Indians at Wounded Knee win court ruling

ST. LOUIS -- A federal appeals court ordered a trial to determine whether members of the Nixon administration illegally used the Army to quell an Indian uprising at the Village of Wounded Knee in 1974.

Fourteen Indians had filed suit saying Alexander Haig and Richard Kleindienst, along with other administration officials, violated the Posse Comitatus Act by ordering in the military.


The act makes it a felony to use the Army for domestic law enforcement purposes unless expressly authorized to do so by Congress.

Haig and the others had argued the use of the Army was appropriate because non-members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe had invaded the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota 'with the avowed purpose of ousting the tribal government.' They said the tribal government requested military intervention.

The U.S. District Court in South Dakota previously dismissed the suit, but it was reinstated Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The federal government asked that all the judges on the 8th Circuit rehear its appeal. The court, in a 5-4 ruling, agreed with the panel that the lower court's dismissal must be reversed.


The court said using the Army violated the Fourth Amendment's guarantee of freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

'e deal with a seizure affirmatively forbidden by a criminal law of long standing, itself expressive of an authentically American tradition of even longer standing,' said the court.

'The judgment of the district court is therefore reversed, and this cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.'

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