According to the NY Times, after years of requests by Lakota leaders, US Attorney Brendan Johnson has announced that his department will review 50 deaths on or near the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970s. Johnson says that he will assign a team of three assistant US attorneys to complete reports on each death, many of which had been determined to be accidental deaths or suicides. If the panel reports that there are enough unanswered questions, he will recommend that the FBI* or other investigative bodies assist his team. Johnson says he wants it done right, and it may take some time, but if prosecutions are needed as a result, he doesn’t care how long it takes, or how old the cases are.
His team has already begun to collect documents for their case files, and they intend to speak with family members soon.
“Many of the dead were associated with the American Indian Movement, or AIM, which was involved in a power struggle with Richard A. Wilson, the tribal president during the 1970s. And much of the violence occurred as a consequence of the conflict between AIM and the Guardians of the Oglala Nation, a paramilitary organization known as GOONs, organized by Mr. Wilson.
The period from 1973 to 1976, known on Pine Ridge as the “reign of terror,” was marked by deadly ambushes at highway checkpoints and gunfights that on occasion lasted for days. Among the casualties during the period were two F.B.I. agents. Leonard Peltier, an AIM member, was convicted of their murders.
The strife also included the 71-day standoff between AIM members and federal troops in 1973 at Wounded Knee, S.D.”
From the AIM-related section of a report on COINTELPRO, with contributions from Robert Boyle, Bob Brown, Tom Burghardt, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Kathleen Cleaver, Bruce Ellison, Cynthia McKinney, Nkechi Taifa, Laura Whitehorn, Nicholas Wilson, and Howard Zinn) in 2001, and presented to the World Conference on Racism in Durban, SA in 2001: