The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

April 28, 2012

Widow of civil rights activist wants him home

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. —  When civil rights activist Ray Robinson arrived at Wounded Knee in April 1973 to stand alongside Native Americans in their fight against social injustice, he excitedly called his wife back home and told her, “This could be the spark that lights the prairie fire.”

“No, it’s not. Come home. Please come home,” his wife, Cheryl Buswell-Robinson, recalled begging of him.

The black activist and follower of Martin Luther King Jr. never made it home to Bogue Chitto, Ala. He was declared dead, but his body never was found and little is known about what happened. Not knowing has haunted Buswell-Robinson and the couple’s three children for nearly 40 years.

The United States government handles investigations on reservations. Minneapolis-based FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said the Robinson case is a pending investigation, so federal prosecutors and investigators can’t discuss it.

Buswell-Robinson, 67, flew into Sioux Falls from Detroit on Thursday ahead of a conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1973 American Indian Movement takeover of the Pine Ridge reservation village of Wounded Knee.

She’s not looking for arrests or prosecutions. She just wants to know where her husband’s body is so she can give him a proper burial.

“People have information as to where his body is buried,” she said.

Two Native Americans were confirmed to have died during the 1973 siege, and rumors of other deaths persist. FBI documents that now are public suggest the possibility of people buried at Wounded Knee during the occupation. There’s no mention of Robinson in the FBI correspondence, but two documents reveal the presence of two black people toward the end of the standoff:

— On May 5, 1973, a transcript of an interview with a man who claimed to be at Wounded Knee the week prior stated “he heard that one black man and one black woman had recently arrived.”

— A May 21, 1973, FBI memo reported an Indian woman who left the village on April 20, 1973, counted 200 Indians, 11 whites and two blacks.

Buswell-Robinson said those two were most likely Robinson and a black woman from Alabama who went with him. The woman returned after the standoff; Robinson didn’t.

Buswell-Robinson filed a missing person’s report with the FBI and in October 1974 traveled to Rapid City and the AIM headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., but said she learned nothing about what happened to her husband. In the years after Robinson’s disappearance, she corresponded with writer and political activist Barbara Deming.

In a letter dated Dec. 29, 1974, Buswell-Robinson wrote that she had been told Robinson backpacked into Wounded Knee at night and was later shot for not following an order to immediately report to AIM co-founder Dennis Banks.

AIM member Richard Two Elk of Denver told The Associated Press in 2004 that he had seen someone shoot Robinson in the knees, but the reason was because he had refused to pick up a gun and was constantly annoying people in the bunker. Two Elk declined an email request from the AP this week to talk further about the incident.

Banks, in a telephone interview Thursday, said he can’t recall ever meeting Robinson. He said the only recollection of Robinson he has is when his family visited AIM in St. Paul to ask for information.

“Over the years, the Robinson name has popped up and I’m not sure even who would have that information or where it was,” Banks told the AP. “That’s a complete blank to me.”

Banks said there was no formal AIM investigation into the disappearance of Robinson or anyone else during Wounded Knee.

“We never conducted any, like, major search for anybody that was missing, just except by word of mouth, ‘Did you guys ever see this or that?’ That’s as far as I know and that’s as far as it went,” he said.

Clyde Bellecourt, another AIM co-founder, said he wasn’t in Wounded Knee in April 1973. He left a month or so earlier to form the Wounded Knee Legal Defense-Offense Committee and act as AIM’s spokesman.

“I’ve heard some rumors about this Robinson thing, but supposedly that happened a long time after I was gone, if anything did happen,” he said. “Nobody’s ever talked to me about it implicating anybody or even said it’s happened.”

Perry Ray Robinson Jr. was born Sept. 12, 1937. He was in Washington in 1963 for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and attended the 1964 funeral of three white civil rights workers killed in Mississippi.

In 1968, Robinson was among the protesters who set up Resurrection City, a camp at the Washington Mall.

Robinson likely was at Wounded Knee for just a day, but Buswell-Robinson is surprised so many AIM members don’t remember him. The personable 6-foot-2 black man with a deep baritone voice would have stood out on a Midwest American Indian reservation, she said.

Robinson’s nonviolent approach probably was not well received at what was a violent situation, and it’s possible AIM members incorrectly suspected he was a federal informant, Buswell-Robinson said. It’s also likely he dealt with some racism, she said.

“I’m hoping that AIM people can look in their hearts and realize this was a good man. This is a brother,” Buswell-Robinson said. “This is a man that was willing to give his life for justice for what’s right.”

She said she traveled to the conference from her current home in Detroit because she’d like to talk to AIM leaders, anyone who was at Wounded Knee and the two women who ran the clinic where Robinson may have been taken.

At the least, she wants to get the Wounded Knee record corrected so it acknowledges her husband’s presence.

“Maybe that’s the best I can hope for, that in the official record Ray’s name won’t be excluded,” Buswell-Robinson said. “Because right now, it’s like he never existed.”


Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hospital shooting suspect charged with murder

    A man accused of fatally shooting his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist at a suburban Philadelphia hospital complex before the doctor returned fire has been charged with murder.

    July 28, 2014

  • Man seeks video of Oklahoma City bombing

    One man’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

    July 28, 2014

  • Bill in Congress to help veterans with PTSD

    A group of lawmakers have joined together to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Post Traumatic Brain Injury (PTBI) and other war injuries get speedy medical treatment — and avoid Veteran’s Administration bureaucracy and Department of Defense lack of accountability.

    July 28, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia has fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists also has crossed the border.

    July 28, 2014

  • U.S. says Russia is firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.

    July 25, 2014

  • Gaza sides agree to lull but truce efforts stall

     Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation “significantly.”

    July 25, 2014

  • Planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 24, 2014

  • UN school in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 24, 2014

  • Air Algerie jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video