American Scandal

New episodes come out every Tuesday for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers.

Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.

Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.

The Standoff at Wounded Knee  - The Trail of Broken Treaties | 1

The Standoff at Wounded Knee - The Trail of Broken Treaties | 1

Tue, 16 Jul 2019 07:05

In early 1973, the militant civil rights group the American Indian Movement (AIM) takes control of the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The action launches a 71-day standoff between Indians and federal forces. But before they make their stand at Wounded Knee, AIM leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means are already on a collision course with the U.S. government — starting when they lead more than a thousand Indians from across the country to the steps of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington DC.

Support us by supporting our sponsors!

See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

Listen to Episode

Copyright © © 2018 Wondery, Inc.

Read Episode Transcript

In the dark of night on February 27th 1973, a caravan 54 cars long streams over the empty roads of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Ogalala Lakota in the vast Badlands of South Dakota. In the lead car is Dennis Banks, 35 years old, an old jib away from Minnesota. He's the founder of the militant civil rights group the American Indian Movement better known as AIM. Banks has a signature look that's made him a figure of fascination for the national media. Long hair, decorative headband, defiant eyes. Sure, he knows he reminds the press of some cartoon Indian, but they can think that all they want. This is a revolution. It's been in the headlines for months now. AIM has taken over a federal building in Washington, D.C. set fire to a courthouse in Custer, South Dakota. They're the peak victories of Banks half decade as AIM's leader. But AIM's previous actions are small compared to where he's leading his people tonight. Banks looks over at the old man sitting next to him. Frank Foolskrow is a traditional Ogalala chief who personally asks for his help. The Ogalala are fighting a corrupt tribal government here on Pine Ridge, a daily regime of violence, intimidation, and fraud that the federal government has completely ignored. Banks is happy to help, but he sees the fight ahead as something much larger than just local political struggle. To come to had his day, chief Foolskrow and Zeranamo, sitting bull, crazy horse, they all had their day against the government. Today, is our day. The old chief says nothing. He speaks only the Lakota language, which Banks doesn't understand. Alright, here we are. Let's gather the people where the dead are buried. Banks watches as some 200 people stream out from the caravan. Women, children, elders, and many men of fighting age with their hunting rivals. He sees the faces of Iroquois, in Kayao and Dinah, all joining with the Ogalala Lakota. A grin spreads across his face as he sees his vision of a national Indian movement come to life. They all gather at a long ditch near the bank of Wounded Knee Creek. One of the Lakota men speaks, addressing the United cultures in English. His name is Leonard Krodog, a man who initiated Banks into Lakota spiritually. Banks considers him to be aimed spiritual leader. Krodog speaks loudly to the crowd. In 1890, 300 of our people were slaughtered here at Wounded Knee, unarmed, fleeing for their lives. They're buried in this ditch. The survivors traveled the road we just took, but in the opposite direction, they surrendered. Here, we come going the other way. We are those Indian people. We're them, and we're back. There's a somber air as Banks then moves forward to speak. He sees his people's anger, and that means they're ready. The warriors of Aim stand with the Ogalala Lakota. As I speak to you, our men are taking the village Wounded Knee. They're taking the guns from the trading post, taking hostages at the church. We will stay here until the government gives you justice. We are prepared to die here, if necessary. The 200 walk in 10 silence as Banks leads them to the short distance into the village of Wounded Knee. By daylight, they'll be surrounded by hundreds of federal forces, FBI, US marshals, police officer from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the full weight of the US government. 80 years after the 7th cavalry massacred 300 Lakota men, women and children, Wounded Knee will see a new battle. American scandal is sponsored by the new Hulu original, Reasonable Doubt. In the high stakes world of criminal law, nobody does it like Jax. From executive producers Carrie Washington and Larry Wilmore, Reasonable Doubt is a brand new, sexy Hulu original that centers on Jax Stewart played by Emeyatsi Coronalty. Jax is a high powered criminal defense attorney who bucks the system every chance she gets. She's also juggling a rocky marriage, a high profile murder case, and the sudden return of an old flame played by Michael Ealy. So yes, it will be messy and you will not want to miss it. Reasonable Doubt premieres September 27th, streaming only on Hulu. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, times, and conspiracy theories together and we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. I'm Wondry. I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Scandal. In 1973, the American Indian movement joined with the local Ogalala Lakota to seize the village of Wounded Knee, taking white residents of the reservation town hostage. It began a 71 day standoff between native peoples and the federal government, staged on the site of the last massacre of the Indian Wars. What transpired was a bizarre mix of stage symbolism and out of control reality, vividly recalling the bloodshed of American history while also risking hundreds of present day lives. Over the course of the occupation, the lines separating the US military and domestic law enforcement were increasingly and illegally blurred. The government stockpiled hundreds of thousands of rounds of military ammunition for use against the poorly armed occupiers, officials used federal funds to outfit a vigilante army that was a threat to everyone involved, and all of it unfolded against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the collapse of the Nixon presidency. People across the country each saw the occupation differently. Some native peoples saw Ames violent actions as an embarrassment. In others, Ames defiance of federal forces inspired pride and a renewed sense of possibility. For many white Americans, the occupation was the first real reminder that Indians still existed outside of history books and John Wayne Westerns. They watched as Native Americans became a late addition to the civil rights era and saw firsthand just how far the federal government would go to stop them. In this four part series, we'll explore why a group of Indian activists in a remote corner of the country provoked the full force of the US government. This is episode one, The Trail of Broken Treaties. As Ames secures its position at Wounded Knee, the head of the FBI in the region, special agent in charge Joseph Trimbach is in a hotel room across the state line in Nebraska, ready to crawl into bed after a very long day. Actually, it's been a long month. Trim Bach is a 16 year veteran of the FBI, but he's just a few weeks into a major new promotion, special agent in charge. He's still getting used to the sound of it. In his new role, Trim Bach is head of the entire three state region of Minnesota and the Dakotas. It's the second largest FBI field office in the country, covering 240,000 square miles of territory. That includes 14 Indian reservations, where the FBI has jurisdiction over all serious crimes. It is a lot of responsibility and Trimbach doesn't really want it. Not here anyway. He was hoping the promotion would take him to Albany, New York, but here he is. Trimbach walks to the sink and splashes water over his face. This new role has been a headache from the start. Washington is terrified of this group of radicals called the American Indian movement. The Department of Justice has had his men monitoring aim closely. They've had a feeling that something was going to happen, possibly on the Pine Ridge Reservation, but there are a hard group to predict. And Trimbach worries that he's just not up to the task. His predecessor had been in this job for 10 years. He knew every agent, their strengths and weaknesses, knew every piece of territory. Trimbach's coming into this mess completely cold. And meanwhile, his wife and kids are hundreds of miles away at the new house in Minneapolis. He won't see them again for weeks. He gets the phone call just as he's turning down the hotel comforter. It's from a news reporter, not even one of his own agents. The reporter tells him aim has taken hostages at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Trimbach hangs up. This is the big one Washington had been dreading. He worries that he's already failed to prevent a catastrophe. A few hours later, agent Trimbach pulls up to the roadblock. He's had his men erect on the south end of the village on Wounded Knee Road. He's many miles from his hotel bed with no hope of a night's sleep. Roadblock isn't much, just two FBI sedans parked in a V shape. Their headlights illuminating the cold winter night, but it's a start. The agent's on the scene bring Trimbach up to speed. Trimbach has taken an unknown number of hostages in the village. They've already fired on Bureau of Indian Affairs Police who tried to get too close. They even set fire to a bridge across Wounded Knee Creek and then shot at the firefighters who tried to put it out. Then a car with government plates pulls up to the roadblock, but on the wrong side, the side the criminals are on. Trimbach can hardly believe it. It's John Taronis, a field representative for the Department of Justice Community Relations Service. These are the officials who are supposed to talk the radicals down. But in Trimbach's opinion, they seem awfully sympathetic to the Indian's worldview. Taronis was an activist for Mexican American farm workers before he came to the Justice Department. And Trimbach doesn't really trust him. Mr. Taronis, what are you doing here? Agent Trimbach? American Indian movement asked for my presence. I've been at their meetings for weeks. You know that. Mr. Taronis to work with these people is one thing. But if I find you participated in illegal acts, I'll have to arrest you. Christ, you think you might have given us some warning that they're going to take over an entire village? Now, we've got innocent people in danger there. I didn't know he was going to come to this. I tried to leave. But they asked me to stay so I could