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Wounded Knee (1973)

WOUNDED KNEE (1973)

WOUNDED KNEE (1973). American Indian activism in the 1960s and 1970s culminated with the occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota by American Indian Movement (AIM) members. In early 1973 AIM leaders responded to requests from members of the Lakota community to enter Wounded Knee and establish an alternative political community within the Lakota Nation. Residents opposed the tribal government of Chairman Richard "Dick" Wilson, charging that Wilson abused and overextended his power by placing the tribal police force under his direct command and using violence and terror on community members who opposed his goals.


AIM had gained notoriety for its pan-Indian vision of community activism, self-awareness, and empowerment—bringing attention to the enduring economic and political struggles of Indian peoples. AIM members had occupied several reservation border towns, such as Gordon, Nebraska, to protest white racism and discrimination against Indians, and when invited to Pine Ridge, hundreds of Indian activists mobilized for an armed struggle. Under the leadership of Russell Means and Dennis Banks, AIM members declared themselves representatives of the legitimate leaders of the Oglala Nation, issued a series of demands, including the recognition of outstanding Lakota treaty rights, and seized the town of Wounded Knee in February 1973.

Because of Wounded Knee's infamous history as the site of the 1890 massacre and the attention it garnered in the best-selling book by Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, AIM's occupation attracted immediate press coverage and evoked deep sentiments throughout the United States. The image of armed Indian militants occupying historic monuments in protest of racism, injustice, and continued economic and political oppression resonated with many minority and activist communities, and AIM found sympathizers and supporters throughout the country.

As the standoff intensified, Wilson called in the National Guard. Heavily armed national guardsmen with advanced weaponry and assault vehicles laid siege to the AIM encampment. During the ensuing seventy-day siege, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition were fired. Two AIM members were killed, and one federal marshal was seriously injured. Facing daily terror and supply shortages, AIM members surrendered on 8 May 1973 and were quickly arrested. The ensuing trials, particularly those of Banks and Means, attracted national attention.

Violence continued to plague Pine Ridge, and in 1975 a shootout involving AIM leaders left two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and one Native American man dead. The FBI charged Leonard Peltier, a member of AIM, with killing the agents. Following his extradition from Canada, Peltier was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment. His controversial trial and sentence attracted condemnation from international legal observers, and many people consider Peltier the leading political prisoner of the United States.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.

Matthiessen, Peter. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. New York: Viking Press, 1983.

Smith, Paul Chaat, and Robert Allen Warrior. Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee. New York: New Press, 1996.

NedBlackhawk

See alsoAlcatraz ; American Indian Movement ; Bureau of Indian Affairs .

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Wounded Knee Massacre

WOUNDED KNEE MASSACRE

WOUNDED KNEE MASSACRE marked the climax of United States efforts to subjugate Lakota-speaking Sioux Indians at the end of the nineteenth century. During 1890 a new religious movement called the Ghost Dance captured the loyalty of many western Indians. On the Sioux reservations, this movement attracted men and women who resented the government's heavy-handed tactics and were drawn to new rituals that promised an era of peace and future union with dead relatives. Unfortunately, just as tensions began to rise over the Ghost Dance, an inexperienced political appointee, Daniel Royer, took control of the agency at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. On 15 November, fearing that the ghost dancers might become violent, Royer called for military assistance. Tensions rose again on 15 December, when the Indians at Pine Ridge learned that Sitting Bull had been killed while being arrested on a nearby Standing Rock reservation. The agent there had believed arresting the old warrior would quell the Ghost Dance at his agency. Fearing similar action at the neighboring Cheyenne River reservation, the Miniconjou leader Big Foot gathered his followers and departed overland to join allies at Pine Ridge. Big Foot and his band were apprehended by elements of the Seventh Cavalry near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge reservation on the evening of 28 December.

On the morning of 29 December, with troops deployed in a hollow square around the Indians, regimental commander Colonel George A. Forsyth ordered everyone in Big Foot's band to surrender their weapons. One warrior fired a concealed gun while being disarmed; the surrounding troops responded by opening fire. Hotchkiss guns on a nearby hillside fired indiscriminately into the Indian encampment gunning down those fleeing to safety. When the shooting stopped Big Foot, along with 145 others, including 45 women and 18 children, lay dead. The official death toll rose to 153 when seven of the fifty-one band members known to be wounded that day later died. In addition, an unknown number either were killed and carried from the scene by relatives or escaped and later died from their wounds. The army reported twenty-five soldiers dead and thirty-nine wounded; Forsyth's superiors asserted that some of the army casualties were victims of crossfire from their own comrades. His commander relieved him of his command and charged him with incompetence, but he was exonerated. Later, twenty


soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their service in the massacre. Sioux leaders continue to protest these awards and to advocate the creation of a memorial park at the site.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Utley, Robert. The Last Days of the Sioux Nation. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1964.

Frederick E.Hoxie

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Wounded Knee

Wounded Knee, creek, rising in SW S.Dak. and flowing NW to the White River; site of the last major battle of the Indian wars. After the death of Sitting Bull, a band of Sioux, led by Big Foot, fled into the badlands, where they were captured by the 7th Cavalry on Dec. 28, 1890, and brought to the creek. On Dec. 29, the Sioux were ordered disarmed; but when a medicine man threw dust into the air, a warrior pulled a gun and wounded an officer. The U.S. troops opened fire, and within minutes almost 200 men, women, and children were shot. The soldiers later claimed that it was difficult to distinguish the Sioux women from the men. See also Ghost Dance. The site, which is on the Pine Ridge reservation, is now a national historic landmark.

The village of Wounded Knee, which borders the creek, was seized and occupied (Feb.–May, 1973) by American Indian Movement and Oglala Sioux activists protesting the treatment of Native Americans and the governance of the tribe. An armed standoff resulted between the occupiers and federal authorities, and several persons died from gunshots during the 71-day occupation. After the Native Americans surrendered, the leaders of the occupation were tried, but the case was dismissed on grounds of misconduct by the prosecution.

See H. Cox, Wounded Knee (2010).

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Wounded Knee, Massacre at

Wounded Knee, Massacre at (December 29, 1890) Last stage in the conflict between Native Americans and US forces. Fearing a rising by the Sioux, US troops arrested several leaders. Sitting Bull was killed resisting arrest. Another group was arrested a few days later and brought to Wounded Knee, South Dakota. A shot was fired and the troops opened fire. About 300 people, including women and children, were killed.

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