This Day in History – February 27, 1973: AIM Takeover of Wounded Knee Begins

Wounded Knee seige in 1973.

This Day in History

Published February 27, 2019

WOUNDED KNEE — February 27th is known in Indian country as Liberation Day because it was on that date in 1973 the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied the Pine Ridge Reservation near Wounded Knee in protest against the federal government and its policies related to American Indians.

Russell Means (l) and Dennis Banks (r) at Wounded Knee in 1973

A 71-day standoff between federal authorities and AIM ensued. On March 13, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the US Justice Department, Harlington Wood Jr., became the first government official to enter Wounded Knee without a military escort. Determined to resolve the deadlock without further bloodshed, he met with AIM leaders for days and, while exhaustion made him too ill to conclude the negotiation, he is credited as the “icebreaker” between the government and AIM.

Both sides reached an agreement on May 5 to disarm, and three days later the siege had ended and the town was evacuated after 71 days of occupation; the government then took control of the town. During the incident, a Cherokee and an Oglala Lakota were killed by the FBI.

Editor’s Note: Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources contributed to this article.

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