“Remembering Wounded Knee 1973” by Carter Camp

“Remembering Wounded Knee 1973” by Carter Camp

Wounded Knee 1973, a remembrance

Ah-ho My Relations,

Each year with the changing of the season I post this rememberance of Wounded Knee 73. I wrote it a few years ago when some of our brave people had walked to Yellowstone to stop the slaughter of our Buffalo relations. When I did I was surprised at the response from people who were too young to remember WK’73 and I was pleased that some old WK vets wrote to me afterwards. So each year on this date I post the short story again and invite you-all to send it around or use as you will.

As you do I ask you to remember that our reasons for going to Wounded Knee still exist and that means the need for struggle and resistance also still exist. Our land and sacred sites are threatened as never before even our sacred Mother herself is faced with unnatural warming caused by extreme greed.

In some areas of conflict between our people and those we signed treaties with, it is best to negotiate or “work within the system” but, because our struggle is one of survival, there are also times when a warrior must stand fast even at the risk of one’s life. I believed that in 1973 when I was thirty and I believe it today in my sixties. But to me Wounded Knee 73 was really not about the fight , it was about the strong statement that our traditional way of living in this world is not about to disappear and our people are not a “vanishing race” as wasicu education would have you believe. As time has passed and I see so many of our young people taking part in a traditional way of living and believing I know our fight was worth it and those we lost for our movement died worthy deaths.

Carter Camp 2010

“Remembering Wounded Knee 1973”

Ah-ho My Relations,

Today is heavy with prayer and reminisces for me.  Not only are those who walk for the Yellowstone Buffalo reaching their destination, today is the anniversary of the night when, at the direction of the Oglala Chiefs, I went with a special squad of warriors to liberate Wounded Knee in advance of the main AIM caravan.

For security reasons the people had been told everyone was going to a meeting/wacipi in Porcupine, the road goes through Wounded Knee. When the People arrived at the Trading Post we had already set up a perimeter, taken eleven hostages, run the B.I.A. cops out of town, cut most phone lines, and began 73 days of the best, most free time of my life. The honor of being chosen to go first still lives strong in my heart.

That night we had no idea what fate awaited us.  It was a cold night with not much moonlight and I clearly remember the nervous anticipation I felt as we drove the back-way from Oglala into Wounded Knee.  The Chiefs had tasked me with a mission and we were sworn to succeed, of that I was sure, but I couldn’t help wondering if we were prepared.  The FBI, BIA and Marshalls had fortified Pine Ridge with machine gun bunkers and A.P.C.s with M-60’s.  They had unleashed the goon squad on the people and a reign of terror had begun, we knew we had to fight but we could not fight on wasicu terms.  We were lightly armed and dependent on the weapons and ammo inside the Wounded Knee trading post, I worried that we would not get to them before the shooting started.

As we stared silently into the darkness driving into the hamlet I tried to forsee what opposition we would encounter and how to neutralize it… We were approaching a sacred place and each of us knew it.  We could feel it deep inside.  As a warrior leading warriors I humbly prayed to Wakonda for the lives of all and the wisdom to do things right.  Never before or since have I offered my tobacco with such a plea nor put on my feathers with such purpose.  It was the birth of the Independent Oglala Nation.

Things went well for us that night, we accomplished our task without loss of life. Then, in the cold darkness as we waited for Dennis and Russ to bring in the caravan (or for the fight to start), I stood on the bank of the shallow ravine where our people had been murdered by Custers’ 7th Cavalry.  There I prayed for the defenseless ones, torn apart by Hotchkiss cannon and trampled under hooves of steel by drunken wasicu.  I could feel the touch of their spirits as I eased quietly into the gully and stood silently… waiting for my future, touching my past.

Finally, I bent over and picked a sprig of sage – whose ancestors in 1890 had been nourished by the blood of Red babies, ripped from their mothers dying grasp and bayonetted by the evil ones. As I washed myself with that sacred herb I became cold in my determination and cleansed of fear.  I looked for Big Foot and YellowBird in the darkness and I said aloud — “We are back my relations, we are home”. Hoka-Hey

Carter Camp- Ponca Nation AIM



  1. Those words reached out and touched me deeply. The gully you described, every inch of that land is deeply sacred.
    Out of any travels in my life, spending time on those sacred grounds touched me deep inside, it is a place in my spirit that has never ceased to be alive again.
    Gratitude for the courage shown by so many, sadness for those massacred in 1890 and 1973.  
    Thank you for posting this again.  

