Cedarville Rancheria


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The Cedarville Rancheria is a federally recognized tribe of Northern Paiute people in Modoc County, California. The tribe is made up of descendants of the Northern Paiute, Achomawi and Atsugewi peoples.

Official Tribal Name: Cedarville Rancheria

Address: 300 West 1st Street, Alturas, CA  96101

Phone: 530.233.3969
Fax: 530-233-4776
Email: cedranch@citlink.net

Official Website: www.citlink.net/~cedranch/Cedarville_Rancheria/ 

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Names of the Tribes Included in Cedarville Rancheria and Traditional Meanings:

Cedarville Rancheria is made up of the descendants of several indigenous tribes who have lived in the region for thousands of years. These tribes have their own unique cultures, traditions, and languages. The traditional names of the tribes included in Cedarville Rancheria are:

  1. Kosealekte – This tribe was known as the Goose Lake People. The name comes from their proximity to Goose Lake, a large body of water located near the California-Oregon border.

  2. Klamath – The Klamath tribe was one of the largest and most powerful tribes in the region. The name Klamath means “people of the lake” and refers to the tribe’s close relationship with Upper Klamath Lake.

  3. Modoc – The Modoc tribe was known for their fierce warrior culture and their ability to adapt to their environment. The name Modoc means “southern people” and refers to their location in southern Oregon and northern California.

  4. Paiute – The Paiute tribe is a group of Native American people who have lived in the Great Basin region for thousands of years. The name Paiute means “true Ute” and refers to their linguistic and cultural similarities with the Ute people.

  5. Shasta – The Shasta tribe was known for their unique language and culture. The name Shasta means “those who live in the mountains” and refers to their location in the Cascade Range.

Region: California

State(s) Today: California

Traditional Territory:

The tribe’s historical territory includes parts of northeastern California, southern Oregon, and western Nevada. The traditional territory of the Cedarville Rancheria tribe is located in California’s Modoc County.  Their traditional territory encompasses most of the county.

The tribe has a long history of occupying this region, and they have always been closely tied to the landscape and the resources it provides.

The traditional territory includes several mountain ranges, including the Warner Mountains and the Modoc Plateau. The area also includes several rivers and streams, including the Pit River, Lost River, and the Rush Creek.

This region is also home to many lakes, including Lake Surprise and Lake Almanor, as well as several wetlands.  The traditional territory includes several types of vegetation, including oak woodlands, sagebrush steppe, juniper forests, and ponderosa pine forests.

The Cedarville Rancheria tribe has historically hunted and gathered food in this region for centuries. They have also used the area for spiritual ceremonies and gatherings. Today, the tribe is focused on preserving their culture and protecting their ancestral lands from development.

Confederacy: Paiute


The Cedarville Rancheria did not sign any of the 371 treaties with the US Government.


Cedarville Rancheria and Off-Reservation Trust Land

The Cedarville Rancheria is a small reservation land located near the city of Cedarville, California and it is the only federally recognized tribal land in Modoc County.

Land Area: The reservation consists of approximately 26.58 acres of land held in trust by the federal government for the exclusive use of the Cedarville Rancheria tribe. The tribe uses this land for a variety of purposes, including housing, community facilities, and government operations.
Tribal Headquarters:  Near Cedarville, California.
Time Zone:  Pacific Time

Population at Contact:

At the time of European contact, the population of the tribes included in the Cedarville Rancheria is not clear. However, the Modoc people, who are one of the tribes included in the Cedarville Rancheria, are estimated to have had a population of around 3,000 prior to contact with Europeans.

Registered Population Today: 35

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

  • The applicant must be a lineal descendant of an individual who appears on the tribe’s base roll, which was established in 1979.
  • The applicant must provide documentation proving their descent from the base roll ancestor.
  • The applicant must have a degree of Indian blood that is equal to or greater than 1/16.
  • The applicant must not be enrolled in another federally recognized tribe.

Once an individual meets these requirements, they may apply for enrollment in the Cedarville Rancheria. The enrollment process includes a review of the application and supporting documentation by the tribe’s enrollment committee, as well as a vote by the tribal council.

