Super Uncertainty

To plagiarize Dickens for the umpteenth time, this is the best of times and the worst of times for the NFL. For the first time in recent memory the Super Bowl pits the NFC’s best team against the AFC’s best, as well as the best defense against the best offense. And Peyton Manning’s return to the championship game has to please everyone who follows the NFL. A victory for Denver would complete the arc of a career that started out with all of the advantages of being Archie Manning’s son but then was sidetracked by a debilitating injury, followed by a comeback worthy of the pluckiest underdog in a Horatio Alger story. Manning has become Superman playing with Kryptonite in his pocket.

 Even the New Jersey winter weather, which could have been awful, appears to be cooperating. No one wants to see Manning grounded by the cold rather than the Seattle defense. The game may be a little chilly for those in attendance, but who cares? and it will likely draw the largest TV audience ever, which would mean more than 111 million, in the wake of some of the highest rated playoff games in NFL history. The TV audiences for the NFC and AFC championship games averaged more than 50 million, following weekends of wild card games and divisional playoffs averaging over 30 million. For comparison, the BCS championship game between Florida State and Auburn was watched by 24 million, and the new season of American Idol debuted with an audience of slightly more than 15 million. The NFL not only blows away all other sporting events (regular-season games sometimes outdrawing the World Series) but typically tops all non-sports programming as well. How could business be any better?

But the NFL’s bad news is as obvious as the good. The League of Denial, as both a documentary on PBS’s Frontline and a book by ESPN’s Fainaru brothers, provided a devastating and convincing story of NFL leaders not just ignoring the dangers of head trauma but working aggressively to discredit the science and the scientists who were making the disturbing discoveries. The $765 million settlement of the lawsuits brought by former players is currently in limbo, at risk of unraveling and possibly sending the NFL back to court to answer the questions raised by The League of Denial. Even should the settlement stand, the controversies surrounding it won’t end: the $112 million pocketed by the players’ attorneys, the tradeoff between immediate benefits for those in most dire need and the relatively small amount awarded to players overall, the opting out of many former players to keep their separate lawsuits alive.

 Participation in youth football appears to be declining, if only slightly so far but a potentially dangerous trend for the NFL’s pipeline of future players. And underlying all of this is the uncertainty whether concussion awareness and new techniques such as “heads-up” tackling at the youth level, along with rule changes and stiff penalties for targeting opponents’ heads at the college and professional levels can make football not only safer but truly safe, or at least safe enough.

What’s struck me most powerfully in the weeks since my eBook on “The Head in Football” came out is the divisiveness over the issues facing football where there ought to be growing consensus, whatever that consensus might be. Perhaps it could not be otherwise: if we’re hopelessly divided about everything else, why would football be excluded? The charge from the radical Right that trying to change the game in order to protect players’ brains is a “war on football” waged by Lefties who want to create a “nanny state” seems ridiculous—as if conservatives should be unconcerned about their children’s health and well-being! Brain science holds the key to football’s future, but here is where the divisiveness over the concussion crisis has become most depressing. As an academic I am very aware of science’s limitations and its slow, incremental advances. I take for granted the provisional and partial nature of scientific “truth.” I understand that there is “good” science and “bad” science, that all science is not equally reliable, and that scientists sometimes engage in rivalries, both petty and profound. None of this invalidates science altogether, only requires repeated studies and serious peer review.

Because scientists have not yet established a definitive causal link between head blows in football and later brain damage through studies that satisfy the most rigorous scientific standards, it does not follow that they’ve discovered no possible connection at all. Of course Ann McKee’s sample of CTE cases is not representative of all NFL players; neither she nor anyone else has claimed that it is. Nor has she claimed to have found a definitive causal link between CTE and head blows in football. What she has found is CTE in the brains of nearly every former NFL player she has examined who has suffered from brain disease, in addition to the brains of a few young men who played only in high school or college. A definitive link, through long-term, double-blind studies and so on, will take a long time—that’s why they’re called “longitudinal.” For now, we have enough compelling case studies to suspect a causal link and compelling reasons to assume, until we know otherwise, that head blows can produce long-term damage and that we should do what we can to prevent them.

