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How Wounded Knee Laid the Groundwork for Standing Rock Protests

  • In 1973, a whole bunch of Native American activists occupied the city of Wounded Knee to demand the US authorities fulfill its treaties with tribes.
  • The siege galvanized the motion for Indigenous rights throughout the nation.
  • The Standing Rock protests that started 7 years in the past echo the resistance in Wounded Knee.

Fifty years in the past, round 200 Native American activists seized the city of Wounded Knee in South Dakota. Their calls for: the removing of a tribal president whom they accused of corruption, and for the US authorities to satisfy treaties with Native Americans.

The occupation on February 27, 1973, led by members of the grassroots group American Indian Movement, lasted 71 days in what the US Marshals called the “longest civil dysfunction” in historical past.

The Wounded Knee protest additionally galvanized the motion for Indigenous rights throughout the nation, drawing public consideration to the authorities’s historical past of injustice in opposition to Native Americans and their sovereignty. Sacheen Littlefeather cited the occupation in her controversial Oscars speech, and, a long time later, many noticed echoes in the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests at Standing Rock in April 2016.

“I did not come up right here to die. I got here up right here to reside with this water,” Vonda Long, from the Cheyenne River tribe in South Dakota, told Minnesota Public Radio at a Standing Rock protest in 2016. “I’m a Wounded Knee descendant, I finished survived and I need my individuals to proceed to outlive.”

Federal Troops Block The Road To Wounded Knee

Federal troops block the highway to Wounded Knee throughout the standoff between 200 members of the American Indian Movement and the authorities, 1973.

Agence France Presse/Getty Images

A historical past of injustice

The motion for Native American rights was pushed by an extended historical past of injustice, together with poverty and police brutality.

In 1968, the American Indian Movement was based to cease police harassment of Indians in the Minneapolis space. It emerged in the wake of the Indian Relocation Act of 1956, which was an effort by the US authorities to hasten the assimilation of Native Americans by encouraging them to depart Indian reservations for city areas. Critics condemned the coverage, which resulted in poverty, joblessness, and homelessness for relocated Native Americans.

“People had been in the gutter they usually wished to stand up,” journalist Kevin McKiernan, who lined the occupation for NPR, recalled AIM co-founder Dennis Banks saying.

Members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) chant and beat a drum to serenade those who will man the outposts during the Wounded Knee Occupation

Members of the American Indian Movement chant and beat a drum to sing for those that will man the outposts throughout the Wounded Knee Occupation.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

The group turned recognized for its extremely seen demonstrations and publicity campaigns. It picked the Pine Ridge Reservation village in Wounded Knee — one in every of the poorest areas in the US at the time — for its historic symbolism: It was the website of a 1890 massacre, when federal troops killed anyplace from 150 to 300 Lakota males, girls, and kids.

Throughout 1890, the US authorities had grown concerned about the rising affect of the Ghost Dance non secular motion, which taught that Native Americans had been defeated and confined to reservations as a result of they’d angered the gods by abandoning their conventional customs. On December 29, 1890, the US Army surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers close to Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they give up their weapons. The ensuing struggle led to the killing of a whole bunch of Native Americans.

Opening of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, 29 December 1890. US Seventh Cavalry in battle with Lakota Sioux Native American.

The Wounded Knee bloodbath of Lakota Sioux Native Americans in December 1890.

Universal History Archive/Getty Images

The legacy of Wounded Knee

When the American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee a long time later in 1973, federal authorities descended upon the city. They exchanged gunfire, killing two Native males and wounding and arresting many others, and commenced negotiations with the protestors. The activists in the end surrendered on May 8 after officers promised to research their complaints.

But Congress did not take any main steps to treatment the damaged treaties, though the Supreme Court did rule in 1980 that it owed the Sioux cash for taking its land a century earlier. (The tribe has not accepted compensation, which was valued at $2 billion {dollars} as of 2022, as a result of accepting cost meant the Lakota individuals would forfeit all claims to the territory in query, the Black Hills.)

The Wounded Knee occupation did usher in some beneficial properties for the Native American neighborhood, together with laws that protects their youngsters from arbitrary removing from their properties; ensures their rights to faith; and gives funding for the repatriation of Native American cultural gadgets. 

Native American protestors and their supporters are confronted by security during a demonstration against work being done for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) oil pipeline, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, September 3, 2016.

Native American protestors and their supporters throughout an illustration in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Robyn Beck/AFP by way of Getty Images

Many of those protections have been jeopardized lately, most just lately with the proposed building of the North Dakota pipeline. But Native Americans have continued to oppose these efforts, simply as they’ve for centuries.

“Every time there is a venture of this magnitude, so the nation can profit, there is a value,” Dave Archambault, the then-chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “That value is borne by tribal nations.”

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