The Guardians of the Oglala Nation
(GOONs) were a private paramilitary group active on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is an Oglala Sioux Native American reservation located in the U.S. state of South Dakota. Originally included within the territory of the Great Sioux Reservation, Pine Ridge was established in 1889 in the southwest corner of South Dakota on the Nebraska border...
during the early 1970s.
On November 10, 1972, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council passed several resolutions in response to Bureau of Indian Affairs building takeover
The Bureau of Indian Affairs building takeover occurred from November 3 to November 9, 1972. On November 3, a group of around 500 American Indians with the American Indian Movement took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C., the culmination of their participation in the...
. One criticized the American Indian Movement
The American Indian Movement is a Native American activist organization in the United States, founded in 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota by urban Native Americans. The national AIM agenda focuses on spirituality, leadership, and sovereignty...
(AIM) for the destruction of records in the building takeover; another authorized the tribal president, Dick Wilson
Richard A. "Dick" Wilson was elected chairman of the Oglala Lakota Sioux of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where he served from 1972–1976, following re-election in 1974...
, “to take whatever action that he felt would be necessary to protect the lives and property and to insure the peace and dignity of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.”
Wilson soon used this authority to create a new private police force, which critics called “the goon squad.” Members adopted the label as an acronym. The GOONs were financed through the tribal government. Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen is a two-time National Book Award-winning American novelist and non-fiction writer, as well as an environmental activist...
alleges funding came through misappropriation of a federal highway safety program.
GOONs soon were accused of perpetrating intimidation and violence against Wilson's political opponents, but the militia was not mentioned in impeachment charges that were unsuccessfully brought against Wilson in February 1973.
On February 27, 1973, the Wounded Knee incident
The Wounded Knee incident began February 27, 1973 when about 200 Oglala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation...
began when local protesters and AIM activists seized the village of Wounded Knee, South Dakota
Wounded Knee is a census-designated place in Shannon County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 382 at the 2010 census....
. A seventy-one day standoff with law enforcement commenced. During the standoff, GOONs exchanged gunfire with the occupiers. GOONs also placed their own roadblocks.
After Wounded Knee
Fighting between GOONs and AIM militants continued after Wounded Knee. In the next three years, over sixty died violently on the reservation. GOONs were accused of assault, murder, and arson. GOON activities during the 1974 tribal election led the United States Civil Rights Commission to report “a climate of fear and tension.”
Al Trimble seceded Wilson as tribal president in 1976. He listed disbanding the GOONs as the first order of business, and the militia faded away thereafter.