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2003-05-09

Wounded Knee II, 30 Years Later

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American Indian Movement ended its occupation of the village of Wounded Knee in May, 1973, but U.S. government land grabs continue today.

Thirty years ago this week, the American Indian Movement ended its occupation of the village of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The siege lasted 71 days, and drew international attention to the plight of Indigenous people within the borders of the US. The US government responded to the occupation with a full military siege that included armored personnel carriers, F-4 Phantom jets, US Marshals, FBI, State and local law enforcement, and the development of a corrupt vigilante group of Pine Ridge Reservation natives called the Guardians of the Oglala Nation, or GOONs.

Two activist occupiers were killed by sniper fire. About a dozen solidarity activists disappeared when they attempted to run supplies in by foot overnight.

The settlement is known as Wounded Knee II.

The occupation of Wounded Knee is considered the beginning of what Oglala people refer to as the Reign of Terror, from 1973-76. Over 60 residents were killed in this period, their murders went uninvestigated by the FBI, which had jurisdiction. The period culminated in the June 26th shootout for which Leonard Peltier is still imprisoned.

Today, government intrusion and land grabs continue to strip the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota of their traditional land. An encampment has just gone up along the Missouri River to stop the construction of a landfill and state park on a site where the remains of Indigenous people have been discovered.

  • Madonna Thunder Hawk, member of the Lakota-Dakota-Nakota Nation, who participated in the occupation. (The U.S. government refers to her Nation as the Sioux.) Thunderhawk is a veteran of most every modern Native American struggle, from the occupation of Alcatraz to the siege of Wounded Knee. She is a long-time community organizer with experience in Indian rights protection, cultural preservation, economic development and environmental justice. Thunder Hawk was a co-founder and spokesperson for the Black Hills Alliance, which blocked Union Carbide from mining uranium on sacred Lakota land. She co-founded Women of All Nations and the Black Hills Protection Committee (later the HeSapa Institute).
  • Faith Spotted Eagle, who is organizing against the construction of a waster dump and fish cleaning area for campers at a Native American burial ground near Pine Ridge.

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