Bernie Lafferty

Bernie Lafferty, Lakota (Pine Ridge)
her daughter Holy Elk and granddaughter Layla were kind enough to offer me a place to stay in Shakopee, Minnesota, and to rest for a day.
At 19, Bernie was among the 200 or so American Indian Movement members and local traditional Lakota who occupied the village of Wounded Knee on February 27th, 1973 demanding that the US government honor its treaty responsibilities to the sovereign Nation of Oglala Lakota under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.
“There had been people killed with no investigation on the Pine Ridge Reservation” said Bernie, this morning, recalling the days when Dickie Wilson, elected tribal chair, ran a squad of ruthless GOONS (guardians of the Oglala Nation) to enforce his rule, killing traditional Lakota with impunity along with anyone he considered a threat.
The unpunished murder of Raymond Yellow Thunder, Oglala Lakota, in Gordon, Nebraska, beaten to death by four white men the winter before was a galvanizing incident precipitating the armed occupation of Wounded Knee. On the second day of the occupation,
AIM began putting out the call for hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Senator William Fullbright on the US – Lakota standoff. As Vine Deloria writes in Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties (1974):
“Demanding hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee had been an old saw in Indian Country but no one had taken the idea seriously enough to actually contact the Committee to see what its reaction would be. Rather, the demand for hearings was an emotional appeal used by Indian politicians to give their audiences a boost in morale. Indians across the nation paused and looked at the Wounded Knee occupation in a different vein when the demand for hearing went out.”
He adds, “The nature of the Indian force occupying Wounded Knee astounded Indians and whites alike.
This was no ordinary protest of young Indians intent on making headlines (although plenty of headlines were made…). Rather, a strong contingent of Sioux traditional peoples were at Wounded Knee. Revered Medicine Men and several well-known holy men were taking part in the occupation. Representatives of the Iroquois League were at Wounded Knee…”
“We just wanted justice,” said Bernie Lafferty, 44 years later. “We wanted justice for all the people.”
Her uncle, Buddy Lamont, was shot through the heart and killed by an FBI sniper on the morning of April 26th,
1973, one of two fatalities on the Native side during the protracted 72 day siege of the historic site of the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890.
Bernie tried to take his body out through the government checkpoint to return him to his mother and grandmother; she was arrested and held in jail.
Released the next day, she returned to the occupied village to bury her uncle next to the mass grave of Chief Big Foot’s band, machine gunned in the snows of 1890. Lamont was a Vietnam veteran.
“He fought for them, and they killed him for no reason.”
Her grandmother, Agnes Lamont, called for an end to the occupation before more lives were lost.
And so, after 72 days and 133,000 rounds of ammunition fired at the occupiers by the besieging armed forces of the US government, the occupation of Wounded Knee ended.


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