Wounded Knee


Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
We want to direct our attention to Wounded Knee, which is one of the highest profile cases that CRS was ever involved in. Perhaps you could just tell us a little background on the conflict, what it was about, what was going on, and how CRS got involved?

Answer:
The American Indian Movement (AIM), which was the first national and highly publicized civil rights organization representing the interest of Native Americans, had been conducting a series of demonstrations and protests around the country, trying to call attention to the government's miserable treatment of them and their concerns. They were protesting the horrendous disregard of their culture by the federal government and its to acknowledge and address the violations of treaties that had been signed with American Indians. While I was working on an Indian rights case, I recall the late Judge Noel Fox saying to me, "If I have to go by the law on this, I’d have to give all of western Michigan back to the Indians. That included Detroit, of course. There was no voting constituency for politicians, so there was very little political incentive for the Congress to help. There was a caravan to Washington that started on the West coast to take over the BIA building in Washington. There was a lot of damage to the building, which hurt the image of the AIM and its supporters. They skillfully negotiated their way out of that. So they were in a protest mode, and demonstrating in the Midwest. A caravan was headed to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. That was out of my region, but earlier we had responded to some American Indian protests before CRS opened a Denver office. We had responded to some things in Nebraska, an incident involving the fatal shooting of an American Indian by some white ranchers. I was told to relinquish three of my younger staff members to accompany the American Indians march through the plains states, which was headed to Pine Ridge. John Terronez, Efrain Martinez, and John Sarver. They were reporting directly to Washington and I would only touch base with them peripherally. My initial interest was getting them back to work in my region. The team was accompanying AIM on its marches and helping to prevent problems along the way. As the American Indians would come into a community, CRS would perhaps precede them, talk to the sheriff or other local officials and try to help clear the way, give them an escort through town or let them sleep in a local park. They got to the Pine Ridge Reservation specifically to protest the actions of Dick Wilson, the elected tribal chief, who was accused of nepotism and improper use of federal funds and civil rights violations. They got to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Feds were absolutely petrified because of the disastrous experience at the BIA building in Washington previously. They thought they were going to take over the two story brick building in the town of Pine Ridge.

Question:
How many people were involved in the march?

Answer:
Oh, there were a few hundred marching. I don’t know how many at this point, maybe 150-200. They weren’t heavily armed. I assume some had some arms, but they weren't intending any takeover at that time. But the BIA had stationed troops, US marshals were there, Wayne Colbert, head of the Marshal service was out there. Troops were on the rooftop of the two-story BIA building with machine guns, ready to prevent any possible takeover. I recall talking to John Terronez after the effort to have Wilson recalled had ended unsuccessfully. John told me, "Looks like we’re done. They are breaking up now and they are headed out and we are going to pack our gear and head home.” What neither John nor anybody else knew was that the caravan was going to the historic village of Wounded Knee on the reservation was going to take over the village. Russell Means talks about how this was kept secret because they thought people would be afraid, and they didn’t want word to get out. When the caravan got to Wounded Knee, the leaders announced, to the surprise of many, including the CRS staff, that they were staying.

Question:
Who was living in Wounded Knee?

