On Feb. 27, 1973, a well-armed cadre of 200 activists marched into Wounded Knee and announced to 11 residents that the hamlet was now under the occupation of AIM [American Indian Movement]. Within hours, Wounded Knee was surrounded by a formidable force of federal marshals and FBI agents, equipped with armored military vehicles and aerial support from the Nebraska National Guard.
The next 71 days were spent with both sides entrenched; the sullen South Dakota weather punctuated by frequent firefights, arson and looting, sporadic sniper attacks and occasional negotiations—all played out before a mass of media attention. Two federal agents were wounded by gunfire—one paralyzed—and two protesters were killed. After Lawrence Lamont, the second protester, was killed on April 26, there was an uptick in negotiations to end the siege. On May 8, at least 120 weary protesters surrendered to federal authorities. And just eight months later, Banks and Means were before a federal jury on 11 charges, including arson and conspiracy to assault.
AIM leader Russell Means and Kent Frizzell, a U.S. assistant attorney general, signed a tentative agreement on April 5, 1973, that later collapsed.