Native Americans continue historic battle ...
Demand self-determination at Wounded Knee
Editor's note: Workers World is in its 50th year of publication.
Throughout the year, we will share with our readers some of the
paper's content over the past half century. In the late 1960s and
early 1970s, organizing was going on in Indigenous communities across
the United States, as is described in the article in this issue on
the passing of Ellen Moves Camp, a Wounded Knee veteran. As Mahtowin
wrote in Workers World in March 1998, "The elders asked AIM warriors
to come in and help them. So on Feb. 27, 1973, a couple hundred
Native peoplemen and women, youth and elderswent to Wounded Knee,
site of the 1890 massacre. They had incredible courage, some guns for
self-defense and an unshakable belief in the future. ... They had
refused to disappear and instead were rising up to defend Native
sovereignty." The following article was the lead on page 1 of WW in
the March 16, 1973, issue.
By Cal Bonner
Published Jun 8, 2008
MARCH 14Over two weeks ago, 200 members of the American Indian
Movement (AIM) liberated the village of Wounded Knee. With this one
act they created a historic symbol of the struggle for
self-determination of Native Americans.
The eyes of the entire world are now focused on the tiny besieged
village, encircled by U.S. federal agents who are armed to the teeth
with armored personnel carriers and machine guns. But the strength of
the Native Americans themselves, combined with the sympathy and
support their action has won from all oppressed and progressive
people, has so far prevented the U.S. government from once again
carrying out a massacre at Wounded Knee.
On March 11, after negotiations with the U.S. government broke down,
the Oglala Sioux militants declared themselves to be a sovereign
nation. They put the area under a state of war readiness and declared
that if any U.S. government agent entered the boundaries of the newly
declared nation, the action would be "treated as an act of war and
dealt with accordingly."
The U.S. government responded to the declaration by resealing the
area with roadblocks and some 300 armed federal troops and government
agents. A 21-member grand jury in Sioux Falls was convened on March
12 to investigate the occupation of Wounded Knee and to bring down
indictments against the AIM leaders.
An ominous note was added to the resealing of the area when the chief
of tactical operations for the 300 armed federal officers said on
March 12, "We are going to be a lot more hard-nosed about this than
we were before." So far, one FBI agent and several Native Americans
have been wounded, none seriously, in sporadic gunfire.
The U.S. federal marshals and FBI agents are armed with M-16s and
other high-powered rifles, have about 15 armored personnel carriers,
and are loaded down with pistols, machine and submachine guns, flak
jackets, and other Vietnam War era paraphernalia. They seem to be
itching to force an entry into the Indians' territory.
The brothers and sisters at Wounded Knee began their action on
February 27 as an attempt to draw world attention to the 500-year-old
policy of genocide, of slow but sure physical, moral and cultural
annihilation by the racist European colonizers who later set up the
U.S. government. This foreign domination over Native Americans has
resulted during less than 86 years in the loss of more than 90
million acres of their land, under the watchful eye and helping hand
of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
On the 2,500-square mile Pine Ridge Reservation (11,000 Native
Americans live here, making it the second largest in the country),
per capita income is $1,500, infant mortality is three times the U.S.
average, and life expectancy is a little over 40 years.
In an interview with this reporter at the March 7 demonstration
sponsored by the American Indian Movement and Youth Against War &
Fascism, Mrs. Mary Ann Red Cloud, direct descendant of Chief Red
Cloud, one of the Oglala Sioux's great leaders, spoke of the bleak
life for her people at the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Having recently come from the scene of armed confrontation at Wounded
Knee, Mrs. Red Cloud pointed out that "the industry at Pine Ridge is
token and inadequate, consisting of a moccasin factory which employs
few people. And although the average resident of Pine Ridge
Reservation makes $1,500 yearly, more than one-third of that $1,500
comes from leasing Indian land to white ranchers."
The Native Americans at Wounded Knee are demanding their right to
determine their lives free from the oppressive, racist, capitalist
government. They are also demanding that the U.S. government honor
the terms of the hundreds of treaties with the Native American people
which it has broken.