An Indian rights sympathizer returns to the site of an iconic moment in Native American resistance: Wounded Knee.
Bunnell, a white native of Alliance, Nebraska—what he calls “the most boring town in America,” though not without affection—grew up around Sioux people, though often the rootless, wandering, and drunken kind that filled the town’s back alleys, jail, and morgue. The kind he encountered when the American Indian Movement rose up in 1973 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, the site of the last major massacre in the Indian Wars, were a different sort, muscular, disciplined, and well-armed—“long-haired big-city Indians,” he writes, “some with revolvers tucked in the waistbands of their blue jeans.” The young Bunnell cut his teeth bringing in supplies, questioned by a vigorous security force whether his intention was to poison the activists but then allowed to come and go. Here he recounts those episodes, mixing them with anecdotes about the people he met on the scene and what has become of them, as well as what has become of the entire Lakota Nation at Pine Ridge, a place as remote as any on the continent, just this side of the “North American pole of inaccessibility.” That puts places like Pine Ridge, Kyle, and Wounded Knee out of view of most wasicus, or white people, and even if Bunnell insists that “everyone should come to Wounded Knee at least once,” this little travelogue by way of memoir is about as close as most readers will get. The author’s constant asides on the virtues and demerits of small-town life (“name a fancy New York restaurant that offers you the choice of three outstanding side dishes with every entree”) can be a little much, but his reports from the front line then and now are urgent and important.
A well-intended memoir with forgivable flaws in the service of the greater good of delivering a portrait of reservation life over the course of half a century.