Native History: 71-Day Wounded Knee Occupation Ends
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.
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