take down their list of demands. Taronis unfolds two pieces of paper in Hanson's Trimbach. Trimbach looks them over. So they want a bunch of senators in Washington to look into broken treaties. Broken treaties, misconduct at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, all big picture stuff. But there's a demand that's close to home. They want corruption investigations opened against President Dick Wilson on Pine Ridge. Honestly, I think that's the real heart of this. They want to throw them out of office. Trimbach's size. He knew Dick Wilson would be trouble. The fiery, controversial head of the Pine Ridge tribal government can't seem to go a day without provoking his enemies. All right. How many of them are there? Maybe 200, but more than 100 armed men. Lots of unarmed women and children and elders too. That seems to be part of their strategy. Go ahead, read the other side. Trimbach flips over the list of demands and reads out loud. The only two options open to the United States of America are one, they wipe out the old people, women and children and men by shooting and attacking us. Two, they negotiate our demands. Trimbach looks to Taronis. It's like they want us to shoot them. I'm sure that's why they picked the village. I know it won't look good for there to be another wounded knee master. They asked me to tell whoever's in charge one or the thing. I guess that's you. Yep, that's me. Taronis shuffles some notes. They said, we are operating under the provisions of the 1968 Sioux Treaty. This is an act of war initiated by the United States. We are only demanding our country. All right, Mr. Taronis, please leave the area. We'll debrief about this later. Good night, ancient Trimbach. Trimbach looks at his men at the roadblock. They're shivering in Sioux jackets and neckties, completely unprepared. They hadn't had the time to grab food or water. They only have their sidearms for protection against hundreds of occupiers who've already proven more than willing to use their rifles. The US marshals are just up the road with heavier weaponry, but the checkpoint could be wiped out by the time Washington realizes the situation is desperate enough to send them into action. So what's next? Will the occupiers kill the hostages, burn down the village, shoot their way out and take over yet another town? Trimbach lets out an exasperated sigh. The FBI is supposed to investigate crimes, not battle paramilitary groups. So he leaves his men at the checkpoint to head for a phone. He needs to get word to Washington to ask for reinforcements. That's a first step. But another thing on Trimbach's mind is, what is he going to do about Dick Wilson? Dick Wilson is only a few miles away, standing atop the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in the town of Pine Ridge, the reservation capital. He stares out from the BIA building's rooftop into the darkness toward wounded knee. Wilson has a pudgy face and a military crew cut and the lighter skin tone of a mixed race Lakota. He's a plumber by training and more plumber than politician in his working man's clothes and disdain for charisma. But he's the most powerful man on Pine Ridge and he knows it. It's getting late, but Wilson is wide awake and he's furious. Wounded knee. Of course, those righteous idiots at aim would take over wounded knee, pretend to be crazy horrors back from the dead. It's disgusting, playing make believe on top of a mass grave. Wilson's been expecting aim to team up with his political enemies on the reservation. After all, these are the same people who just a few weeks ago tried to have him thrown out of office, even made him go through an impeachment trial. They accused him of nepotism, but since when is it a crime for a president to give out government jobs? They accused him of intimidation. But, well, they had it coming, didn't they? He knew they'd ask aim for help once their investigations and petitions and civil rights commissions failed to get rid of him. But he actually thought they come here to the town of Pine Ridge. And he and the feds had everything prepared. His enemies called this building Fort Wilson. He's got top officials from the FBI working out of here, 40 additional BIA police officers from other reservations, and team of highly trained special operations forces, the paramilitary strike team of the US marshals. Inside the building are radios, telephones, and enough ammunition to win a small war. And the crown jewel is right here on the roof, a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on the building, specially installed by the US marshals. He runs a hand over it. The thing can take out a target from 2700 yards away, but unfortunately, it can't make the few extra miles to wounded me. So Dick Wilson is going to have to go to them. He'll make sure that no aim member ever sets foot on his reservation again, not wounded me and certainly not here in Pine Ridge Village. Because you know who else has firepower. The Goons. Wilson's vigilante army generously aided by $60,000 in federal funds. The name was originally an insult, but to Wilson, it stands for Guardians of the Ogallala Nation, and they're not going to let these upstart to win. Wilson heads downstairs, weaving among the rows of shotguns and US marshals filing reports. He calls poker Joe Noble, a trusted member of the Goons squad. Tells him to polish his guns up. It's time. If the feds don't act soon, the Goons will. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion? Or you woke up in the morgue? Or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening. Ask our listeners this very question. While we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives, even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. 20 years before this moment at Wondry Dnie, a 16 year old Dennis Banks lugs a five gallon bucket of thick sap fresh from a maple tree back to his grandfather's camp. It's late March 1954 and the temperature on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota is just above freezing. But Dennis feels warmth inside his muscles as he works. He's doing his best to participate in a ritual that's only vaguely familiar to him. More a reminder of what he's lost than a steadying marker of the passing seasons. He's among family in the maple grove where his clan has held its sugar camp for generations, but he feels like an outsider. As he enters the clearing where the women boil the sap and giant caulverines, he sees government agents standing among them. They're familiar sight with their badges and clipboards and green uniforms, asking his grandfather how many trees he's tapping, how many gallons of syrup those trees will produce, what the tax bill might be for tapping their trees. Anger burns and Dennis Banks chest. When he was a child at this sugar camp, Dennis was wholly a part of this family, standing around the boiling pots, begging for a drop of syrup on a piece of birch bark he could cool in the snow and pop in his mouth. He knew who he was then. But at the age of five, another government agent with a badge and a clipboard came and took him. Loaded him onto a bus as the grandparent who had raised him watch helplessly in tears. They took him to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Boarding School where they separated him from his older siblings, shaved off his long hair, and put him in a classroom with portraits of white presidents and generals. They taught him history from books with illustrations of savage Indian scalping little blonde girls. Beat him for speaking his Anishinaabe language. Beat him again the first time he tried to run away toward home and each of the eight times he tried again. He grew older and stronger and faster each time but still it was not fast enough. Until his final escape. That was just a few months ago. And now here he is back at the maple grove, trying to reconnect with the family he hasn't seen in more than a decade. When he was taken from the reservation, his name was Naua Komig. Naua Komig had a home here. Dennis Banks does not. Dennis waits for the agents with their clipboards to move on to a harass the next camp, then brings his bucket of sap to the fire. His grandfather looks at him barely. God damn BIA. New regulations for every season. Taxes on trees, hunting, and fishing license like some god damn white tourist. And what are the feds forget to take the state comes in for the leftovers. What should I do next grandpa? I don't know, leave the sap here. This is god damn reservation. There's nothing left of it. No way to eat, no way to live. We make our maple sugar and wash it down with powdered milk from the government warehouse. Now they want their cut of the sugar too. Next year we won't even be able to sell our own wild rice. They've invented genetically modified wild rice now. How does that even work here? Banks grandfather takes a pinch of tobacco from a pouch and hands it to Dennis. Put this on the fire. Dennis does as he's told, breathes the sweet tobacco smoke rising up amid the smell of burning wood. What was that for? His grandfather looks at him almost mournfully. He doesn't speak at first, just put a hand on his back. It honors the first maple syrup of the year. The two stand side by side for a moment silently watching the flames. It's been good to have your home Dennis. But if this isn't the life you want I won't blame you. In January 1968 Dennis Banks is 30 years old and staring through the few feet of darkness between his bed and the slot in the door held in solitary confinement inside Stillwater State Prison in Minnesota. When the slot opens a badge appears, then a tray of breakfast. There's no sunrise in solitary, so only the appearance of breakfast signals morning. He came to Stillwater on a burglary conviction nearly two years ago when he spent nine months at that time in solitary. He refuses to be a typical prisoner. Refuses to stamp out licensed plates and weave twine for the state of Minnesota. He refuses to do what he's told, so they stuck him in this dark room. And one thing's for sure, it's given him time to think. He thinks about his time in the Air Force where he got a paycheck and three meals a day in exchange for standing by as the US military took land from Japanese farmers. He thinks about being sent back to America and handcuffs after he went AWOL to be with Michiko, the woman in Japan with whom he had a daughter. He knows he'll never see them again. He thinks about becoming a nameless drunk in Minneapolis even as he had four new children to feed with his minimum wage job. He thinks about hard beatings from cops with night sticks, being rounded up with other Indians and thrown into pattyways. About a night to dry out, and then a few days of free labor for the state of Minnesota cleaning up convention centers or working farmland, a ritual he participated