Genealogy Resources:

Here are some resources you may find helpful:

  1. Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Office: The Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Office may be able to provide you with information about your family history if you are a member or descendant of the tribe. Contact the office to inquire about available resources.

  2. Bureau of Indian Affairs: The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) maintains a database of tribal enrollment records, including those for the Cedarville Rancheria. You can contact the BIA’s Office of Vital Records to request information about your family history.

  3. California State Library: The California State Library has a collection of materials related to Native American history and genealogy, including census records, tribal histories, and other resources. You can visit the library in person or search their online catalog for relevant materials.

  4. National Archives: The National Archives has extensive collections of Native American genealogical records, including tribal enrollment records, census records, and other historical documents. You can search their online catalog or visit one of their facilities in person to access these resources.

  5. Ancestry.com: Ancestry.com has a collection of Native American genealogical records, including census records, tribal histories, and other resources. You can search their database for information about your family history and connect with other researchers who may be able to help you.

Remember that researching your family history can be a complex and time-consuming process, especially when it comes to Native American genealogy. It’s important to be patient and persistent in your search, and to consult multiple sources to verify the accuracy of the information you find.


The tribe is governed by a constitution and bylaws that were approved by the Secretary of the Interior on November 28, 1983.

The governing body of the Cedarville Rancheria is the Tribal Council, which is composed of five elected members. The council members serve staggered three-year terms, with elections held annually. The Tribal Council is responsible for the overall governance of the tribe, including the management of tribal resources, the establishment of tribal policies, and the protection of tribal sovereignty.

The Cedarville Rancheria also has several executive officers who are responsible for overseeing specific areas of tribal governance. These officers include a Tribal Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary, and Treasurer. The officers are elected by the Tribal Council and serve two-year terms.

The Cedarville Rancheria Charter outlines the structure and governance of the tribe, including the procedures for conducting tribal elections, the roles and responsibilities of tribal officials, and the procedures for amending the constitution and bylaws. The charter was ratified by the Cedarville Rancheria membership on December 5, 1983, and subsequently approved by the Secretary of the Interior on December 23, 1983.

Since the initial approval of the constitution and bylaws and the charter, there have been several constitutional amendments. These amendments were approved by the Cedarville Rancheria membership and subsequently approved by the Secretary of the Interior on June 20, 1990,October 23, 1991, November 20, 1996, November 18, 1998, December 22, 2000, November 16, 2005, October 27, 2010, October 2, 2013, November 16, 2016, and November 13, 2019.

Language Classification, Dialects, and Number of Fluent Speakers:

The tribe’s traditional language is Northern Paiute, which is part of the Numic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family.

Northern Paiute is further classified as a dialect continuum, with a number of variations spoken by different tribes and bands across the region. The dialects spoken by the Cedarville Rancheria include the following:

  • Northern Paiute (Eastern)
  • Northern Paiute (Western)
  • Northern Paiute (Oregon)

The number of fluent speakers of Northern Paiute among the Cedarville Rancheria is not readily available. However, like many indigenous languages, Northern Paiute is considered endangered, with a decreasing number of fluent speakers and limited opportunities for language revitalization.

Efforts to preserve and promote the language have included language classes, recordings, and documentation of traditional stories and songs. The Cedarville Rancheria has also collaborated with other tribes and organizations to support language revitalization efforts in the region.

Online Dictionaries: 

Search Dictionary – Northern Paiute Language Project

Southern Paiute language – The Online Books Page

Language Pronunciation Help – HSR 220 Diversity and …

Northern Paiute Grammar with Texts (Thornes).pdf


The Northern Paiute origin story is a creation myth that tells the story of how the world and its inhabitants, including the Paiute people, came into existence. According to the story, in the beginning, there was only darkness and chaos. Then, the Great Spirit, Numu, created the world by singing songs and dancing, and from his songs and dance emerged the mountains, rivers, animals, and plants.

Numu then created the first people, using clay and his own breath. He placed them in the center of the world, which is now known as Pyramid Lake in Nevada. These people were the ancestors of the Paiute people and were given the responsibility to take care of the land and all its creatures.

The story goes on to describe how the first people learned to live in harmony with nature and how they developed their culture, language, and traditions. It also tells of how the Great Spirit gave them gifts such as the ability to heal and communicate with animals.

