~~January 9, 2014~~
American Indian activist Carter Camp dies at 72
Carter Camp (August 18, 1941 – December 27, 2013, White Eagle, Oklahoma) was an American Indian Movement activist from the Ponca tribe. Camp played a leading role in the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties and was one of the organizers of the Wounded Knee standoff.
In his later years Camp bitterly opposed the construction of the Keystone Pipeline.
According to Casey Camp-Horinkek, in 1960–1963 he served as a corporal in the U.S. Army unit, stationed in Berlin. He lived in Los Angeles after his discharge, working as an electrician in a factory and serving as shop steward for the union.
Camp joined the American Indian Movement when it was founded in 1968, and organized the first AIM chapters in Kansas and Oklahoma.
With AIM, he helped organize the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties protest, which led a caravan across the country to Washington.
During the caravan, Camp and Hank Adams, then president of the National Coalition of Churches, wrote the Twenty Points document. The caravan culminated in AIM’s occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building, and the presentation of the Twenty Points document to the BIA.
Hank Adams, president of The National Council of Churches, co-authored the groundbreaking “Twenty Points” summation document to present to government officials in Washington.
In 1973, he helped organize the Wounded Knee standoff, leading the first group of AIM members as they seized the trading post, cut phone lines, forced Bureau of Indian Affairs staff to leave town, and took eleven hostages. Camp was one of the primary organizers of the standoff, along with Dennis Banks and Russell Means, and acted as the action’s spokesperson Camp ultimately signed the agreement ending the occupancy, although not all his fellow activists did.
For his actions, he was convicted of “abducting, confining, and beating four postal inspectors”, and he served two to three years in prison. Camp’s sister, Casey Camp-Horinkek, disputes the alleged assault.
Camp was elected chair of AIM in 1973, but was expelled shortly afterward after a controversial conflict with fellow AIM leader Clyde Bellecourt.
After his time in AIM, Camp continued his activism. For over twenty years Camp was an organizer and active participant in the annual sun dance held in the Rosebud Indian Reservation, along with Leonard Crow Dog, who had also been involved with the Wounded Knee occupiers.
He also organized and protested against a Lewis and Clark expedition re-enactment, and against a motorcycle bar near his Oklahoma reservation.
Camp was also involved in a variety of environmental actions, organizing against the Keystone Pipeline and against waste dumps sited on Native American lands.
In 2009, Camp appeared in the PBS production, American Experience: We Shall Remain – Wounded Knee.
Still Matters Today
Carter Camp marked as a warrior at Wounded Knee, S.D., in the late winter of 1973
Forty years ago at the end of February in 1973, some 250 Oglalas and their supporters in the American Indian Movement took over the hamlet of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. The immediate catalyst for the protest was the corrupt leadership of the tribal chairman, Dick Wilson. By many traditional Oglala, he and his administration were viewed as an extension of the “colonial” system that had ruled the reservations for decades despite a veneer of sovereignty conveyed by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
But their objections in this specific matter had their roots in a different, broader issue, one that remains unresolved to this day, the unfulfilled promises in hundreds of broken treaties and other agreements between Indians and the U.S. government. Those pacts smoothed the way across the nation for the expropriation and occupation of the land of hundreds of tribes as well as the destruction of our culture, our languages, our religions and our traditions.
By the time of Wounded Knee, AIM had been in the forefront of high-profile protests against the injustices against Indians by the government for nearly five years. It had already organized an occupation of Alcatraz Island, marched across the country to Washington in the Trail of Broken Treaties, and occupied BIA headquarters, making off with boxes full of documents after a week inside the building.
The takeover at Wounded Knee had resulted in a siege by U.S. Marshalls and the FBI that lasted 73 days. I was there for 51 of those days, leaving only when it briefly appeared a resolution had been achieved. The siege continued for another three weeks. When it was over, two members of AIM and one federal marshall were dead. In the following two years, 60 AIM members and two FBI agents were also killed.
Though his name is less known than that of Russell Means and Dennis Banks, in the AIM leadership at the time was a young Ponca man named Carter Camp. He was chosen as war chief.
But let my friend Carter tell this story in his own words, compiled from a number of his writings and interviews over the past dozen years.
By Carter Camp
Carter posts at Daily Kos as cacamp.
Ah-ho, My Relations,
I ask you to remember that our reasons for going to Wounded Knee still exist and that means the need for struggle and resistance also still exist. Our land and sacred sites are threatened as never before. Even our sacred Mother herself is faced with unnatural warming caused by extreme greed.
In some areas of conflict between our people and those we signed treaties with, it is best to negotiate or “work within the system.” But, because our struggle is one of survival, there are also times when a warrior must stand fast even at the risk of one’s life.
I believed that in 1973 when I was 30 and I believe it today at 70. But to me Wounded Knee ’73 was really not about the fight, it was about the strong statement that our traditional way of living in this world is not about to disappear and our people are not a “vanishing race” as wasicu (white) education would have you believe.
As time has passed and I see so many of our young people taking part in a traditional way of living and believing, I know our fight was worth it and those we lost for our movement died worthy deaths.
