Preventing Violence

Richard Salem

Former CRS Mediator, Chicago Office; Private Mediator; President of Conflict Management Initiatives


[Full Interview]

We were in the radio room in Wounded Knee (which was taken over and held by a group of Native Americans in 1973) At four in the morning, someone in a bunker radioed that there was someone in the DMZ, which was a violation of the cease fire. We wondered who would do that at four in the morning just before the talks were going to start? Stan Holder, the AIM security chief, threatened to have somebody shoot at the violators. I convinced him to wait until one of his people, accompanied by our Bert Greenspan, could go out and survey the scene. What they saw was that a jeep with a couple of BIA personnel had gone over a line to find some flat land where they could spread a blanket and have their breakfast. That was the violation. So Burt came back and we got that sorted out over the radio and they got the guys out of there.

Finally, at midmorning, it was time to head up to the DMZ, only everything was late. The Indians were up late at night conferencing, negotiating, and celebrating. They went through the sweat, a spiritual ceremony, met some more, then got up late. Now it's an hour behind schedule, and they're trudging up the hill with the teepee, which was supposed to be set up an hour earlier. The leaders are walking up the road with the men who were carrying the teepee. Bert and I were walking with them. As we approached the site where they were going to set up the teepee, about 50 yards from the federal roadblock, a helicopter landed at the road block and out stepped Frizzell and Helstern. There were about 50 news men and women standing around as well. Stan Holder turned to me and asked, "What the hell are they doing here?" I told him that I didn't know why they came in before we radioed them to do so. "Well, you get their asses out of here or there's not going to be any talks," someone else said.

So I went running up to the road block and called Frizzell away from the reporters and said, "I thought you were going to wait until we sent you a signal." "Well," he said, "I decided this is going to be done on white man's time not Indian time. We're going to start when we agreed to start, not when they decide it's time. I said, "I think you'd better go back, because they're really ticked off. Were you aware that last night there was an incident last night, that two of your men went over the line and stirred things up? We almost had a shooting incident. "Nobody told me that," he said. "Well, people were up all night," I told him. "You don't know what they went through." "All right, we'll go back, but we're coming back in an hour and they'd better be ready." So I ran back down the hill. "Stan, it was a mistake. I'm sorry, I must have screwed up on the timing. They're going back. They'll be back in an hour." So they proceeded to set up the teepee.