Hoaxes & Rumors

Was There an 1890 School Shooting Worse than Sandy Hook?

Was There an 1890 School Shooting Worse than Sandy Hook?

A heavily-shared graphic claims that the deadliest school shooting was not Sandy Hook, but one that occurred in 1890 when 290 Indians were killed. Today we’ll take a look at this claim.

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The claim is misleading. There was a massacre in 1890 but it did not occur at a school.

Let’s first take a look at what is being claimed:

Sandy Hook the deadliest school shooting in U.S. History…?
I think not. In 1890 the U.S. Government shot and killed over 290 UNARMED Indians at school, including over 200 women and children. How quickly we forget history.

They gave up their guns, too. Remember that!

Based on the assertions made above, we can only assume that this refers to the Wounded Knee Massacre, which occurred in the final days of 1890.

Wounded Knee

The following synopsis of the Wounded Knee Massacre comes from u-s-history.com.

On December 28, 14 days after the brutal shooting of Sitting Bull, the U.S. Army sought to disarm and relocate the Lakota people, who failed to stop their Ghost Dance.

The U.S. authorities ordered the arrest of another Lakota chief, Big Foot. Big Foot’s band, which consisted mostly of women who had lost their husbands and other male relatives in battles with Custer, Miles and Crook, had danced until they collapsed, hoping to guarantee the return of their dead warriors. Big Foot and about 350 Lakota marched to Pine Ridge Reservation to seek protection from the military. At Pine Ridge they surrendered on December 28, 1890, and were escorted to Wounded Knee by the military, where they established a camp at Wounded Knee Creek.

The following morning, December 29, 1890, the military ordered all Indian weapons to be relinquished and burned. A medicine man advocated armed resistance telling the other Indians that their Ghost Dance shirts were bulletproof.

A shot was fired by an unidentified gunman.

On the frozen plains at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation, government troops opened fire on the mostly unarmed Lakota people, and massacred 290 Sioux men, women and children, including many trying to flee, in a matter of minutes. Thirty-three soldiers died, most from friendly fire, 20 Medals of Honor were presented to surviving soldiers.

Let’s take a look at the individual claims presented in the graphic, which has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media sites.


  • 290 Indians Killed: TRUE. The actual number varies, but 290 is a figure sometimes used.
  • Indians were unarmed: MOSTLY TRUE. A few Lakota warriors had guns, but most of the Indians were unarmed.
  • Indians killed at school: FALSE.  This event did not take place at a school.
  • Over 200 women and children killed: TRUE
  • They gave up their guns: MIXED. They were ordered to relinquish their weapons after surrendering. It is suggested that a deaf tribesman named Black Coyote refused to give up his rifle, which led to shots being fired and the escalation of the event.

Bottom Line

The Wounded Knee Massacre was a terrible tragedy in which nearly 300 mostly-unarmed Indians were killed. To categorize it as a school shooting, however, is completely without merit.

For a comprehensive list of school shootings in the U.S. see this Wikipedia article.

Read more articles related to gun control rumors and hoaxes here.


  • Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970. Print.
  • Gitlin, Marty. Wounded Knee Massacre. Santa Barbara:  ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara. 2011. Print
  • Wikipedia contributors. “Wounded Knee Massacre.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Feb. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.
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  • Jack

    Does it really matter that this did not take place at a school? Does that mitigate the governments culpability?

  • glenneboy

    Despite your name, you’re wrong. The soldiers who defended themselves had no way to know who or who didn’t have arms. Some of the soldiers even received the Medal of Honor!!

  • cdrsjb

    The U.S. Government needs to stop babysitting Native Americans. They don’t need it. Reservations that are more autonomous do very well financially and socially. Those continuing to receive massive government handouts are economic and social basket cases. Government meddling in their affairs is ruining their lives and culture. Native Americans will prosper without liberal Uncle Sam trying to manage them and support them like helpless children. Tell Uncle Sam to take a hike.

  • Kenneth Munson Sr.

    I know it is a little late in the discussion, but.

    I am not a Native American but lived among them (White Mountain Apache) for many years as a youth. I have heard many tales from the Elders about the history of atrocity against them. I learned much of their culture and way of life.

    Keep telling the world the truth, Spirit Bear. Don’t let the white man silence you.

