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Holy Road

Well-known attorney dies in Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. - The first American Indian private-practice attorney in the state of South Dakota passed away July 10 at the age of 82 in Tucson.

Ramon Roubideaux, well-known for his work during the 71-day Wounded Knee occupation in 1973 and for defending American Indian Movement activists Russell Means and Dennis Banks in federal court, acted as a negotiator inside the compound at Wounded Knee.

He used personal experience from Wounded Knee in court while defending Means and Banks to try to bring accountability to the trial in contrast to the government's position on the Wounded Knee takeover.

Roubideaux, according to his family, served in World War II as a radar-observer-navigator with the 416th Night fighter Squadron in northern Italy. He was commissioned 1st Lieutenant and awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and three battle stars.

Roubideaux attended college after his military service and was one of the few American Indians to do so at the time. He received his law degree from George Washington University in 1950, becoming the first American Indian in the state to do so. He also received an AA degree from George Washington.

Roubideaux, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, was born on the reservation in 1924.

In the early and mid-1970s, Roubideaux could be seen occasionally at a small downtown Rapid City restaurant for breakfast, just a few blocks from his law office, while talking to Means and Banks and other members of AIM.

He began practicing law in Fort Pierre, and while there he served eight two-year terms as states attorney for Stanley County.

He moved his law practice to Rapid City in 1971, just before the Wounded Knee takeover.

When any American Indian organization or individual needed an attorney, the first name that came up was Roubideaux. He fought for and defended many people and groups in his 50 years as an attorney and he fought for the sovereignty and self-determination of tribes across his long history as an attorney.

He was an outspoken critic of the Indian Reorganization Act. He referred to the IRA as a well-intentioned but unfortunate happening that took place, as far as American Indians were concerned.

''What I am speaking about is that although it did stop the alienation, the sale of Indian lands and did stop the allotment system, it created a socialistic society, and set the Indian people apart from the mainstream of American life and made them a problem,'' Roubideaux said in a 1968 interview.

Roubideaux retired from practicing law in 2002 and moved to Tucson with his wife, Cecelia, to live with their daughter in 2006.

He is survived by Cecelia; two sons, Michael G. Roubideaux and Marcus A. Roubideaux, both of Rapid City; one daughter, Yvette D. Roubideaux of Tuscson; a grandson; and two sisters.

Roubideaux's popularity was proven by a large turnout for the funeral and burial in the Black Hills National Cemetery, where he received military honors.