Answer:
It was a village. There were American Indian families there and some white ranchers as well. Pine Ridge reservation was a desolate place. There were some jobs there, but at least 70% unemployment. It was February. They stopped there and took over that village. They didn’t hurt anybody; people were free to leave. For the record, -- Russell Means doesn’t tell it this way in his book, he says AIM communicated directly with the FBI Chief Trimbach the stories I heard was that Terronez and Martinez, both Mexican Americans who could be confused for Native Americans, and Sarver came out of Wounded Knee to the FBI officials up the road with AIM’s list of demands. The FBI chief immediately placed them under house arrest, notwithstanding their Justice Department credentials, the same as the FBI carries. It took a day until John could get through to Washington and get released. But they brought up the list of demands and thus started a saga, 73 days at Wounded Knee. CRS sent a team in to try to serve in the mediational and intermediary role. The FBI was there, Bureau of Indian Police, customs officials, they needed all the police types they could get there. There were rifles and firing and a few killings. CRS responded with a cadre of field representatives - - conciliators and mediators -- who were housed in a church in the town of Pine Ridge, five to ten miles out of Wounded Knee. There were blockades along the road. The first road block was maintained by the tribal chief, Wilson’s people. Then the FBI had a road block and the third road block was the American Indians right outside of Wounded Knee. We established our base in a church. There were beds and phones and a few rooms and we had anywhere up to a dozen people there at a time, doing a variety of activities. We would transport people in and out in conjunction with the other Feds. They knew we were there, but they didn’t accept us or like us. You had a situation where you had FBI agents who are really trained to work behind desks or in urban settings, and there they were out there in the plains and the cold. You had BIA police, and customs police, perhaps, and Marshals and none of them were very happy there. Many of them weren’t getting overtime and their families were back home. There were bunkers that the AIM members had built. There were armed people in them with gunshots going off at night sometimes. There were shots fired into the place. That was the setting. I don’t remember when I got a call to get in there, but I brought in a fellow from our Philadelphia office, Tom Hadfield, to do the administrative things, just to get it organized, keep track of who had what cars and who was where. Marty Walsh was there when I arrived and had helped get negotiations started. They had just declared a cease fire and there was a demilitarized zone and they were trying to get talks started. The Feds were all in the BIA building. Kent Frizzell was a solicitor of the Department of Interior which handled American Indian affairs. Dick Helstern from the Justice Department was there doing administrative and legal work with him. Stan Pottinger, the head of the Civil Rights division was there for a while with some of his staff. These were others who were assigned there from those agencies in Washington. They were in regular phone contact with the Acting Attorney General Snead who was in touch with the white House.

Question:
Now who was negotiating with whom?

Answer:
Nobody at this point, but they were opening negotiations. Frizzell was the top federal official. Harlington Wood (later a federal judge) had been there earlier. At an earlier time, there had been efforts to open talks and they hadn’t gone very far. Now Frizzell and his people were going to talk to Russell Means and Dennis Banks and the leadership of the American Indian movement. We had staff going back and forth as I said sometimes escorting lawyers in or bringing people out who were sick or wanted to leave. We were talking to people trying to gauge what we should be doing, and then trying to help get talks started. Marty had carried that ball with his staff, and then I came in to replace him and we overlapped for a few days. Nobody authorized us to mediate. I don’t think the parties felt any need for that, but we were there to participate and help facilitate. We were more in a facilitative mode.

Question:
Explain how you’re using those two terms differently. What do you do when you’re facilitating?

Answer:
Well you’re helping to get things going. You’re there to help in those roles to do what you can to keep it moving, but they didn’t want you sitting at the head of the table saying this is what we’re going to do.

Question:
Were you at the table at all?

Answer:
Oh yes, but our role was peripheral. We were often in an observing role, information role. We were not in a role to take charge. The first day I was there, unbeknownst to us, Frizzell held a press conference saying that the government had learned that there was a split in the American Indian Movement, that there had been a fight in the AIM office in Rapid City which was some miles away. This really antagonized the American Indians in Wounded Knee. We didn’t know anything about the press conference. Marty and I went down into a room where the leadership was early that afternoon, and they had just heard the radio report on Frizzell’s remarks and they just jumped at us. This was a day before talks were supposed to start and they were fuming. "They’re threatening in this way, they’re creating the wrong picture, they’re telling lies. Why is he doing this if talks are supposed to start?" They had already created a cease fire zone.

Question:
Why did he?