The so-called concussion crisis isn’t a Red State/Blue State political issue but a family issue, a public health issue, and a social issue. As both a family and a public health issue, it requires weighing uncertain but potentially huge costs against known (or assumed) but less life-altering benefits. And the public has a stake in this: future medical costs are borne by all of us. As a social issue, in relation to NFL players rather than kids in youth leagues, it touches on how much suffering we as a people are willing to let others endure for the sake of our own pleasure. Football players have been called “gladiators” since the 1890s, and the appeal of the game has always been tied to its keeping alive a kind of primitive masculinity that is no longer very useful and seems to have been otherwise lost. But if football’s metaphorical “gladiators” turn out to be actual ones, a significant portion of them destroyed mentally as well as physically for our entertainment, can we as a people accept that? Our answer to that question will be a sign of just how “civilized” we’ve become.

The recent scenes from Friday Night Tykes on YouTube—pencil-necked 9-year-olds being driven by coaches and parents to inflict and endure the pain of head-on collisions—are incomprehensible to me. These parents and coaches seem immune to the concerns that are causing such uncertainty about football. I assume that they are anomalies and that uncertainty is more common. Uncertainty haunts football but also preserves it. The haunting comes from parents’ natural concerns about their children’s well-being. The preserving comes from the fact that the damage to players, whether kids or professionals, rarely happens immediately, before our own eyes. It shows up years later, perhaps subtly at first before it becomes full-blown dementia or depression or rage, and in the privacy of homes rather than viewed by 30 million on TV. Watching games, we’re not forced to weigh consequences.

Uncertainties abound, and how all of this will play out is itself uncertain. I share the uncertainty of those who want football safe enough to play and watch guiltlessly but are unsure if this is possible. I have the luxury of having sons who are 33 and 29, not 14 and 10, as we all wait for neurologists and pathologists to make things clearer. There’s more funding for brain research now, due in part to the media coverage of football’s concussion crisis, in part to the fact that the military and the NFL face similar challenges. But science is messy, and its “truths” emerge over time. Sadly, we live at a time when too many people believe that “truth” is determined by who’s telling it, on whether they heard it on Fox News or MSNBC. There’s much more at stake here than the future of football in the war on science. But football’s future is at stake, too.

Michael Oriard is the author of The Head in Football, published by the Now & Then Reader. It is available as an eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes. 

Deciding the Ultimate Fate of the Wounded Knee Massacre/Occupation Site





A public radio station in New York City recently called me to ask my opinion about the prospective sale of the Wounded Knee Massacre/Occupation site on Pine Ridge.
How the producers found me and why they valued the opinion of this white man is something I can’t answer. But I think I have a good grasp of the history of the site and I have visited many times over the years, so there you go.
It seems that the matter of who will eventually own the land around the graveyard and chapel will soon be settled. Whether the Oglala Sioux Tribe seizes it, or it ends up in private hands, the next question is, now what?
Will it remain as is, or will someone try to build a museum or interpretive center?
A gulley where victims of the 1890 massacre fled. STEW MAGNUSON
One of the points I made during the brief interview is that if there is an interpretive center built there someday, I think a section of it devoted to the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 would probably be easy to organize and not very controversial. That event is pretty well understood.
If there is to be a wing devoted to the Wounded Knee Occupation, then you’re opening up a big honkin’ can of worms.
The “Still Bleeding” secondary title of my newest book, Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding, speaks to that. There are lots of hard feelings remaining 40 years later, a few unsolved mysteries, and many different opinions on the meaning and impact of the occupation.
Who is going to decide how a possible interpretive center interprets that event?
What I wanted to talk about on the radio show, but didn’t have the time, was what is there now.
For those who live on Pine Ridge, they know the answer. Next to nothing.
For those who don’t, or have never visited, let me describe it. There is a small, circular rudimentary building with some murals and relics of the occupation. Sometimes there are some friendly Pine Ridge residents inside to answer questions. Sometimes not. There is the mass grave with the massacre interred and a cemetery at the top of the hill. Most don’t venture over to the foundations of the destroyed Wounded Knee Trading Post/museum that was destroyed after the occupation in 1973.
I was last there in September on a hot day. I would have paid good money for a cold drink. But there were none to be had. A couple nice kids on bikes were hanging around. I think they thought they were tour guides. Why they weren’t in school, I don’t know. Suffice it to say, my conversations with them revealed that they didn’t now much about the history of Wounded Knee.
Despite the fact that there is not much in terms of development as a historical site, a steady stream of tourists still make their way there. A whole van full of visitors from Indiana came by along with other several cars in the half hour I was there.
On that same trip I visited the Crazy Horse Memorial for the first time. After paying my entrance fee, I came upon a jam-packed parking lot. And this was after the end of the high season for tourists. The gift shop was doing steady business. Yes, it is in the middle of the Black Hills, and there is a lot of tourist traffic, but I do believe there is a thirst for knowledge about Native American history and culture.
I have done several book signings at the National Museum of the American Indian here in Washington, D.C., over the years, and the place is always packed. And not with Natives, either. In fact, the only Indians I ever spoke to there were from New Dehli.
Would a Wounded Knee interpretive center attract those kinds of crowds? Probably not. But many would make their way there as they have been for decades.
Do the residents of Pine Ridge want a parking lot that size full of cars and buses next to the hollowed ground? I would think not.
This is actually similar to the vision that the seller of the property Jim Czywczsnki had in 1968. Except all the money was going to go into his pockets, his idea for a memorial was tasteless, and there was zero input from the Lakotas.
But there are solutions to develop the area in a sensitive way. A museum could be placed out of site, with shuttle buses to take visitors the rest of the way, for example.
Maybe someday the National Park Service will declare this a national monument.
An interpretive center — if done right — would provide jobs, income to local artists who could sell their crafts there  — and most importantly — provide a deeper understanding of Lakota history and culture for those who care about it enough to venture out of the Black Hills.

