For some odd reason, and I will explain what I mean by odd later, the tribal government of the Oglala Sioux Tribe celebrates a reservation-wide holiday on February 27.Just a couple of weeks ago I quoted this from a 2001 interview of Russell Means in The Progressive:
On Feb. 27, 1973, a group of American Indian Movement members occupied the Pine Ridge Reservation village of Wounded Knee. The village soon became “The Knee” to the occupiers.
In the 71 day occupation an entire village was pillaged and destroyed and more than 30 families, the original inhabitants of Wounded Knee, mostly Lakota people, were left homeless. A trading post, actually more of a grocery store than trading post, was burned to the ground and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church was also destroyed. . . .
The ousted citizens of Wounded Knee Village have tried without success to have their homes rebuilt. In the interim, the leaders of AIM have raised millions of dollars for its projects and legal defense funds, but have not contributed a single dollar to rebuild the village they helped to destroy. . . .
Pine Ridge still has one of the highest infant mortality rates in America, some of the shortest life spans for adults, and one of the highest rates of unemployment in America. February 27 should not be celebrated as a holiday, but as a day of mourning. Every member of the tribe should wear black armbands.
Q: What lasting effect did the occupation of Wounded Knee have on the Indian community at Pine Ridge?Read the whole Giago piece.
Russell Means: It gave birth to self-dignity and self-pride and the idea that we can self-determine on our own merits. In 1973, the full-blood Indians on the reservation were living in abject poverty. They were totally overlooked, and their spirits were almost totally destroyed. Our culture, our song, our old people--everything was denigrated by our own people, as well as by the larger society.
What Wounded Knee did was give pride in just the fact that you are an Indian, and you can do something, and we have allies.
Update: Giago gets in a plug for former FBI agent Joe Trimbach's book on the sacking of Pine Ridge, American Indian Mafia. Now so did I.