Answer:
I had no idea. I just knew nobody told us about it. AIM leader Vern Bellancourt told us "We want someone from CRS to stay down here tonight. We don’t trust them. They’re going to fire in and we want a couple of whites in here." They believed the government would be less inclined to fire into Wounded Knee if whites from the government were there. So we assured them that would happen, and I made plans to spend the night there with Burt Greenspan, a young white conciliator. Doug Hall was there that night, a civil rights lawyer from Minneapolis, who was providing legal counsel to AIM. The plan was that the next day there would be negotiations in a teepee that would be set up at noon in the DMZ, and the feds were not to come until that teepee was set up. They would come down to the road block and then walk over to the teepee. So I made arrangements with Kent Frizzell that I would radio him, when the teepee was set up and we were ready to start. It was scheduled for noon, but everybody knew that Indian time meant it would be later, that was a given. We were in the radio room in Wounded Knee at 4 a.m. At four in the morning, someone in a bunker radioed that there was someone in the DMZ, which was a violation of the cease fire. We wondered who would do that at four in the morning just before the talks were going to start? Stan Holder, the AIM security chief, threatened to have somebody shoot at the violators. I convinced him to wait until one of his people, accompanied by our Bert Greenspan, could go out and survey the scene. What they saw was that a jeep with a couple of BIA personnel had gone over a line to find some flat land where they could spread a blanket and have their breakfast. That was the violation. So Burt came back and we got that sorted out over the radio and they got the guys out of there. Finally, at midmorning, it was time to head up to the DMZ, only everything was late. The Indians were up late at night conferencing, negotiating, and celebrating. They went through the sweat, a spiritual ceremony, met some more, then got up late. Now it’s an hour behind schedule, and they’re trudging up the hill with the teepee, which was supposed to be set up an hour earlier. The leaders are walking up the road with the men who were carrying the teepee. Bert and I were walking with them. As we approached the site where they were going to set up the teepee, about 50 yards from the federal roadblock, a helicopter landed at the road block and out stepped Frizzell and Helstern. There were about 50 news men and women standing around as well. Stan Holder turned to me and asked, "What the hell are they doing here?" I told him that I didn’t know why they came in before we radioed them to do so. "Well, you get their asses out of here or there's not going to be any talks," someone else said. So I went running up to the road block and called Frizzell away from the reporters and said, "I thought you were going to wait until we sent you a signal." "Well," he said, "I decided this is going to be done on white man’s time not Indian time. We’re going to start when we agreed to start, not when they decide it’s time.” I said, "I think you’d better go back, because they’re really ticked off. Were you aware that last night there was an incident last night, that two of your men went over the line and stirred things up? We almost had a shooting incident.” "Nobody told me that," he said. "Well, people were up all night," I told him. "You don’t know what they went through." "All right, we’ll go back, but we’re coming back in an hour and they’d better be ready." So I ran back down the hill. "Stan, it was a mistake. I’m sorry, I must have screwed up on the timing. They’re going back. They’ll be back in an hour." So they proceeded to set up the teepee.

Question:
Now the parties were the Indians and...?

Answer:
The American Indian Movement and the Feds, and that was it.

Question:
Nobody else?

Answer:
Nobody else. They started talking, and I don’t remember the details of that talk, except I do remember that I was asked a question about Dick Wilson, who was an anathema. He was the tribal chair and I responded using his title "Chief,” and Russell Means chided me for using his title. That was an example of where you can make mistakes, and if people want you there, they’re not going to throw you out because you did something wrong.

Question:
Was he seen as a puppet of the feds? Was that why?

Answer:
In a way he was, but the feds just found him there. Nobody really cared about him and the AIM leaders deplored him.

Question:
And he was not at the table?

Answer:
Oh no, they wouldn’t let him near the place.

Question:
So what were the issues?

Answer:
Well, the American Indian Movement had an agenda. It ranged from recognizing Wounded Knee as a historic site, to going to Washington to renegotiate the treaties, to have Congress address the issue. They wanted to have the white House meet with them and talk about these issues. And they wanted the government to investigate the civil rights violations under Wilson’s regime. There were subsequent negotiating sessions, mostly in the meeting house in Wounded Knee.

Question:
Now they set the agendas themselves and ran the meeting themselves?

Answer:
Sure, the fed's agenda was, "Get out of here. Give up," with the threat of force at all times. So yes, they went back and forth in the discussion. There was no need for a mediator, there was no need for a formal agenda. It wasn’t called for at that time. They managed it very well. There was anger, but that was all controlled, very political as well.

Question:
Each side was willing to listen to the other?