Stew Magnuson (stewmag (a) yahoo.com) is the author of Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding, published by the Now & Then Reader. It is available as an eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes.

Albert Camus on Algeria


The New York Times Book Review published a wonderful review of Camus's Algerian Chronicles, a collection of his writings on the intractable battle between the French government and Algerian nationalists in his native country -- and on all those trapped between the warring factions.

Here's an excerpt from Susan Rubin Suleiman's review:
Even more eloquent, perhaps, are his remarks on the responsibility of intellectuals in times of hatred: “It is to explain the meaning of words in such a way as to sober minds and calm fanaticisms.” Great writer that he was, Camus placed hope in the calming power of language carefully used, and of reason; in the preface, he asks his readers to “set their ideological reflexes aside for a moment and just think.”

Lisa Lieberman's essay, Dirty War, explores Camus's dilemma in the context of postwar French history. As early as 1947, Camus had denounced the “Gestapo methods” routinely employed by the French in their colonies—torture, collective reprisals, executions.  “Three years after having felt the effects of a politics of terror, the French take in the news like people who have seen too much,” he charged.  “And yet the facts are there, clear and hideous as the truth: we are doing over there the same thing that we reproached the Germans for doing here.”

Born into a pied-noir (the term for European settlers) family in Algeria in 1913, Camus would surmount poverty and illness and go on to win the Nobel Prize in literature for 1957, singled out for his “authentic moral engagement,” a commitment to justice, peace, and human rights exemplified in his life no less than in his literary works.  During the Nazi Occupation he had founded an underground newspaper in Paris, Combat, that sought to unify the various factions of the Resistance under the banner of de Gaulle’s Free French organization.  Upon the Liberation he advocated for reconciliation and publicly opposed the death penalty, even in the case of war criminals—a position he would maintain throughout the Algerian war.

Camus was always one to put people before causes, but the conflict tested his loyalties.  “When one’s own family is in immediate danger of death, one may want to instill in one’s family a feeling of greater generosity and fairness . . . but (let there be no doubt about it!) one still feels a natural solidarity with the family in such mortal danger and hopes that it will survive at least and, by surviving, have a chance to show its fairness.”  Attacked for his unwillingness to reject colonialism outright, Camus had stopped commenting publicly about Algeria several years before his death in 1961, though he continued to lobby discreetly to mitigate the harsh sentences imposed on Algerian nationalists.  Nevertheless the key features of his argument, the correlation he drew between French colonial authorities and the Gestapo, along with his ambivalence, would resurface in the torture debate a decade later. And it is worth noting that the most outspoken critics of France’s dirty war would be those who, like Camus, had been active in the Resistance.


Lisa Lieberman is the translator of Jean-Paul Sartre's essay, "Paris Under the Occupation" and Simone de Beauvoir's essay, "An Eye for an Eye".

