When the settlers came to America, they at first did their best to convert the locals to their own religious beliefs. Some of them succeeded, but the situation was far from stable. There were many more tribes than those along the eastern seaboard, and some of them eventually ended up in armed conflicts with the new settlers and their governments. Once many of them were forced onto reservations, shutting off religious rituals of the Native Americans became part of the government’s expectations.
There have been few times in the history of the world when keeping people from their own religious beliefs has been successful for any length of time, and the massacre at Wounded Knee is yet another example of failure. While the government had done everything possible to keep Native Americans from practicing their own religious beliefs, this group of people were determined to keep their own heritage alive.
Wounded Knee was the sight of a massacre where a group of Native Americans, rebelling against the government’s decrees their religious rituals must stop, chose to hold a Ghost Dance. It was a ceremony where they were supposed to find hope that their lives on the reservation would get better or end altogether. The government saw this as the rebellious movement it was, and they sent a cavalry unit to suppress it. The number of non-combatants killed turned it into a popular cry for those who felt religiously suppressed.
While the government did eventually learn the hard lesson that religious suppression is nearly impossible, the Native Americans did lose a great many of their original rituals over time. Some of them have been recreated, and others were formed as a way to begin celebrating religious spirituality with the unique outlook of Native American cultures. There are many today who are not a part of any tribe who look forward to attending these rituals as an interesting look at a different culture within their own country.