Monday, June 1, 2015

June 26, 1975...40 Years Later, Part 1

Dear Supporters:

On June 23, 1975 there was an incident on the Schwarting ranch, near Batesland, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota.

After a day of ranch work branding cattle, Jerry Schwarting, along with a young friend, Robert Dunsmore, gave a ride to Hobart Horse, a family friend, to the residence of Teddy Pourier. Also at this residence was Herman Thunderhawk and Jimmy Eagle. What started out as casual evening of unwinding and jesting turned into a dangerous and violent confrontation.

Jerry Schwarting was beaten by the others and young Dunsmore was stripped of his clothes. They were both threatened, even with castration, and had guns repeatedly fired over their heads. Schwarting's vehicle, jacket and new cowboy boots (that were two months old and cost $200) were stolen. Schwarting carries scars from knife wounds to this day.

As a result of this crime on a government reservation, a violation under the jurisdiction of the FBI, federal warrants were issued for the four individuals.

Special Agents Jack Coler, on temporary assignment from the Denver Division, and Ron Williams, both from the Rapid City Resident Agency that covers the surrounding counties and Pine Ridge, were assigned to search for the fugitives.

On June 25th, Teddy Pourier was arrested.

Later that day three young Indians; Michael Anderson, Wish Draper and Norman Charles walked along Highway 18 to the hamlet of Oglala to take a shower. While returning they were stopped and questioned by Agents' Coler and Williams who believed one of them may have been Jimmy Eagle. The three were taken to the Tribal Police in the town of Pine Ridge and it was determined that none of them was Eagle, however, at some point Coler and Williams learned that Jimmy Eagle had been seen in the Oglala area driving a red vehicle. A Tribal Police Officer later dropped off the three on Highway 18 a few miles south of Oglala near a small farm owned by the Jumping Bull family.

Unknown at that time to Agents' Coler and Williams, or the FBI, was that members of the American Indian Movement had set up a new camp in a ravine along White Clay Creek just south of the Jumping Bull farm. The FBI was painfully aware of AIM's presence on the Reservation, most noted through violent conflicts with the Tribal Government and the utter destruction of the village of Wounded Knee in 1973, along with the killing of civil rights worker Perry Ray Robinson and the suspected disappearance of others. Nor did they know that Leonard Peltier, then a fugitive from the attempted murder of a Milwaukee police officer, was also at the White Clay camp.

Coler and Williams decided to meet the next morning to continue searching the Oglala area for the fugitive, Jimmy Eagle.

It is absolutely undisputed how the shooting at Jumping Bull began sometime around noon on that fateful following day of June 26th.*

A number of FBI agents and employees heard Ron Williams on the radio describing that they had followed a vehicle from Highway 18; that the vehicle stopped, that it looked like they were going to be fired upon…and the shooting began. They could hear Ron trying to describe their location. They heard him say that if help didn't get there soon they would be dead. They heard Ron get shot.

During those fateful moments, the three in the vehicle, a white and red Chevrolet suburban, fugitive Leonard Peltier, Joe Stuntz, and the young Indian who knew exactly who Agents' Coler and Williams were, Norman Charles, began firing at the agent's who were now pinned down in an open field. Peltier was quickly joined by other AIM members from the camp, including Dino Butler and Bob Robideau, who, along with others, trapped the agents in what can only be described as a deadly crossfire.**

Local agents and law-enforcement responded; the first to arrive turning onto the same dirt road travelled earlier by Coler and Williams, were taken under rifle fire and forced back onto Highway 18. None were able to reach their besieged comrades.

In all likelihood, and under a hail of rifle fire, the shooting didn't last long as Jack Coler received a devastating wound to his right arm, was incapacitated, and probably going into shock. Ron, wounded three times and hoping that help would soon arrive, removed his shirt, crawled to his downed partner and used it as a tourniquet on his badly injured arm; and then waited.

Both Jack Coler and Ron Williams, severely wounded and unable to defend themselves, were then brutally executed.

Two young agents, one a former police officer, the other a veteran, remained loyal to their sworn obligation to uphold the law, honored their oath of Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity, and made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

Although forty years have passed, their dedication and memory will never diminish.***

"In the Spirit of Coler and Williams"
Ed Woods

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