A What-If Examination of an Assault on the Occupied Village of Wounded Knee



This is Part Six of a weekly blog that will take a look at several aspects of the Wounded Knee Occupation as the 40th anniversary of the controversial 71-day event continues from Feb. 27 to May 5. Next week: A rundown of the Wounded Knee Occupation books available.

Former Wounded Knee resident Adrienne Fritze recently posted a historic picture of her uncle Clive and aunt Agnes Gildersleeve, which was taken after the end of the Wounded Knee Occupation. Piled up against a car were dummy assault rifles that AIM had left behind the destroyed village.
Those, along with manikins also found afterwards, were used by the occupiers to make their defenses against the feds look more robust than they actually were.
The photo brings to mind an interesting what-if question.
What if higher-ups in Washington, D.C. had approved plans to end the occupation through force?
The final resting place of Buddy Lamont at Wounded Knee
We live in a country that has a number of well-armed fringe groups that occasionally run afoul of federal laws. See what happened in Waco, Texas, with the Branch Davidians in 1993. Fifty died in an assault on this group’s compound. How law enforcement responds to such scenarios is worth looking at and examining the government’s response at Wounded Knee is an important case study.
Former Special Agent in Charge Joseph Trimbach brings this up in the book, American Indian Mafia. He states that the FBI agents, traditionally crime investigators, were ill-suited for this military-style operation. The U.S. marshals on the scene normally tracked down and transported federal fugitives and guarded courthouses. They also did not have the training to invade an armed village.
Trimbach in his book asserts that the only organization in the federal government at the time able to clear out the village would have been the military.
Army advisors were on hand and wanted nothing to do with such an operation, as Wounded Knee II, by Roland Dewing notes. To do so would have run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act.
Going into the act’s gray areas and roots would take up too much space in this column. Wikipedia has a fairly good explanation about it for those wanting to know more. Posse Comitatus — at its heart — prohibits the military from taking part in domestic law enforcement missions.
Basically no military officer, up to an including the service chiefs, would have given the order for their troops to attack the fortified village.
Authorizing the military to take part in such a mission would have required an act of Congress, according to the law. The president, the commander in chief, Richard M. Nixon at the time, might have had the authority, but that is a gray area as well.
The Army had a trained civil disturbance unit, most likely to be used for base security. But the advisors on hand wanted no part of an assault. The stated reason was that the occupiers weren’t going anywhere or a threat to any neighboring communities. However, the unstated reason should be obvious. The Army wasn’t going to be involved in a second Wounded Knee Massacre. The site is where the Army’s Seventh Cavalry in 1890 gunned down Chief Big Foot and some 150 to 300 of his people.
Strategically speaking, dead Indians, soldiers, and possibly FBI agents and marshals would have been a disaster for the Nixon administration, already embroiled in the Watergate scandal. Recall that the Ohio National Guard in 1970 had shot and killed four unarmed anti-Vietnam student protestors at Kent State. This horrific incident was fresh in the minds of the public and the government.
Tactically, the feds could have taken the village — at a price. They had at their disposal armored personnel carriers, which are basically rolling bunkers and protected them from small arms and Molotov cocktails, but you have to leave the APC eventually. And as many have noted, Wounded Knee sat in a large bowl-shaped area, and feds controlled the high ground.
Meanwhile, the occupiers had in their ranks seasoned Vietnam War veterans such as Carter Camp, Stan Holder, Bob Yellow Bird, along with many others who were manning bunkers. If they chose to, they could have put up a good fight for awhile and inflicted casualties.
Head of the marshal service Wayne Colburn, after entering Wounded Knee early in the siege, came to the same conclusion and estimated 10 percent casualties.
Feds on the ground drew up plans to end incident through force in the latter part so the occupation, but no one in Washington would approve them, according to the Dewing book. There were also hotheads among Tribal President Dick Wilson’s Guardians of the Oglala Nation, GOONs, and white vigilante types in the border towns of Gordon and Crawford, Neb., who were volunteering to “clean out the radicals,” but the law enforcement officials would never have let that happen, and one suspects it was a lot of hot air anyway.
In hindsight, the Nixon administration’s wait-them-out policy was probably the best course of action, although it came at a high price for some. The policy also allowed the feds to return fire. Hundreds of thousands of rounds were exchanged between the two sides.
U.S. marshal Lloyd Grimm was shot and remained paralyzed for life. Frank Clear, aka Clearwater, and Buddy Lamont died from gunshot wounds in the final days, and civil rights activist Perry Ray Robinson possibly lost his life in the occupied village as well.

