Wounded Knee siege of 1973 still raw topic
By Peter Harriman
Many of the archetypal survivors of the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation met again Friday at Augustana College’s Center for Western Studies for the 44th annual Dakota Conference.
They were joined by a second generation in Denise Maloney, daughter of slain Indian activist Anna Mae Aquash. Maloney addressed the gathering via Skype. Also there was John Trimbach, son of FBI agent Joseph Trimbach. John’s book, “American Indian Mafia,” denigrates the American Indian Movement’s key leaders, including Russell Means, Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt.
The three AIM icons attended conference sessions throughout the day. Means gave the keynote address Friday evening.
Like Banks, Means did not joust with Trimbach. Indeed, he was out of the room during much of the attack Trimbach directed at him. But Means had his own criticism of the conference and offered his own view of what the Wounded Knee occupation and AIM accomplished.
He called the conference “a South Dakota academics’ mutual masturbation society. It’s exactly the way South Dakota wants Indian history to be interpreted.”
Means said the international attention drawn to the lengthy Wounded Knee occupation was the spark that “brought about the international political sophistication of Indian people.
“I went up and down this hemisphere looking for that spark. I thought I found it in Nicaragua, but I was wrong. I thought I found it in the Northwest Territories, but I was wrong,” he said.
Then he said he looked to his own Oglala Lakota tribe at Pine Ridge.
Trimbach said academic history is complicit in perpetuating an incorrect view of AIM, “the most falsified movement in American history.” Means criticized a lack of a definitive academic history of AIM. He said it was a foundation of the effort of tribes in the 20th century to assert sovereignty.
“If you want to be sovereign, you have to act sovereign,” he said.
By Karin Eagle
Magnuson, who participated in the conference as a keynote speaker during the first night’s dinner presentation, questioned Means about Ray Robinson, a black civil rights activist who traveled to Wounded Knee in 1973.
Robinson has never been heard from or located since.
Means responded by standing and addressing Magnuson: “I’m going to tell you this–no charges from 1974 to 2002. Did anyone hear of Ray Robinson? Did anyone ever shoot him, stab him, beat him or disappear him?”
“It was a generation later that the badmouthing of Wounded Knee continues,” Means said. “You and people like you are to perpetuate this erroneous image you have of who we are. And I’m sick and tired of you bringing up these false accusations based on what? Nothing!’”
Means further expressed his anger that AIM has been repeatedly associated with Robinson’s disappearance.
By Peter Harriman
In a keynote address in a packed Reconciliation Chapel, Means said AIM and its occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 ignited a spark of Indian sovereignty.
He also maintained that will work to the benefit of the U.S. in general.
Means said when he led a delegation of traditional tribal people to Washington, D.C., and created the Republic of Lacotah in 2007, claiming he was severing tribal ties with U.S. treaties and restoring traditional tribal governments, he was carrying out his greatest personal legacy from Wounded Knee.
“I hope young people latch on to this. I know someone will. Some student 20 or 30 years from now,” will see the significance of the sovereignty initiative in that, Means said.
“Continually allowing of your government to violate the Constitution of the United States of America on a daily basis with us has caught up with you, hasn’t it?” Means said of government failings in living up to tribal treaty obligations.
“Your representatives don’t care. Your Supreme Court is political, not judicial. Your president is a quasi-king.
“You’re the new Indians,” he said, throwing his arms wide. “Welcome aboard.”
But many tribes use a standard chairperson/council/court system of checks and balances, just like the US. And many tribal governments are supposedly corrupt or at least unresponsive to the people.
I wonder which tribal governments does Means consider the ideal? Other than his own nonexistent Republic of Lakotah, that is.
For more on the subject, see Wounded Knee II's Positive Effects and Controversy in Wounded Knee.