Wounded Knee II: Reclaiming the land 83 years later
A few days ago, I posted an article on the Wounded Knee massacre. And tonight I am writing a follow up on that post. Indeed, I think it is important to know our history, to know where we come from and who fought for us to be here today. Before I founded this site, I never thought I would be so interested in history but now I can’t seem to get enough, lol. Some parts of the history of the native people is difficult to read, to accept as part of history, as having actually happened. But it did. And I believe in informing people, as it then opens up a door for change.
What was Wounded Knee II?
Well Wounded Knee II was a way to show disagreement with and protest against current politics in place at the time (February 1973). 200-250 Oglala Lakotas then took possession of the site of the Wounded Knee massacre on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota (one of the poorest reserves in the USA). They disagreed with and protested against the sale of grazing rights on native land for cheap prices to white men. Violence was also growing rapidly on the reserve, leaving a feeling of injustice in how crimes were prosecuted (crimes against Lakotas were seen as being rarely prosecuted).
Protesters were members or followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM), led by Russell Means and their goal was to protest against injustice including the lack of government action in regard to tribal president Richard Wilson, who they felt was corrupt and abusive.
The Lakotas controlled the town, which was cordoned off by the FBI and US Marshals. Therefore, it was known as the 71 day occupation of Wounded knee. However, what differed from Wounded Knee 1890, was that both sides were armed and shooting. One Lakota and one Cherokee indian were killed. A few others are also thought to have died during the incident (they disappeared and were not found, thus thought to be dead). Due to the damages to the area and houses, the town was not reoccupied until the 1990’s.
How things got bad
Wounded Knee II came at a time where American Indians were still the subject of injustice from the government, who they felt, had often failed them. During Wounded Knee II, native got reved-up by the protest and stood by the side of those occupying the Wounded Knee grounds. In other words, native people wanted justice. Leaders of AIM, led the people to fight for justice. AIM said that its members went to Wounded Knee to attend an open meeting with the government. However, within the same day, they were surrounded by armed troops. The similarities with the Wounded Knee Massacre, where natives surrendered and wished to discuss with the troops before they were killed, is not lost on me. At Wounded Knee II, it was not long that both sides were entrenched in the occupation and peace between the two parties was not an option. Supplies, including electricity and water, to the area were cut off by the government.
Fire was then traded from both sides of the fence, leading to deaths. After the death of Lawrence Buddy Lamont, a Lakota man well known on the reserve, on April 26, the Elders called the end of the occupation. Lamont was buried in a traditional Sioux ceremony on the grounds. On May 5, an agreement to disarm was reached and three days later the occupation was ended and the government took control of the grounds.
What did Wounded Knee accomplish?
Well I wish I could say that the conditions of native people improved as a result. Unfortunately, the prevalence of violence on the Pine Ridge reservation increased following the occupation, occupants feeling persecuted by Richard Wilson’s “goons”. Pine Ridge is still known as a violent and poor reserve. However, I strongly encourage you to watch the video in the link below, a video showing that there is beauty as well on that reserve.
Looking at the pictures of Wounded Knee II and reading about it, I felt sad. When I think of old chiefs such as Sitting Bull and Big Foot, I think of icons, of fighters who fought for us to be here today. Of heroes. However, I am struggling feeling the same way about the occupants of Wounded Knee II. It seems that over time, some of the beauty or the values of the culture were lost. And although the occupation was a fight to gain or regain rights and fight for what was theirs, the overall message might not have come across that way. But then again, native people have had to fight for centuries to regain their life, their original lifestyle and in this case, it saddens me that the pictures depict a message of violence as a mean to regain those rights. When the Red Road is certainly not about violence but rather about respect. But then again, a lack of respect of their rights, was the reason for the occupation.
All my Relations