At the Kent State Shooting Grounds

“These students will have to learn what law and order is all about.”

– General Robert Canterbury,

Ohio National Guard

May 4th, 1970 – Noon

Ten minutes later, four unarmed university students: Jeffrey Miller (shot through the mouth at close range), Allison Krause, (chest wound), William Schroeder (ROTC; shot through the chest while walking between classes) and Sandra Lee Scheuer (shot through the jugular vein while walking across the commons with one of her speech therapy students) lay dead or dying, nine others were wounded including Dean Kahler, paralyzed for life.

Five days earlier, in one of the bloodiest and most futile exercises of American imperialism in recent history, Richard Nixon had announced the invasion of Cambodia, breaking his word to the American people and expanding the scope of the carnage in Southeast Asia.

The next day, May 1st, students at Kent State University here in Ohio buried a copy of the US Constitution beneath the memorial bell on the commons, saying Nixon had murdered it. They called a protest rally for May 4th, and the Ohio National Guard responded in force, with M1s and shotguns.

American imperialism dies hard and has taken good people from many nations into the ground with it.

Less than two years after the killings at Kent State, the American Indian Movement led the armed takeover of the South Dakota village of Wounded Knee, site of the final armed confrontation between the United States and the Native Nations of this continent in the “Indian Wars” of the 19th century.

On December 29th, about 350 Minneconjou and Hunkpapa Lakota, mostly old men, women and children under the leadership of Chief Big Foot, sick with pneumonia, were surrounded in the snow by the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek. Revenging their losses at Little Big Horn, the gallant cavalrymen opened fire on the unarmed band without provocation, using rapid fire Hotchkiss guns. The Lakota were slaughtered; the wounded lay dying in a three day blizzard; four young infants were later rescued from beneath the bodies of the mothers.

Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor were given out to the surviving cavalrymen (a number lost their lives to “friendly fire”); more than for any other battle the US has ever fought, by far.

When Dennis Banks and Russell Mean led about 200 Native Americans, including many traditional elders and medicine men, into the village to demand recognition of Lakota Sovereignty under the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868, the whole world took notice. The occupation lasted 71 days and resulted in the shooting death of at least two Native Americans, and the paralyzation of a federal marshal. Now, the US government in its imperialist adventurism had been challenged not only in Southeast Asia but also by a Native Nation in South Dakota thought to have been ground into the dust 83 years earlier. Not so.

As Vine Deloria Jr. writes in Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties (1974):

“Europeans had become aware, partially through the collapse of their colonies in other parts of the world, of the deep desire of smaller nations to gain a place in the family of nations. Since World War Two many small nations had received political independence and become members of the United Nations….

The trauma of the French in Indo-China and Algeria had made a deep impression on the people of Europe. They had recognized, where the United States had not, that the world had indeed shrunk and our planet could no longer afford to place its destiny in the hands of any one nation or group of nations. Rather, the community of nations had to become a community in which even the smallest nation had rights which could not be violated. To see a tiny Indian tribe attempt to cast off the bonds of colonialism and become a free nation fascinated the European journalists who visited the United States and made the journey to Wounded Knee….

In demanding independence for the Oglala Nation, the people at Wounded Knee sought a return to the days of pre-discovery, when the tribes of this land had political independence…. They sought recognition by the nations of the world of their rightful status as nations in the community of nations.”

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