To free the land, you must first free your mind...

This is a conceptual platform for the expression of ideas and issues initiating discussion and action. The communiqué's are my perceptions, opinions and vision about contemporary issues/causes, people I admire & respect, and my goals for the future. My main focus is on the Chahta People by sharing our past to plan for the future today!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Liberation Day: Wounded Knee 1973

Bobby Onco (1950 - 2014) Wounded Knee 1973

Forty-one years ago tonight, the Elders said NO MORE! Thus began the siege at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Many of us know the history, we know the people who were there and we know that this was the moment necessity brought the people to. The occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC in Nov. 1972 was the fuse being lit to an explosive and deadly confrontation between Native people and the federal forces of the United States Government. It was a time when America realized that John Wayne had failed to kill us all in his Hollywood movies!
I was 12 years old when the Trail of Broken Treaties converged on DC, and when they went under cover of night and secured Wounded Knee, just a few weeks after the Custer Courthouse riot.  The narrative is best told by Carter Camp, who joined the ancestors a few months ago and is being honored this evening in Manderson, Pine Ridge Reservation:

Ah-ho, My Relations,
I ask you to remember that our reasons for going to Wounded Knee still exist and that means the need for struggle and resistance also still exist. Our land and sacred sites are threatened as never before. Even our sacred Mother herself is faced with unnatural warming caused by extreme greed.
In some areas of conflict between our people and those we signed treaties with, it is best to negotiate or "work within the system." But, because our struggle is one of survival, there are also times when a warrior must stand fast even at the risk of one's life. I believed that in 1973 when I was 30 and I believe it today at 70. But to me Wounded Knee '73 was really not about the fight, it was about the strong statement that our traditional way of living in this world is not about to disappear and our people are not a "vanishing race" as wasicu (white) education would have you believe. As time has passed and I see so many of our young people taking part in a traditional way of living and believing, I know our fight was worth it and those we lost for our movement died worthy deaths. [...]
Today is heavy with prayer and reminiscence for me. Not only are those who walk for the Yellowstone Buffalo reaching their destination, today is the anniversary of the night when, at the direction of the Oglala Chiefs, I went with a special squad of warriors to liberate Wounded Knee in advance of the main AIM caravan.
For security reasons the people had been told everyone was going to a meeting/wacipi in Porcupine, the road goes through Wounded Knee. When the People arrived at the Trading Post we had already set up a perimeter, taken 11 hostages, run the BIA cops out of town, cut most phone lines, and begun 73 days of the best, most free time of my life. The honor of being chosen to go first still lives strong in my heart.
That night we had no idea what fate awaited us. It was a cold night with not much moonlight,  I clearly remember the nervous anticipation I felt as we drove the back way from Oglala into Wounded Knee. The Chiefs had tasked me with a mission and we were sworn to succeed, of that I was sure, but I couldn't help wondering if we were prepared. The FBI, BIA and marshalls had fortified Pine Ridge with machine-gun bunkers and armored personnel carriers with M-60s. They had unleashed the GOON squad [Dick Wilson's Guardians of the Oglala Nation] on the people and a reign of terror had begun. We knew we had to fight, but we could not fight onwasicu terms. We were lightly armed and dependent on the weapons and ammo inside the Wounded Knee trading post, I worried that we would not get to them before the shooting started.
As we stared silently into the darkness driving into the hamlet, I tried to foresee what opposition we would encounter and how to neutralize it. We were approaching a sacred place and each of us knew it. We could feel it deep inside. As a warrior leading warriors I humbly prayed to Wakonda for the lives of all and the wisdom to do things right. Never before or since have I offered my tobacco with such a plea or put on my feathers with such purpose. It was the birth of the Independent Oglala Nation.
Things went well for us that night, we accomplished our task without loss of life. Then, in the cold darkness as we waited for Dennis and Russ to bring in the caravan (or for the fight to start), I stood on the bank of the shallow ravine where our people had been murdered by the 7th Cavalry [in 1890]. There I prayed for the defenseless ones, torn apart by Hotchkiss cannons and trampled under hooves of steel by drunken wasicu. I could feel the touch of their spirits as I eased quietly into the gully and stood silently, waiting for my future, touching my past.
Finally, I bent over and picked a sprig of sage — whose ancestors in 1890 had been nourished by the blood of Red babies, ripped from their mothers' dying grasp and bayoneted by the evil ones. As I washed myself with that sacred herb, I became cold in my determination and cleansed of fear. I looked for Big Foot and YellowBird in the darkness and I said aloud:
"We are back, my relations, we are home."

