1973 – A 71-day standoff between federal authorities and the American Indian Movement members occupying the Pine Ridge Reservation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, site of the infamous massacre of 300 Sioux by the U.S. 7th Cavalry in 1890, ends with the surrender of the militants.
AIM was founded in 1968 by Russell Means, Dennis Banks, and other Native-American leaders as a militant political and civil rights organization.
Their actions were acclaimed by many Native Americans, but on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Oglala Sioux Tribal President Dick Wilson had banned all AIM activities. AIM considered his government corrupt and dictatorial, and planned the occupation of Wounded Knee as a means of forcing a federal investigation of his administration. By taking Wounded Knee, The AIM leaders also hoped to force an investigation of other reservations, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and broken Indian treaties.
The Wounded Knee occupation lasted for a total of 71 days, during which time two Sioux men were shot to death by federal agents. One federal agent was paralyzed after being shot. On May 8, the AIM leaders and their supporters surrendered after White House officials promised to investigate their complaints.
In 1975, two FBI agents and a Native-American man were killed in a massive shoot-out between federal agents and AIM members and local residents. In a controversial trial, AIM member Leonard Peltier was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
The U.S. government took no steps to honor broken Indian treaties, but in the courts some tribes won major settlements from federal and state governments in cases involving tribal land claims.
The Pine Ridge and other Reservations remain incredibly poor. This past winter was especially devastating with record cold, snow and ice. Residents ran out of food, heating fuel and water became an even bigger problem when water mains froze and broke.