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) 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) 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.

The Battle of Algiers

Franco Solinas, who wrote the screenplay for “The Battle of Algiers,” set out to demystify colonial war. Honor, glory, maintaining peace, bringing freedom and the advantages of civilization, guaranteeing human rights—whatever the occupier’s stated motivation for fighting—all of this was sentimental drivel. Solinas felt compelled, he said, to present the events in a harsh light because he was against “a hypocritical, phony, romantic, fictionalized idea of war.”
It’s true that the French do not come off well in this film. The colonists seem spiteful, their young people spoiled, their policemen immoral and underhanded. Apart from the paratrooper commander, Colonel Mathieu, who upholds his warrior code, the French army appears callous at best, sadistic at worst. In one brutal sequence, we see Algerians being tortured in graphic detail, Ennio Morricone’s mournful score heightening our revulsion. Not only must we endure the men’s agony as they are beaten, burned, waterboarded, and subjected to electric shocks, we are also shown the faces of their wives and mothers, tears running down their cheeks, as they too are made to witness the torture.
But none of this would have surprised audiences in the mid-1950s, when the events marked by the film took place. The fact that torture was routinely used in France’s “dirty war” in Algeria was widely known and hotly debated. Exposés were written by prominent figures, from decorated army generals to Catholic theologians. Soul-searching was the order of the day, particularly among Left-Bank intellectuals. Former members of the French Resistance routinely denounced the “Gestapo methods” of the French army. And efforts by the authorities to censor this literature only increased the demand for it.
The European-born editor of a left-wing Algerian newspaper critical of the colonial regime was tortured for a month at the height of the Battle of Algiers. His account, smuggled page by page out of prison, sold 168,000 copies in a clandestine Swiss edition published in 1958, after the original version was confiscated in France. His ordeal became a cause célèbre.
The shock value of “The Battle of Algiers” did not reside in its revelation of French brutality, difficult as the scenes of torture are to view. I think it was the film’s glorification of revolution, its endorsement of the argument found in Frantz Fanon’s radical manifesto, The Wretched of the Earth, that violence could be a cleansing force, enabling an oppressed people to overcome their fears and reclaim their dignity, that earned the film its acclaim, and its notoriety (depending on the viewer’s politics).
In a famous sequence, three Algerian women prepare to bomb civilian targets in the European area of Algiers. Who doesn’t root for them to get through the checkpoints? 

Pretty shocking, I’d say, even today.

In her new title, Dirty War: Terror & Torture in French Algeria, Lisa Lieberman tells the story of the Algerian war and its impact on French intellectuals and political and military leaders.

More Questions Than Answers About Wounded Knee 1973’s First Fatality

This is Part Two 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: The residents of Wounded Knee.

Last year, the Oglala Sioux Tribe sent a list to U.S. attorney for South Dakota requesting that the he investigate approximately 56 suspicious deaths that had occurred in Pine Ridge or nearby.
It was an odd list. It looked like there was some padding going on. The first name that jumped out at me was Raymond Yellow Thunder. I wrote a book, The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder, in 2008, and I was perplexed as to why his name appeared there. The killers were caught, tried, convicted and served their time in in the 1970s. This all happened in Nebraska, outside of South Dakota and the FBI’s jurisdiction. And even if someone believed that the manslaughter charge should have been murder, what, you’re going to retry the case on a different charge 40 years later? Ridiculous.

The second name that jumped out at me was Frank Clearwater aka Frank Clear (or vice versa depending whether you’re in the FBI or American Indian Movement camp). Since the last name is in question, I’m just going to go with Frank for the remainder of this article.

Now here is a death worth investigating.

Frank Clearwater was the first fatality during the Wounded Knee Occupation in 1973. His name has been surrounded in mystery since the day he arrived in the village on April 17.

The story, as told in several history books, reputable and otherwise, is that Frank Clearwater, 47, an Apache, made his way into the occupied village with his pregnant wife — Morningstar — arriving sometime on the night of April 16.

