Escape From Wounded Knee - 4th of 4 Articles
Submitted by Kathy Helms
By Kathy Helms – email@example.com
Dine Bureau – March 8th, 2007
Gallup Independent – firstname.lastname@example.org
WINDOW ROCK -- As winter turned to spring, still surrounded by FBI agents, Bureau of Indian Affairs Police and Guardians of Oglala Nation, members of the American Indian Movement began to leave Wounded Knee.
The stand-down to end the 73-day seige was set for May 7, 1973. Inside the Little Big Horn Bunker only Lenny Foster from the Navajo Nation and Percy Casper, a Suswap from British Columbia, remained.
Foster, now program supervisor for the Navajo Nation Corrections Project, joined AIM, formed by prison inmates, in 1970. His experiences at Wounded Knee led him to a career in which he now visits state and federal prisons to offer inmates spritual counseling.
Inside the makeshift bunker Foster and Casper were debating what to do next. AIM had helped bring to light corruption and graft within the tribal government while at the same time making a stand for treaty rights, sovereignty, and human rights. Their job was done. Now, as Foster and Casper saw it, there were two options: escape or surrender.
"Then Henry Wauwasuck, a Potawatomie, comes over from the command post,"Foster said. "It was probably about half a mile away. He said, 'D.J. wants to talk to you.' I said, 'About what? What does he want to talk to me for? 'So I went over there."
He stepped inside a tiny log cabin and there was AIM co-founder Dennis Banks. "He told me sit down and he gave me some coffee. I'm 24 years old and he's already a man, like in his 40s," Foster recalled.
"He tells me, 'I'm not going to surrender. I don't know how many of you are not going to surrender, but I would like you to take me out of here, because I've been watching all of the warriors, and I want to pick four of you guys. You're one of them. Would you be willing to do it?'"
"Yeah," Foster said. "Percy and I were trying to figure out how we were going to get out of there. I'm not going to surrender because I don't want the feds finger-printing me because then they'll know who you are. They'll haunt you the rest of your life."
Banks told him they were going to have a sweat the next day and asked who else he would recommend. Percy Casper, Frank Blackhorse, and HenryWauwasuck, Banks' bodyguard inside the command post, were the chosen warriors.
Protection Of Crazy Horse
"We got together with Leonard Crow Dog and Black Elk and D. J. There were seven of us in the sweat lodge. Crow Dog said, 'We're going to use this pipe. We're going to use Crazy Horse's songs. We're going to pray all together. We're going to even smoke his pipe and use his song.'
"He told us, 'This is going to make you invisible, but you have to believe in this,'" Foster recalled. "So we smoked the pipe that night and the next day we got ready. We sweated that afternoon, and as soon as the sun went down, we said, 'Let's go'."
Of course, sunset also signaled the feds to light up the area with flares, then follow up with automatic gunfire, according to Foster.
"We went north, over the creek. I was walking up front. I was walking point. I knew we had to pick an area where we could get away. They didn't use horses, they were using Jeeps and their dogs, and I knew they set up trip flares, too. I looked for places where it would be obvious," he said.
They crossed the creek and found an area where they could get in between the ravines and make their way out. They could hear the feds as they reached a flat area about a mile beyond the perimeter. Across the open area, a good distance away, was the safe haven of a tree line.
"I told them to wait, let me run down there," Foster said. "So I went down there and I ran back without making any noise. I said, 'It's clear, let's go.'
"We got out maybe 30-40 yards and this Jeep came over the hill, with the lights on and the German shepherd dog. But it didn't smell us. They didn't see us. We just laid there and the Jeep went on by," he said.
They had 11 miles of up-and-down terrain to cover. "We're talking about alot of hills," Foster said.
One thing a Navajo doesn't want to see when he's out there alone in the dark is an owl. "See, to Navajos an owl is a messenger of death," Foster said. "And there was a big white owl sitting in a tree, hooting. It scared the shit out of me!
"At first, I just looked at it and right away, I thought, he's telling me something's up ahead, he's warning me. So I ran back and I told D. J. and the rest of the guys who were waiting. I said, 'Come on, let's go, it's clear.' So we took off -- and the owl appeared again."
They traveled two to three miles with the owl still ahead of them. "It would disappear, then we would leave it behind, then it would pop up again,"Foster said.
They headed toward a paved road that leads out of Wounded Knee. Already, it was close to 2 or 3 a.m. "We walked to the highway, climbed the fence and started walking. "By then, the owl disappeared, but it was still dark,"Foster said.
