AP Photo
Harlington Wood, right, of the U.S. Attorney General’s office, is escorted by armed AIM supporters from car to conference with AIM leaders in Wounded Knee, South Dakota, March 19, 1973, as efforts to end the occupation of Wounded Knee continue.

Native History: 71-Day Wounded Knee Occupation Ends

Alysa Landry

This Date in Native History: On May 8, 1973, members of the American Indian Movement surrendered to federal authorities on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, ending their legendary 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee.

Set in the same impoverished village as the 1890 massacre, the siege began February 27 and is hailed as one of AIM’s greatest successes. About 200 Sioux Indians participated in the occupation, which attracted supporters from dozens of other tribes and called global attention to generations of mistreatment from federal and local agencies.

“People were beaten down and afraid to speak out,” Clyde Bellecourt, one of AIM’s founders, said in the 2013 book We Are Still Here: A Photographic History of the American Indian Movement. “We had to create an organization to represent the people.”

Bellecourt and other activists like Russell Means and Dennis Banks organized AIM in the summer of 1968 as Natives across the country battled abuse in boarding schools or left reservations to chase the government’s promises of education and jobs in urban areas. As Natives arrived in the cities, however, they faced widespread racism, especially among white police forces.

AIM leader Russell Means gives peace pipe to U.S. assistant attorney general Kent Frizzell, right as AIM Ramon Roubideaux, seated, and Wallace Black Elk watch prior to settlement of Wounded Knee situation, Thursday, April 6, 1973. (AP Photo)

RELATED: Russell Means: A Look at His Journey Through Life


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jamessimon500's picture
Submitted by jamessimon500 on
Quoting Clyde Bellecourt, a named co-conspirator in the murder of fellow AIM member Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, especially about beating, is remarkable. Anna Mae was certainly beaten, after which she was raped and shot in the head by Clyde’s AIM associates. It is factually incorrect to say 200 Sioux Indians took part in the raid of Wounded Knee village. Only about 20 or so of the looters broke into their neighbors’ homes; the rest were reservation outsiders. The village was completely destroyed, priceless Indian artifacts were stolen or damaged, and lives were lost. After the show trial of Means and Banks, in which they were given carte blanche to exact revenge from anyone who opposed them, the res became enmeshed in factional violence, particularly against those who learned of the secret rapes and murders at Wounded Knee during the month of April, 1973. And this was AIM’s greatest achievement?