Most of my readers are old enough to remember the events that happened in the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee. A few people only recall the event because of the Oscar ceremony speech and antics of Marlon Brando. Got our attention, anyway, didn't he? The 71-day siege of a museum, church, and trading post marked the beginning of a new era for a younger and radical group of Native American activists who had marshaled forces around AIM in 1968.
(In 1890 Wounded Knee had been the site of the last major conflict between Native Americans and United States government troops, and the casualty list typical of the day and era: twenty-nine soldiers killed, and two hundred Native Americans, including women and children were slain.)
Lately, I have been reading about Leonard Crow Dog, his ancestors and the 120+ year history of the Lakota people. Crow Dog is a Lakota medicine man, and was an important part of the Wounded Knee protest.
Look at things not with the
eyes in your face but with the
eyes in your heart. - Leonard Crow Dog
Leonard Crow Dog tells an excellent story, and at many pages I found myself laughing out loud at his subtle yet simple humor. Other pages had me nearly to tears at the sadness of the Native American history. His belief in the use of peyote in native religious ceremonies is quite controversial among both Native Americans and non-natives.
Since my understanding of the exact circumstances surrounding that event is a bit fuzzy, I need to do some more reading and research. Here is an excerpt from Agents of Repression:
The FBI's Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, a book I plan to read next:
All of this appears to have been a warm-up for the main event, when a huge force of agents descended in yet another air assault, this time against the adjoining Crow Dog and Running properties on the Rosebud Reservation. As the matter is officially chronicled by Congress:
As part of the search for suspects in the killings of two agents, on February [sic; September] 5, 1975, in the early morning, nearly 100 FBI agents descended by helicopter and military vehicles upon the property of Al Running and Leonard Crow Dog on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. The ostensible occasion for this raid, accompanied by this massive show of force, were search and arrest warrants arising from a fistfight between two young people. The FBI, however, was also looking for evidence in connection with the June 26, 1975 incident at Oglala regarding the deaths of the agents.
Left out of this dry summary is the fact that the Bureau had been planning the action for weeks, evidenced in a heavily deleted memo prepared by the Rapid City FBI office sometime during the first week of August (when Crow Dog held his an-nual Sun Dance). Determining that since "approximately 300 to 350 people" were then camping at Crow Dog's Paradise, and since "there is a good chance a gun fight will break out" with this large group if the Sun Dance is interrupted, the Bureau postponed its visit. Another greatly excised memo from the same source and week provides a rationale for the raid: "the desire to 'execute' or 'exterminate' Dick Wilson" was feared to be the prevailing sentiment among the people gathered at Crow Dog's. In view of these plans, the notion that the September 5 air assault had any relationship whatsoever to the alleged "fistfight between young people" --actually the eviction of three GOONs who'd come to the Crow Dog residence to pick fights, after being seen in the company of FBI agents (see Chapter 12) -- is ludicrous.
Also missed in the Congressional account is the fact that Crow Dog himself, at that time considered AIM's spiritual leader, and acknowledged Brulé Lakota holy man, "was marched out [of his house, where he had been sleeping] naked and even the small frightened children were lined up against the walls as the agents ransacked and all but wrecked every house, tent, cabin, and car on both properties."
As AIM member Norman Brown remembers, "These FBI agents came in like they were in Vietnam or something....":
The one grabbed my hair, he said, All right, motherfucker, lay down. So I laid down and they searched me and then put an M-16 to my head. They said, Who killed those FBI agents? Told him I didn't know who, so they picked me up, they pushed me with the M-16 in my back, they pushed me. They said, All right, walk to where the crowd were....And as we were standing there --- these women who weren't even dressed yet, people crying and everything --- they brought Leonard Crow Dog out and he had nothing on. They wouldn't even let him put on his clothes; and we tried to give him his pipe [but they would not let us].
Shep Gurwitz, brother of WKLDOC attorney Lew Gurwitz, who was staying there at the time, shares Brown's assessment: "I had been to Vietnam --airborne -- I'd seen all this before."
Having devastated his property for reasons other than specified on their warrants, the agents finally tired of humiliating Crow Dog by forcing him to squat naked in the dust amidst a throng of women and children, gave him his clothing and arrested him. As the car in which he was being transported traveled along the blacktop to Pierre, the agents inside began to ridicule his religion. Finally, the agents pulled to the side of the road, and the following interchange occurred:
Agent (believed to be J. Gary Adams): So you're a spiritual man? So you think you've got special powers?
Crow Dog: I believe in the Sacred Pipe.
Agent: And this Pipe gives you special powers?
Crow Dog: The Pipe has power.
Agent: So you could use these powers to outrun the bullet from my M-16, couldn't you, Crow Dog?
Crow Dog: (silent)
Agent: (more harshly now) Can you outrun my M-16, Crow Dog?
Crow Dog: No.
Agent: What was that?
Crow Dog: No, I can't outrun the M-16.
Agent: Come on, go for it. I'll give you a head start. All you have to do is run. Give it a try, if you really believe in that Pipe. Just run....
Fun over, the agents drove Crow Dog on to the lockup in Pierre, where, according to Dino Butler, also arrested in the operation: "They said Leonard Crow Dog was a scum bag. They said all Indians were scum bags....I was just a little bitty nobody, a scum bag that didn't deserve to live.... The last thing they told me as they walked out was, Dino Butler, you're nothing but a worthless scum bag, and I promise you that some day I am going to shoot you. I am going to blow your fucking head off." Such "methods" seem, by all accounts, to have been entirely characteristic of FBI conduct throughout the RESMURS invasion.