The Northern Paiute origin story is a vital part of the Paiute culture and is passed down through generations as an important part of their oral tradition. It serves as a reminder of their connection to the land and the responsibility they have to protect it.

Legends / Oral Stories: 

Storytelling is an important part of Cedarville Rancheria’s cultural heritage. Tribal elders pass down stories and legends to younger generations, preserving the community’s history and traditions. Some Cedarville Rancheria legends include:

  1. The Legend of the Tule Elk: This legend tells the story of a Paiute hunter who is transformed into a tule elk as punishment for his greed and disrespect for nature.

  2. The Legend of Coyote and Eagle: This legend tells the story of how Coyote and Eagle learned to work together to survive and how they gained their unique characteristics.

  3. The Legend of the Maiden and the Bear: This legend tells the story of a young Paiute maiden who is kidnapped by a bear, and how she uses her wit and courage to escape and return home.

  4. The Legend of the Rainbow Bridge: This legend tells the story of a magical bridge that connects the earth and the spirit world, and how it was created by the Great Spirit to allow humans to visit their ancestors.

  5. The Legend of the Great Flood: This legend tells the story of a great flood that destroyed the world and how the Paiute people survived by building a boat and taking refuge on a mountaintop.

  6. The Legend of the Thunderbird: This legend tells the story of a powerful bird that controls the weather and how it helped the Paiute people during times of drought and famine.

  7. The Legend of the Paiute Prophet: This legend tells the story of a Paiute prophet who predicted the arrival of the white settlers and warned his people to prepare for their arrival. He introduced them to the Ghost Dance, which spread to other tribes.

These are just a few of the many legends that are part of the rich oral tradition of the Paiute people. Each legend carries important lessons and insights into the history, culture, and beliefs of the Paiute people.

Bands, Gens, and Clans

The Paiute tribe, like many other Native American tribes, has a complex social structure that includes bands, gens, and clans.

Bands are the basic social units of the Paiute tribe. They are made up of families and extended families who live and work together. Each band has its own territory, which is defined by natural features such as mountains, rivers, and lakes.

Gens are groups of people who are related to each other through a common ancestor. The Paiute tribe has several gens, each of which has its own name and history. Members of the same gens are considered to be “brothers” and “sisters” and have specific responsibilities within the tribe.

Clans are groups of people who are related to each other through a common animal or plant. The Paiute tribe has several clans, each of which is named after a specific animal or plant. Members of the same clan are considered to have a special relationship with that animal or plant and are responsible for its protection and care.

The band, gens, and clan systems of the Paiute tribe are all interconnected and work together to create a complex social structure. They provide a framework for social organization and help to define the roles and responsibilities of each member of the tribe.

The Paiute people traditionally traced their lineage through the mother’s line, which is a matrilineal system. This means that a person’s clan membership, inheritance, and social status were determined by the mother’s clan.

In the Paiute matrilineal system, children belonged to the mother’s clan and their maternal uncles played an important role in their upbringing and education. Women also held important positions of leadership within the tribe, and their status was determined by their clan affiliation.

However, it is important to note that with the influence of European culture and the introduction of patrilineal systems, some Paiute communities have shifted to a patrilineal system of tracing lineage, where descent is traced through the father’s line.

Related Tribes:

The Paiute people are part of the larger Numic language family, which includes several other tribes in the Great Basin region of the western United States. Some of the tribes related to the Paiute include:

  1. Shoshone: The Shoshone people are closely related to the Paiute and share a similar language and culture. They are also part of the Numic language family and have traditionally lived in the Great Basin and surrounding areas.

  2. Ute: The Ute people are also part of the Numic language family and have close cultural and historical ties to the Paiute. They traditionally lived in the mountains and plateaus of the western United States, including parts of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

  3. Goshute: The Goshute people are a smaller tribe that also speaks a Numic language and have lived in the Great Basin region for thousands of years. They have a similar culture and history to the Paiute and have traditionally relied on hunting, gathering, and fishing for their livelihood.

  4. Washoe: The Washoe people are another tribe in the Great Basin region who share a similar culture and history with the Paiute. They have their own unique language and have traditionally lived in the eastern Sierra Nevada and western Nevada regions.

