Disturbing Photos From S.D. in 1890s—From Wounded Knee to Pine Ridge

J.C.H. Grabill/Library of Congress
The caption says: What’s left of Big Foot’s Band. Taken near Deadwood, South Dakota in 1891. (This was after the Massacre of Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. This was all that remained of Big Foot’s Band.)

A time when Natives and ancestral homelands were under attack captured in images

All of these images were taken by Chicago photographer J.C.H. Grabill between 1886 and 1892 in South Dakota—not an easy time for the Indians of the area.

It was a time of upheaval for Natives. The railroad was being built through their ancestral homelands, the Massacre of Wounded Knee devastated the Lakota in 1890, and their land was being mined by whites with Westward Expansion on their minds.

As Chicago Magazine pointed out, “Grabill’s photography career lasted a mere seven years, but seven critical ones, and his legacy is a remarkable document of America in the era of Manifest Destiny.”

Grabill released all 188 images he took from 1886-1892 to the Library of Congress. Here are 25 of them.

Historic South Dakota Images by J.C.H. Grabill, Wounded Knee

J.C.H. Grabill/Library of Congress
The caption says: “At the Dance” Part of 8th U.S. Cavalry and 3rd Infantry at the great Indian Grass Dance on Reservation.

Historic South Dakota Images by J.C.H. Grabill, Wounded Knee

J.C.H. Grabill/Library of Congress
Chief Rocky Bear’s Home.

Historic South Dakota Images by J.C.H. Grabill, Wounded Knee

J.C.H. Grabill/Library of Congress
This caption says: The Great Hostile Camp.

Historic South Dakota Images by J.C.H. Grabill, Wounded Knee

J.C.H. Grabill/Library of Congress
Devil’s Tower or Bear Lodge (Mato [i.e. Mateo] Tepee of the Indians), on the Belle Fourche. Taken near Sturgis, South Dakota in 1887.

Historic South Dakota Images by J.C.H. Grabill, Wounded Knee

J.C.H. Grabill/Library of Congress
Indian chiefs who counciled with Gen. Miles and setteled [sic] the Indian War — 1. Standing Bull. 2. Bear Who Looks Back Running [Stands and Looks Back]. 3. Has the Big White Horse. 4. White Tail. 5. Liver [Living] Bear. 6. Little Thunder. 7. Bull Dog. 8. High Hawk. 9. Lame. 10. Eagle Pipe.