Wounded Knee: Inside The Bunker - 3rd of 4 Articles
Submitted by Kathy Helms
By Kathy Helms - email@example.com
Dine Bureau – March 7th, ‘07
Gallup Independent – firstname.lastname@example.org
WINDOW ROCK -- Lenny Foster arrived at Wounded Knee in January along with a number of other American Indian Movement warriors. They had a feeling: Something was going to happen.
AIM leaders didn't say, 'This is what we're going to do.' They just said, 'We're gathering our people,'" recalls Foster, now a program supervisor for the Navajo Nation Corrections Project.
Five days prior to the takeover there were a lot of community meetings. In Calico north of Wounded Knee, "the elders and chiefs, the headsmen, came together and said, 'You know, we've got to do something about this,'" Foster said, "because of this situation in Pine Ridge with Dickie Wilson and his GOON squad. They were terrorizing people, shooting at people, beating up on people -- traditional people."
"They wanted the American Indian Movement to come in to protect them. It was over money. The benefits from a lot of the tribal programs were being used by the GOONS, by Dickie Wilson, who was a corrupt tribal chairman,"Foster said.
"He used a death squad, the quasi-police force. He called them GOONS, Guardians of Oglala Nation. The FBI, the federal marshals, and the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) police just looked the other way. They had nobody to rely on, so they asked the American Indian Movement to come in."
Answering The Call
Following the meeting in Calico, it was decided the group would head to Porcupine, about an hour's drive from Pine Ridge, and along the way stop off at Wounded Knee.
"We got to Wounded Knee that evening. I think it was around 5-6 o'clock," Foster said. He was in the fifth car in a caravan of approximately 100 cars. "They all stopped in Wounded Knee and decided, 'This is where we're going to make our stand,'" Foster said.
"They made it known, 'We're not going no further.' So they parked all the cars and pretty soon the BIA police, the FBI, they started shooting. They opened up fire right away. I'm surprised no people got killed," he said.
The community of Wounded Knee lies in a valley. The feds had the high ground and a bird's-eye view, according to Foster. "The FBI set up roadblocks and started arresting people who were coming into the area for being part of that takeover.
"Dickie Wilson had brought in the FBI prior to all of this. They were there waiting around Pine Ridge. They had their APC's (armored personnel carriers, or tanks), they had their automatic weapons. They came down and they didn't hesitate to use deadly force."
Because of this, Foster said, for the next 73 days, it was a constant struggle to survive. "The FBI and the federal marshals, they're trained to kill. They had their M-16, their M-60. "They used a helicopter, they had their APCs, they used their flares that would light up a whole area the size of a football field. They used their tear gas. They tried to gas us out of the bunkers," he recalled. Foster participated in 11 fire fights.
"First you're scared because you don't know what they're going to do," he said. "We used the sweat lodge, the prayers and the songs in the sweat lodge. We smoked the pipe."
Foster had his corn pollen bag and used that as well. "Once you begin to have faith in your spiritual power, you become more confident because your belief becomes stronger. You realize that you're capable and able to withstand. The fear subsides," he said.
Taking A Stand!
"We became 'dog soldiers.' It's like you take your red cloth and just put it into the ground. You're not going to leave that. You're going to make that stand right there. It was symbolic," Foster said.
"That's where we decided we're going to make this stand for our people so they don't have to suffer anymore. And then I think the FBI and the federal marshals they got scared." Some were as close as 500 to 1,000 yards. "Five hundred yards, that's only five football fields," Foster said. "But they were up on the highground. They had snipers. They were trying to kill us."
While AIM members were inside their bunkers, half-starved and enduring the unrelenting winter weather of the Dakotas, the feds were close by cooking steaks. "You could smell it," Foster said. "We were starving, and you could smell those steaks and you could hear those dogs barking." The feds were getting paid to keep watch. They could afford food.
"Along Wounded Knee Creek you could see lights at night, you could hear crying," Foster said. "That was the ancestors. Black Elk came to our bunker one time and told us not to shoot at those lights. You'd see them like 2 or 3 in the morning.
"Black Elk said, 'Those are the spirits of our ancestors.' They (feds) saw them too. But they didn't interpret. They didn't know what it was. They got freaked out over that. Some of them went crazy. They saw Indians on horses coming and then disappear," Foster said.