The two weary travelers laid down to rest in the either the church or one of the houses, and while they were sleeping one of the most intense firefights of the occupation broke out. A stray bullet penetrated the wall and struck Frank in the head.

A ceasefire eventually came and he was medically evacuated to Rapid City, where he hung on for eight days, but succumbed to his wound on April 25.

His widow then asked that he be buried at Wounded Knee Cemetery.

A dispute immediately broke out between AIM and its avowed enemy Tribal Chairman Dick Wilson. Wilson produced documents claiming that Clearwater was named Frank Clear Jr., and that he was a white man who had served time in a military prison for abandoning his post in World War II. Wilson said only Natives could be interred at Wounded Knee.

To make a long story short, Frank was ultimately buried at Crow Dog’s Paradise, AIM spiritual leader Leonard Crow Dog’s home on the Rosebud Reservation.

So who is buried there? Frank Clear or Frank Clearwater?

As usual, we have two completely different interpretations of this event depending whether you believe the former FBI Special Agent in Charge Joe Trimbach, whose name appears on the cover of a book called, American Indian Mafia, or the AIM leaders.

American Indian Mafia goes into some, but not much detail of this event. Trimbach, of course, says he was Frank Clear. But he doesn’t go into why he would have lied to AIM leaders about his name and ancestry.

Curiously, in a timeline in the book’s Appendix, on page 513, it reads “April 17, 1973: Wounded Knee infiltrator Frank Clear is struck by a stray bullet that had penetrated a wall.”

“Infiltrator?” What a curious choice of words.

Is Trimbach saying that Frank was sent in to gather intelligence? I could ask him. But he wasn’t at Pine Ridge at the time, his superiors having removed him from the scene by that then. And now in his late 80s, I am not sure he would remember.

At the Augustana Conference in Sioux Falls, last year I asked Trimbach how many informants he managed to put inside the occupied village. None, he insisted. He was only on the scene for two weeks.

Later, I read his book in which it details gathering information from a total of four informants during his two weeks on the scene. This suggests to me that his memory is faltering in his old age, or he isn’t familiar with the information in a book that has his name on the cover.

Now to AIM. Four decades later, they continue to assert that Frank was a Native American. Proxies such as Ward Churchill, the former University of Colorado professor, asserted in his series of pro-AIM books that the documents Wilson produced were fake and it was a ploy to discredit him. He couldn’t be a martyr for their cause if he was an FBI informant.

My question to AIM leaders like Dennis Banks, who was there at the time of his arrival, is how did they know for sure? The prevailing story was the Frank and his wife weren’t there very long before they went off to rest.
They arrived at a time when leadership was deeply, and rightfully, paranoid about infiltrators.

According to Roland Dewing’s, Wounded Knee II, the best blow-by-blow account of the occupation published to date (sourced mainly from FBI documents), AIM initially gave authorities a number of names: First he was Matthew High Pine from Pine Ridge, then he was Frank Still Water, a Cherokee from Oklahoma, and finally Frank Clearwater, an Apache from Cherokee, North Carolina.

An Apache from North Carolina? Well, maybe.
Banks has a pretty bad record on telling who was and wasn’t a Native American. Doug Durham, a white man posing as an Indian, turned out to be the FBI’s most successful informant, and was one of Banks’ right hand men for years before he was discovered.

Was Frank Clear/Clearwater sent in as an informant? But with a pregnant wife? Or was he just a wannabe Indian, who was escaping a troubled past?

Or was he really who AIM claimed him to be?

I don’t have the answers, but I am certain they are out there. The Apache Nation would presumably have records of a Clearwater family.

And where is his widow — Morningstar — and where is the child — unborn at the time of its presumed father’s death, today? He or she would be about 40 or 41 years old. Could they shed any light on this man’s identity?

If you have answers to this mystery, send me a message. (stewmag (a)

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.

What Was the Larger Impact of the Wounded Knee Occupation?

This is Part One 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: Who was Frank Clearwater?

