata?


Yes, he does.


The wounds of the nails in his hands and feet.


He does indeed. And the trouble is the accounts we have of him are very garbled and slightly contradictory. And what is clear as well is that the Lakota emissaries who returned, so kicking bear and short bull, distorted His message in some way. It's very unclear. But what is clear is that he says good times are ahead for the plains Indians. But what you absolutely must do, he said, is you must be peaceful. You must remain at peace. You mustn't take up arms. You must make up arms, you must show love, and above all, you must dance. The dance is really important. So the dance will be a big thing where you dance around a pole a little bit like a sun dance. The more you dance, as you dance, you break down the barriers between this world and the next. So you'll be able to see and feel, I guess, your dead family and friends, hence the name The Ghost Dance. You dress in these white robes or shirts, which are decorated with moons and stars and things.


And they're proof against bullets, aren't they?


They're proof against bullets, although I'm not clear whether that's a detail that was added later, whether he said they were proof against bullets. And it's communal. So it's a different dance from the sun dance, because in the sun dance-It's competitive, isn't it? Obviously, the sun dance is... There's loads of people there. But in the sun dance, you personally commune with the spirits, and it's very much a private experience for you.


But also, if you fail at it, then you fail as an individual.


Yeah, you do. Whereas in the Ghost Dance, you're all holding hands, which the Sioux didn't used to do when they'd dance. So it's very much everybody together. And as soon as you've had a vision, you must share it with your friends and swap the good news and all this stuff.


So very Quakerish. Yeah. Assembly, the spirit coming on you, talking, having visions, Pentecostalist, speaking in tongues.


I think what is obvious and what lots of people have said is this is quite obviously a fusion of Christianity and elements of native... I know you say religion is the wrong word, native spirituality.


I mean, let's say, because it is becoming a religion.


Yeah, being codified.


Because the native peoples of America are being Americanized.


It's a fusion of those things, but also it's happening out West. And there is a lot of Romanism in there, almost certainly as well. So all of these things are mixed up. No one doubts this guy, by the way, Wawoja. He's not a common man. He's not a demog or anything like that. There's no reason to doubt his sincerity.


Well, it's often said that what happens in the colonial peripheries in the long run will blow back and hit the metropoles of the West. And it reminds me of spiritualism in the wake of the First World War, the desperate yearning of people to be in touch with those that they've loved. And these visions in eclipses, I mean, this is what happens, the visions of Fatima, these extraordinary visions, basically, of the Virgin Mary. Something very similar, this sense of in the wake of an unbelievable catastrophe, the yearning for communion with what you have lost. And ultimately, this is what it's like. And it seems like a foreshadowing of what will happen in Europe a few decades later. Yeah.


I think that belief in I want to commune with the dead. I guess because the dead, it's not just because dead in themselves, it's because of what they represent, which is that old world.


Right. Because also, in a way, the most moving thing of all is that they say the Buffalo will come back. It's so painful.


Anyway, this starts to spread and people are excited about it. But actually, it probably wouldn't really have caught on if it hadn't been for the fact that in the summer of 1890, as if they haven't suffered enough, there is a terrible drought There are days and days of baking hot skies and burning winds, and all the crops on the reservations of South Dakota wither and die. The hay turns brown. As Peter Cousins puts it in his book on the Indian Wars, The baked soil became fertile ground for the new faith, and hunger nourished its growth. I mean, one of the agents, an agent called Valentine McGillicuddy, he said, The dance and its ceremonies was like the voice of a feast of starving man. If those people had been well-fed, the Ghost Dance would never have been heard of. Actually, if Congress had not cut their rations by so much, the Ghost Dance would probably never have taken root in the way that it did. So what happened is that by that summer, a version of the Ghost Dance craze has come to the reservations, but it's been twisted. It's much more militant. So definitely now we have the stuff about the white shirts will protect you from bullets.


So conflict is expected, and it's much more aggressively anti-white settler, as in they will be eliminated, that they will go. They will go. And as the weeks pass, people are very hungry, of course. The baking summer turns very quickly to freezing autumn and winter. And the dances continue and they become ever more fervent. People are collapsing and, as you said, speaking in tongues, screaming, foaming at the mouth. There is this incredible, incredible incredible excitement. Now, all of this might have been very unsettling and incendiary to their new white neighbors. Of course, they do have white neighbors now, farmers in the Dakotas, who are bound to be a little bit perturbed by this.


Although, to be honest, settlers in the West, they're used to weird expressions of religious faith. That's true.


People speaking in tongues and babbling, aren't they?


It's not totally weird to them, I guess.


But what actually really turbocharges it is how the agent at one particular place, Pine Ridge, handles it. And here again, we go back to the politics. Because we said before, the Republican Party is desperate to attract Western voters. Elections at this period are really tightly contested. Benjamin Harrison only beat in Grover Cleveland in the Electoral College, not in the popular vote. Everything matters. And politics in this era is all about patronage. And so they want to put Republicans into political appointments. And the job of being an Indian agent was a really valuable one.


It's a plum.


You control control thousands of dollars of contracts to feed the people on the reservation and to build mills and schools and things. And the South Dakota Republican Party give the job at Pine Ridge that year, 1890, to somebody who could not be more useless. He's called Daniel F. Royer. I mean, he's 36, but in that time, he had been a doctor, a newspaperman, a banker, a territorial delegate, a drugstore guy, and says one person who writes about him, and quite possibly a narcotics addict. So he's just a serial failure, but he's got connections. They give him the job. He pitches up on the reservation, and he totally loses it. He panics completely because he sees them dancing, and he goes out, and he says, Oh, you should stop this business. And they all laugh at him, the Lakota. And then he panics and says, You've got to send troops. These people are laughing at me. This is dreadful. And then he starts telling the press, These people are dancing. They're planning an uprising. Blood will flow. We need to strike first. All of this stuff.


