Monday, March 31, 2008

Tim Giago's "Bury My Hertz at Wounded Knee"

One night there was someone pounding on the door and I recall that it was one of those really cold, winter nights. [Pine Ridge Village hotel owner] Velma asked me to answer the door and I did. There stood a man dressed in black leather from head to toe. He was a Russian reporter from Pravda and he was demanding a room," [NYT reporter Bill] Kovach said. It turned out that Velma didn’t want any “Russian Commie” staying in her hotel, and of course all of her rooms were filled, so she turned the Russian reporter away...Joe Trimbach, the FBI Agent in Charge [shown above], turned the Russian reporter away [from Wounded Knee], but allowed Kovach and the other American reporters to enter Wounded Knee.---"Bury My Hertz at Wounded Knee"
One freezing day, as [New York Times reporter Bill Kovach] drove across the bridge at Wounded Knee, the rental car hit a patch of ice and skidded off of the bridge landing on its top in the dry creek bed...Kovach asked Russell Means [shown above] to keep an eye on the car until he could get a tow truck there. Means said, “Sure, I promise. Don’t worry about it.” The next day when [Bill Kovach] got back with the wrecker only the burned out skeleton of the car remained. “It had been stripped of everything including the motor,” Kovach said. As he was sorrowfully looking at the remains of his rental car, Russell Means approached. Kovach said, “I thought you were going to keep an eye on my car.” Means replied, “Oh, I forgot.”---"Bury My Hertz at Wounded Knee"
Tim Giago (shown above) is an Oglala Lakota who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. Mr. Giago has a humorous article in The Native American Times called "Bury My Hertz at Wounded Knee" (3-31-08). Mr. Giago's family home was reduced to a ruin during the occupation of Wounded Knee, so usually Mr. Giago is known for his tragic stories about the pillaging and burning of this Indian town.
Mr. Giago retells a comic incident about a leather coated Pravda reporter who was "turned away" from Velma's Hotel in Pine Ridge Village by Velma and from "occupied" Wounded Knee by the FBI. Pravda was the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, so leather-jacketed Pravda reporters were frequently sinister people; they were not mere cartoon villains like Boris and Natasha. It would be interesting to know the name of this Pravda reporter.
Pravda's melodramatic stage villain may have been dispatched, but the communist connections of disruptive AIM lawyers are a big part of the tragic story of Wounded Knee.
Some people who have written about the occupation Wounded Knee have hypocritically claimed that the FBI was trying to disrupt the struggle for Indian rights by using a program called COINTELPRO; yet the FBI agent Joseph Trimbach attests that he never used COINTELPRO against the AIM movement:
"As for my role in the secret program to "provoke" selfless heroes, I had heard of COINTELPRO in conjunction with FBI operations of the 1960s but was not involved with it, and certainly never used it against AIM."-- American Indian Mafia p. 28.
In fact, it has been communists who have been using disruptive "active measures" in an attempt to provoke trouble between the FBI and the Indians. Discrediting the FBI, CIA, and other American security organizations was always one of the main goals of the Soviet regime.
Sometimes active measures are just propaganda, but sometimes the KGB instigates violence in order to achieve its goal of discrediting an enemy. This is a kind of terrorism where the target is blamed for the crime.
As far as I know, Mr. Giago has not yet told the not-very-funny story about what the Mitrokhin archive reveals about the AIM lawyer Mark Lane.
When the Soviet Union fell, Vasili Mitrokhin, a defector who worked in the KGB foreign intelligence archives, brought out documentation that the AIM lawyer Mark Lane had a relationship with the Soviet KGB. [See more on this here and here.]
Mark Lane also reportedly attempted to enter Wounded Knee with materials in his trunk that could be used for molotov cocktails. This does not sound like a person who cares about bettering the lives of Indians to me.
The former FBI agent Joseph H. Trimbach has written:
On one occasion, attorney Mark Lane arrived at one of the roadblocks. The Agent on duty opened the trunk of [Mark Lane's] car and reported back to me that he had found materials that could be used to make Molotov cocktails. The Agent detained him and radioed back for permission to place lane under arrest. I relayed the request to the Assistant U.S. Attorney. After a short pause, he vetoed that suggestion and Lane was allowed to proceed, without the contraband. The following year I was called to testify about what happened March 8th. The lawyer who cross-examined me was the same man, Mark Lane. (American Indian Mafia. p. 122; June 28, 2005 letter from Joanne Pierce to Joe Trimbach)
Mr. Giago's article appears to take at face value Mr. Kovach's perception that the AIM leaders were "expressing frustration" with their violence. Rather, the AIM leaders may have been operatives who were deliberately risking people's lives in order to provoke a confrontation with the FBI. The conspiracist Mark Lane was not a frustrated Indian.
Mr. Giago writes:
Newspapers from across the nation and the world found the occupation of Wounded Knee in February 1973 a very hot news item. Reporters came, they saw, and then they wrote about it. Some saw only one side of the story while others retained their objectivity...
Bill Kovach, the National Correspondent for the New York Times was there. He became my friend 18 years ago while he was the Curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard and he remains my friend today...
He told me over dinner last week in Washington, D. C., that Wounded Knee made a deep and abiding impression on him. “I came away from the experience with a profound sense of disappointment and sadness; disappointment that the American Indian Movement could find no other way to express their frustration than the destructive occupation of the community and the Trading Post. Sadness for those trapped in the cycle of despair of the Pine Ridge Reservation and the fact that the American people could sit quietly by and watch yet another episode unfold of the sorry story of its national government’s lack of will, interest or plan for some true justice in its relationship with the American Indians,” [Kovach] said...
Most of the visiting press found rooms at motels in the border towns surrounding the Pine Ridge Reservation and others commuted the 90 plus miles from Rapid City, SD. Lucky ones, like Kovach...found space at Velma’s Hotel in Pine Ridge Village. I say “found space” because all of the rooms were occupied and Kovach and other reporters paid good money to sleep on the floor in the lobby of the hotel.
“One night there was someone pounding on the door and I recall that it was one of those really cold, winter nights. Velma asked me to answer the door and I did. There stood a man dressed in black leather from head to toe. He was a Russian reporter from Pravda and he was demanding a room,” Kovach said. It turned out that Velma didn’t want any “Russian Commie” staying in her hotel, and of course all of her rooms were filled, so she turned the Russian reporter away.
Kovach had rented a car from Hertz in Rapid City...He drove the car, filled with other reporters, in and out of Wounded Knee for about a week. Joe Trimbach, the FBI Agent in Charge, turned the Russian reporter away, but allowed Kovach and the other American reporters to enter Wounded Knee.
One freezing day, as he drove across the bridge at Wounded Knee, the rental car hit a patch of ice and skidded off of the bridge landing on its top in the dry creek bed...Kovach asked Russell Means to keep an eye on the car until he could get a tow truck there. Means said, “Sure, I promise. Don’t worry about it.” The next day when he got back with the wrecker only the burned out skeleton of the car remained. “It had been stripped of everything including the motor,” Kovach said.
As he was sorrowfully looking at the remains of his rental car, Russell Means approached. Kovach said, “I thought you were going to keep an eye on my car.” Means replied, “Oh, I forgot.”...[full text].
I know that Mr. Giago's article was supposed to relate some of the humor of being a journalist, and I suppose this story about the irresponsibility of the narcissistic Republic of Lakota Chief Facilitator Russell Means did make me chuckle for a moment; but I guess leather-coated Pravda reporters, AIM lawyers, and Russell Means just aren't funny to me.

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