Forty years after members of the American Indian Movement and its local allies occupied the village of Wounded Knee on Pine Ridge Reservation, controversy swirls around the 71-day event.
Much of the debate centers around what did or didn’t happen as the federal government laid siege to the village.
Perry Ray Robinson, a black civil rights activist, made his way inside Wounded Knee, and was never seen alive again.
The Trimbachs — former special agent in charge on the scene Joe, and his son John — are the leading critics of AIM leaders and of the occupation itself. They publicly claim that AIM leaders were responsible for several deaths inside — including two men who were allegedly felled by government bullets, Frank Clear aka Clearwater and Buddy Lamont, as well as five other bodies they say are buried there.
Tim Giago, the founder of several local newspapers, has been out front over the past four decades in pointing out that the occupation destroyed a community. Oglalas, white and mixed-blood residents — were run out of their homes, which were later looted and destroyed, with none of them ever receiving compensation for their losses.
AIM leaders at the Dakota Conference at Augustana College in Sioux Falls last year brushed aside these criticisms and made a case that the occupation changed things for the better in Indian Country. AIM founder Clyde Bellecourt in particular said everything from the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 to the rise of tribal casinos and the economic power they wield, were a direct result of the change in attitudes toward Native Americans brought on by AIM and the occupation.
Of course, it is hard to say whether this is true, or not, and there are arguments to be made both ways.
The late Russell Means, in his biography, Where White Men Fear to Tread, said, “What Wounded Knee told the world was that John Wayne hadn’t killed us all. Essentially, the rest of the planet had believed that except for a few people sitting along the highways peddling pottery, there were no more Indians. Suddenly, billions of people knew we were still alive, still resisting.”
‘Billions? Well, aside from that probably inflated figure, I think there is a kernel of truth there.
Putting the occupation in context, it was widely covered by the mainstream media. The first armed insurrection on U.S. soil since the Civil War made headlines everywhere. This was still during the Cold War, and the Soviet Bloc countries sent reporters along with CBS, NBC, NPR, the wire services and all the major newspapers. The media relished this story. Yes, here were Indians resisting the U.S. government.
Were viewers watching or reading about it angry at AIM, or the U.S. government? It was undoubtedly a mix of both, but for those who root for the underdog, certainly they sympathized with the occupiers.
This was also a time when Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was a number one bestseller. That book opened the eyes of a lot of Americans to the injustices perpetrated on Native Americans in the 19th century. For many, Indians had only been the bad guys in Westerns, who scalped the poor innocent settlers. Historians continue to criticize the book, but it had an enormous impact in its day.
Now, here was a group of radicals who had another story to tell. Love them or hate them, Means and AIM co-founder Dennis Banks, were charasmatic and ever quotable. The occupation started out as a protest against the tribal government of Dick Wilson, but it grew into something more as the weeks wore on.
AIM leaders spoke of many failed 20th century policies. Relocation, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs tried to depopulate the reservations by giving incentives to families to move to big cities, was one. Termination sought to take away some tribes’ legal standing. Boarding schools were havens for child abusers, whose purpose was to destroy Indian culture and language.
The land, the source of power in the countryside, had been slowly taken away from tribal hands thanks to the Dawes Allocation Act. The Indian Reform Act of 1935 imposed Western democracy on tribes, and in the case of Pine Ridge, created a schism between traditionals and non-traditionals that scholar Akim Reinhardt argues led to the occupation.
These stories by 1973 had largely escaped the attention of most Americans. If they knew any Indian history at all, their knowledge probably stopped at the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.
Reservations were — and some still are — places of horrific poverty. But how did they get that way?
Until 1973, that story had not been widely told.
Did the occupation by itself usher in a new day? There are no before and after public surveys that I know of that could tell us with certainty. But one can say that many positive developments did happen afterwards.
I don’t think AIM can take complete credit for all of them. The Native American Rights Fund, which has been instrumental in fighting many important legal battles in the Indian law realm, was founded in 1970. That is just one example of others who had a role to play.
But to say AIM and the occupation had no impact on the public’s awareness of Native American issues at all, I think, would be wrong.

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.