Dominic, the background for this is what Buffalo Bill represents, which is the dramatization of the Indian Wars as entertainment. So it's as vivid in people's minds as ever. And they This association of Indians with Tomahawks and scalpings and mutilations is completely uppermost in people's mind and not the sufferings that they're going through.


No. Remember, we're in 1889, 1890. So if you're 20 or so, or 25, 30 now, you've grown up with the dime novel stories of the battles on the planes in the 1860s, the massacres, all of that stuff. So that is in people's imaginations, absolutely, and it's playing on that. Now, actually, in Washington, when people hear these reports about the Ghost Dance, as so often, the senior military officers say, Oh, this is absolute bouder dash. They're just having a dance. Let them crack on with it. It's just a craze. It will pass. I mean, they're totally right on that, by the way. But President Harrison wants to look strong and decisive. South Dakota is actually about to send a new senator to the US Senate. He wants that to be a Republican because that will hold the balance of power in Congress. He wants to impress the voters of South Dakota and the state legislature. And he knows that actually, if the army were sent in, the army bring money with them because there's all the contracts to supply them and there's all that. And in an area that is suffering from drought and depression, brilliant.


It's a win-win situation for him. He looks strong and the voters like him.


Yeah, he reinflicts the economy. Exactly.


So he sends Nelson A. Miles, the guy who had basically beaten the natives in the aftermath of Little Bighorn. So General Miles, he's quite sympathetic to the Indians. He says they've been very badly treated. I don't think this ghost dance is a big deal. But another bizarre political element of this, this is an age when All the talk in Washington is about the Navy. The future will belong to world's great navies. That's what power is. So Congress is giving loads of funds to the Navy and not to the army. And Miles thinks, Hold on. If we'd make a bit of a show of things up there in South Dakota. People will see that the army is very important after all. We'll get lots of money, and we'll get what I've always wanted, what the army have always wanted. We want to run Indian policy ourselves. We don't want the civilians making a mess of it. So Miles says, Fine. I'll mobilize the army. He mobilizes a quarter of the entire fighting strength of the US army, 5,000 men. It's not a very big army, the American army at this point.


Almost as small as the British army.


Yeah, exactly. They're rushed in by a railroad. The largest army mobilization since the Civil War. Just for a load of blokes in white shirts, dancing around a pole, having a dance. Actually, Miles handles it really well. He cordons off the reservations. His men say to the Lakota leaders, Guys, pipe down, chill out, calm down. Yeah, exactly. Those people who... So some of them have started roaming around and leaving the reservations. They are persuaded to go back. Everything has calmed down. But the terrible irony, by sending the troops, the administration and Miles have actually ignited a press feeding frenzy because loads of reporters have piled in South Dakota. There's no story because there's no fighting. So they invent a story, and When they say, Any moment now, the massacres will begin. It goes back to what you were saying, Tom, about the Buffalo Bill show.


They're playing with the stories that people are familiar with.


The Tomahawks are being sharpened as we speak, all this thing.


The Tom-toms of war are sounding.


I mean, the storm clouds of war, Tom, have never been darker than at this point. And of course, the man they blame, the man they point the finger at, they need a super villain, and they pick the one Indian that everybody has heard of who has appeared in shows, is Sitting Bull, and who is conveniently on location. He's on location. They call him the high priest of the Indian Messiah craze. And so General Miles reads all this stuff in the newspapers, and he says very wearily, fine, we'll round up Sitting Bull, we'll put him in custody or whatever. Agent McCloughlin, who hates Sitting Bull, he's all over it. He says, brilliant, I'll handle this.


There is talk, isn't there, of bringing in Buffalo Bill?


Well, Buffalo Bill wants to do it. He says, I know Sitting Bull. I've worked with Sitting Bull. I'll persuade Sitting Bull. General Miles says, Yeah, good plan, gets Buffalo Bill to do it. Mcclafflin, the agent, says, no, I want to handle this myself. I'm going to do it.


With disastrous consequences.


Tragic consequences.


The final act in this extraordinary story that we've been saying, and we will finish the episode there. Originally, this was meant to be four episodes, then eight, then 10. It is now going to be 11.


I'll take some of the blame, but not all of it. I'm not taking all of the blame for this.


Dominic, you are like General Custer, roaming all over the place, refusing to stay where you should, or indeed like Crazy Horse. You're not going to be panned in, are you? No. You just want to get out there, be free.


Is there anybody involved with this podcast who rings the other presenter up 10 minutes before they're due to record and says, I've got loads of extra notes. Let's do the extra notes. I know.


Well, I also want to break free. We're both very much to blame for Anyway, this is now going to absolutely be our longer series. We're going to have one more episode. In that, we are going to look at the fate of Sitting Bull and what happens to the Ghost Dancers. We will finally get to Wounded Knee. If you would like to hear that immediately, therestishistory. Com, you can sign up there. If not, we'll be back with it very soon. Thank you for sticking with us, if you have.


But if you haven't, you're not listening.


If you haven't, I don't care because you've gone. Exactly.


On that, what Michelle that bombshell of indifference. Goodbye. Goodbye.