Wounded Knee–50 Years On

Yep a little slice of American history that most young people have NO idea ever occurred.

50 years ago last month the Native Americans started their protest at Wounded Knee, the site of a US cavalry massacre of American natives….

The 1973 Siege at Wounded Knee is the longest “civil unrest” in the history of the US Marshal Service. For 71 days, the American Indian Movement (AIM) and members of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) nation were under siege in a violent standoff with the FBI and US Marshals equipped with high powered rifles and armored personnel carriers.  Two people were killed, over two dozen wounded.  At stake, sovereignty and self-determination guaranteed through treaty rights.

Fifty years have passed but for American Indians the struggle for recognition of the nation-to-nation treaties continues to be seen as survival.  At the end of February, young Indian leaders joined older activists to gather at Wounded Knee to commemorate the violent events that began on February 27, 1973, and renew their call for self-determination and recognition of their treaties.

For older Wounded Knee veterans, this Fiftieth Anniversary year is a time for a ritual passing on of the struggle.  “You are the seventh generation. It’s your time to stand up and protect your water, defend your land,” proclaimed Vic Camp, son of Wounded Knee AIM leader Carter Camp, “Remember your treaty rights, protect those treaties . . .  we have to remind the United States government that this is our land.”

Bill Means, a veteran of the 1973 siege urged people to be clear on the purpose, “Remember, we came here for the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty. We didn’t come here just to raise hell. We had to make a statement, to tell the world that Indians are still alive, that this is still our land, and the Black Hills are not for sale!”

For the Lakota this fight for self-determination, the preservation of their nation and its land, were the central demands of the siege at Wounded Knee.  It was a fight for survival. During the negotiations in 1973 the local Oglala leaders were frustrated with the Justice Department’s refusal to grasp the central issue of the Treaty.  Gladys Bissonette, a revered Oglala elder admonished the Government negotiators, “In the past there were a lot of violations of the sacred treaties . . . This is real. We’re not playing here. So all you people that go back to Washington, think real good, because our lives are at stake. It concerns our children’s children, the unborn.”

Much has been written about the aftermath of the 1973 siege, including the murders of 60 AIM sympathizers and activists in the following year, known as the Reign of Terror, carried out by a local vigilante group self-titled “Goons” (Guardians of the Oglala Nation). U.S. District Court Judge Fred Nichols viewed this as the FBI colluding with vigilantes to target AIM sympathizers. The continued imprisonment of Leonard Peltier despite universal calls for clemency – even by the prosecutor – demonstrates the truth of the FBI’s intent to eliminate Indian activists even at the cost of truth.

Siege at Wounded Knee 50 Years Later: the Fight for Self-Determination Continues

I remember those days and thinking ahead…..the Native Americans are still trying to gain some sort of respect from this government and the nation at large….slow go and little has changed…..they still do not get the respect they deserve from either the government or the nation at large.

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”



13 thoughts on “Wounded Knee–50 Years On

  1. The people you are referring to fought a war against the United States and lost. The stain on the United States is not on winning the war. The stain on the United States is in the fact that The United States invaded a sovereign country with no adversarial reason other than to conquer and exploit. That is where the stain should lie, not in the fact the the indigenous lost the battles. I wish there had been a friendlier way to advance the interests of The United States in the days of the so-called Indian Wars. But I fear that the seeds of what would eventually become the Industrial/Military Complex were already planted in somebody’s imagination — The conflicts that followed were horrific to be sure, but I cannot help but feel some comfort in the fact that it them living on reservations and not myself. Call it the “Fortunes of War.” America is not the only country on the face of the earth who have faced similar circumstances and I refuse to feel any guilt about it all because I had nothing to do with any of it.

    1. Greed is a better description…..I have seen the poverty on the rez and the US is better than that (or I use to think that)…..chuq

      1. Better the Rez than Guantanamo, don’t you think? The Indians aren’t that bad off these days — what with their casinos and all that .. they could do better if they had some organization and if they cared about what happens from one day to the next.

      2. Not all nations have casinos and yes they are some that are in deep poverty. So it is their fault,,,,,I cannot agree with that at all. chuq

      3. No agreement is solicited or necessary. I just am not going to feel any guilt because they lost the war. Not my fault, not my business, not my concern.

      4. WE did a better job on Japan and Germany and they lost the war…..but that made profiteers rich and the NAs did not. chuq

  2. During my 5 year stint in the funeral industry in AZ, adjacent to one of Arizona’s many Native American reservations, I came away with some distinct impressions. I did many Native American funerals along with the usual white folks’ funerals. In fact, myself and my significant other (we worked those funerals together) were widely respected in the community and among the NA folks, and were one of few white people allowed to attend to their funerals on their sacred burial lands. So when it comes to having respect for them, and being respected by them, we did quite well. But here is what I came to realize for myself.
    Native Americans, Canada’s First Nations people, Australian Aborigines are as human as white folks.. black folks, Asian folks, etc. We all fall in love, have families, live within tribal cultures, raise crops, tend to farms, build cities, make war, conquer those less able to defend themselves, enslave, discriminate against others, assign other races as inferior, lead well, administrate under corruption, murder, etc. Humans are humans. As I am aware, Nature makes no natural guarantees on which humans are superior over the others.
    All through human history humans have conquered each other, assimilating their conquered territories and people, using any and all justifications… thus creating new cultures and defining new forms of government. Europe and Asia itself, North Africa and the Middle East… many times over. In fact, the isolated tribes of deepest Africa and remote Australia related just the same within their own cultures, without having been introduced to outside European or Asian influence.
    Acknowledging all that, I lean toward the opinion that the European “invasion” or settling of North America would have best served Native Americans if they were NOT sent to reservations but allowed to assimilate into the developing society. Let’s keep in mind that the idea of “assimilation” need not mean the extermination of a culture. Many Americans still celebrate their respective European and Asian heritages, many times having adopted regions or urban areas of their own kind to maintain some cultural identity. Native Americans, as we describe all indigenous tribes in North America, were not simply peaceful people tending to their farms, living in teepees, making beads, and worshipping nature-gods. They suffered the same human “failings” as humans around the world. The suffering of Native Americans was indeed at the hands of a misguided and racist federal government (and a majority of the then American public) in their thinking that Native Americans were inferior, and at best needing some sort of “coddling” as if they were children. It would have taken generations for a basic assimilation to take hold for sure, and it would not be an easy transition. But it would have been far better than this quasi “sovereign nation”, isolation ridiculousness that has just made Native Americans suffer that much more over the long run. I could go on and on about this (and have already).

      1. Just fortunate enough to have had an observation not many folks get to see, which tends to skim off the platitudes to see the real struggles. But thank you, sir.

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