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Memo Sent to President Richard Nixon's Administration "Regarding Major Issues with the Wounded Knee Occupation," May 9, 1973

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Courtesy of National Archives, Gereau, Gerald R., "Memorandum Regarding Major Issues with the Wounded Knee Occupation," 9 May 1973


This memo details separate and conflicting sets of issues in regard to the American Indian Movement (AIM) and Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO) occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota (on Pine Ridge Reservation). Wounded Knee was the site of an infamous 1890 massacre of 300 Sioux by the U.S. Seventh Calvary. The memo came days after AIM ended its occupation of the town of Wounded Knee, which began on Feb. 27, 1973 and ended May 5, 1973. The occupation began with calls for impeachment of what was characterized as a corrupt tribal government and calls for the federal government to make good on treaties from the 19th and 20th Centuries, along with calling out racism and discrimination toward Native Americans. During the months-long protest, two protestors were killed and 15 were injured, along with one federal officer. The occupation lasted for 71 days. Once it ended, calls were made for the government to sit down and discuss treaties. However, the Nixon Administration declined to do so, and instead, AIM leaders were put on trial. Russell Means and Dennis Banks were arrested, but the charges against them were dismissed by a federal judge because of the U.S. government's unlawful handling of witnesses and evidence.   

Full Transcript of the "Wounded Knee Occupation" Memo

Transcribed Excerpts from the "Wounded Knee Occupation" Memo

Source-Dependent Questions

  • How did the memo characterize the leaders of the American Indian Movement? How did this characterization show the bias of the government in dealing with the protests?
  • How did the handling of this protest by the Nixon Administration differ from President Harry S. Truman's response to Roy Wilkins? What do you think caused the difference in action?
  • How would the type of protest influence this action? The protestors?

Citation Information 

Gereau, Gerald R., "Memorandum Regarding Major Issues with the Wounded Knee Occupation," 9 May 1973. Courtesy of National Archives