The Wounded Knee Incident: Native American activism

The 1973 Wounded Knee Incident

The Wounded Knee Incident was a 71-day standoff between members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and U.S. federal law enforcement that took place from February 27 to May 8, 1973, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, highlighting Native American civil rights issues and government treatment of indigenous peoples.

The American Indian Movement, founded in 1968 by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, and George Mitchell, was a grassroots organization that aimed to address the grievances of Native Americans, including treaty rights, living conditions, and police harassment. In February 1973, AIM activists and a group of Oglala Lakota people occupied the town of Wounded Knee, the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre, to draw attention to their cause.

The occupation began on February 27, 1973, when approximately 200 AIM activists and Oglala Lakota supporters seized the town and took 11 residents hostage. They demanded the removal of tribal president Richard Wilson, whom they accused of corruption and abuse of power. They called for a review of treaties between the U.S. government and Native American tribes.

The situation quickly escalated as federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Marshals, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police, surrounded the town and set up roadblocks. The standoff turned violent, with sporadic gunfire exchanges between the activists and law enforcement, resulting in the deaths of two Native American occupiers and injuries to several others, including a U.S. Marshal.

Senator George McGovern, special envoy Kent Frizzell, and AIM leaders Russell Means and Dennis Banks led negotiations to end the standoff. On May 8, 1973, the occupation finally ended when the activists agreed to disarm and leave Wounded Knee, with the understanding that the U.S. government would address their concerns.

Although the Wounded Knee Incident did not lead to immediate changes in government policy or the resolution of all grievances, it brought national attention to the plight of Native Americans and galvanized the movement for indigenous rights. The incident remains a significant event in the history of Native American activism. It serves as a reminder of the long-standing struggle for justice and self-determination among indigenous peoples in the United States.