Answer:
I guess. I don’t know who was listening or not, but people took turns talking. Again, this is where I say, you’re not going to listen to the American Indians and say, "I understand how you feel. And why you feel that way.” You’re representing the United States of America. As soon as you leave that meeting, you’re going to call the Attorney General, who’s going to call the Special Assistant to the President, and it will be on his desk. You’re not about to make a commitment to do anything without advanced clearance. The only word from the white House at that point was "Don’t shoot anybody." The CRS staff would move back and forth, as I said, and at times we had great difficulty. It could have been with anybody. The FBI resented us, because we were the ones promoting peace, prolonging the takeover. Or at times we were stopped at Wilson’s road block. The feds had made strategic errors. They’d left the phone line from the Wounded Knee trading post open for a long time, so the leaders of the American Indian Movement were on the phone to reporters all over the country. They were on talk shows and were getting a world of publicity. They finally cut off the phone and only opened it when they had to speak with their attorneys. They put a tap on this phone and that would come back to haunt them. The FBI started to stop our people. "You’ve got a can of gas in the back of your trunk. We’re not going to let you through. We’re going to confiscate it." Well, what happened is that in Wounded Knee, gas would be siphoned from our tanks. We’d get stuck on the road coming back. Someone would have to go out and rescue them. So, we put a can gas in the trunk as a security measure. Or I’d come out and go to the staff meeting, which they’d have every morning and someone would show me a picture. "This is Crazy Al. Is he in there? He’s wanted on felony charges in three states." Yeah, he was in there, and they knew he was in there because they must have had informers inside Wounded Knee and strong spy glasses on the outside. there. They knew he was in there, but they want me to say it. I would only say, "I’m not sure.” I had to make the point that they could not use CRS to extract information. They weren’t happy, many of them weren’t happy with us. Although, some of them, such as Wayne Colburn, the head of the marshals, understood what we were doing and appreciated it. Still they gave us a hard time coming in, they gave our people a hard time. Mark Lane was there as one of the AIM lawyers. He was involved in a number of high profile cases and was a very controversial civil rights attorney, not like William Kunstler who was also one of their attorneys, a very creditable person. Lane was not to be trusted, I learned. One of our jobs was to escort the lawyers through the road blocks. Anyone we escorted had easy access. I did that one day. I was alone in one car and they were following me down the road. We got through Wilson’s road block, and we got to the FBI road block, and then we get to the last road block, the American Indian road block. But before we get there, Lane, he was with attorney Beverly Axelrod, swings his car around mine, zooms up to the road block, says something to the guard there and zooms into Wounded Knee. When I got to the road block, the guard was standing there with a rifle pointed at me. "They told me not to let you through, no matter what," he said. I got out of the car to talk to this sixteen year old with his rifle pointed at my head. "Do you want a cigarette?" Finally he put the rifle down and let me through. That was Mark Lane. He hated anybody who worked for the Department of Justice, or the Department of Injustice as some people called it during the Nixon years. It was a frightening incident. Later, Beverly Axelrod, through one of the CRS staff, apologized for Lane’s behavior.

Question:
So to recap, CRS’s role involved running errands, getting materials that the Indians needed, getting people in and out, and facilitating the discussions to some extent?

Answer:
Helping to get the discussions going.

Question:
How did CRS go about doing that?

Answer:
Meeting with the leadership, interpreting what was happening to the Feds, meeting with the Feds and interpreting some of that on the other hand.

Question:
So you met with the leadership on both sides, interpreting what was going on at the other side. Is that what you mean?

Answer:
Interpreting to one what might be happening with the other. I don’t know how important that was. It was more important to let the Feds know. I don’t know how much they really cared, their hands were sort of tied. They had to find some peaceful way out of this.

Question:
Now when you say interpreting, do you essentially mean message carrying?

Answer:
No, it’s not message carrying. It’s helping them understand perhaps, that there was no serious threat. We were trying to motivate negotiations, and sometimes there were reasons why they couldn’t take place. It might have been an internal conflict within the leadership of AIM, where the leaders could not reach consensus. We might not be able to talk about this with the feds, but we could explain that they just had to be patient not press the issue.

Question:
Did you do any mediation within one side, like helping AIM to resolve some of these things?

Answer:
No, not to my knowledge. Marty Walsh told me that one morning he went to one of the leader’s rooms and pulled him out of bed to get him to a meeting. I told you that they showed me a mug shot of this fellow named Crazy Al. He was a tough looking white fellow who walked around Wounded Knee with a rifle. Well the first day we went into Wounded Knee for a negotiation and Frizzell asked me if I was sure it was safe for him to go in. I assured him that AIM was going to protect the Feds who came in. I told him that a security patrol would assure his security. They will meet us at the helicopter and walk with you to the church where we’ll be talking." It turned out that Crazy Al was heading the three-man security patrol. So you play different roles, some are unexpected, or maybe unimportant, you never know, you just do it. Then, when the decision was made that Russell Means would go to Washington to do an exploratory visit, we arranged to have John Terronez accompany him and to be available for any emergencies, and just to try to keep things as smooth as possible. But Russell gave John the slip and went off on his own, making the rounds of radio talk shows before he finally was arrested. At the final negotiation, where there was the signing of the peace agreement, there was a very colorful ceremony. They put a table out in the open, it was a sunny day, there was an eagle flying overhead which was symbolic. There was a signing of an agreement, that certain things would take place. Then Russell went off to Washington and there was a deterioration of the agreement. The trick was to try to get this thing concluded in some way before people lost control and did something. Before somebody got angry and pulled the trigger.

