Wounded Knee Occupation Remembered


      Monday was the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the 71-day Wounded Knee Standoff and the occasion was marked in part by a march at the scene, the latest in several days of remembrance on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

       Activist Mark Tilsen of the NDN Collective told a Sunday event that it’s important not to forget what the Wounded Knee occupiers fought for, saying it “changed almost everything for indigenous people in the country.

      Tilsen called it “a moment in history that sparked so much resistance, that inspired people, that changed governmental policies, that changed how we look at ourselves, how we viewed ourselves.”

      Robert L Anderson, one of the 4 editors of the 1974 book “Voices From Wounded Knee 1973, returned for the observance. He told the gathering it’s important that the Standoff teaches and inspires the next generation of young people.

     Anderson said they need to know “that it’s right to struggle if it is just and it does achieve some victories and goals.” 

      Both Tilsen and Anderson added that by honoring the warriors of 1973 Wounded Knee, they hope the younger generation will not feel alone and will continue to fight for their right to be heard.

    On Feb 27, 1973, some 200 activists including Oglala Lakota members and American Indian Movement (AIM) followers came to Wounded Knee and took over the Trading Post and the rest of the community.

       They stayed there, holding off federal and tribal authorities despite repeated gun battles, until an agreement was reached in May. At least 2 Native Americans died in the fighting, and a U.S. marshal was left paralyzed.

     Supporters say Wounded Knee exposed the suffering of Indigenous people and helped shine a spotlight on injustices. In its wake came progress, including the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

     Not everyone on the Pine Ridge Reservation supported the Occupation  – 11 Wounded Knee residents were taken hostage –  then or now.  

    The homes of Wounded Knee and the Trading Post were burned and never rebuilt – leaving behind, in the words of the late Tim Giago “stark reminders of the day Wounded Knee was ‘liberated.’”

     In the view of the local protesters, Oglala Sioux tribal president Dick Wilson was in cahoots with federal authorities and ran roughshod over residents, but most of the occupiers were from off the reservation and were focused on larger issues.

       As a result, the occupation quickly morphed into an outpouring of anger over the plight of Native Americans and injustices dating back centuries. 

     It was a result of the desire among Native people that their voices be heard and treaties fulfilled. The location was significant because of the massacre that took place at Wounded Knee 80 years before. .

1 thought on “Wounded Knee Occupation Remembered”

  1. I read the article. I am disappointed in it. I was working in Rushville and knew the then Tribal President Dick Wilson. “They” called him Wilson and his goons. I also knew the FBI Agents sent in to calm the situation. I also knew the “Native American” family who ran the trading post in Wounded Knee. The same people AIM beat the hell out of and burned their business. Their own people. I also heard of the health problems of the AIM people who filled the toilet with feces and didn’t flush, and then just went on the floor. I also know of the “trench; where the goons shot at the AIMER’S not the FBI. Maybe we all ought not to be so liberal leftist racists and get someone who really knows what happened to write the real story.

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