During this time, it was AIM members' spiritual power that sustained them. "A lot of people got wounded, but only two people actually were killed," he said, Frank Clearwater and Buddy Lamont, on April 17 and 27, 1973, respectively.
Inside the compound, they were all separated. Foster shared the Little Big Horn bunker, located on the east side, with the Ojibways and Menominees. There he made friends with Percy Casper, John Carlson, David Wilson, John Perotte and the Menominee Warrior Society. They took time and dug out their bunker, Foster said.
Inside The Bunker
"We dug into the ground so we could stand. We made it about 6 feet deep and maybe about 5 feet wide. We had a pipe and a stove where we could burn wood." The bunker was about 10-12 feet long and with enough space so the wouldn't be walking over each other. They erected wooden beams and scrounged metal for a roof, then covered the roof with dirt "so those bullets couldn' get into it," Foster said.
"The only way the bullets could fly in is through the openings. One timeI stood up and I almost got my head blown off," he said.
"We got into fire fights with them (feds). We would locate where they were at and we'd shoot right back at them, but not as much, because they had the fire power, we didn't. We didn't have the ammunition, so we had to conserve.
"We were out there to make sure they didn't come over the creek and overrun us. We were stationed in one spot where we could overlook the creek. The bridge was burned out so they couldn't come across it in Jeeps. They had to come across by foot," Foster said.
Larry Anderson and his brother Merle were in the Danby, Little California bunker, while the Oglalas were in another area, according to Foster.
"They didn't dig their bunker out. They had junk cars and everything, andI think there was a hut. Mainly it was to protect us from the snow and the rain. It was cold. There were some blizzards," he said.
"We dug into the ground where we could stand so we weren't in mud, and it was warm. We didn't get wet because we covered the whole thing. Then we made two tunnels that led out from the back. They didn't know that," he said.
They got away a couple times, when the feds came in close in their tanks. "They would pull up and they would shoot tear gas. The wind was blowing from the right to the left. They would shoot the tear gas and then the wind would take it and you could see this white cloud coming," Foster said.
"If you take a whiff it will paralyze you. Percy was paralyzed one time. We told him not to breathe, we've got to get out of here. Somehow he took a whiff and it paralyzed him and he just fell over. We had to grab him and drag him," Foster recalled.
They got a bucket of water, threw their shirts in, and then covered their faces with the wet garments. "They wanted us to run out of the bunker where they could shoot us," Foster said.
"At night, they did the same thing, but they used these flares and parachutes. It would shoot maybe 200 to 300 feet into the air, and then it would float and light up the whole area. The Army uses that. That's how they could see. And then they had the automatic gunfire. It was pretty intense," he said.
Wednesday, March 21st Is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
HIV Awareness and Wellness Fair - Wednesday, March 21, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Community Center, United American Indian Involvement, Inc.
Raffle prizes that include Blanket.
1125 W. 6th Street , Los Angeles, CA 90017.
HIV Mobile Testing 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Seminar: Native Americans/Alaska Natives & HIV
Thursday, March 22nd, 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Honored Guest; Lisa Tiger, (Muscogee Nation)
Founders Conference Room, David Geffen Center at AIDS Project LosAngeles,
611 S. Kingsley Drive , Los Angeles, CA 90005.
Lunch will provided by Four Directions Travel (www.fourdirectionstravel.com)
RSVP: 213-201-1311 or email@example.com
Warriors Against AIDS Awareness Concert & Comic Relief JA
Friday, March 23, 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm.
IMPROV Comedy Club, 8162 MelroseAvenue , Los Angeles, CA 90046
Honoring to Lisa Tiger, (MuscogeeNation). Tickets: $20.00 per person and Table Sponsorship available. Tickets can be purchased at the door
or online atwww.improv2.com/v3/index.php
More Information: 818-904-9256
Presentedby Red Nation Celebration
The National theme is "A Celebration of Life: Protecting Our Future,Protecting Our People!"
In Washington state, the Lummi Nation's Awareness Day will include traditional dances and medical facts, gets more American Indian people thinking and talking about the disease.
In Minneapolis, the Indigenous Peoples Task Force provides American Indian populations in with HIV prevention efforts
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Native and Native-serving Organizations for HIV/AIDS Activities
Los Angeles, California USA
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