An excellent book that reopens the wounds of Wounded Knee—and that provides important new information for readers of Peter Matthiessen’s long-suppressed In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.
Freelance investigative journalist and debut author Hendricks spent four years assembling the documentary evidence—including many surrendered by the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act—that underlies this narrative. It begins well along the chain of tragic events at the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in the early and mid-1970s, when members and supporters of the American Indian Movement (AIM) confronted a corrupt tribal leadership backed by local representatives of the federal government. One was the FBI agent in charge, who tellingly called Indians “a conquered nation, and when you’re conquered, the people you’re conquered by dictate your future.” Radicals such as Russell Means and Dennis Banks begged to differ, and in 1973, AIM activists seized the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, only to be besieged by Oglala chairman Dick Wilson’s self-styled goons backed by—here’s news—U.S. Army officers dressed in civilian clothing, as well as “16 armored personnel carriers, 400,000 rounds of ammunition, 120 sniper rifles, and 20 grenade launchers,” with a Phantom jet thrown in for good measure. The Nixon White House denied all this, though prosecutors who later tried AIM members would insist that the “Pentagon had no real role at Wounded Knee.” South Dakota politico William Janklow, Hendricks alleges, did, revisiting charges that Matthiessen reported in his 1983 book, withdrawn from the market after Janklow sued Matthiessen and Viking, his publisher. So, too, did the FBI, with agents implicated in the covered-up murders of several AIM sympathizers—and two of whose agents in turn were murdered by an informer. Hendricks takes pains to point out that AIM was not made up of saints alone; nor was every goon evil.
A blistering, important work, updating Paul Chaat Smith and Robert Allan Warrior’s Like a Hurricane (1996).