in every weekend. But now, today, finished with his breakfast, banks begins his day's reading. Tauy passes the time here in solitary. He's been reading about Indian history, but also about the civil rights movement, especially the Black Panthers, and the fear they struck in white America, and badge and clipboard men in Oakland, and throughout the country. And that's kind of thinking too. How is it that nearly one third of all his fellow inmates at Stillwater are Indian? When they're only 1% of Minnesota's population, why did his white partner in the burglary get probation? He got a 5 year sentence. How did the civil rights movement pass Indians by? Banks decides that when he gets out, he's going to start his own movement, not just an isolated bunch of Indians, a unification of tribes. They're thrown together in prisons. They can be thrown together for a common cause too. A few months later, on July 28, 1968, a newly released Dennis Banks sits in the basement of a rundown church in Minneapolis, and the urban slums were Indians of all kinds, find themselves crowded together after the federal government's Indian relocation program started in the 50s. He looks at the stack of red plastic cups he set out on a folding table next to a picture of cool age and four dozen donuts. The first meeting of his new Indian organization has set for 8 p.m. but he wonders how many would really show up. He and one of his friends from his boarding school days have called up relatives, posted flyers around town. My way of an agenda, Banks has written a few potential topics on a piece of paper. Prison, courts, police, treaties, government, pretty vague, ebbs, but pretty vital. And by the time things kick off at 8, the room is packed with more than 200 Indians. Banks gets up, standing at the front of the room to speak. Want to thank you all for being here. As you know, people are fighting battles in the streets of Chicago right now. They're fighting to stop the Vietnam War, they're fighting in the streets of Alabama to change the situation for blacks. The students for a democratic society are trying to change the whole structure of the universities. But I have a question, what the hell are we going to do? Are we going to sit here in Minnesota and not do a goddamn thing? Are we going to go on for another 200 years or even another five? Go on the way we are without doing something, anything for our Indian people? It occurs to me that our top priority is to do something about the police brutality that is going on every day. Indians are 1% of Minnesota's population, but we're one third of prison inmates. So I propose that we go down to Franklin Avenue to all those Indian bars where the cops inflict abuse on us and our people every night and do something about it. A large man seated near the front of the room speaks up. And when are you proposed to go down there? I think we could go tomorrow morning. Elna, we start right now. I'm glad to see your enthusiasm. Yeah. You know in Oakland, the black panthers have a patrol to protect citizens from police. They follow the cops around and confront them when necessary. The cops are terrified of them. We can do that here, an Indian patrol. Yeah, let's go now. All right, we'll go now. Thanks wasn't expecting this, but he's thrilled by it. It's like putting flame to tender a church basement meeting becoming a movement before his very eyes. Banks watches as 200 people flood out of the basement and into the streets ready to take on the cops on Franklin Avenue. In late October 1972 on the outskirts of Washington, DC, Russell means sits in the passenger seat of a green van. His handsome face framed on either side by long braids. The van has a hand painted sign on the front that reads, trail of broken treaties United States and shows lines snaking through 33 Indian reservations before converging on Washington. That's where Russell means is headed at the front of a caravan of a thousand Indians in a line of cars stretching four miles long. Means is 32 and Ogilala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation and one of the young leaders of the American Indian movement. He knows that aim has grown beyond all expectations. In just a few short years, they've gone from a Ragtag group confronting local police in Minneapolis to a national organization with 79 chapters and 5,000 members tackling issues from legal aid to housing to education reform in the US and Canada. Still means isn't yet satisfied. Their leader Dennis Banks wants to unite all the tribes. Means is fine with that notion, but he wants more than lofty talk. He wants a fight and then another fight and another. He worries that aim is all rhetoric and wonders when the real action is going to happen. Even the trail of broken treaties is largely a peaceful affair. Means is willing to keep it that way because it's not just aims show. Many other groups are participating. And while the tactics are peaceful, the goals are radical. The group is traveling to Washington to demand that the government at last recognize full sovereignty for each tribe and restore more than 372 broken treaties. One of those broken treaties stole the black hills from the Lakota. When tribes have full sovereignty, they'll finally get oppressive policies from the state and federal governments off their backs and be able to meet them at the negotiating table as equals, just like it was always supposed to be. But he knows