Wounded Knee Protest Of 1973 Essay, Research Paper
?The Nations hoop is broken and scattered.?
-Black Elk, Oglala Lakota holy man, late 1800?s
The incident that occurred in Wounded Knee Creek attracted international attention and introduced the American Indian Movement (AIM)*, and their cause to the world.
On February 28, 1973, members of AIM, angered due conflicts with Pine Ridge Reservation chairman Richard Wilson, seized and occupied the village of Wounded Knee Creek in the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. The same site where over 200 Sioux were massacred by US troops in 1890. Within a matter of several hours, federal authorities surrounded the encampment and a 72 day standoff ensued, resulting in the dearth of two AIM members, and the wounding of many. The standoff was a focal point in Native American history and proved to be the largest confrontation between US troops and Native Americans this century.
The incident at Wounded Knee provided the AIM and Oglala Lakota the publicity they so desperately needed. It gave them a voice backed by every news station in the country, and allowed them to publicize their demands and deep concerns. The media ate the incident up. They portrayed the protest as a civil rights conflict between the big bad white man and the Indian man who refused to conform, but while the attention was desperately needed, the focus was shifted from the real reason AIM was participating. AIM was concerned with the civil rights of American Indians, and the spreading of their social movement, and while some felt that Wounded Knee 1973 was unsuccessful, others like AIM leader Dennis Banks felt quite proud of the protest. ?The ultimate you get in a man?s life, is to see your own people moved to that type of action. Looking back, I really believed that the broken hoop was mended at Wounded Knee, and that the water was being given back to the tree of life. Wounded Knee was an attempt to help the entire race survive.? Banks said. Banks may have been speaking on a more spiritual level than many of his followers, who took on an even deeper resentment for the government in which they opposed.
After Wounded Knee 1973, AIM and others involved were added to the federal lists of militant and antiwar civil rights groups that the FBI provokes or intimidates into crimes that they can then prosecute. Many members of AIM have died ?unexplained? deaths that always seem to go uninvestigated. Individuals like Leonard Peltier, who was tried and prosecuted for the murder of 2 FBI agents, have served prison sentences for crimes they did not commit. Peltier, since his arrest on April 4, 1977, has since brought fourth released evidence previously suppressed by the FBI including ballistics evidence and a firearms report proving that Peltier could not have fired the shots that killed the officers, contradicting previous FBI testimony. Despite growing political pressure in favor of Peltiers release, and the Federal Governments statement admitting that they have ?No idea who killed them,? Peltier remains incarcerated.
The Oglala Lakota and AIM, despite their involvement in Wounded Knee 1973, and other political protests, continue to struggle for Native Americans civil rights. While AIM continues to fight, life for Native Americans becomes increasingly difficult. Only when we, as whites, accept what we have done to the Natives of this land, can we begin to fix our mistake.
*AIM was formed in 1968 in Minneapolis Minn. by many individuals, including members Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, and George Miller