Unveiling the Third Force: Toward Transitional Justice in the USA and South Africa, 1973–1994

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James Gump

COMPARATIVE (COUNTER-)INSURGENCIES

At dawn on 17 April 1973, three single-engine Cherokee Six airplanes approached
the village of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern
South Dakota. Each aircraft was loaded with 700 pounds of food, ready to be
dropped to the besieged occupants of the village. Fifty days earlier, approximately
250 supporters of the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied Wounded
Knee, site of the Army’s horrific massacre of several hundred Lakota ghost dancers
in 1890. Much like the ghost dance crisis of 1890, the Wounded Knee occupation
drew federal security forces to South Dakota to quell this latest “uprising” of
militant Indians. Bill Zimmerman, who piloted one of the Cherokees involved in
the airlift, marveled at the panorama below him on that dawn, observing that
Wounded Knee village was surrounded on all sides by APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) … Each of
the four roads leading out of the village were blocked, and next to every
roadblock were satellite bunkers and sand-bagged trenches. I was stunned. We
had flown out of the United States and into a war! It looked like a piece of
South Viet Nam, APCs and all, cut out of Indochina and dropped into the
middle of South Dakota.1

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