These tribes have interacted and intermarried with each other for centuries and have shared cultural practices, beliefs, and traditions. They also faced similar challenges and struggles during the colonization of their lands by European settlers.

Traditional Allies and Enemies:

The traditional allies and enemies of the Paiute tribes varied depending on the time and place. However, here are some general examples:


  • Shoshone: The Paiute and Shoshone tribes often had friendly relations and frequently intermarried.
  • Bannock: The Paiute and Bannock tribes also had friendly relations and sometimes joined forces to defend their territories against outside threats.
  • Ute: The Paiute and Ute tribes had a complex relationship that was sometimes friendly and sometimes hostile. They shared some cultural practices and intermarried, but also competed for resources.


  • Crow: The Crow tribe, who lived to the east of the Paiute, were known to raid Paiute territory for horses and other resources.
  • Comanche: The Comanche tribe, who lived to the south of the Paiute, were also known to raid Paiute territory and were considered a threat to their security.
  • European settlers: With the arrival of European settlers in the 19th century, the Paiute and other Native American tribes were often forced to defend their territories and way of life against encroachment and exploitation. This led to conflicts and wars that had a devastating impact on Native American communities.

Ceremonies / Dances: 

  1. Ghost Dance: The Ghost Dance is a spiritual dance that was popular among many Native American tribes in the late 19th century. It was a way to connect with ancestors and spirits and to pray for a better future for Native American people. A Paiute named  Wovoka first saw it in a vision.

  2. Brush Dance: The Brush Dance is a healing dance that is performed to bring balance and harmony to individuals and the community. It is usually performed in the spring and is accompanied by singing and the use of traditional brushes.

  3. Jingle Dance: The Jingle Dance is a healing dance that originated with the Ojibwe people and was later adopted by other tribes. It is performed by women wearing dresses adorned with metal jingles, and is accompanied by singing and drumming.

  4. Fancy Dance: The Fancy Dance is a modern dance that originated in the 1920s and is characterized by flashy, colorful regalia and fast, intricate footwork. It and the Jingle Dance are often performed at powwows and other Native American gatherings.

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Powwows are social gatherings that celebrate Native American culture and traditions. Cedarville Rancheria holds an annual powwow that brings together tribal members from all over the region.

Art & Crafts:

  1. Basketry: The Paiute are well-known for their basketry, which is made from local materials such as willow, tule, and pine needles. Paiute baskets are often decorated with intricate designs and patterns that reflect the natural world. Cedarville Rancheria is known for its beautiful and intricate basket weaving. The tradition has been passed down from generation to generation and is an important part of the community’s cultural heritage.

  2. Beadwork: The Paiute also have a strong tradition of beadwork, which is used to decorate clothing, bags, and other items. Paiute beadwork often features bright colors and geometric patterns.

  3. Pottery: While not as well-known as their basketry and beadwork, the Paiute also have a tradition of making pottery. Paiute pottery is often decorated with intricate designs that are etched or painted onto the surface of the clay.

  4. Weaving: The Paiute are also skilled weavers, and traditionally made clothing, blankets, and other items from materials such as rabbit fur, plant fibers, and animal hides.


The Cedarville Rancheria’s traditional territory is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, rabbits, and other species. There are also many bird species, including eagles, hawks, and owls.

Clothing and Adornment:

Before contact with European settlers, Paiute clothing was made from locally available materials such as animal hides, plant fibers, and bark. The exact style of clothing varied depending on the season, location, and gender of the wearer. Here are some general features of pre-contact Paiute clothing:

  1. Summer clothing: In the warmer months, Paiute men typically wore breechcloths or short leggings, while women wore skirts made from woven plant fibers or animal hides. Both men and women often went topless, although some women wore a type of halter top made from woven fibers.

  2. Winter clothing: In the colder months, both men and women would wear heavier clothing made from animal hides or fur. This could include tunics, leggings, and moccasins. Some Paiute people also wore woven blankets, which were especially important during winter travel.

  3. Adornment: Paiute clothing was often decorated with beads, quills, and other materials. Men and women both wore necklaces, bracelets, and earrings made from various materials, such as shell, bone, and stone. Headbands and headdresses were also worn on special occasions.