  • Connor

    Natives were not entirely innocent and to act like Europe did anything different than any other nation would have is silly.

  • Connor

    Well no survivors happen to be alive to tell us what happened why don’t we try and have some perspective.

  • Brian Garland

    The point is what is important. And the point is that the government slaughtered these people after disarming them. And that is why we have a Second Amendment.

  • CC1980

    Close enough to convey the point that defenseless people are an easy mark.

  • VD65

    The description is relevant. If it was at a school that is where it was. If one let’s that slide then why have memes that tell the truth. Compare anything your heart desires. This happened a long time ago. The person who shot at Sandy Hook was an individual who was autistic (we no longer use the diagnostic term of Asperger’s Syndrome) In other words he was high functioning. As to why he did the shootings has not come out and from what I have read I’m not so sure it had to do with his disorder perse but his treatment in that town at that particular school. Yes he went berserk but one cannot always predict things like this.

  • Shebastian Reyes

    Thank you for the article. It makes it very easy to find out what this post was referring to. As a side note, I didn’t expect so much anger in the comment section. I don’t think I could ever put up with writing online articles, more power to you.

  • beancrisp

    FACT: Wounded Knee was worst than Sandy Hook because crimes committed by government is worst than crimes committed by individuals.

  • http://wafflesatnoon.com Waffles At Noon

    The picture claims it is a school shooting, which it is not. “Missing the point” would be attempting to turn this into a broader discussion about the tragedy.

  • don2478

    Spirit Bear,
    Yours is a well written response and I agree with my whole heart with your statements. There is a lot of discussion about reparations for the children of former slaves, but these former slaves’ offspring should be paying reparations to the native americans that were devastated by military and civilian authorities during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. The offspring of the former slaves were part of the mechanism that was used, military and civilian, to help destroy the native nations. So it seems to me that the only people deserving of reparations are the native peoples who are currently tied to the tribes.
    May God bless all of those struggling to survive in a situation created by the government and the civilians authorities and those that today perpetuate the system of repression and spiritual destruction.

  • Joyce

    Seriously, I knew one of the children so I beg to differ with you.

    While I agree we should have the right to own guns, two things are obvious that gun rights activists just can’t seem to comprehend.

    First, even if we don’t count such tragedies as Sandy Hook, way too many gun owners do not have the mental capacity evidently to keep their guns away from children who suffer thousands of injuries and deaths yearly (fact) and why do you also have a problem with keeping guns out of the hands of known offenders dah.

    Secondly, since when is your measly little arsenal of guns going to be able to take on the federal governments huge arsenal of weapons such as tanks and trained soldiers.

    The worst part about most people espousing this nonsense is that they claim to be christian which in no way is even compatible with the notion of gun worshiping.

    • kronikdenny

      You knew one of the children who were killed? Or you knew one of the children who knew another child who heard that there were children killed at Sandy Hook? I’m curious.

  • Ben

    “The Wounded Knee Massacre was a terrible tragedy in which nearly 300 mostly-unarmed Indians were killed.”

    “Tragedy”? It was mass murder and genocide. And not a “tragedy” which sounds like it has been an accident.

    And if it wasn’t in a school, so what? Still a f–king mass murder, no matter if it was in a school or not.

    Even if this picture is wrongly saying that it was in a school, it is still a good thing to remember at that massacre at all.

    • waffles

      noun: tragedy; plural noun: tragedies
      1. an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

      Mass murder can be a tragedy.

  • dave

    I have to say after reading all of the info here and other sites pointed out here. You are an idiot for not considering the fact that the wounded knee massicure was in fact a school.

    • waffles

      Your argument would be stronger if you could cite one written history of the massacre which describes it as a school.

  • Tony

    After reading through this thread, I wanted to ask a simple question on both sides:

    If it WERE a school, would you admit that the innocent killing of children was just as detrimental as Sandy Hook? What makes this massacre any less significant? It would be no better or worse than that of Sandy Hook, only more children would have been innocently killed in 1890. Correct?

    Now if you don’t agree with the aforementioned, answer this:

    It is WERE NOT classified as a school, does this mean that you nonchalantly cast it aside because it doesn’t have the same effect as Sandy Hook in your mind??? So you think it was not a trajedy because it wasn’t in a school???