The government hated that Native people found the perseverance to stand up for their rights and lashed back with corrupt criminal investigations and divisive tactics through the US Attorney Generals office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Examples were made of several Native people who dared to speak up, but the movement had already started and advances have been made, which is eloquently stated by Janet McCloud:
Before the organization of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s, Indian reservations and urban Indian communities were pockets of poverty.
In some areas there was no employment for any Indians; average unemployment was 80%.
The infant mortality rate was one of the highest in the world, and diseases attributable to starvation and severe malnutrition were epidemic.
The average life span for all Indians was 42 years.
Large extended families lived in one room shacks and in abandoned, wrecked cars. Most Native Americans depended upon their two feet for transportation.
Health care for Indians would more properly be called health brutality. Indians were often used as human guinea pigs for abominable experiments.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs had total control over all Indians, their land, rights and resources, and it was open season for all exploiters. For a minimum fee the BIA had a green light to do any type of damage to Indians or take everything that Indians owned.
No rights were respected or defended — not human, treaty, civil, constitutional or an Indian's right arm.
AIM sacrifices The struggle of the American Indian Movement to create positive social changes for their people is well known, but not the sacrifices they made.
Some of these unsung warriors made the supreme sacrifice; they lie in unmarked, untended graves across the land. Many others sit forgotten in dingy prison cells. Yet all Indians benefit from these sacrifices.
There were and are other organized resistance groups of Indian people, like the Red Power movement of young college educated Indians who created a movement philosophy, and the fishing rights activists of the Northwest who organized an effective resistance to protect the aboriginal rights of Indian people. But the American Indian Movement was unique, for it was nationally organized and internationally known.
AIM's brave and daring efforts to uplift the lives of their people, to challenge a powerfully hostile enemy, and to promote a better social order for all Indian people, inspired not only their own people but the oppressed and downtrodden of the world. AIM became heroes for the North Vietnamese, the IRA of Ireland, the peasants of southern France, the aboriginal peoples of Australia and Africa. The entire world knew and admired AIM.
The greatest beneficiaries of the American Indian Movement are the tribal council leaders, who are quick to seize the opportunities created by the movement, and to claim unwarranted credit for the positive social changes won for Indian people. Tribal officials often hate and renounce AIM, and the BIA and FBI can always call on the worst of these tribal leaders to slander the AIM leadership.
Today, the beneficiaries of the movement live in new homes, drive cars, live longer, have better health, are better educated, have good-paying jobs, and much more. But AIM leaders are recipients of vicious, slanderous poison from the ungrateful and jealous-hearted.
Few will acknowledge that real change only began to take place across this land after the tremendous sacrifices of the young warriors of the American Indian people.
Where are the tribal leaders who take the credit for all the positive changes in Indian country? Back in Washington, D.C. fighting for more program monies, smoke shops and gambling or liquor licenses.
The American Indian Movement supports the efforts of all the tribal leaders and programs that genuinely promote the health, education and welfare of Indian people. Neither AIM nor any other organized resistance movement of Indian people begrudges one benefit their people receive; they rejoice at all improvements, for this was what they fought for. But the warriors never grabbed the benefits for themselves, and the few who did were never true movement people.
That is how you tell the difference between leaders and opportunists.
Bureaucrats and sorcerers. The tribal leaders and others who denounce AIM justify their base actions by pointing out the human weaknesses of individual AIM leaders or warriors, with never a glance at their own. Individuals, unfortunately, do have weaknesses. But the survival of Indian Nations and sovereignty does not rest upon the shoulders of anyone man or woman, no matter how strong.
Indian people are in real need of effective social service programs. Four hundred years of abuse at the hands of European immigrants have left deep scars on Indians. It will take many years and many more dollars to improve the lifestyle of Indian people. Yet racists expect change overnight and clamor for an end to tax dollars spent to rectify the atrocities committed against Indian people.
