Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION Paul Bissonette, 55, remembers waiting for his mother to pick him up to give him a ride. She never came to get him.
Instead his father came and he found out his mother was murdered by a sniper's bullet.
Wounded Knee Cemetery of Fallen Warriors
“I found out first from my brother, who said, 'they shot Mom.'
I thought she was still alive, but then my father told me,
'No, they killed Mom!'”
Bissonette was 18 when his mother was murdered on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on March 26, 1975.
His mother, Jeannette Bissonette, had left a wake at a church north of Pine Ridge for an AIM member who had died. The blue car she was driving broke down. The roads, unpaved at the time, were in poor condition due the heavy rains that had happened the week she was killed. While she was pulled over to the side of the road attending to her car, a car came up from behind and shots were fired that killed her.
Jeannette Bissonette was a supporter of the American Indian Movement. She was "inside" Wounded Knee during the 71 day occupation in 1973.
Through the years, there has been speculation that Bissonette was not even the person that the killer(s) were after that fateful day.
Jeannette Bissonette was killed during a time after the 71 day Wounded Knee known as the "Reign of Terror." During that brutal time, some 60 American Indians were murdered.
Between March 1, 1973, and March 1, 1976, the murder rate on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota was 170 per 100,000. In comparison, the national average, 9.7 per 100,000.
The "they" who killed Jeannette Bissonette have never been apprehended; therefore the "they" have never prosecuted for her murder.
“There has never been a thorough investigation of my mother's murder,”
Paul Bissonette told the Native News Network on Tuesday, the night before US Attorney Brendan V. Johnson of the South Dakota district meets with the families of 39 murder victims.
US Attorney will meet Wednesday in Kyle, South Dakota to speak to the families. Johnson told the Native News Network two weeks ago that the families deserve answers that may they may have never received from federal authorities.
“I want to do everything I can to get information into the hands of the families members who may have never been provided with information.”
“One thing I want to be clear about is I don't want to get people's expectations up when perhaps nothing will come of this. The families of the victims deserve answers. We will take a fair look at these cases,”
Johnson will explain the process of reopening the 39 cases he has agreed to have reinvestigated.
He is doing so in response to two letters that were sent to him from Oglala Sioux Tribe's Vice President Tom Poor Bear and James Toby Big Boy, chairman of the Law & Order Committee of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council. The letters urged him to reopen or reinvestigate the murders.
In the Jeanette Bissonette case, Paul Bissonette recalls how his father found a diaper with a license number written with her lipstick in her glove compartment. He believes it was the number of the car carrying the sniper. He theorizes his mother was able to see the number and write it down before the car sped away. His father, who died in January 1999, turned it over to David Price, who was a special agent for the FBI during the Reign of Terror time period.
Nothing ever resulted from his father turning over the evidence.
The following is what is posted online in the official FBI Records on his mother:
AIM supporter killed by sniper at Pine Ridge. Unsuccessful attempt to link AIM members to murder. No other investigation.
File # 198-504
Shot and killed about eight miles north of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, when her car broke down on her way home from the wake of a recent murder victim on the reservation. Shot with a .35 caliber Remington. No positive information was developed to identify the individual responsible. Case closed administratively.
Paul Bissonette, who was unaware of the Wednesday meeting when contacted by the Native News Network, will attempt to make the meeting.
“I will tell the US Attorney to reopen all the murder cases and a thorough investigation,”
he told the Native News Network last evening.
posted June 13, 2012 2:50 am edt