This Day in History – February 27, 1973

Among the members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), February 27and is known as Liberation Day to mark the occupation of the hamlet of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

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49 years ago today, the IAM began occupying Wounded Knee in protest against the federal government and its policies toward Native Americans.

The occupation lasted 71 days. It was viewed nationally as a standoff between AIM and the federal government.

Russell Means and Dennis Banks were two of the IAM leaders who occupied Wounded Knee on February 27, 1973. (Photo/File photo)

“At the time of Wounded Knee 1973, I was a member of the Denver chapter of the American Indian Movement. I spent 71 days at the Little Big Horn bunker with these other warriors. We survived eleven firefights, while protecting the eastern edge of the community. The big issue at the time was protecting the treaty rights of the Oglala Sioux Nation and seeking respect for those treaty rights from the U.S. government,” said Lenny Foster (Diné), who is the spiritual advisor by Leonard Peltier. Indigenous News Online about his involvement at Wounded Knee.

On March 13, Assistant Attorney General for the Civilian Division of the United States Department of Justice, Harlington Wood Jr., became the first government official to enter Wounded Knee without a military escort. Determined to resolve the impasse without further bloodshed, he met with AIM leaders for days and, while exhaustion made him too ill to conclude the negotiation, he is considered the “breaker”. ice” between the government and the AIM.

The two sides reached an agreement on May 5 to disarm, and three days later the siege ended and the town was evacuated after 71 days of occupation; the government then took control of the city. During the incident, a Cherokee and an Oglala Lakota were killed by the FBI.

Editor’s Note: Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources contributed to this article.

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