Anytime I tell someone I am from the Pine Ridge Reservation, the most common response is “Oh, ok so I know of that place. I heard of Leonard Peltier and Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. Also the most recent case to gain national attention was the FBI claim that members of AIM tortured and killed Ray Robinson. The 40 year old civil rights leader who traveled to the reservation in 1973 to help in the movement. Newly released FBI documents claim he was murdered on the reservation but a body or remains have yet to be found.
While these stories are all sad and I hear the injustice. I want Peltier to feel freedom, I also have to remind people that none of these people are from Pine Ridge. In no way does that mean they don’t deserve the national and international attention their cases have sparked. The constant work on their cases for justice to be served is well deserved. I just wished the FBI worked as diligently and people knew about our own who didn’t make it through that time.
I have to remind people that my grandfather whom I don’t remember meeting was also killed at that time and justice was never served in his case. My grandfather died when I was one year old. His name was Pedro Bissonette, he was my father’s uncle, and his case was swept under the rug with many others right from Pine Ridge.
In the early 1970’s, the murder rate on the reservation was the highest in the nation and those people being killed were our own. Yet not many people know about our own who died back then.
In 2012, the state’s U.S. Attorney General’s office decided to reopen these cases, at the tribe’s urging. After about 6 months of reviewing 4 of the nearly 60 cases the U.S. Attorney’s office reported that determined that “some” of them should be closed.
For those Lakota killed during the occupation and even murders unsolved afterwards on our reservation that remain unsolved, it looks as if they will never see the justice or national attention that those not from the reservation receive. That is not to say that we forgot them.
I should never have to tell a young person that we lost people too, they may not get their justice. The FBI may never care to open or solve these cases, but we do not forget our own.
Rest in Power to my grandfather Pedro Bissonette and all the Lakota whose cases remain unsolved.
Leon L. Swift Bird, Lydia Cut Grass, Byron DeSersa, Lena R. Slow Bear, Edward Standing Soldier, Martin Montileaux, Hobart Horse, Stacy G. Cortier, Edith Eagle Hawk (and her two children), Cleveland Reddest, Jeanette Bissonette, Richard Eagle, Hilda R. Good Buffalo, Jancita Eagle Deer, Priscilla White Plume, Frank Clearwater, Roxeine Roark, Buddy Lamont, Betty Jo Dubray, Marvin Two Two, Julia Pretty Hips, Ben Sitting Up, Sam Afraid of Bear, Kenneth Little, Kevin Hill, Leah Spotted Elk, Clarence Cross, Joseph Stuntz Killsright, Betty Means, James Brings Yellow, Andrew Paul Stewart, Julius Bad Heart Bull, Sandra Wounded Foot, Randy Hunter, Dennis LeCompte, Howard Blue Bird, Jim Little, Jackson Washington Cutt, Robert Reddy, Melvin Spider, Philip Black Elk, Aloysius Long Soldier, Phillip Little Crow, Olivia Bianas, Janice Black Bear, Michelle Tobacco, Delphine Crow Dog, Elaine Wagner, Allison Fast Horse, John S. Moore, Carl Plenty Arrows Sr., Frank La Pointe, Floyd Sherman Bianas, Yvette Lone Hill, Ray McHugh and to all the others that died after that turbulent time whose cases remain unsolved, Wilson Black Elk, Ron Hard Heart, Jon Red Hawk and many others…may your families know peace someday.
Because you were family to someone.