Most of them blamed the unfair policies imposed by the US government and the corruption practices within the tribal council as the cause for their sufferings. For Native Americans who once ruled the continent, it seemed to them that the US government was not hearing their concerns and for years, they have been pushed to the margins of American life. In 1973, this anger towards the government exploded during the siege at Wounded Knee.
Dick Wilson was the infamous chairman of the Oglala Lakota Sioux of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He was accused by the council of corruption and abuse of power because he was said to have favored his family and friends by awarding them jobs in the area. Also, there were complaints about his private militia and how he allegedly used to threaten political opponents. Because of these mounting allegations, council members filed an impeachment protest against Dick Wilson on February 1973 but the charges were later dismissed.
The aftermath of the impeachment trial resulted to further harassment of Wilson’s private militia on the tribe. Because of this, many Oglalas and other armed American Indian Tribes felt they need to take one desperate option and that is to seek the protection of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in order to stand up against the government.
The group, known for their militant tactics, was mainly composed of young urban American Indians who were fed up with police harassment. With the AIM joining the siege of the Indian tribes’, the reclamation of the Pine Ridge area gained media and government attention as the group put up a 71-day stand-off against the government.
The US government responded to the siege with military planning in order to put down the rebellion. The supposed negotiation between the tribe and the government were unsuccessful. The state rejected demands to uphold treaty