Timothy Williams of the NY Times reports that forty years after the siege at Wounded Knee by members of the American Indian Movement, the Oglala Sioux tribe has demanded that the federal government reopen dozens of cases it says the F.B.I. may have mishandled decades ago.
Tribal leaders say that as many as 75 people were killed on Pine Ridge during a three-year period of internecine violence that followed the 71-day Wounded Knee standoff with federal troops in 1973, a time that came to be known on the reservation as the "reign of terror." The federal government has declined so far to re-examine the cases.
The dead, many of whom were members of the American Indian Movement, or AIM, often had been shot or hacked, their bodies disposed of on remote parts of the reservation's sprawling badlands. "In many of these cases, the issue is not the lack of evidence and the attendant need for more," the tribe wrote in a letter on May 23 to Brendan V. Johnson, the United States attorney for South Dakota. "Rather, in many cases the issue is the potential impropriety of those required to investigate and prosecute these deaths."
The tribe says it believes that at least 28 deaths required an official re-examination, in part, "to determine whether the cases were closed for legitimate and conclusive reasons, notwithstanding the potential criminal implication of federal agents." The federal government, which has denied any role in the deaths, says most of them were not murders, but suicides, accidents or unintentional poisonings. "If there's ever any new information on these deaths, the F.B.I. will of course take a look at that information," said Kyle A. Loven, an F.B.I. spokesman. Absent that, he added, "the F.B.I. does not have any intention of reopening these cases just to reopen them."
William Means, a former AIM leader, said that because the federal government has declined to make its case files public, relatives of the dead have been left in limbo. "Justice is always important," Mr. Means said. "The families have never had any type of explanation."