Today is heavy with prayer and reminiscence for me. Not only are those who walk for the Yellowstone Buffalo reaching their destination, today is the anniversary of the night when, at the direction of the Oglala Chiefs, I went with a special squad of warriors to liberate Wounded Knee in advance of the main AIM caravan.
For security reasons the people had been told everyone was going to a meeting/wacipi in Porcupine, the road goes through Wounded Knee. When the People arrived at the Trading Post we had already set up a perimeter, taken 11 hostages, run the BIA cops out of town, cut most phone lines, and begun 73 days of the best, most free time of my life. The honor of being chosen to go first still lives strong in my heart.
That night we had no idea what fate awaited us. It was a cold night with not much moonlight, I clearly remember the nervous anticipation I felt as we drove the back way from Oglala into Wounded Knee. The Chiefs had tasked me with a mission and we were sworn to succeed, of that I was sure, but I couldn’t help wondering if we were prepared. The FBI, BIA and marshalls had fortified Pine Ridge with machine-gun bunkers and armored personnel carriers with M-60s. They had unleashed the GOON squad [Dick Wilson’s Guardians of the Oglala Nation] on the people and a reign of terror had begun.
We knew we had to fight, but we could not fight onwasicu terms. We were lightly armed and dependent on the weapons and ammo inside the Wounded Knee trading post, I worried that we would not get to them before the shooting started.
As we stared silently into the darkness driving into the hamlet, I tried to foresee what opposition we would encounter and how to neutralize it. We were approaching a sacred place and each of us knew it. We could feel it deep inside. As a warrior leading warriors I humbly prayed to Wakonda for the lives of all and the wisdom to do things right. Never before or since have I offered my tobacco with such a plea or put on my feathers with such purpose. It was the birth of the Independent Oglala Nation.
Things went well for us that night, we accomplished our task without loss of life. Then, in the cold darkness as we waited for Dennis and Russ to bring in the caravan (or for the fight to start), I stood on the bank of the shallow ravine where our people had been murdered by the 7th Cavalry in 1890.
There I prayed for the defenseless ones, torn apart by Hotchkiss cannons and trampled under hooves of steel by drunken wasicu. I could feel the touch of their spirits as I eased quietly into the gully and stood silently, waiting for my future, touching my past.
Finally, I bent over and picked a sprig of sage — whose ancestors in 1890 had been nourished by the blood of Red babies, ripped from their mothers’ dying grasp and bayoneted by the evil ones. As I washed myself with that sacred herb, I became cold in my determination and cleansed of fear. I looked for Big Foot and YellowBird in the darkness and I said aloud:
“We are back, my relations, we are home.”
We were fighting every day and in danger every day. But it was a lot of fun. During the lulls in the fighting, or during the time when there was not actual danger, it was just a wonderful time being together. People would break out the drum every night and we’d sing together, and different tribes would sing their songs.
We had Indian ceremonies that are very special to us, but we don’t bring ’em out in public. But now we could have ’em right there where everybody could participate. We don’t have to hide them around anymore.
We had the elders, medicine men, women and children — all in Wounded Knee with us.
We were a strong community. We all had work to do and fighting to do. But at the same time, we could live together and do the things that we wanted to do, say the things that we wanted to say and understand this world the way that Indian people understand it. So it made us feel good. We just really were able to come together in a unity that you don’t hardly find in Indian Country.
We’re different tribes and we don’t always get around to each other like that. I mean literally thousands of Indian people were coming from around the country. At any one time we might only have 700 or 800 people in Wounded Knee, but people were coming and leaving. Then, of course, a group of AIM people and the traditionalists stayed there throughout the thing.
Wounded Knee galvanized Indian Country, all over. During those 73 days we were in there, from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and from New York to Florida, Indian people were trashing BIA offices, protesting at the Indian Health Services, telling their own tribal governments to stop the leases with the uranium companies and the coal digging and that sort of thing.
Indian people were just making themselves known.
Wounded Knee and the rise of the American Indian Movement and the struggle of the late ’60s and ’70s just changed everything about the way Indian people think of themselves. They started thinking in terms of the future, not of being exterminated or maybe this is our last generation that cares about being Indian. It just invigorated the entire Indian nations. They started having pride in where they came from and what they were and who they were. It also made the government understand that once more there was a line in the sand that they couldn’t push us beyond. We had taken all we could absorb and that if they pushed us just too damn far then we’ll fight.
There is a excellent PBS documentary about the Wounded Knee takeover and siege on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Carter is featured in this 80-minute segment, We Shall Remain, Wounded Knee, Episode 5.
Carter Camp and Casey Camp – Tar Sands Resistance – Ponca Nation Speaks
Published on Mar 26, 2013
On March 18th near Ponca City, Oklahoma, the first Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance Camp began with a ceremony and talks by local Indigenous speakers from the Ponca Nation. Casey Camp-Horinek is a longtime environmental activist and her brother, Carter Camp was one of the leaders of A.I.M. (the American Indian Movement) and he figured prominently in the standoff at Wounded Knee in 1973.
Their message went straight to the heart of the evil that is upon us with the Keystone XL Pipeline.
They have been in this battle for their survival for a long time, and they came to spread the message that stopping this Tar Sands Pipeline is no longer just about their lands, it is about survival for all of us.