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Weekly Alibi Violence is Not the Solution, Then or Now

By Sue Schuurman

25 Years Ago This Week

On Feb. 27, 1973, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) commandeered the trading post at Wounded Knee, S.D., and in the process took on the entire federal government. AIM was in the media spotlight during the early '70s when grassroots protests and vocal demands for civil rights by marginalized groups were the norm rather than the exception. While the American public at large decried AIM's violent tactics as a futile and uncivilized method for achieving political change, one can't help but detect the same rationale at work in the Clinton administration's current apparent preference for airstrikes rather than negotiation in Iraq.

"WOUNDED KNEE, S.D.--Militant Indians who occupied the hamlet of Wounded Knee and seized 11 hostages traded gunfire with federal officers Wednesday and fired on automobiles and low-flying planes that dared come within rifle or shotgun range.

"Heavily armed, helmeted federal marshals held a cordon around the historic Oglala Sioux settlement at the site where the Indians' forefathers fell before the U.S. Cavalry 83 years ago in the Massacre of Wounded Knee.

"Two armored personnel carriers were brought into the Pine Ridge Reservation by the federal forces while authorities maneuvered to obtain release of the hostages. ...

"The hostages, all residents of Wounded Knee, were seized when between 200 and 300 members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied a trading post and Catholic church in a coup Tuesday night.

"John McArty, an FBI spokesman in Rapid City, 70 miles northwest of Pine Ridge, said no 'meaningful meetings' with the militants had been held, but added: 'Attempts are being made to reach agreement to have the hostages released.'

"Sen. James Abourezk, D-S.D., said in Washington he had talked by telephone with AIM leader Russell Means at Wounded Knee and told him he was ready to negotiate with the militants if they released the hostages. ...

"The embattled Indians demanded that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hold hearings on Indian treaties, that the Senate make a 'full scale investigation' of government treatment of Indians and that Abourezk launch an inquiry into 'all Sioux reservations in South Dakota.' "They vowed they would stay put until they got answers from Washington but said no harm 'by Indians' would come to the hostages. ... "

Source: Albuquerque Journal; March 1, 1973

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