Question:
So what was in this agreement?

Answer:
It was that Russell, or that a delegation from AIM, would go to Washington. They’d have a meeting with someone at the white House, and there would be consideration given to their demands. There would be a memorial established at Wounded Knee and the Civil Rights Division would investigate complaints on the reservation. I guess they felt that was the best they could do. They had their lawyers working with them. Kunstler from New York. Lane, Axelrod from California and Doug Hall, who stopped coming after awhile. Some of the lawyers wanted to be where the action was. I remember there was disarray at one point, and I took it upon myself to call Doug Hall, who was from Minneapolis and very highly regarded as well as low key. I said, "Doug, you’re needed out here." He said, "Well, they haven’t asked me so I won’t come unless they do." And he didn’t. And I sure wish he had, because there were antics going on, I mentioned what Mark Lane did to me, for example. That wasn’t the reason that I called him, I don’t remember what the specific incident was. The last negotiation I took part in took place on a school bus, which was in the DMZ. It was a convenient place, the people fit and it was pitch black. I was in the back of the bus, and they decided what they needed to do was find a way to end. It was agreed they were going to end and what terms would be. There would be no arrests, but those who had felony charges pending were subject to arrest. CRS would be the intermediary for turning in guns. Guns wold be registered and returned to their owners if the could show they owned them. That was our role at that point. Now there may have been more of a role played in other meetings. I left at that point.

Question:
So if guns were legitimately owned by Native Americans, they would give them back?

Answer:
That’s right. Native Americans or others who were with them. People’s property was not lost. I’m not sure how that played out. I think Leo Cardenas would know. He succeeded me.

Question:
So they agreed, essentially, that they would end the standoff if they got this document that said that they’d be heard in Washington?

Answer:
There was a signed agreement and they went to explore it and that’s when Russell disappeared.

Question:
Now why was it that everything fell apart when he left?

Answer:
I think people were tired. They had accomplished their mission. It was time to stop. They had milked this for the publicity, which was very important. They had heightened awareness throughout America of the plight of the American Indians, of the rape of the Indians by the US Government, of the treaty violations. That was all exposed, highly publicized. The media had it. People were more aware.

Question:
So why didn’t it just peacefully disband?

Answer:
Well, how do you end it? That had to be negotiated. I think the thought was that Russell and his group were going to go to Washington and confirm by good intent that people could do certain things and then come back. But I think he hit the talk show road and continued the publicity, and there was conflict inside AIM. We weren’t privy to it, but it was there. Russell writes about that. So then, how do you end the standoff? Finally, it was agreed that they would come out. Part of this might have been some of the civil rights lawyers too, who wanted to perpetuate the cause, rather than protect the individuals. At the end of the day, they worked out the agreement on how this would end and it did end peacefully at that point.

Question:
And this was several days after Means had left?

Answer:
Probably a few weeks. Some of the others had slipped away too. I think Dennis Banks left and certainly anyone subject to arrest. They were going to arrest these guys right on the spot, so they slipped off into the night. It was very easy. There was a very wide perimeter. You think of the village and some road blocks, but still a huge perimeter. Now one of the factors in the resolution was an idea that Ed Howden had. Ed was out there with me. He was a godsend. He aided me as a former journalist too, he’d write our daily reports. Ed went out on cold, snowy, windy day to help fix a flat tire for one of our people who got stuck on the road. It was Ed’s idea that they involve the tribal elders, Fool’s Crow and Black Elk. I think Ed, after I left, went to visit them or got somebody else to get them involved. Whatever that dynamic was, they got involved and helped, because the American Indian community respects and listens to its elders. So that is the story as I know it.

Question:
But you’ve referred off and on to the trials?

Answer:
A year later there were the trials. The initial trials were Russell Means and Dennis Banks. They were held in St. Paul. St. Paul, Minnesota in my region. St. Paul has a large Native American community. So there was the potential for anything to happen there, and a lot of people from there were from the Sioux nation

Question:
Now why were they being tried if the agreement was that there wouldn’t be any trials?

Answer:
I don’t think there was an agreement that they wouldn’t be tried for any illegal activity.

Question:
So this trial wasn’t related to what they did at Wounded Knee?

Answer:
Oh yes it was, it was the Wounded Knee trial. There were other charges against them from other demonstrations and protests in other localities, but this was the Wounded Knee trials.

Question:
And the settlement didn’t say that...?

Answer:
No, the leaders of the takeover would be charged with felonies. They were fair game. I didn’t follow all of the trials, just Russell Means and Dennis Banks trial.. There was a very fair judge. Now the beauty of that trial was that the Wounded Knee defense committee, which had been set up in the Twin Cities and had provided money and support from the time of the takeover, had a network throughout the state. Jurors are selected from voter roles from around the state. Every time a name came up, they checked it out through the network. Somebody came from a small, rural community they checked her out thoroughly. They did such a good job at jury selection that when the trial ended the jury formed a Wounded Knee committee of their own to protest what had happened up there. It was extraordinary. They used all of the modern skills of jury selection and outwitted the prosecution. I sat in a few days of the trial. Two things hit me that were interesting. One was related to the record on Terronez and the other related to the FBI testimony. FBI agents were questioned. I was there while two FBI men and one woman were questioned. They had been assigned to the road block, and at the road block was an armed personnel carrier. It’s a small tank, but with doors for entry and seats in it. First, they brought up somebody from the telephone company who testified that he had installed a telephone in the armed personnel carrier. which was linked to the telephone line that ran from Wounded Knee to the outside world. The defense charged that telephone calls between the parties and their lawyers were monitored by the feds. The three FBI agents got up there and denied having any knowledge of the telephone, even though they admitted that they signed reports describing conversations on the tapped line. They obviously were perjuring themselves. The other thing that’s perhaps more relevant is how you gain trust. People often don’t know who you are when you’re with CRS, so there’s always a question of credibility. I told you that as the American Indian Movement approached Wounded Knee, the BIA building had armed guards with machine guns and heavy equipment sitting around on top of the roof of the BIA building to prevent another takeover. Well, Terronez had been with the AIM group coming toward Pine Ridge. He went ahead and he talked to a U. S. Marshall. He said, "This is overkill. You guys have all this equipment here. You’ve got a few people down there. You’ve got 150 people maybe, they’re carrying sticks and bats, a few firearms maybe, but there’s no weaponry out there.” And that was his plea to ease tensions and prevent a catastrophe from occurring. It’s an appropriate role. The way that I found out about that was when the entire Marshals’ logs were entered into the Wounded Knee trials. One marshal wrote, saying that "agent” Terronez of the Community Relations Service informed us that there are approximately 150 to 200 marchers armed with sticks and bats and a few might have firearms. It was out of context so that anybody reading it might assume that Terronez was an informer. I’m sure it wasn’t intended to capsize us or anything, but that’s the risk you take in this work. So that is what I remember of the Wounded Knee saga. I’ve got notes and press clips and whatnot, as do some of my colleagues. We got some media there because there was a United Press International reporter up there for a while. He did a feature story on this band of seven people huddled in a church basement trying to keep the peace, moving back and forth stealthily between the parties. So that is most of the Wounded Knee story. Some of us got letters when we were done. All kinds of letters started flowing out from the white House, the President commending us on this and the Secretary of Interior and the Attorney General. It was almost farcical.

Question:
But did you get any more money?

Answer:
You never know what or how things are regarded. I think there was true appreciation in some quarters for us. I got a beautiful letter from a lawyer with the Civil Rights Division, Dennis Ickes. He thanked us for being there, saying it’s very important that we were there to help keep the peace. It was important because we were the only ones who were saying, "Well, maybe there’s a better way than to just go in and shoot up the place.” Others knew it but couldn’t say it. After the agreement was signed, Kent Frizzell got on the radio that reached every federal official said, "I want to thank everybody who helped bring this to a peaceful conclusion and the FBI and the BIA, you were outstanding and I really want to thank you and credit you for what happened.” And that’s all he said. Our guys were livid when they heard that. I went over to Kent and I said, this was late in the day, I said, "You didn’t say anything about CRS, and I’ve got a team of guys who’ve been hanging out there, strung out there, being hassled, having their car searched, being accused of everything. Someone would pick up a shell as a souvenir, a bullet shell off the ground, and then all of a sudden they’re being accused of carrying ammunition. We’ve gone through so much.” He said, "Oh I’m sorry. I neglected that. Let me come over and talk to your people.” So he came over to our quarters in the church basement and said, "I want to tell you guys what a great job you did.” But he was scared to put it out over the air and let the others hear that, because they were so angry with us. These were guys who had been out there in the cold, just standing by a barrier with the cold winds blowing on a March night and from a bunker comes someone singing, "While you’re out there in the pale moonlight, and an Indian’s in bed with your wife tonight." How would that make you feel?

