FBI Confirms Black Civil Rights Activist was Murdered by AIM at Wounded Knee

"He constantly annoyed us and got on our nerves in the bunker."


Bury Perry Ray Robinson Jr at Wounded Knee.

The FBI says a black civil rights activist was killed during the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, and it suspects militant members of the American Indian Movement are responsible, according to recently released documents.

Desiree Marks, who's held out hope for 40 years that she'd see her father again, said she was crushed by the FBI's confirmation of his death.

Buswell-Robinson, of Detroit, said her husband's nonviolent approach conflicted with the violent situation at Wounded Knee and that it's possible AIM members suspected he was a federal informant. The personable, 6-foot-2 black man with a deep baritone voice would have stood out on a Midwest American Indian reservation, she said.

This isn't surprising since there were multiple accounts saying the same thing.

Robinson was agitated that AIM was so violently protesting the way they were, that the whole ordeal could have been avoided if they had only done it in a peaceful way. Ray Robinson had been a follower of Martin Luther King and had marched with King. He related to my uncle that he had told the AIM leaders that what they were doing was wrong, that the violence had to end because too many people were losing their lives.

It was during this talk that my uncle Billy said four men had come into the bunker to get Ray telling him that Dennis Banks wanted to talk to him. The men were Leonard Crow Dog, carter Camp and Lyn or Lenny Foster. A few minutes after they left with Ray, he heard a gunshot from outside the bunker.

Mi' Taku'Ye-Oyasin: Letters from Wounded Knee

There were various explanations for why Robinson had been killed, but most of them agree that he didn't obey the AIM and was critical of its leaders.

Even the way Robinson filled out his children's birth certificates showed his disdain of separating people by race. Instead of filling in the blank next to "Negro" or "colored," he crossed it out and wrote in "human" each time.

"His whole thing was not black civil rights. It was human civil rights. My race is human," said Desiree Mark.

In a letter dated Dec. 29, 1974, Cheryl Robinson wrote that she had been told Ray Robinson backpacked into Wounded Knee at night and was later shot for not following an order to immediately report to one of AIM's co-founders.

"He was sitting on somebody's porch eating oatmeal. An Indian dude came up, ordered him to go see Dennis Banks. Ray said, 'In a minute - I'm eating my oatmeal - I'll go when I've finished.' The Indian dude got affronted by Ray's lack of servility. The Indian shot Ray dead," Cheryl Robinson wrote.

There are other variations on the same story.

Ray Robinson was at Wounded Knee no more than a week but quickly got a reputation as unwilling to take part in the fight, said Richard Two Elk of Denver. On the day he was shot, Robinson had again refused to pick up a gun, Two Elk said.

"He constantly annoyed us and got on our nerves in the bunker," Two Elk said.

"The guy was playing to a different tune and it wasn't like he thought. It wasn't like civil rights. Indian country is Indian country. It's no man's land," Two Elk said.

"One of the things that was quite apparent was the conflict and the clash of the two concepts of social rights-civil rights and Indian rights. Indian rights are in a whole different context. They (blacks) were coming from rights within the system and Indian rights was about sovereignty and independent nations."

The American Indian Movement has a long history of violence. That history hasn't come to an end. Some cases are still being investigated.