Stew Magnuson (stewmag (a) yahoo.com) is the author of Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding, published by the Now & Then Reader. It is available as an eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes.
 Magnuson will discuss the book April 27, 11:30 a.m. at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., and April 28, at 12:30 p.m. at the Bookworm, 87th and Pacific Street, in Omaha.

Ray Robinson talks Peanuts, Popcorn & American Presidents!


Baseball season is officially back in 'full swing' and we're celebrating the season with our latest release by Ray Robinson: Peanuts, Popcorn & American Presidents. The 92 year old author is one of baseball's oldest fans and his new title has received great feedback from the baseball community!

John Thorne, MLB's official baseball historian featured Peanuts, Popcorn & American Presidents on his blog 'Our Game' where henotes the influence Mr. Robinson had on him as a young sportswriter. Having experienced many of the greatest moments in baseball history first hand, Ray is full of great stories and baseball memories!

If you're a baseball fan, you don't want to miss Ray's chat with Ron Williams on 940 WCIT as he shares his stories from the past, including tales of his old friend Jackie Robinson!

Click below to listen.

Visit Now and Then Reader to read Peanuts, Popcorn & American Presidents

Part 1 (skip ahead to the 0:50 mark)

Part 2


Rumors of Unmarked Graves at Wounded Knee Still Alive after 40 Years



This is Part Four of a weekly blog that will take a look at several aspects of the Wounded Knee Occupation as the 40th anniversary of the controversial 71-day event continues from Feb. 27 to May 5. 