The traditional housing of the Paiute people varied depending on the season and the location of their villages, but generally consisted of dome-shaped structures made from natural materials such as brush, bark, and grasses.

During the summer months, the Paiute lived in temporary shelters that were easy to construct and move. These shelters, known as wickiups, were made by bending young willow branches into a dome shape and covering them with brush, bark, or mats woven from plant fibers. The entrance to the wickiup was covered with a flap of animal hide or woven material, and a small hole at the top allowed smoke to escape from the fire inside.

In the winter, the Paiute constructed more permanent structures that offered greater protection from the cold and snow. These structures, known as pithouses or earth lodges, were dug into the ground and covered with a dome-shaped roof made from willow branches, grass, and earth. The entrance was covered with animal hides or woven mats, and a central fire pit provided warmth and light.

Both types of structures were well-suited to the Paiute’s semi-nomadic lifestyle, as they were easy to construct and move as needed. They also provided protection from the elements while allowing for good ventilation and the use of fire for cooking and warmth.


Cedarville Rancheria is a Native American community situated in northern California’s Modoc County, within the Great Basin region. The Modoc people, who lived in the region, were known for their strong warrior culture and their ability to adapt to their environment.

Its history dates back to the pre-contact era when indigenous people lived in harmony with nature, hunting, fishing, and gathering food.

Cedarville Rancheria’s traditional foods included acorns, pine nuts, and wild game such as deer and elk. The community also holds traditional feasts and potlucks that celebrate their cultural heritage.

Economy Today:

The Cedarville Rancheria tribe owns and operates a fueling station with attached public scales in the town of Cedarville. Additionally, they also run a mini mart/truck stop near the reservation. These businesses provide services to the local community and contribute to the economic development of the Cedarville Rancheria tribe.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs, Wedding Customs and Burial Customs:

The religious and spiritual beliefs of the Cedarville Rancheria are not well-documented, but it is likely that they are rooted in the traditional beliefs and practices of the Paiute people.

The Paiute traditionally believed in a spiritual world that coexisted with the physical world, and that all things were interconnected and had a spirit or life force. They also believed in the importance of balance and harmony, and that human beings had a responsibility to live in harmony with the natural world.

Paiute weddings were typically arranged by the families of the bride and groom. The ceremony itself involved various rituals and customs, which varied depending on the specific band of Paiute and their location.

In general, however, Paiute weddings involved the exchange of gifts, the sharing of food, and the participation of family and community members.

In terms of burial customs, the Paiute believed in the importance of honoring the deceased and ensuring that their spirit could continue on to the afterlife.

They typically buried their dead in shallow graves, with the body placed in a seated position facing east. The grave was then covered with rocks, and sometimes marked with a simple wooden or stone marker.

The Paiute also believed in the importance of mourning and grieving, and would often hold funeral ceremonies and other rituals to honor the deceased and support their loved ones.

Paiute Leaders:

  1. Wovoka: Also known as The Prophet, he was a Northern Paiute spiritual leader and founder of the Ghost Dance movement, which spread among various Native American tribes in the late 19th century. He was born in 1856 in western Nevada and became known for his prophecies of a peaceful world and the return of deceased loved ones.

  2. Sarah Winnemucca: She was a Northern Paiute author, activist, and educator who lived in the late 19th century. She was born in Nevada in 1844 and worked as an interpreter, advocating for the rights of Native Americans and promoting education for Indigenous children.

  3. Numaga: He was a Paiute chief who played a significant role in the Pyramid Lake War of 1860, a conflict between the Paiute and U.S. military forces in Nevada. He led a successful ambush against the U.S. cavalry and negotiated a peace treaty that allowed the Paiute to remain in their ancestral territory.

  4. Chief Winnemucca: Hw was a Northern Paiute leader who lived in the mid-19th century. He was a respected diplomat and warrior who played a key role in negotiating treaties between the Paiute and the U.S. government. He also worked to maintain peace between different Paiute bands.

  5. Dat-So-La-Lee: She was a Northern Paiute basket weaver who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was known for her intricate and beautiful baskets, which are now considered works of art. Her baskets are displayed in museums around the world and continue to inspire contemporary basket weavers.