    If you answered yes to the last two questions, then consider this simple scenario:

    All of the kids at Sandy Hook took a field trip to the state capitol. All of the same events transpired at the capitol building with the same madman.

    Now go back and try to answer the same questions . . . . .

    • Caifeng

      I don’t think the author is saying it isn’t horrific, I think it’s just trying to be factual. I don’t think this should be in the same category as sandy hook. What happened at wounded knee was genocide. It belongs with the Holocaust. Both were horrible things, senseless and heinous for sure

  • Amy

    I would just like to inform you that the natives were pushed into school. It was not their school, it what the white man forcing them to learn their ways and their culture. Those were the types of schools back then, so to say that was not a school is being ignorant. Learn your history before you post such and offensive post.

    • waffles

      They weren’t in a school of any kind, their’s or the white man’s. They were in a temporary location for 24 hours, surrounded by guns. You call that a school? What is offensive about agreeing with virtually every history written about the event?

      • Johnny 56

        Waffles, after reading many of these posts, I must agree with you
        that It wasn’t a school but mostly a POW camp. It also cannot be
        ignored that the fact is that the US Gov was responsible for that
        act of carnage. Reprehensible ! Buy you’re right. A 24 hour internment
        cannot in any culture classify as a “school” . A white school was in
        a building while the red man’s was not teaching math but teaching the
        history of their culture and survival in the open spaces. Both qualify
        as schooling but a formal school IS in a classroom in a building.
        No building, NO SCHOOL. Therefore NO school shooting.

        There are many attempts here to posit otherwise, mostly for
        revisionist history to validate their beliefs. However abominable
        and deplorable as it was, it was NOT a school “shooting”. It was a savage
        attack sanctioned by a very young government of unhindered elitists.

      • Caifeng

        Idk who you are I fell on this site. But I love this article. I will be looking forward to other things from you in the future :) it was really nice to see someone separate the facts but still stay true to the key points in the story. This is a tale that needs to be told for sure

        • http://wafflesatnoon.com Waffles At Noon

          Thank you. It’s a shame that conspiracy theorists have taken Wounded Knee and tried to re-write its history in order to promote their fringe beliefs on Sandy Hook. We very much appreciate your comments.

  • epeoples

    Waffles is casting pearls before swine here. I have to remind myself to never read the comments sections in newspapers and blogs. They are a sewar. All the mouth-breathers show up and engage in some of the most pathetic attempts at obfuscation to deny facts that stare them right in the face. It’s a shame, Waffles, but that’s the way it is. You just can’t reach some people. They are too far gone.

  • derik

    All have to say is there is something bigger is on the horizon. There’s a reason why they are wanting to disarm us. All I have to say history can and will repeat it’s self again. I’m just saying wake up and get a full understanding on where everything is leading to. The fearless leader is hell bent to change our lifes and take our rights away. Look at Michelle Obama hating on fat people, trying to band Mc Donalds drive-thrus so that people would get up off their fat asses and go in and get there food. Banning big gulps from 7-11 in New York mayor Bloomberg supports this and it happened. Look no one should ever have that right to tell anyone what they can and can’t do. Adolf Hitler did the same thing, people were blinded by his charm and character,just like people are blinded by Obama. Just keep in mind that the constitution was put there for a reason and we are falling under a dictato

  • Patriot7

    Bottom line: Giving up any part of our constitution especially the 1st and 2nd amendments is just pure stupidity… More gun legislation would not have prevented the insanity that revolved around Sand Hook, nor any other crime where criminals and sick minds do evil.
    I will keep my tools such as guns that will defend my family and I against evil, no Government or law can do that for you.
    Just say no to the socialist agenda, the domestic enemies within our borders and those sitting in elected chairs who comitt treason daily.
    From my cold dead hand socialist.

    • Arthur Russell

      Anyone in DC that tries to dismantle the Constitution, which they all swore to uphold, should immediately be tried for treason and that goes for the loser-in-chief as well.

  • JLee

    Were they not “home schooled”?

  • EaveintheAdirondacks

    Oh, but you will see this once again rest assured. It will be a sad sad day at that.

