Frank Fools Crow (circa 1890-1989) was a Lakota Sioux spiritual leader, Yuwipi medicine man, and the nephew of Black Elk. He was instrumental in negotiating the end of the insurrection at Wounded Knee in 1973 and the subject of a biography by Thomas Mails.
Born near Wounded Knee in South Dakota, he quit school in the third grade so he could work in order to help to support his family. As a young man he traveled around the United States with the Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show. He spent much of his life serving his people as a medicine man, healer, and teacher.
His first wife, Fannie Afraid, died in 1954. His second wife, Kate, died in October 1988. Fools Crow died in 1989, his exact age is unknown, but he is believed to have been 99.
In 1973 members of the American Indian Movement seized the village of Wounded Knee to protest the United States Government's policies on Native Americans and due to the rule of Dick Wilson the Reservation's Chairman, who blatantly abused his power and even had his own "goon squad" who terrorized the people on the reservation. The traditional Oglalas who opposed Wilson and his regime formed the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization; this included Fools Crow. The night that the occupation took place the leaders of AIM met with the tribal leaders, Fools Crow prominent among them. Fools Crow told the young leaders, in his native Lakota language (he never spoke English in public) and said to them, "Go ahead and do it, go to Wounded Knee. You can't get in the BIA office and the tribal office, so take your brothers from the American Indian Movement and go to Wounded Knee and make your stand there." Fools Crow rode in the lead car along with AIM leader Dennis Banks.
On the list of demands presented to a Justice Department operative, Frank Fools Crow’s name was listed along with other chiefs and medicine men as supporters of the movement. After the occupiers named themselves The Independent Oglala Nations, Fools Crow traveled with Matthew King, his interpreter, and Russell Means to the United Nations to make a speech. Though no official transcript of this speech remains, there is no doubt to its significance.
After the murder of Frank Clearwater at Wounded Knee, and because the U.S. government wouldn’t allow his body to be buried there, his wife agreed to bury him on Leonard Crow Dog’s property on the Rosebud Reservation, and had the wake at Fools Crow’s house, where the body was placed in a teepee and covered with a blanket as the mourners came to pay their respect.
Fools Crow played an important role in the negotiations to end the occupation. Hank Adams, the personal representative of the President, arrived with the agreement to the proposal that the chiefs had sent to the White House on May 3. Adams met Fools Crow and a hundred others near a fence around the property. Adams handed a letter through a barbed-wire fence to Fools Crow, who was wearing the traditional attire of buckskin and a headdress. The letter appealed for the siege of the village to come to a close. Fools Crow and the other leaders accepted the proposal, which stated that the White House would send representatives to Pine Ridge to discuss a treaty in the third week of May and would “get tough” on Dick Wilson, the unscrupulous Chairman of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Fools Crow and the other chiefs delivered the letter to the AIM leaders and told them that he believed that it was time to end it.
In an article in the New York Times on May 8, 1973, the negotiations were said to have taken place at Fools Crow's house around the third week of May. In an interview, Dick Wilson said, “My people know that Fools Crow is a zero,” plainly showing that he had no respect for the traditions that Fools Crow stood for. In Washington D.C. on May 17, The Oglalas had their promised White House meeting, and Fools Crow was present. Of the five promised White House aides, two were there. Fools Crow was told that the historic treaties were dead.
Fools Crow spoke at a congressional hearing on June 16 and 17, 1973, following the conclusion of the Wounded Knee occupation; he only spoke Lakota, as was his way, and used an interpreter, Matthew King, to translate for him. He gave his reasons for the occupation, the main reason being the removal of Dick Wilson. Senator George McGovern said that he would try to remove Wilson, but wasn’t sure if he had the power to do so. Fools Crow asserted that McGovern had promised earlier to remove Dick Wilson. Ultimately, Wilson held his position until losing re-election in 1976. The occupation continued for 71 days, ending after an agreement was reached between federal officials and a Sioux delegation, of which Fools Crow was “a prominent member.”
Prayer Before the United States Senate
In 1970 he was invited to offer a prayer before the United States Senate. This is the prayer he gave:
"In the presence of this house, Grandfather, Wakan-Tanka, and from the directions where the sun sets, and from the direction of cleansing power, and from the direction of the rising, and from the direction of the middle of the day. Grandfather, Wakan-Tanka, Grandmother, the Earth who hears everything, Grandmother, because you are woman, for this reason you are kind, I come to you this day. To tell you to love the red men, and watch over them, and give these young men the understanding because, Grandmother, from you comes the good things, good things that are beyond our eyes to see have been blessed in our midst for this reason I make my supplication known to you again. Give us a blessing so that our words and actions be one in unity, and that we be able to listen to each other, in so doing, we shall with good heart walk hand in hand to face the future. In the presence of the outside, we are thankful for many blessings. I make my prayer for all people, the children, the women and the men. I pray that no harm will come to them, and that on the great island, there be no war, that there be no ill feelings among us From this day on may we walk hand in hand. So be it."
"We Shall Never Sell Our Sacred Black Hills"
On September 10 of 1976, Fools Crow delivered a lengthy speech to the Congressional Subcommittee on Interior and Insular Affairs. The speech, entitled the Joint Statement of Chief Frank Fools Crow and Frank Kills Enemy on Behalf of the Traditional Lakota Treaty Council Before Honorable Lloyd Meads Sub-Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, was a plea for the return of the Black Hills to his people. Later, the speech was printed up in poster form and widely disseminated over the reservations. The full speech can be read here.
"Survival of the world depends on our sharing what we have, and working together. If we do not the whole world will die. First the planet, and next the people."
"The ones who complain and talk the most about giving away Medicine Secrets, are always those who know the least."
"Kola (friends). I am Frank Fools Crow, Chief of the Lakota and I am here today with Frank Kills Enemy, one of the most respected headmen and also an expert on Indian treaty rights. Before we begin, I would like to ask you why when we speak you do not listen, and when you listen, you do not hear, and when you hear us, you do not choose to understand what we say. This is one time that I ask you to listen carefully and understand what we have to say. The people unanimously reaffirmed our long-standing position that the Black Hills are not for sale under any circumstances. We are therefore standing behind the resolution we passed at Ft. Yates in February of this year. That resolution, my friends, reads: The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota people. Both the sacred pipe and the Black Hills go hand and hand in our religion. The Black Hills is our church, the place where we worship. The Black Hills is our burial grounds. The Bones of our grandfathers lie buried in those hills. How can you expect us to sell our church and our cemeteries for a few token whiteman dollars. We will never sell."