Today in the Americas, the Pine Ridge Standoff

What began at Wounded Knee in 1973 culminated on the South Dakota border today in 1975 (34 years ago) in a shootout at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The internal friction between the US government, including its hand in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the American Indian Movement led to high profile events in the 1970s. At Wounded Knee, the infamous site of the 1890 massacre of Native peoples by pine ridge indian reservation south dakotathe 7th Cavalry led by James Forsyth, Russell Means and Dennis Banks led the AIM activists on a 71-day occupation in 1973 which led to the deaths of two FBI agents attempting to remove the AIM from the landmark.

Jail sentences were handed down, repression continued, and the reservations grew worse – becoming the cliche hellhole they are today. Alcoholism rose precipitously and the murder rate skyrocketed to 170 per 100,000 people (Detroit, number 1 in the US, averaged 20 per 100,000). This increase has not been determined fully – the AIM claims the BIF and the FBI have a hand in either the action or the suppression of justice.

Whether real or perceived, the AIM occupied a church on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975, taking, according to TIME, “two young whites, releasing them a few hours later.” Two FBI agents were killed (“slaughtered by a band of Indian militants” says TIMI) – Jack Coler and Ronald Williams – as well as one AIM activist. AIM leader Leonard Peltier was later found guilty of murder and is in jail in Leavenworth, Kansas.

The fight did not last long, but proved to be a turning point in the movement as well as the public perception of Native Americans. The old and new wings of the movement were to split after 1975, leading us to this moment. If the AIM has succeeded, it is not because of this incident, despite the brashness on both sides. Russell Means, who fled the Pine Ridge incident, is still championing the birth of an independent country in the middle of South Dakota. The movement, obviously, remains varied.

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~ by Daniel on June 26, 2009.

One Response to “Today in the Americas, the Pine Ridge Standoff”

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