  • EaveintheAdirondacks

    Well, that is interesting. Must look into this one. Anyone know anything about this?

  • yabbadoody

    nice try – but since the entirety of the United States Government, including the US Military, was involved in suppressing and exterminating all of the various indigenous American populations for several decades (and arguably, continues that effort until present),



    One is the act of an unstable, usually heavily armed individual. The other is an ACT OF OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT POLICY.

    If anyone commenting here actually believes for one moment that they can individually withstand THE EFFORTS OF ENTIRE US GOVERNMENT ‘DISARMING’ THEM, IN ANY FORM OR CAPACITY, AT ANY TIME, well – just guess again. And good luck with that.

  • Brie

    Many of you seem incapable of grasping an incredibly basic concept here… did this massacre occur? YES. Is the OP disputing that it transpired? NO. Were the Natives on their Reservation? NO. Were the Natives in a school? NO.

    So, if this DID NOT happen on a Res, and DID NOT happen at a school, then that very clearly means it is NOT A SCHOOL SHOOTING since, by definition, a shooting must take place at a school in order for it to be classified as a “school shooting”.

    The great thing about facts is that they’re true regardless of if you believe them… or, apparently, possess capable brain function to process them…

    • Darkwolfe

      Wounded Knee is on the reservation,period.

  • Elliot

    Yontocket was the name of the ranchera. It seems to be implied that the schoolhouse (and the modern town) were named in memorium of the event.

    It also occured in 1853, not 1890, and had much to do with racism and ethnic tension and virtually nothing to do with a school.

    You should read the articles you link to.

  • Coharie Ron

    It was not a school from the view of a European settler, but everyday life would have been a teaching experience for the children of the Lakota at that time. The children in essence were learning what was expected of them in the event of the loss of their family friends and loved ones in battle. Just because they weren’t in a school house doesn’t mean they weren’t being taught. All the education we provide our public service officials and military doesn’t occur in a classroom why would you suppose that a group of people living in a pre-industrial
    society more than 120 years ago would be held to such a standard. If you can say that soldiers exemplified personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty by shooting at 290 mostly unarmed civilians and one another then certainly children watching a cultural ceremony could be considered to be at a school function. Just because everyone at school isn’t learning doesn’t mean they aren’t at school, if you look at some of the things happening at schools in our nation from our “Educators” you can’t even call it teaching or education, it’s more like indoctrination or proselytization.

    • waffles

      Thank you for your comment.

      Perhaps if this occurred where these people lived, a case could be made. This certainly wasn’t everyday life, however, being held at a temporary and remote location surrounded by Hotchkiss guns. I do not believe the soldiers exemplified valor beyond the call of duty.

    • Diana

      Hmm, I am in agreement with waffles. While I understand the viewpoint you are trying to make, that would technically be the case for absolutely any place where children are at. A family being massacred in their home does not make it a school shooting, even though the point of a home is to teach children how to live their lives and to teach them family values. Even if the children were homeschooled, it would still not be considered a school shooting. It would still be a tragedy (as all massacres are) but it would not fall under the category of a school shooting.

  • RobertH

    This is the saddest excuse for a debate that I have ever seen. No it was not a school, period. Try reading Dee Brown’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” or Roger Di Silvestro’s “In the Shadow of Wounded Knee”.

    • Steven Henderson

      How is Dee Brown, a novelist and non Indian relevant.
      How is Roger Di Silvestro, a manifest destiny proponent and non Indian relevant.
      Treaty line is in ILLINOIS west of treaty line is Indian territory.
      Undeniably the Dakotas are west of that line.
      So if the U.S. had not violated their own treaty this could not have happened.
      Even if it was not a school, which it was, it is still an example of the U.S. violating any and all treaties with the American Indians at will,

  • Chris

    The defining quality of a school is the concentration of children and those who are looking after their development. The reason I don’t think it’s a stretch to use the term here is because the purpose is to compare similar tragedies. These are similar tragedies based on the victim demographics (as opposed to a conventional battle which is mostly men). What makes them shocking is the number of –children–. Also, the photo blurs these lines for the purpose of reminding how much more horrible the incident cited was, and ultimately how easy it is to massacre many people who are unarmed.

