Richard Wilson, Ex-Tribal Chairman

RAPID CITY, S.D. - Richard Wilson, who was chairman of the Oglala Sioux Tribe during the 1973 American Indian Movement occupation of Wounded Knee, has died. He was 55.

Wilson died Thursday of complications from an enlarged heart and kidney failure, his brother, Jim Wilson, said.

Ironically, Richard Wilson died on the day Gov. George Mickelson and tribal leaders from across the state signed a document designating 1990 as a year of reconciliation between Native Americans and whites, Wilson's longtime friend, Tim Giago of Rapid City, said yesterday.

That's something Wilson strived for all his life, said Giago, publisher of the Lakota Times, a Native American newspaper.

Wilson, who disagreed publicly with the militant tactics of AIM, was labeled a ``goon'' by the AIM activists who occupied Wounded Knee. Controversy erupted because it was Wilson's sworn duty to uphold reservation laws, ``and the laws were being broken,'' Giago said.

The national media told the Wounded Knee story from AIM's viewpoint, Giago said. ``Unfortunately, Dick was never very good at working and dealing with the press,'' Giago said.

Wilson urged Native Americans to get involved in tribal and state government. He helped set up the first Indian housing authority on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Wilson served as a Tribal Council member for six years before being elected chairman of the tribe. He served two consecutive terms in that post, from 1972 to 1976.

In addition to his brother, Wilson is survived by his wife, Mary, and several children.