March 31, 1973 – A day of wildly mixed emotions and wildly contrasting news.
To start – the last of the U.S. troops left Vietnam this day – on schedule, according to plan – left as quietly as they came. What followed the arrival and what followed the departure were different stories; different paragraphs on the page. But this was the end of an era – an odyssey which managed to tear apart a nation – divided generations and left scars – the scars of battle and the deeper scars of emotion. A war that seemed to touch everyone, and even as of this day in March, a war that lingered on for almost another two years before, as President Ford would declare in 1975; “Our National nightmare was over”.
There was other significant news this day – news that took place in our own backyard, but was equally as dividing. Wounded Knee – the name that made its way to the national conversation and stayed on everyone’s mind in 1973.
The Wounded Knee incident began on February 27, 1973, when approximately 200 Oglala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The protest followed the failure of an effort of the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO) to impeach tribal president Richard Wilson, whom they accused of corruption and abuse of opponents. Additionally, protesters criticized the United States government’s failure to fulfill treaties with Native American people and demanded the reopening of treaty negotiations.
Oglala and AIM activists controlled the town for 71 days while the United States Marshals Service, FBI agents, and other law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area. The activists chose the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre for its symbolic value. Both sides were armed, and shooting was frequent.
On this day, the stalemate continued – the sides were just as contentious and determined as ever – the situation was on slow-boil.
And if news of ending Vietnam and confrontations in South Dakota weren’t enough – the question of what America was eating was on everyone’s mind. The subject was Meat – and the prices were causing boycotts. The nationwide movement to boycott meat beginning in April to protest high food prices was gaining momentum as community and women’s groups began holding rallies and handing out leaflets to mobilize housewives’ support.
The boycott movement gained impetus on March 21 when the Federal Government’s statistics showed that meat prices over the nation had risen 5.4 per cent in a month, poultry and fish 5 per cent and all retail food prices 2.4 per cent, and that all consumer prices had risen seven‐tenths of 1 per cent—the largest one‐month rise since the Korean war.
All that – and much-much more for this last day of March in 1973, as reported by Garrick Utley and The NBC Nightly News.