  2. Those words reached out and touched me deeply. The gully you described, every inch of that land is deeply sacred.
    Out of any travels in my life, spending time on those sacred grounds touched me deep inside, it is a place in my spirit that has never ceased to be alive again.
    Gratitude for the courage shown by so many, sadness for those massacred in 1890 and 1973.  
    Thank you for posting this again.  

  3. It’s nice to have people read and like this rememberance of a special time in my life. However I don’t think me writing a dkos diary about WK is in the books at this point. I may write about it here and I’m happy to answer questions about the movement but to tell about WK’73 would take a whole book. imo, dkos seems more like a place to write about comtemporary native politics and things like the recent emergency. I think posting the “Arrogance of Ignorance” that  younger sister Navajo did is much more effective than reminices of an old buckskin like me.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong. Fools Crow told you all you’d be safe at Wounded Knee and every diplomatic means was taken against Wilson, who was precipitating violence and wanted to sell the Black Hills. Metaphorically, was it a big  straw combined of many things that broke the camel’s back (the decision to take up arms), or was there also one thing that played in the decision that’s less known other than the historical context, economic conditions, and the things I’ve listed. Was it someone’s relative that was killed that spurred the final decision?  

  5. but for modern times.

    Legitimate self defense. Mary Crow Dog had been to Boarding School, we know what those were about. The Forced Sterilizations were going on in ’72, but nobody really knew about them. And there were all the killings. What are the key events leading up to it?

    Just turned 40 myself, I’m not quite and old buckskin (getting there), but I’d be honored to listen.  

  6. the Oglala Civil Rights Committee called on us for support and we met with them and told them that we would come only if the traditional Chiefs asked us and gave us permission. In a very dramatic meeting in Oglala with the OCRC and the Chiefs no one would make any decisions and it looked as if the Chiefs wouldn’t act. Then several women like Gladys Janis and Ellen Moves Camp stood up and actually berated thee Chiefs in front of us all. Finally Chief Fools Crow and Chief Mathew King stood up and declared their support and one by one the others stood up and spoke for us. At that it was agreed and Chief Fools Crow told us to make our stand at Wounded Knee.

    That’s where my story you posted began as I took about sixteen warriors into the knee to take control before the AIM caravan arrived. The cops thought for sure we were planning to take over the BIA and tribal HQ in Pine Ridge so they fortified those buildings with machine gun emplacements and firepower. In fact Dennis and Russ took the AIM caravan right past them and came to WK.

  7. a very corrupt tribal council and chairman were trying to sell off the land and give up more land to the wasicu for a bombing range that had been taken during the war with a promise to give it back. They passed an ordinance prohibiting any large gatherings without a permit as a way to keep AIM off the rez and stop any demonstrations. The FBI was already there wearing combat fatigues and flying around in helicopter gunships. They armed the GOON squads which began the reign of terror. Having long hair or participating in powwows or traditional ceremonies were the trigger for beatings and harrassment.

    In the year before WK Dennis Banks, Leonard Peltier and I just decided we’d better go live on Pine Ridge and help the people. We stayed out in Porcupine and organized in communities all over except Pine Ridge community. That precipitated many confrontations because we did believe in self defense but it gave the people the confidence to resist. We participated in and guarded traditional ways and ceremonies so we knew the medicine men and Chiefs and they had confidence in us too. I often slept on Chiefs Mat King or Fool Crows floor when the FBI was inventing drive-by shootings and the GOONs were getting desperate to drive traditional ways back underground. It was damn exciting to be a community organizer in those days, probably a bit more dangerous than Obama’s days in Chicago enit?

  8. I’d always wondered what exactly caused the final decision. On another note.

    This lady contacted me in the Forced Sterilization diary at Kos.


    She said she wants to interview me about the suicides. Well, you and I hope everyone else knows I don’t live on a reservation and I’m pretty sure that’s what she’s looking for.

    She sure needs someone who can discuss it a lot better than I could and who’s on the ground. So I thought I’d pass it to you.

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