Another view of Wounded Knee 1973
By Bill Means, Lakota
Each year I have to respond to the annual negative interpretation of Tim Giago against Wounded Knee 1973. I do respect his journalism work but I also have to respectfully disagree.
We both come from the same reservation and we both were on different sides of the liberation in 1973. I too knew the Gildersleeve family and got to know them in a more personal way during the Wounded Knee occupation. Remember the Gildersleeves told Senators McGovern and Abourezk, when they visited Wounded Knee, that they agree with the issues the Oglala Civil Rights Organization and AIM were presenting. People should also remember the overwhelming number of people inside Wounded Knee were Oglala People who supported the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization led by Vern Long and Pedro Bissonette.
The Gildersleeve family also told the Federal authorities that they were not hostages. They actually stayed in Wounded Knee for several days and eventually left when the government refused to take down the roadblocks. Tim and I do agree that the Gildersleeves were good people however, some things came out later in the trial such as selling guns and ammunition without a federal license or taking peoples' lease checks and cashing them but taking out their monies owed and giving them the change which came to be defined as servitude.
I also have a story. My uncle Henry Young Bear from Porcupine was a well known Lakota singer and drum maker and one time he took us to the Wounded Knee store to sell a drum he made tanning the hides himself and spending many hours making this drum. He sold the drum at the store for twenty dollars but the next day the drum was on sale for $100.00 in the museum at the store. I feel proud that I was able to serve the Lakota People at Wounded Knee in 1973 and I served as a pall bearer for my friend Buddy Lamont who was shot in the back by the FBI in Wounded Knee after they shot tear gas into the bunker where he was. The Chiefs and Headsman of the Lakota were there at the burial of Buddy Lamont and he was spoken of as a Warrior of the Lakota and the special warrior songs were sung on his behalf.
Earlier during that time in Wounded Knee Frank Clearwater was killed and half of his head was destroyed by a bullet from the FBI and US Marshals. Many of the young warriors in Wounded Knee were wounded in firefights with the Federal Forces and over seventy unsolved murders were documented between 1973 and 1977 in the aftermath of Wounded Knee. Wounded Knee represents a renaissance and a historical turning point for the struggle of Indigenous Peoples throughout the world.
To see a coalition of many Indian Nations led by the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization and the American Indian Movement stand up against the policies of the United States Government and the ongoing violation of Treaties was an inspiration to Indigenous Peoples all over the World. We have been told this by Indigenous Peoples, Presidents and government officials at the United Nations many times.
I say these things to show that there was sacrifice by many families on all sides of the issue and to say the overwhelming majority of Oglala Lakota supported Wounded Knee 1973. It is now celebrated as a National Holiday on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Even the US Federal Courts under Judge Fred Nichol dismissed the case in the leadership trials of AIM leaders Means and Banks stating in part...."the FBI has polluted the waters of justice."
Read Giago's column and Steve Hendricks response to the column: