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

Lance Gumbs, former Shinnecock council chairman, said Onco was a spiritual warrior who will always be honored for his days fighting for Indian people’s rights. “I knew him well for many, many years and he was an inspiration to me from that turbulent time in our history. He’s an important part of that era and should not be forgotten.”

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Despite his fame as a Wounded Knee warrior, Onco was a modest man who did not seek the limelight. “There are a lot of people that want to be the chiefs. Bobby was okay with just being an Indian,” his stepson David Taobi Silva told Newsday.

Onco is survived by his wife, Jacqueline Onco; sons Silva and Robert “B.J.” Tangnaqudo Onco; daughters, Adrienne Star Silva and Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco; three grandchildren; sisters, Karen Koon and Frances Bradley and their families; brothers Eddy Onco and Bryan Onco; and a host of relatives and friends.

A funeral service was held on February 5 at the Shinnecock Presbyterian Church with Rev. Mike Smith officiating. Interment with military honors followed at Shinnecock Cemetery.


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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.