the Wounded Knee legacy
Before the American Indian Movement, and arguably today, indigenous peoples across the globe were voiceless and deprived of culture. The American Indian Movement started as a small organization to care the elders of different communities before stepping up to bringing awareness to the ignored deaths across the country. The American Indian Movement is known for being militant but it's legacy of Native Activism inspired more Indigenous peoples to reconnect to their cultures and reclaiming their voice while implementing it in protests, specifically the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign and the NoDAPL protest. The legacy can be seen with their kindness towards McKiernan, their usages of culture, and how it can be seen in protests/campaigns led by Indigenous peoples.
Firstly, A.I.M.'s kindness towards Kevin McKiernan, the journalist at Wounded Knee, stands out as a part of the legacy due to the negative social atmosphere surrounding Native Americans well before the late 1960s and early 1970s sparking plenty of A.I.M. protests (Summers). That atmosphere of toxicity and hate bubbled and turned into a boil over the years and "People were so afraid, that's what made the decision for them to do this thing that they did at Wounded Knee." (Locke). In his film, Wounded Knee: A Line in the Sand, McKiernan shows his prospective of Wounded Knee and the kindness its participants showed him. McKiernan recalls in his film that the when he first met the members, they offered him coffee and food (Locke). With the atmosphere of negativity and violence, it seems odd that A.I.M. members would show kindness to McKiernan. On the other hand, it helps adds to their legacy of reclaiming their voices because even though the negative atmosphere was thick, they were still kind to McKiernan showing they were being the better the person and "that [he was] a stranger in a strange land but they were doing their best to change that." (Locke).
A.I.M's usage of culture as a part of the legacy and inspiration of indigenous people's reconnecting to their cultures. McKiernan and other sources took numerous photos during the occupation and they bare A.I.M. members semi-traditional dress, singing at the drums, and in sweat lodges (Indian Country Today). The photographs of numerous members dressed in their regalia, whether it was scarves wrapped around their temples or feathers carefully braided into their hair and the iconic picture of Robert Onco raising his rifle high with a proud smile, which will be further discussed later (Indian Country Today). In the end, the usage of culture may seem limited compared to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign, where women wore their red colored regalia and styled their hair traditionally, and the NoDAPL protests showed news coverage of people living in tipi's and burning herbs to pray.
How the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's campaign can be seen as a part of the legacy and inspiration of indigenous reclaiming their voice. Many people know the campaign as Indigenous women standing up against the years of racism and being ignored. However, women, no matter their race, were and are often treated as voiceless and as object, even more so in the 1960s so cases of white women going missing or murdered were noticed by few, but the ones of colored women were never in the spotlight. In Seattle, there were over 70 documented cases of missing indigenous women (Bush). The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign brought a spotlight to indigenous women and gained major popularity for their usage of culture. It can be argued that their usage of culture is iconic because if anyone were to google the campaign, brown women in red regalia pop up. Indigenous women representing their cultures and standing up against the years of violence.
People remember the American Indian Movement and its legacy as violent and use the iconic photograph of Robert Onco and his rifle (Indian Country Today) as evidence. Although this may be true, the comparison of Onco and the cover art for the NoDAPL protest documentary (Twitter) proves otherwise. Despite the differences, the posing of the two peoples are extremely similar, with a raised arm holding an object high and both look determined. Looking Black Snake Killaz image radiates extremely similar energy as the one of Onco. The only major difference besides from style, is the use of culture. Onco is dressed like how elderly Native American men dress at a ceremony, jeans with their shirt tucked in, a jacket, and a scarf folded into a thin rectangle wrapped around their temples. In the Black Snake Killaz image, there is so much more culture present. Tipi's, painted horses, writing in a Native American language, sage or another commonly used herb, and a woman in traditional dress are present. Aside from far more culture and emotion being pronounced in the Black Snake Killaz image which produces more of a reaction from Indigenous audiences.
In conclusion, the Wounded Knee occupation can be summarized in the words of Kevin McKiernan: "People who are doing things like reviving the language, people are doing ceremonies and people who are protecting their land from pollution, to me that's the legacy of actions like Wounded Knee. That's the legacy and that is the now." (Locke).