40TH ANNIVERSARY OBSERVANCE OF WOUNDED KNEE OCCUPATION ON WED

Posted 2 years ago

By John Axtell

Russell Means, October 2011

Russell Means, October 2011

Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the armed occupation of the Pine Ridge Reservation community of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement.

The incident became a 71-day siege that included several gunbattles with federal officers and 3 deaths…an FBI agent and 2 protesters.

It’s being commemorated by ceremonies on the reservation with hundreds expected to attend, but one of the most articulate voices of the occupation will be noticeably absent.

One-time AIM leader Russell Means died in October at the age of 72 after battling throat cancer, and the anniversary observance will include a traditional honoring for Means

As a leader of AIM, Means was front and center during the occupation…organized to protest living conditions and the federal government’s violation of treaties.  Opinions on Means and the occupation still remain mixed on the reservation 4 decades later.

Means, who parlayed his Indian activism into a career in television and movies, moved into tribal politics over the last decade and twice ran for OST tribal president…winning the primaries in both 2002 and 2004 but losing in the general election both times.

He told the AP in 2011 that before AIM, there had been no advocate on a national or international scale for American Indians…who were ashamed of their heritage…but that all of that had changed and that AIM faded away as more and more Native Americans became self-aware and self-determined.