AP Photo
This image of Robert Onco and his rifle from the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973 became famous after it was put on an American Indian Movement poster. Onco walked on January 31 after battling lung cancer. He was 63.

Bobby Onco, Wounded Knee Warrior, Walks On

Gale Courey Toensing

Onco was born in Hobart, Oklahoma, on May 23, 1950 to Atwater William Onco and Lucille Redbird Onco, both Kiowa. He left Oklahoma in April 1968 to serve in the armed forces during the Vietnam War. “However, he found his true warrior spirit fighting for the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee in 1973,” his family said an obituary.

Onco loved adventure and enjoyed traveling around Indian Country. His travels earned him the Kiowa name Daum-To-Yai or “Traveller to Other Countries.” But it was his family and home at the Shinnecock Indian Nation Reservation that meant the most to him.

“Of all the things he had done in his life, he always said that his proudest achievement was his family. He married Jacqueline Smith on May 25, 1988 and became stepfather to David Taobi Silva and Adrienne Star Silva. Bobby and Jacqueline had two children together: Robert ‘B.J.’ Tangnaqudo Onco and Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco. Using his skills as a tradesman, he built his family a home. It was the love he had for his family, and for the community, that made Shinnecock his true home,” family members said.

Here is the poster created from that image of Bobby Onco. (Library of Congress)

Family members describe Onco as a father, a husband, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a friend, and a spiritual leader. “Bobby was the kind of man that made friends with everyone. His amusing sense of humor, loud laughter, and gigantic smile made him a charming man. If you were upset, Bobby would always make you smile. He was someone you could turn to for words of comfort, guidance, and support,” reads his obituary.


You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Wounded Knee - the site of so much sorrow and pain, and now to add insult to injury the owner is considering selling it. How would White people felt if NDNs sold a Civil War battlefield? Anyway, prayers go with Bobby and his friends and relatives. The warrior spirit lives on because of men like him.

bullbear's picture
Submitted by bullbear on
I read that Bobby settled in the eastern part of the country and made his home with the Shinnecock Nation. He helped many by conducting traditional healing ceremonies and always maintained a sense of humor. (The iconic photo captures his lighthearted demeanor) His stepson described his stepfather as someone who did not covet glorification and instead was ok with being an Indian as opposed to the many who wanted to be chief. More than forty years has passed since the siege and yet the spirited fight for all tribal nations lives on within reservation front lines, courtrooms, and legislative floors. Although, like most tribal members, I was not there with the men and women at the siege. However, our family who lived in an Arizona small town setting puffed up our chests when we watched the tv broadcasts of the small band of warriors who defied a nation whose shameful historic treatment of Native America was brought to the national stage. Thank you men and women warriors of Wounded Knee for firmly planting a powerful chapter in the history books that will never be forgotten.

BarbaraByrne's picture
Submitted by BarbaraByrne on
I remember when 4 of us were driving back to Pine Ridge from Rapid City at about 5 a.m. and Bobby sang the Morning Song. I also remember him saying "I went to Vietnam to defend my country -and came to Wounded Knee to defend my country." His kind and intelligent life made our lives better.