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13 Images: Remembering the Occupation of Wounded Knee

On February 27, 1973, the Occupation of Wounded Knee began on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation—here are 13 images from that time.
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On February 27, 1973, some 250 Sioux Indians led by members of the American Indian Movement converged on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, launching the famous 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee.

“In a way, it was a very beautiful experience,” said Len Foster, a Navajo man who joined AIM in 1970 and was at Wounded Knee for the entire 71 days. “It was a time to look at the commitment we made and a willingness to put our lives on the line for a cause.”

We present these images to remember that movement and those who stand up for Native rights—then and now.

AP File Photo

A historical marker commemorates the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 near Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Kevin McKiernan

A child digs a foxhole during the 1973 occupation at Wounded Knee.

AP Photo

Indians on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota watch U.S. Marshals on the ridge beyond as both sides remained at a standoff on March 3, 1973.

AP Photo/Jim Mone, File

In this March 3, 1973 file photo, a U.S. flag flies upside down outside a church occupied by members of the American Indian Movement, background, on the site of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. AIM’s occupation of Wounded Knee triggered a violent standoff with federal authorities.

AP Photo

These two men said they were Vietnam veterans. They rest in a bunker at Wounded Knee on March 13, 1973 after joining the American Indian Movement there.

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AP Photo

This image of Robert Onco and his rifle from the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973 became famous after it was put on an American Indian Movement poster.

AP Photo

Russell Means, right, an AIM leader, beats the drum at a meeting on Friday, March 10, 1973. Man at left is not identified.

AP Photo

American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks holds an envelope addressed to the Justice Department containing ashes of a federal proposal for Indians to evacuate Wounded Knee, on March 5, 1973. AIM leaders burned the document. Russell Means, center, and Carter Camp look on.

AP Photo/Jim Mone, File

In this March 18, 1973 file photo taken in Wounded Knee, South Dakota, American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks, left, reads an offer by U.S. government seeking to effect an end to the takeover of Wounded Knee. Looking on is AIM leader Carter Camp. Camp, a longtime activist with the American Indian Movement who was a leader in the Wounded Knee occupation, died December 27, 2013, in White Eagle, Oklahoma. He was 72.

Russell Means, left, and assistant U.S. Attorney General Kent Frizzell sign the Wounded Knee settlement on April 5, 1973 in South Dakota. Looking on left is Frizzell’s assistant Richard Helstern and AIM leader Dennis Banks.

Kevin McKiernan

Reporter Kevin McKiernan is pictured with Tom Bad Cob and Oscar Bear Runner during the 1973 occupation.

AP Photo/Fred Jewell

Dennis Banks, an American Indian Movement leader, shows depleted food supply at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on March 25, 1973.

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