Indian people with dedication and expertise are generally considered a threat by despotic tribal leaders. If they do not silently walk the sacred "program guidelines," they soon find themselves standing in long unemployment lines. The potentially good social service programs are constipated with bureaucratic red tape from D.C., which protects tribal leaders in all their outrageous acts against their people; the FBI and BIA are quick to come to the defense of the tribal bureaucrats.
And who protects the Indian people now that the FBI has almost destroyed the American Indian Movement? Nobody. Do tribal leaders who claim the credit for AIM's labors and sacrifices rush to protect and defend Indian people against the onslaughts they face today? If you call them for assistance or help, do they answer your calls? Do you get past their secretaries? Only rarely.
Our future as a distinct people in control of our destiny rests upon the strength of our collective unity and common purpose.
Indian people can disagree till doomsday about which defensive strategy is best, or whether we should even resist. If we continue to disagree on politics, policy and philosophy, and enter into destructive personality clashes, we will lose all. Our enemies never rest. They are ever unified around the purpose of achieving our total destruction.
A backlash is striking with deadly force, and without much opposition, at the most defenseless segments of Indian people. Our children in public schools are ganged up upon and beaten. Thousands are political prisoners in non-Indian foster homes. Indian women are being sterilized at an unprecedented rate. Racist courts overpopulate the prisons with Indian youth, where they are psychologically and physically brutalized and beaten, with no one to protect or defend them.
The American people themselves do not call the shots in this land. Policy and politicians are set and run by an international cartel of financiers, who constantly intrigue and plot for greater profit and control over the world's resources and human labor. Even the educational systems are set up to meet their needs for a never-ending supply of cheap, easy to control industrial slaves, cannon fodder and consumers. This master cult of financial sorcerers uses people as playthings and pits us one against another. We all end up the losers.
Remember our warriors. The war against Indian people and Nations is far from over. Indian people from Akwesasmi sit starving and freezing in ditches trying to protect their traditional chiefs and leaders from U.S.-puppet Indian leaders and the New York SWAT teams. The sacred Black Hills of the Sioux Nations are set to be exploited by uranium interests in 1980. Indian people from the Southwest are dying from low-level radiation poisoning. Indian children were still placed in foster homes in the International Year of the Child, and Indian clan-families are disappearing.
We need our warriors, and where are they? Dead in unmarked graves; in prisons; in hiding, pursued relentlessly by the FBI; or paroled to one county in one state, unable to travel or forbidden to talk for or about their people lest they be imprisoned again.
How many Indian people whose lives have improved remember our dead or imprisoned warriors?
Dead warriors
Tina Trudell and family
Anna Mae Aquash
Dallas Thundershield
Buddy Lamont
Pedro Bissonette
Hilda Red Bear
Richard Oakes
Raymond Yellow Thunder
Wesley Bad Heart Bull
Philip Celeay
Frank Clearwater
Clarence Cross
Maurice LeDeaux
Angelo Martinez
Joe Stuntz
Jimmy Little
Frank Condon
Byron DeSersa
George Gap
Hobart Horse
Sandra Wounded Foot, Jr.
Calvin George
Nelson Small Legs, Jr.
John Waubanascum
Arlin Pamanet
Baby Girl Yellow Bird
Jancita Eagle Deer
Robert Rosares
Tom Bad Cob, Sr.
Jeanette Bissonette
Richard Lee Lamont
Charley Killsree
Terry Williams
Filmore Stands
David Dobbs
Leon Gaze
Lloyd Broncheau
Political prisoners, Dec. 1979
Leonard Peltier
Rocque Duenas
Ted Means
Russell Means
Dennis Banks
Vance Yellowhand
Mary Settler
It is time Indian people, the beneficiaries of the American Indian Movement, took some time to count their blessings, to give credit where credit is due, to send a card and a few dollars for legal defense to the imprisoned warriors. An investment in them is an investment in the future.
Don't forget them. We may never see their like again.

I pray and feel confidant that this spirit will arise as the need calls for it. I only hope that we all remember the success'es as well as the excess'es of those times. It is a lesson for us to learn from and continue to grow so that one day, we may not observe a Liberation Day, but an Independence Day of our own.
This Sunday, March 2nd, join me on my show Eaglemanz: Chahta Nation as  we visit with some of the veterans of Wounded Knee.