Except for some minor quibbles with After the Mayflower, no one has protested the authenticity of the We Shall Remain episodes. Until now, that is. Wounded Knee has elicited some angry responses:
We Shall Remain: Wounded Knee
The group charges PBS with failure to hold "Wounded Knee" to PBS standards for editorial integrity, fairness, and historical accuracy. Many of the association's complaints center on the film's lack of information about the Wounded Knee villagers. "The real victims of Wounded Knee were the people who lived there," said Joe Trimbach, author of the book, American Indian Mafia (americanindianmafia.com). 'Most of the residents were Indians. They lost everything they owned and yet they are invisible in this film. It doesn't even show the devastation.' Upon learning that PBS had omitted his book from their bibliography, Trimbach contacted their legal department. PBS has since added Trimbach's book to the list. 'We call Mafia, 'The history book they do not want you to read.' Well, here's a good example. We try to tell the truth about what happened and some people don't want to hear it.'
Without more information, we're left with a "he said, she said" situation. One side offers pro-occupation propaganda and the other offers anti-occupation propaganda.
"Demolition" of Wounded Knee
If they "stripped" the store to feed their people or to pay the Gildersleeves back for years of unfair store policies, someone could strain to justify that morally. But it's hard to imagine a reason for taking Mrs. Gildersleeve's wedding ring or burning down the store.
Here the victims' group has a point. I don't know what really happened, but Wounded Knee doesn't even mention the protesters' grievances or actions against the Gildersleeves' store. This is the mark of a propaganda piece.
As for the hostages, Wounded Knee quotes Mrs. Gildersleeve saying they weren't hostages and she feared the feds coming in and killing everyone. The person above claims she said this because Russell Means was standing nearby and intimidating her. Without more information, this is another "he said, she said" situation.
Deaths of suspected spies
That's a pretty weak statement for what could well be murder. Note the passive tense. Who did the killing...the people whom the documentary is painting as noble warriors?
Wounded Knee didn't have to take DeMain's position and denounce AIM's leaders as executioners. But it spent 10 minutes on historical subjects that were only tangential to the occupation. It could've spent a couple of minutes presenting both sides of the issue.
After the occupation
Pictou Aquash died after the occupation was over. According to Wounded Knee, two FBI agents and more than 60 AIM supporters were killed in the following three years. Meanwhile, the government filed more than 500 indictments against AIM members--most of which it later dropped. AIM fell into disarray and violent infighting and would never again have the same impact.
These statements are terribly vague. Who killed the 60-plus AIM supporters? Rogue federal agents? Rogue AIM members? Regular AIM members acting at the behest of AIM's leaders? Or...? Was this part of the "violent infighting," or was that something else?
The two dead FBI agents presumably were the ones Leonard Peltier was convicted of killing. Yet Wounded Knee doesn't mention Peltier. If you're going to talk about the occupation's legacy, isn't his case part of it?
The episode wasn't obligated to cover the occupation's aftermath in depth. But the fact that some of the on-camera speakers were "named co-conspirators in several murders" seems significant. How do you avoid mentioning something about that?
Again, the episode wasn't obligated to take the victims' position. But at least present the controversy. Say so-and-so was accused of complicity in murder and so-and-so denies it. Don't ignore the issue as if it doesn't exist.
All in all, the victims' group has a valid argument. Wounded Knee downplayed or ignored several significant controversies. It gave us too much propaganda and not enough hard facts.
For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.