that sounds pretty radical to white people now. Which is why even though he's willing to do this, means worries that he and the rest of the caravan are suckers. Coming in with force but acting like beggars, negotiating with liars and frauds. He wonders what's the point. He shakes his head, laughing to himself, thinking about when he filled up the van at the gas station a few miles back. The attendant knew he wasn't going to pay, but didn't say anything. He was terrified and to rub in the point, means leaned in and told him, we're the landlords of this country and we're here to collect our overdue rent. Dennis Banks hates it when AIM people do stuff like that. He wants them to be disciplined and sober, but means plans to do a lot more talking like that. And he plans to do a lot more than talk. It's November 2nd, 1972, and BIA Commissioner Lewis Bruce can hardly believe what's happening in the lobby of the headquarters of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but no frills hunk of granite facing Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC. Bruce is in his mid 60s and to an outsider he might look like a stereotypical bureaucrat with his uniformed viglasses and a tightly cinched necktie. But he's an anomaly in this office, only the second Indian to head the BIA in nearly a century. His father is a Mohawk from upstate New York, where Bruce grew up on the reservation. His mother is in Ogolala Lakota, just like Russell Means and the people of Pine Ridge currently occupying his lobby, along with nearly a thousand Indians from tribes all over the country. The entirety of the trail of broken treaties is suddenly in his building with no plans to leave. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is taking the brunt of these protesters frustration with the federal government, and while this is his agency, he can't really blame them. He'd almost laugh if he wasn't so demoralized. He knew it was a monumental task to reform the BIA. How could he turn a colonial agency into one that can solve the problems of colonialism? That's the task he set himself. For more than a century, the BIA specialized in brainwashing children at boring schools, protecting the interests of white settlers on Indian lands, and finding loopholes and treaties, or just outright ignoring them. But Bruce truly believed he could change that. He believed he could turn the BIA from the greatest villain in Indian country into a champion for all tribes. He believed that the agency he looked at with hatred in his youth could become something different, or at least he believed that until a trail of broken treaties showed up on his doorstep. Bruce stands up from his desk and walks down the stairs to the building's lobby. It started last night with a few dozen Indians entering the lobby because they had nowhere else to go. Aim came to Washington expecting to be taken seriously, but when they couldn't find housing, no politicians or officials would meet with them, they came here. Bruce is sympathetic to their agenda, if annoyed with their lack of planning, and he knows why they came to him. A few days ago, Bruce's boss in the Interior Department, Harrison Lesch, sent a memo forbidding any government agency from helping the activists, including the BIA. But before long, the few dozen Indians in the lobby became a few hundred, and now nearly a thousand are inside the building, filling every inch. Once down stairs, Bruce surveys the scene. Indians exhausted from the trail, napping on the sofas in the lobby, Indians watching documentaries on tribal history in the auditorium, Indians eating in the cafeteria. In any other context, he'd almost find it beautiful. A symbol of the BIA as a true place for all native peoples, his vision of progress come to life, except that Harrison Lesch has just personally called and ordered Bruce to kick them all out. But Bruce is not going to do it. He didn't choose this moment, but he knows it will define his legacy. He knows he'll be fired, but he can't imagine being the commissioner of the BIA and throwing his fellow Indians out on the street. Maybe he was stupid to think taking a job with the BIA would end, any other way. But it's less than a week before Election Day, the man who appointed Bruce to head the BIA, the incumbent Richard Nixon, is fighting for re election against Senator George McGovern. He knows the government wants to end this mess quickly and keep the trail of broken treaties from becoming some wild car election issue. But nonetheless, Bruce will tell the people that they can stay as long as they like. 4 Days Later, it's 5.55 pm on Monday, November 6, the day before the election, and five minutes before the feds promised to send in an army of cops from the DC riot squad, federal protection service, and park service police to clear the thousand Indian occupiers from the BIA. 8. Russell Means looks at his watch as it ticks over to 5.56. He's standing in the stairwell just below the attic of the BIA. Above him, the floor is piled with BIA documents soaked in gasoline. A man stands over them with a match in his hand, ready to strike when means gives the order. Means has no plans to surrender the building to the feds. He's ready to burn it down, burn it to a pile of rubble and ash that tourists can ponder from the top of the Washington Monument. Means takes shallow breaths and hurts to inhale the stinging gasoline. He knew it was going