A couple hours later they reached the top of a hill overlooking the community of Porcupine, about 2 miles away. Daylight was approaching and they had to hustle.
But up ahead, on the road to Porcupine there was a car, just sitting. Foster went to check it out. "Feds. There were two guys sitting there," he said.
He ran back to tell Banks and the others. Then Casper made a mistake."The feds turned on the lights because they saw Casper running across the road. Right away, they called for reinforcements. We just took off back across the road to the tree line," Foster said.
"They brought their dogs out and they were barking. They didn't see us because there was a little hill blocking the view. We told D.J., 'Just take off for that tree line. We'll stay right here. If they come over the hill, we'll just have to shoot it out with them. But you, you need to take off. So he took off," Foster recalled.
They proceeded toward Porcupine with the hill as their cover and the feds headed right toward them.
"Out of nowhere these dogs came, reservation dogs," Foster said. "These skinny dogs got into a fight with their big, well-fed German shepherds. That allowed us a split moment to get away. We took off to that tree line and disappeared.
"They were yelling, 'All right, we know you're in there'," Foster said."But they didn't know it was Dennis Banks. We didn't say anything, we just kept going.
"Then pretty soon they had that commotion with these dogs and they had to separate them because their dogs were on a leash," he said. Afterward, they just drove off.
By then, the sun was coming up. Casper knew a man who lived in Porcupine, John Attacks-Him. They headed toward his house, with Banks sandwiched safely between them.
John Attacks-Him welcomed them into his home and gave them coffee. "We were telling him D.J. was with us. All of the community, they supported what was going on. They took us in and hid us," Foster said.
"They fed us and said, 'We'll take you out of here tonight. We'll take you over to Crow Dog's paradise, Rosebud', " about an hour and a half away.
Around 1 p.m., when they finally were getting some sleep, John Attacks-Him woke them up. "Here comes a car. You guys get up, the feds are coming!" he told them. While they watched, John Attacks-Him went outside to see what they wanted.
"I don't know what they were saying," Foster said. "But they didn't say, 'We're going to check your house,' because we figured if they did that, we were going to have to shoot it out again. But then they just got in their car and drove off. "See, that pipe was working. That prayer was working. That medicine was working," he said.
They waited around till dark when John Attacks-Him and his wife loaded them into two cars and they hit the backroads to Porcupine. "This was maybe after 9 p.m. We hit the highway and drove all the way to Rosebud. We got away," Foster said.
In addition to using Crazy Horse's songs to make them invisible, two things stand out about that night, Foster said. "One was this owl, warning me. The other was the reservation dogs. They saved us.
"Those things right there toward the end made me realize the power of the medicine, the spiritual. I went in there as a boy, I came out as a man.That's what Wounded Knee did for me," Foster said.
Doo'da Desert Rock Supporters Win!
Submitted by Alysssa Macy,
Confederated Tribes Of Warm Springs, Oregon
Indigenous Media – http://www.indigenousmedia.com/
SANTA FE – In the final hours of the 2007 Legislative Session, two infamous tax credit bills died in committee. The bills HB178 & SB431 would have given and $85 million tax credit to the Navajo Nation to begin construction of a coal powered plant. A group of families from the Burnham area that came to be known as the Doo'da Desert Rock Coalition were successful in holding the bill up in their committees.
“We've had a great victory here today. The door has been opened and now the Navajo people can work as a unified nation to find common ground on sustainable economic development. This was a healthy debate that brought some important issues to the forefront for all native peoples, and this is just the beginning.” said Vangee Nez, a member of the Doo'da group. “We cannot deny our sovereign duty to protect the land for short term gains, instead we must take our place as stewards of Dine-tah.”
SB431 & HB178 died in committee during the 2007 60-Day Session. The bills would have given a tax credit for the proposed powerplant in the 4 corners area of the state.
The controversy started in late 2006 when construction of the site began without any apparent community input. While the plant would give several hundred jobs to the community the people living in the area feared another major polluter was being put in their neighborhood.
In an area with two other existing plants and thousands of cases of cancer and asthma the health links associated with another polluting plant are undeniable. Doo'da supporters have reasoned that this form of job creation is against the people's best interest and the values of the Navajo people.
“We have been led to believe that we have to choose between economic development and our cultural identity.” said Alfred Bennett, member of the Coalition. “But in this challenge we have the opportunity to provide solutions to a changing world that honors our people and traditions.”
For more information, contact Hank Dixon with the Desert Rock Coalition at (505) 215-2124
Carol Oldham at (505) 316-6517, email: email@example.com or
or Sandy Buffett at (505) 992-8683, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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