Buffy Sainte Marie: The Hidden Story of Uranium on Indian Land
Posted by Mike E on September 14, 2009
Here are a series of articles, songs and interview on the hidden
history of how the push for uranium mining of the U.S. nuclear
industry led to crimes against the Native People of the Great Plains.
At the center of this story is the Cree singer Buffy Sainte Marie.
Thanks to Doug for suggesting it.
Buffy Sainte Marie: Uranium, an interview and a photograph
by Brenda Norrell
This was first published by the Atlantic Free Press.
It is amazing what can happen when one finds and publishes a
photograph from years ago. The photograph is of Buffy Sainte Marie
singing at Dine’ College. It was taken the day I interviewed Buffy in
1999. She told me about being censored out of the music business by
Lyndon Johnson because of her song “Universal Soldier” during the
Vietnam War. She spoke of the personal hardship it brought, but also
of what happened to others, including Anna Mae Aquash.
Buffy spoke of the occupation of Wounded Knee and the shoot-out with
FBI agents at the Jumping Bull residence at Pine Ridge June 26, 1975.
“That is where Leonard Peltier’s troubles began,” Buffy said. Buffy
said that few people recount the true history of what happened on that
day in history.
“Who recalls that on that day one-eighth of the reservation was
transferred in secret — on that day. It was the part containing
uranium. That is what never seems to be remembered,” Buffy said.
The interview remained censored for seven years by Indian Country
Today, where I served as a staff reporter for the majority of those
years. When Buffy’s interview was finally published by ICT, one
portion still remained censored.
It was the portion about Anna Mae Aquash’s death in relation to the
fact that Pine Ridge was targeted for uranium mining at that time.
Tonight, I received an e-mail message pointing out that on June 26,
1975 Oglala Sioux Chairman and GOON squad leader Dickie Wilson was in
Washington signing away one-eighth of Lakota land for uranium mining.
It was the same day that two young FBI agents were sent into the
Jumping Bull camp. It is the reason that Leonard Peltier has spent his
life in prison.
So, tonight I searched for more about the uranium mining that Pine
Ridge was targeted for. The e-mail came from Jack Cohen-Joppa at
“Thanks for posting your interview with Buffy Sainte Marie. I was
taken by this comment of hers, particularly: ‘Who recalls that on that
day one-eighth of the reservation was transferred in secret — on that
day. It was the part containing uranium. That is what never seems to
be remembered.’ It is my recollection of this fact (learned from
reading Akwesasne Notes and Rex Weyler’s writing about Peltier, I
think) that led us to include Leonard Peltier on the Nuclear
Resister’s ‘Inside & Out’ list for nearly the entire time we’ve been
publishing (since issue #3, March 1981.) We wrote ‘… On that same day,
June 26, 1975, Pine Ridge Tribal Chairman Dickie Wilson was in
Washington DC, illegally signing away one-eighth of the reservation’s
lands to the Department of Interior. There is uranium on this land…’”
On the web, the John Graham website states:
” .. the US had an eye on developing uranium mining on a portion of
the sacred Black Hills, an area known as Sheep Mountain. This area has
proven to be one of the richest in uranium deposits in the US. The FBI
implemented their counterintellegence operation in Pine Ridge, in
order to weaken and destroy the urban Indian movement, and to
subjugate the traditional Lakotas for once and for all.”
Posted on Russell Means’ Lakotah Republic website:
“In 1975, with his control of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South
Dakota secured by force, Tribal President Wilson set about ceding
uranium-rich areas of the sacred Black Hills to the federal
government. AIM assisted in protecting Pine Ridge’s traditional
families from the constant onslaught of violence, which culminated in
the AIM occupation and government siege of Wounded Knee in the Spring
of 1973. From 1973 to 1976, the people of Pine Ridge lived under the
‘Reign of Terror’more than 76 Natives, mainly traditional Lakotah and
AIM members, were murdered, primarily by Wilson’s goons, a term coined
by the elderly women who protested against them. Later, in a perverse
play on words, the goons called themselves, ‘Guardians of the Oglala
Then, I remembered being at Sheep Mountain. We climbed and watched for
helicopters in the night, as Lakotas protected the remains of the
Ghost Dancers at the Stronghold in 2002. In the dark night, the sky
filled with lightning and thunder. All Creation was there at that
“My girlfriend Annie Mae talked about uranium
Her head was filled with bullets and her body dumped
The FBI cut off her hands and told us she’d died of Exposure…
“Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”
Finally, I do not know who killed Anna Mae Aquash. But I do know that
two separate groups of witnesses, all local Lakotas on Pine Ridge,
said they were there when it happened at Oglala. Many never came
forward out of fear. But they do identify the same person as the
killer. That person is not any of the men, including Arlo Looking
Cloud now in prison for this crime, who have been charged.
Lakota lands and Indian country are once again targeted for uranium
mining. Buffy has just released a new CD, “Running for the Drum.”