Friday, May 8, 2015

May 8, 1973: The American Indian Movement Cedes Control of the Pine Ridge Reservation, Ending the Siege of Wounded Knee

The occupation of the Pine Ridge reservation began in late February 1973, when members of the American Indian Movement—which had previously occupied Alcatraz Island and the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Washington, DC—took control of tribal headquarters to protest the administration of Oglala Lakota chief Richard Wilson. US marshals and FBI agents quickly isolated the reservation from the outside world and exchanged fire with the activists inside. After the siege ended, when the government agreed to investigate the group’s allegations, AIM leaders were charged but later exonerated due to prosecutorial misconduct. Media attention was focused on Wounded Knee for months in the spring of 1973, which also saw Marlon Brando dispatch the actress Sacheen Littlefeather to the Academy Awards to turn down his Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather, in solidarity with the activists at Wounded Knee. The Nation’s article about the siege, written by frequent contributor Desmond Smith, focused more on the role of the media than on the activists’ actual concerns.


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