Before the Wounded Knee Occupation ended in May 1973, rumors were already running rampant.
This is not surprising. Watch the next mass shooting unfold on CNN. (Sadly, you won’t have to wait long.) All sorts of statements that will later be found untrue will be reported.
The same will happen during the next terrorist attack or natural disaster. Nowadays, the Internet and Facebook allow misinformation to zip around the globe at the speed of light. On battlefields, they call it “the fog of war.”
Hopefully, by the end of the day, the rumors and facts are sorted out.
The siege at Wounded Knee that took place 40 years ago was no different.
And so we come to the rumor that there are six bodies buried in or near the village — all killed at the hands of the occupiers.
Twelve young women were also said to be raped, murdered and buried outside the perimeter. Someone reported this rumor to the FBI during the occupation, an agent diligently writes it in a report, and 40 years later it is repeated.
Rumors sometimes have a kernel of truth.
Perry Ray Robinson
Let’s examine this one, because a group I am just going to call from now on “the Anti-American Indian Movement zealots” or anti-AIM zealots are keeping the rumor alive.
The de facto leader of this group former FBI agent Joseph Trimbach’s son John Trimbach made the assertion publicly at the Dakota Conference at Augustana College last year. And writing under the pseudonym, James Simmon, he will repeat it wherever he can on website comments sections whenever the occupation is mentioned.
“We estimate that half a dozen people were murdered inside the village versus the one casualty who died from a stray government bullet,” he said April 27, 2012 during a presentation at the conference.
The bar for facts that go into my books is extremely high. That’s because I make my living as a journalist. If I keep getting my facts wrong, I lose my credibility, and ultimately, my career.
John Trimbach’s AIM vendetta and the fact that he is an airline pilot, not a journalist, gives him the luxury of posting rumors publicly or under a fake name without any fear of losing his livelihood. What does he care? As long as AIM looks bad, he throws out anything he believes to be true to see if it sticks.
I don’t always get my facts right. But I try my best, and if I get something wrong, I will try to correct it as best I can. If I need to correct something in this article, I can do so relatively easily. Once a book is out, you can’t recall it. Rumors are usually just those: rumors.
I have gone as far to say that a black civil rights activist, Perry Ray Robinson, went inside the occupied village of Wounded Knee, and has not been seen since. He is presumed dead. No one has come forward with any hard evidence that he ever left the village.
The prevailing story is that he got in scuffle with AIM members, was shot in the leg and bled out. His body was later clandestinely buried in the village.
AIM leaders have denied he was ever there. (That is not true. He was.) They have been evasive about the case for decades.
Is this the kernel of truth that gave rise to the rumors? Maybe.
How about the other five murders. Who were they? Now thing get fuzzy. Very fuzzy.
John Trimbach handed me a sheet of paper at the conference with a transcript of an interview allegedly given by AIM spiritual leader Leonard Crow Dog, in which it mentions a black man being killed along with a “Sicilian.”
One other alleged victim is known in the anti-AIM zealot community as “mannequin man.” FBI agents or U.S. marshals wrote in a report that they observed at first what they thought was a mannequin being crucified and tortured in full daylight. Later, in interviews disseminated by the same sources, it is claimed he was a real person, and informant.  
The occupiers knew they were being watched 24/7. Why would they do that in full view of the feds?
As for bodies four, five and six. We have nothing. No theories, no names. Nothing.
That doesn’t stop John Trimbach from saying he estimates there are six murders there. Since he claims one died from a  “stray” bullet. (Was someone hunting deer nearby?) I surmise he thinks one was Frank Clear, aka Clearwater. See my post from March 6).
My wife gives me grief for one of my guilty TV pleasures, Judge Judy. What can I say, we all like a little junk TV.
Judge Judy, as she hectors her plaintiffs and defendants, likes to say, “It doesn’t make sense. And if it doesn’t make sense, it probably isn’t true.”
Perry Ray Robinson being buried at Wounded Knee is a possibility. It at least makes sense. Here is why:
I have met and talked to Cheryl Buswell-Robinson. She came to the aforementioned conference last year. She sobbed as she pleaded with anyone who had information on Ray to come forward, just so they could bring his body home to rest. Ray had a wife and children, who, to this day, are asking about his whereabouts.
What about these other five alleged victims?
Where is the Sicilian’s family? What is his name? Okay, I’ll grant the zealots the slim possibility that ONE person with an Italian name made his or her way to Wounded Knee without telling a single soul they knew, then was killed and buried there. But five? The same for the 12 rumored women supposedly killed by the Goons. Not one had fathers that came looking for them?
Doesn’t make sense.
Keep in mind these rumors Trimbach capitalizes on emerged before the siege ended. FBI agents, who were desperate to hang any crime on AIM leaders, went immediately in and combed the place for evidence and freshly dug graves and found nothing.
That doesn’t completely prove or disprove anything.  Although I would argue that hiding a whopping 18 unmarked graves from FBI agents would be quite a feat.
One of the first readers to finish my book, Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding, emailed me and asked if someone could go in and search for bodies and settle this question. Could ground penetrating radar or cadaver sniffing dogs turn up anything?
As a matter of fact, I went to the site last September with just that question in mind. I had not been there in a number of years, so I went hunting for a likely spot where Ray Robinson could be buried.
I came away convinced that a random search would be difficult. There are too many places where a body could be hid. I believe that someone would have to come forward with a tip to point searchers in the right direction.
Ground penetrating radar is expensive, slow, and painstaking to use. You just don’t run down to Ace Rent-to-Own and grab one. And I wonder how effective it would be in the uneven terrain in the gullies leading to Wounded Knee Creek, which would be the first place I would look. A cadaver-sniffing dog might be a better bet.
And then, it must be said, 40 years is time enough come in the middle of the night and move a body.
That is what I know. No more. No less.

Stew Magnuson is the author of Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding, published by the Now & Then Reader. It is available as an eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes.

Wounded Knee Hostages Have Seen Their Story Whitewashed from History



This is Part Three of a weekly blog that will take a look at several aspects of the Wounded Knee Occupation as the 40th anniversary of the controversial 71-day event continues from Feb. 27 to May 5. Next week: Are there unmarked Graves at Wounded Knee?

