February 27, 1973 - American Indian Movement members- began a 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee | South Dakota History
February 27, 1973, American Indian Movement members- began a 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The occupation took place just three weeks after a protest in Custer that evolved into a riot at the Custer County Courthouse and included property damage around the community. The occupation at Wounded Knee focused national attention on Indian issues, including the federal government’s failure to abide by past treaty agreements.
But the 200 Oglala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement, sited the failure of an effort to remove tribal president Richard Wilson, whom they accused of corruption and abuse of opponents.
Oglala and AIM activists controlled the town until May 8th as US Marshals, FBI agents, and other law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area. During the occupation, a U.S. Marshal was shot and paralyzed. And two protestors were shot and killed.
The occupation attracted widespread media coverage. Afterward AIM leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means were indicted on charges related to the events, but their case was dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct. Richard Wilson stayed in office and in 1974 was re-elected amid charges of intimidation, voter fraud, and other abuses.
While many non-Indians sympathized with those who occupied the community, tribal government and many Ogalala Lakota opposed the measures used by AIM.
February 27, 1973, was the beginning of the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee.
Production help is provided by Doctor Brad Tennant, Professor of History at Presentation College.