to come to this. The feds been acting in bad faith from the beginning. They pretended they wanted to negotiate, even promised the trail of broken treaties housing and a meeting with the White House. But as Dennis Banks stood on the steps of the BIA announcing the successful end of the standoff to the press, the police charged past him into the building. Aim and the rest of the people in the lobby had them outnumbered and were able to fight them back, barricading the door with filing cabinets and chairs. But now, they don't have a lot more time. Means hung a sign facing the cops out on the street. When you want to build a new, you have to destroy the old. It means it's about to show them he's a man of his work. Below him means here's the sounds of Indians breaking legs off chairs to use his clubs against the police. At 5.58 with just two minutes to go, Means sees Dennis Banks fighting his way up the stairs out of breath. The fellow aim leaders, not the man Russell Means wants to see. Banks was against destroying the building. Said it would be bad publicity. Russ, call it off. We've got a deal. What? When? Just now. We got a call from the White House. They're backing off the six o clock deadline. They'll respond to our proposals on treaties and sovereignty. And they'll give us all immunity. We can just walk right out of here. Respond to our proposals. That's not worth anything. They'll forget about us as soon as we leave the building. You're backing down. Russ, we've already won. A thousand Indians took over the BIA. The BIA. We've held it for five days. We put a goddamn teepee on the lawn out front. Told the world that the BIA was now the native American embassy. The whole country watched us face off against the cops and I guarantee you most of them wanted us to win. So why stop there? What are we getting if we just walk out of here? We're free if we walk out of here. We're dead or in jail if you burn this place down. The Hunters all down, guaranteed. Do not do it. Just don't do it. We promise the feds. Victory or death. This is a victory. If we walk out of here, we keep fighting. There's plenty more fights to come. Russell Means takes a long deep breath. Okay. On Wednesday afternoon, November 8, in the lobby of the rigs bank in the upscale DuPont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC, Dennis Banks watches his federal officials count out $66,500 in small bills. It's the final flourish of his negotiations with the White House. Gas money, to get the members of the trail of broken trees back home. Banks is already hearing the voices of doubters saying Russell means his right that a response to their proposals doesn't mean anything. It's a treaty the government doesn't even have to bother to break. And when word gets out about the omelopes of cash, they'll say he sold out their ideals. But the money is a virtual necessity for many members of the trail to pay for the return journey. Banks knows the broader public can't possibly understand what they just accomplished. A unification of tribes, standing firm against the government. They'll be portrayed in the press's thugs and common vandals. Banks knows that. But the public can't possibly understand the rage that boiled in the members of the trail as they sat in those finely appointed offices. He tried to stop people from tearing it apart. But who wouldn't want to smash up a bureaucrat's office as revenge for everything the agency has done? Sitting there, looking at native artifacts hung in a wall like trophies of conquest, while a mass of people with badges and guns and clubs waited outside to slaughter them. But they didn't tear the place apart. That didn't happen. So this was a victory. Not only did they not get arrested, they're getting paid to leave town. And as the feds cannot that lasted the cash for him in this bank lobby, what they also don't know is that Banks has two u halls backed up to the BIA building. His people are loading the trucks with thousands of pages of documents, proof of the BIA's century and a half of theft. Banks tries to keep a smile from spreading over his face. The hammer's going to come down hard when the feds find those documents missing. But by then, this battle will be a distant memory. Where it is Nixon will fire Commissioner Lewis Bruce any day now. That's a minor casually. Bruce is a good man, but there's no fixing the BIA. Once this money is passed out to members of the trail, AIM is heading to South Dakota, to Custer, to Rapid City. The border town's outside Pine Ridge might as well be a partied South Africa in their treatment of Indians. AIM is burning hotter than a gasoline fire and the next fight can't come quick enough. Next on American scandal, AIM comes out in force after a Lakota is murdered by a white man in the town of Custer, South Dakota. When traditional Lakota invite AIM to the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation, the FBI trains its agents for war. From wondering, this is American scandal. Just a quick note about our reenactments. We can't always know exactly what was said, but everything in our show is based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited, and executive produced by me Lindsey Graham for Airship, sound designed by Derek Barons. This episode is written by Michael Canyon Meyer, edited by Casey Minder. Executive producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and her nonlopus for wondering.