After Sitting Bull had been killed by US Indian Agents on 14 Dec. 1890, 200 members of his Hunkpapa band joined Chief Spotted Elk, who then moved on to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on 23 Dec.
On 28 Dec., Spotted Elk and 350 of his followers (230 men and 120 women and children) were met by the 7th Calvary who escorted them to Wounded Knee Creek, where they made camp. The cavalry (more than 500 troops) surrounded them and set up light cannons.
At daybreak on 29 Dec. 1890, Col. James Forsyth demanded that Spotted Elk and his men turn over all weapons and wait for government trains to take them off the Reservation.
38 rifles were turned over to the cavalry, but Black Coyote refused to turn over his gun. Black Coyote might have been deaf; he did not understand English. And when soldiers tried to take the rifle from him, the weapon went off. The 7th Cavalry began firing indiscriminately. In a matter of minutes nearly half of all Sioux men were killed. Soldiers outside of the camp began firing the 4 light cannons on the Sioux tents, which were filled with women and children. In less than an hour, at least 150 Lakota had been killed and 50 wounded, with as many as 300 killed.
Out of the 350 Sioux in the camp, only 51 survived (4 men and 47 women and children).
Army casualties numbered 25 dead and 39 wounded, with most being victims of friendly fire.