Catastrophic Events:

The Paiute people have faced numerous catastrophic events throughout their history that have had a significant impact on their culture and way of life. Some of the most significant events include:

  1. European colonization: Beginning in the early 1800s, European settlers began to arrive in Paiute territory, bringing with them diseases and disrupting traditional ways of life. By the mid-1800s, many Paiute had been forced onto reservations and their land had been taken over by non-Native settlers.

  2. Forced relocation: In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the U.S. government implemented policies of forced relocation, which saw many Paiute people removed from their ancestral lands and sent to live on reservations far from their homes.

  3. Boarding schools: Starting in the late 1800s, many Paiute children were forcibly sent to boarding schools where they were taught to reject their native language, culture, and traditions. This policy of forced assimilation had a devastating impact on Paiute communities and cultural practices.

  4. Nuclear testing: In the mid-1900s, the U.S. government conducted nuclear tests in the Nevada desert, which had a significant impact on Paiute lands and communities. The tests contaminated the land with radiation, causing health problems and disrupting traditional hunting and gathering practices.

  5. Water rights disputes: In recent decades, the Paiute have been involved in numerous water rights disputes with non-Native communities and industries, which have threatened their access to clean water and traditional fishing and hunting grounds.

These events have had a profound impact on Paiute culture and have contributed to ongoing social, economic, and health disparities within their communities.

Tribe History:

Here is a brief timeline of significant events in the history of the Cedarville Rancheria:

  • Pre-Contact: The Cedarville Rancheria and surrounding areas were inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Paiute and Modoc, for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans.

  • Mid-1800s: The California Gold Rush brought a flood of settlers to the region, leading to conflict and displacement of Native American communities.

  • 1915: The Cedarville Rancheria was established as a federal Indian reservation, providing a small parcel of land for the tribe.

  • 1956: The federal government terminated its relationship with the Cedarville Rancheria, along with dozens of other California tribes, effectively ending their status as a sovereign nation and cutting off access to resources and services.

  • 1983: The Cedarville Rancheria was restored to federal recognition and regained its status as a sovereign nation.

Today, the Cedarville Rancheria is a small but vibrant community that continues to work to preserve their language, culture, and traditions. They face numerous challenges, including economic and environmental issues.

In the News:

Further Reading:

  1. Mass Murder in California’s Empty Quarter: A Tale of Tribal Treachery at the Cedarville Rancheria” exposes a story of mass murder, a community’s racism, and tribal treachery in a small Paiute tribe. On February 20, 2014, an unseasonably warm winter day for the little agriculture town of Alturas, California, Cherie Rhoades walked into the Cedarville Rancheria’s Paiute tribal offices. In the space of nine minutes she killed four people and wounded two others using two 9mm semiautomatic handguns. In that time she slayed half of her immediate family and became only the second woman, and the first Native American woman, to commit mass murder in the United States.

  2. Legends of the Northern Paiute: as told by Wilson Wewa” preserves twenty-one original and previously unpublished Northern Paiute legends, as told by Wilson Wewa, a spiritual leader and oral historian of the Warm Springs Paiute. These legends were originally told around the fires of Paiute camps and villages during the “story-telling season” of winter in the Great Basin of the American West. 

  3. “Northern Paiute–Bannock Dictionary Hardcover” is based on extensive fieldwork that spanned more than 50 years, this comprehensive dictionary is a monumental achievement and will help to preserve this American Indian language that is nearing extinction. 972 pages

  4. Sarah Winnemucca of the Northern Paiute”  – Of the many Native American women who were torn between two cultures on the American frontier, three have captured the popular imagination: Pocahontas, Sacajawea, and Sarah Winnemucca. This is the first full-scale biography of Sarah, the daughter of a Northern Paiute chief in western Nevada.

  5. Wovoka and the Ghost Dance” – The religious fervor known as the Ghost Dance movement was precipitated by the prophecies and teachings of a northern Paiute Indian named Wovoka (Jack Wilson). During a solar eclipse on New Year’s Day, 1889, Wovoka experienced a revelation that promised harmony, rebirth, and freedom for Native Americans through the repeated performance of the traditional Ghost Dance. In 1890 his message spread rapidly among tribes, developing an intensity that alarmed the federal government and ended in tragedy at Wounded Knee.