Former South Dakota Sen. James Abourezk, taking questions at the Dakota Conference at Augustana College last year, was taken aback when Adrienne Fritze stood up to correct him.
Just a few minutes earlier, Abourezk had cracked wise about the day he went to the occupied village of Wounded Knee two days after the American Indian Movement had taken over.
He suggested that they were all in on some kind of joke with their AIM captors. He had come to negotiate their release. Having failed to do so, he decided that they weren’t captives at all.
Wounded Knee, 1940. Photo by John Vachon. Library of Congress
The former South Dakota lawmaker didn’t count on another non-AIM witness being in the crowd that day.
Fritze, who was 12 years old at the time, was the niece of Clive and Agnes Gildersleeve, the long-time owners of the trading post.
She had read and heard for almost 40 years the misrepresentations of her family in history books, along with AIM’s twisted rationalization for destroying a community, and taking away all their possessions. She was standing right in front of Abourezk, Sen. George McGovern and the TV crew when they came in for the photo op on March 1, 1973.
She did not find Abourezk’s lighthearted anecdote amusing.
I won’t go into the exchange between the two that followed other than to say that Fritze said her and her family were under duress every minute of the almost nine days they were there. They were threatened with knives and guns, and held against their will. The occupiers stole any possession of any value in front of their noses, and they were powerless to stop them.
In short, those fighting for their liberty, did so, by taking others’ liberty away.
Abourezk’s attempt to recover after Fritze confronted him with these uncomfortable facts was quite sad, and one of the low points of a conference that had many low points.
It’s all in the new book, Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding.
The “Still Bleeding” secondary title refers to many who are suffering as a result of the occupation. The Fritzes, Adrienne and her mother Jeanne, the last two living hostages, are among them.
Tim Giago, founder of several Native American newspapers including The Native Sun News, and a former Wounded Knee resident, has written eloquently over the years about the Gildersleeves.
I did not know them personally as he did. All I can say is that since I first began doing research at Pine Ridge almost 10 years ago, I have never met anyone who had a bad word to say against them.
If there is one thing Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding contributes to the historical record, I hope it’s a more balanced description of the hostages, and their predicament.
AIM leaders, and sympathetic historians, have put forth two assertions. One, that they were happy and willing hostages. And two, as Russell Means suggested minutes after Abourezk and Fritze’s exchange, that they basically deserved it.
I’m not trying to brag when I say I am the first journalist or historian to interview Adrienne and Jeanne. I just want to point out that I was the first to even bother asking them for 39 years.
That is telling. Writers have accepted the simplistic “crooked white trader” and “willing hostages” narrative for four decades.
The happy and willing hostages idea has its roots in quotes that Agnes Gildersleeve and her brother Wilbur Riegert — both mixed-blood Ojibwes — gave to the press.
Agnes, in front of cameras and in private conversations, said she wasn’t sure she wanted to leave. Certainly, she had ambivalent feelings. The stated reason for not wanting to leave was because she feared what would happen to her home of 40 years after she left.
Well guess what happened to her home of 40 years after she left? It was burned to the ground.
Riegert, an elderly wheel-chair bound hostage, I believe has been particularly aggrieved by historians. This was a man who loved Lakota culture and religion and spent his life collecting art and artifacts, and writing unpublished histories about the people he had lived among his entire adult life.
In the book, Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee, authors Paul Chaat Smith and Robert Allen Warrior quote him as telling a print reporter that he sympathized with AIM’s demands.
First of all, interviews given with armed AIM leaders standing a few feet away are done so under duress (You would think a smart guy like Abourezk would know that).
In any case, this is undoubtedly true. Riegert was well aware of all the injustices perpetrated against the Oglala Lakotas, would have loved to have seen the Black Hills returned to them, as well as many of the other demands fulfilled.
Like a Hurricane isn’t a completely bad book. But Smith and Warrior cherry picked facts to make Riegert and the Gildersleeves look like villains. It is an influential book, and used as textbook n college classes, so the misconception continues.
The other assertion is that they were corrupt, so they got what was coming to them.
I hope my readers know by now that I don’t back away from uncomfortable facts. And the fact is that the white trader system on Pine Ridge in the first half of the 20th century on Pine Ridge was tremendously corrupt.
AIM leaders asserted that the Wounded Knee Trading Post engaged in shady business practices, and Riegert’s museum was exploiting the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. 
I have come across no evidence that the Gildersleeves engaged in such practices. I believe that Riegert was sincere in wanting to share his love and knowledge of the local culture with any tourist who came to see his museum.
I duly note in the book that Jim Czywczynski invoked the Fifth Amendment 95 times in order not to incriminate himself at a Wounded Knee trial when asked about his business practices. (Yes, the same man who tried to sell the Oglala Sioux Tribe the land at Wounded Knee at a huge mark-up last month). He bought the trading post for the Gildersleeves and ran it during its final years.
At the end of the day, the occupiers had no right to take hostages, steal, loot and destroy lives under any circumstances.
There were many other Wounded Knee residents besides the 11 hostages. Their untold stories will have to wait for another column.

Stew Magnuson is the author of Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding, published by the Now & Then Reader. It is available as an eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes.