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August 09, 1975 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-08-09

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Trouble brewing over Pine Ridge

Thursday, June 26, less than two
months after the Stars and
Stripes was pulled down for the
last time from the roof of the
U.S. Embassy in Saigon, t h e
United States suffered its first
casualties in what may turn out
to be America's next colonial
war. On that day, two FBI
agents died in a burst of rifle
fire at a place called Jumping
Bull on the Pine Ridge Indian
reservation in South Dakota.
The Vietnam analogy may be
overblown. Native Am e r i c a n
peoples were thoroughly sabju-
gated in a series of one-sided
military confrontations that
ended nearly a century ago.
But there are indications that
the new generation of militant
Indians that first surfaced in
the 1973 occupation of Wounded
Knee is escalating its tactics.
More certain is that the poli-
tical climate on Pine Ridge has
changed markedly since the
June 26 shootings.
No one yet understands t h e
specifics of what hanened last
month at Jumping Bull.
BOTH SIDES at first attempt-
ed to create self-serving v e r-
sions of the incident: The I
claiming its agents had heen
ambushed from "tinkers" and
savagely mutilated, tie Ameri-
can Indian Movement (ATM)
claiming the seenta hal nrovok-
ed their own murders by first
killing an Indian.
Neither version is now accept-

ed. All that is known for ctmain
is that special agents Jack (ol-
er and Ronald Williams were
driving to the Jumping Bull
compound - a cluster of cab-
ins near Aglala Village - to
arrest James Theodore Eagle,
wanted with three other Ind-
ians in an assault chat ge
against two white youths.
On previous visits to t h e
compound, the agents had been
informed they were trespassmg
and warned not to return with-
out warrants. Yet they broght
no warrants with them when they
went to arrest Eagle. Tne Bur-
eau later said a warrant had
been issued for the arrest, but
that it was not necessary for the
agents to actually car y the <to-
Once at Jumping Bull, the two
agents quickly ran into trouble.
Williams put out an alarmed
call that he and Coler had been
shot. A large force of FBI
agents and Bureau of Indian
Affairs (BIA) police rushed to
Jumping Bull. More gunire
broke out, subsiding only )ate in
the afternoon as - one by one
- the occupants slipped away
from the compound. As the gov-
ernment forces closed in, they
found the bodies of Williams
and Coler. In the bullet-riddled
cluster of cabins, they found the
body of a young Indian, 21-year-
old Joseph Bedell Stuatz, shot
through the forehead.
THAT NIGHT, the wBl an-
nounced they were looking for
16 men and half that many wo-


Bill Cody confronting a group of American Indians, circa 1890: Native Americans were sup-
pressed and eliminated in a series of one-sided confrontations a century ago. But indications are
that the new generation of militant Indians that surfaced in 1973 at Wounded Knee is escalat-
ing its tactics.

men and children in connection
with the incident. Other sources
on the reservation have dis-
counted the FBI figure, and the
agency itself had made only
two arrests in the case.
Whatever the numbers, t h e
group clearly had some military
competence. They were w e 11
armed. They fought their way
out of the government perimet-
er and disappeared cleanly, with
only onetknown cassalty Ac-
cording to the FBI, they lift
behind a cache of weapons, am-
munition and explosives.
"These people were a w e 11
trained, well equipped bunch,"
said one BIA oficial, an eyewit-
ness to the shootout who refused
to be identified. "My feeling is
that they're moving iWno a new
phase of militia warfare."
No one knows if the Indians
involved in the Jumping Bull
incident were part of a new
paramilitary underground or
simply an informal group that
contained one or more hotheads.
Legal workers assoczated'with
AIM dispute the claim that the

The Michigan Daily
Edited and managed by Students at the
University of Michigan
Saturday, August 9, 1975
News Phone: 764-0552

'f .n l .

Jumping Bull incident was the
first skirmish in a guerilla war.
Since first describing the inci-
dent as an "ambush," the FBI
had also downplayed the mii-
tary angle.
BUT TWO bombings, one at
Mt. Rushmore visitor a center
and the other at a BIA office,
followed within hours of the
firefight. And in late July. a
San Francisco reporter wrote
that while on the reservation he
had been blindfolded and taken
by a group of Indians to a
shack, where he was shown an
arsenal containing dozens of
semi-automatic and automatic
rifles, cases of hand grrnades
and tear gas masks.
"We wanted people t know
that we're serious and we're not
going to be kicked around any-
more," a young Sioux told. the
journalist. He and his comrades
refused to identify themselves
with any political faction.
The FBI has sent in a verit-
able army of agents since the
shooting and opposition to its
presence has united the Oglala
Sioux far more than any Indian
leader has been able t- dc for
at least a century.
As the last shots were still
echoing in the hills around
Jumping Bull, the Bureau flew
in more than 150 agents equip-
ped with armored personnel car-
riers, helicopters, automatic
weapons and other coun'er-insur-
gency paraphernalia.
Eagle Bull has accused the FBI
of seeking revenge with its large
contingent of agents on the re-
servation. "We've even had BIlA
agents killed here and they do
not come down like this," he
Only the leader of the tribal
government, Richard Wilsrn,
has publicly praised the FBI's
presence, and invited more FBI
agents to participate in the
But Wilson's tribal support is
eroding, as even his former
supporters desert him on the is-
sie of the FBI's presence. Wil-
son, of mixed blood, has long
been tnnopular with the mostly
full-hlood "traditional ' Indians
on the reservation, led by AIM.
They accuse him of corrustion
and charge that he does n o t
defend the interests of poor
reservation Indians.
Now, three members of Wil-
son's handpicked tribal admin-
istration have appeared in the
offices of Senator James Abnor-
ezk in Rapid City, South Da-
kota, asking for a government
audit of the tribe and various
federal programs coitrolled by
Wilson., They accuse Wlson of
misusing government funds.
AND ELECTED representa-
tives of at least two of the re-

servation's eight listrizts have
petitioned the government to
sever them from Pine Ridge.
An informal group of traditional
headmen from the other dis-
tricts have also begun to ex-
press their dissatisfacrion with
Wilson's tribal government.
Residents of Pine Ridge com-
plain of unannounced FBI
searches of their homes, FBI
agents landing in helicopters on
the sacred Sun Dance ground,
and verbal abuse and threats by
agents. Many believe the rumor
the one FBI man held a young
boy at gun-point during as inter-
Of a group of 3S Indianassub-
poenaed to appear b n-o'-e a re-
cent federal grand jury in Rap-
id City in connection with the
June 26 shootings, all refused to
testify. 33 took the fifth amend-
ment. The other two said they
"A reporter w a s
shown an arsenal con-
taining dozens of semi-
automatic and auto-
matic rifles, cases of
hand grenades and
tear gas masks.'
are citizens of a sove.-egn na-
tion and not obligated to answer
to the United States.
Turmoil is nothing new on
Pine Ridge. Observers have
counted at least 20 homicides
this year, many in internecine
warfare between AIM an I Wil-
son's forces. What does appear
to be different is a growing tri-
bal unity among the Oglalas,
who have been divided against
themselves since the first BIA
agents scattered them across the
reservation 100 years ago.
MEANWHILE the possibility
remains that an armed under-
ground is waiting somewhere to
raise the ante in the Indians'
long-dormant struggle for what
was once their own land.
Diarmuid McGuire recent-
ly visited Pine Ridge on a
grant from the Fund for In-
vestigative J o u r n a i s m.
Copyright Pacific News Ser-
vice, 1975.

'Well, vacation time, folks!'

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