The current geography of the Pine Ridge
Reservation (South Dakota) of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) sees it stretch from the Nebraska/South Dakota border, up to the Badlands
on its north side and the Black Hills bordering its western side. In its current form it is larger than the sixteen smallest nations
US censuses over the decades have shown Shannon County (completely contained within Pine Ridge) listed as the poorest
county in the US. The levels of poverty and unemployment within Pine Ridge exist at a third world with an annual per capita income
a third of that of Namibia). They have 80-85% unemployment, the second lowest life expectancy in the western hemisphere after Haiti
and in the mid seventies was the murder capital of the USA with as high a percentage of political murder and disappearance as that
of Chile under General Pinochet through the same period.
In 36 weeks under the particularly brutal Tribal Government Regime of
the infamous Richard (Dick) Wilson in the 70’s, there were over sixty AIM (American Indian Movement) members and supporters killed
in the Pine Ridge Reservation area, where the FBI held “pre-eminent jurisdiction”, not one was solved through that period by the Bureau.
In most instances no investigation was ever opened. Throughout this period it became the main focus of activities from AIM, recognising
Pine Ridge to be the front line in their struggle. In 1975 the deaths of two FBI agents in the village of Oglala on Pine Ridge during
a firefight where the FBI killed an AIM member lead to the dubious conviction of Leonard Peltier for their killings. Pressure from
a large number of US senators and human rights activists are calling for the conviction to be overturned.
Within Pine Ridge lies
Wounded Knee, the most symbolic place in the US, representing the struggle of the American Indians. In 1890 it was the site of the
last act of the Indian wars when the 7th Cavalry massacred approx. 300 Lakota (mainly women and children).
In 1973 it was the
location of a 71-day siege between the US authorities and members of AIM (American Indian Movement) who had taken over the massacre
site as part of a protest over the continuing oppression of their people. One of the leaders was Russell Means who was born in the
small town of Porcupine, only 10-15 miles North of Wounded Knee.
Other Indian Nations in America look to Pine Ridge, the land ofCrazy Horse, Red Cloud, Wounded Knee (1890 & 1973) and the people who killed Custer to provoke change.