    • waffles

      We have found no written history of the event which refers to the location as a school. The mere concentration of children in an area should not automatically qualify the location as a school, otherwise a Justin Bieber concert or slumber party or Disneyland may also be considered “schools.”

      And you are correct that the photo does take liberties to make a point regarding unarmed victims of massacres, especially children.

  • Raelinda Standing Chief

    The killer in sandyhook was mentialy ill. Now were the us troops mential ill? What the us did to our native people is the same thig Hittler did to the Jews. I feel bad for the familys @ sandyhook but our people have been masacured by our own goverment. As for the reservations it is the goverments politicly correct term for consintration camp. Go take a look @ the reservations in the us and see for your self.

  • Raelinda Standing Chief

    The above claims are not being seen threw the eyes of native people. What most people dont understand is that back then Reservations were schools. Our people were put there to learen to be white and to forget theyre way of life. My great grandmother was raised on a reservation and would get beat for speacking her on languge. The point is unarmed wemon and children were killld. The same as in sandyhook. Resevations back then were like consintration camps. Today on reservations not much has changed except the Us armed forces dont come kill us unarmed and unprovoked.So untill you have lived on a reservation and grew up the way most of us do I would suggest you not judge. Also the masacure of 290 people in the us by the us is the biggest tragady. But the biggest injustice is the refusle of the us to addmit this happened. Reservations are just the us wasy back then to teach our people to be more like they wanted.

    • waffles

      There is no disputing that it happened or that it was a terrible tragedy. Referring to it as a school shooting is sole point of contention here. It didn’t even occur where these people lived, but at a remote location occupied for a single day before the events unfolded. We have found no history that refers to the tragedy taking place at a school.

      • Steven Henderson

        This is a reservation.
        These are UNARMED women and children.
        A reservation was intended to teach Indians to act white.
        Definition of a school is where children are taught.
        My grandfather was an Illini as a child he was kidnapped by a german couple anf hidden after then lt.custer 1st killed their hunting party, then the Elders, Women and children in camp.
        So, again, what is inaccurate about the statement that this was a school shooting. I see all the revisionist history that it was somehow the Indians fault, it was not, the boundary agreed to by treaty is about 17 miles west of the Indiana state border in ILLINOIS. So this killing was not only a school shooting and attempted genocide it was a CLEAR violation of a treaty .

        • waffles

          What’s odd is that people seem to assume because the “school” angle is disputed, that somehow there is a case being made here to dispute of the entire tragedy. Of course it was unjustified. Of course it was a violation of the treaty. Of course it was NOT the fault of the Native Americans.

          But a SCHOOL? There are absolutely no histories which describe the location as a school. It was a temporary location that existed for 24 hours before the massacre. If you have sources that describe this as a school shooting, please cite them. In fact, the “school” angle is much more of a revisionist history than anything, as this article is agreeing with history that it was not at a school.

          It’s also kind of odd to describe the forceful “teaching” of someone in order to oppress their culture a “school.”

  • Brandi Cullipher

    One thing we should keep in mind is what defines a school. A school is a place, location in which children are taught. Many cultures did not have defined walls of a “school house”. I have been researching this ever since I posted it. The “Wounded Knee” massacre is the most infamous and that is probably why whomever created this photo chose this information. However, from the beginning of the Ghost Wars, Sioux Wars, and Indian Wars -I have counted over 10 shootings that involved mostly women and children. Through everything we have learned about Native American civilization, I can believe that before the Native American Boarding schools were created, they were taught in a group by women and elder men of the tribe. A circle of pupils being taught by elders is still a school.

    • waffles

      Thanks for your comment. It’s quite a stretch to label this as a “school” when these people were at this location – against their will – for only about 24 hours before the incident occurred.

    • EaveintheAdirondacks

      This is very true. A good point to ponder. Same goes for when churches began. So take head of stories once told for fools run deep when mouths behold.

  • Ben

    Good work remaining neutral Waffles. Great information and points on the site from both readers and yourself. This illustrates the problem with history; it’s written with perspective and is often clouded by agenda on all sides and from many angles and unfortunately used sorely.

    • EaveintheAdirondacks

      I agree Ben. There are many sides to one story. Who is right or wrong will not matter when blood is shed and people are dead. Only the ghosts remain to tell a story that will never be truly told.

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