Question:
Did they ever get any concessions once they went to Washington?

Answer:
I don’t know. I don’t think so. There might have been a memorial promised to be built. I’ve never been back. I think it heightened awareness of some terrible abuses and was an important chapter in our nation’s civil rights history.






Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Well, one time, in Wounded Knee, when I was inside the compound. Wounded Knee was like a bowl sort of, and the hilltops were controlled by F.B.I. and the U.S. Marshals. The Indians had their positions below. We had to take cover a lot of times because the bullets would come toward us. There were people trying to come in and trying to get out, pretty much all the time, although the feds had guards on the perimeter. One Indian guy, who was very agitated came to me, he had a weapon and was saying that I had spoken on the radio to the F.B.I. or the U.S. Marshals, and that evening one of their people who was going out had been arrested. I said, "Well, first of all, did you see me use the radio by myself?" He said, "No." I said, "Ok it's a policy I have, every time I use the radio I'm within hearing distance of one of you. So you'll know what I'm saying. How do you know everyone who's in here is what they seem to be?" He says, "Oh, yeah." So I got over that, but it was a direct challenge. I got him thinking about what the circumstances might be. But that's why we always were careful, especially when violence is very close and you don't know what can happen. So be super careful that everybody understands what you're there for. Especially in that situation because they were shooting at the Feds, and the F.B.I.. and the U.S. Marshals were shooting at them, and yet we're with them inside, so it's kind of a strange role. The leadership especially needs to know, and we're there at their request, and with their permission. They felt we were essential to working through all the problems they had, and coming up with some finality to the occupation. So they needed us, and all sides needed us, and that's why we were there. We were taking some risks, but we tried to minimize risk. If they called a truce, we would go out there to monitor the truce. That was the only real time I've been under fire.



Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you ever try to work as escorts, for instance in Wounded Knee did you have a Native American who was with you?

Answer:
Hmm... did you read the reports or what? Yes, there was one time when some of the lawyers for the American Indian Movement were declared "unwanted" by the tribal government, and one of them was ordered out of the reservation immediately. The defense team asked that we escort the guy out of the reservation because they were afraid he would not make it out alive. So then they asked me to escort the guy in my rental car. I took him out of Pine Ridge village into Nebraska where he had some acquaintances. Everybody knew I was going to take him out and I did. The problem is though, it started snowing terribly when I got back into the reservation. Also, a tribal police car had followed us all the way to the edge of the reservation. So I was obeying the speeding laws and everything. When I came back about two or three hours later it was maybe 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, I entered the reservation and it was still snowing. The police were following me then, and I got nervous, and right as we got into the village, out of nowhere came all these patrol cars in front of me, on the side of me, and I couldn't go anywhere. Some of them knew me and I showed my i.d. But then I picked up a radio, and I started radioing into our command post, telling them where I was and told them the tribal police had stopped me. Our guys were asleep. Nobody was minding the phone/radio desk. But I had to let these police think I was in communication because I didn't know what they would do. The next day when everybody woke up, I said, "Hey, you guys never answered."




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Like in Wounded Knee, there were certain things that happened that we were blamed for. We were blamed for babysitting the Indians. We were blamed by the law enforcement and stuff like that for being babysitters and things like that. Meaning that you wanted to try to keep people from coming in and kicking their butts. It was a situation where you were here, AIM was here, and the police were there.

Question:
So the police were complaining that you were keeping them away from the Indians?

Answer:
Sometimes, or the FBI. Because they wanted to beat their butts on certain occasions. But we tried to keep them apart.






Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Like in Wounded Knee for example. There were other agencies who came running in wanting to talk to us about who might have done something. I would say "I can't tell you that." "But you were down in the compound and you met all of those people down there. We weren't allowed to go down." "Well, we can't tell you who did what, because we would be violating confidentiality, and then we couldn't get anything done, we couldn't operate because they wouldn't have any confidence in us. They'd call us a lot of snitches and we weren't snitches. That was a big misconception. Both sides thought we were snitching for somebody and we weren't.






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