As members of the National Lawyers Guild, the legal arm of progressive movements since 1937, Roger Finzel and Eda Gordon volunteered to join the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee, formed after the 1973 liberation of the Wounded Knee Massacre site on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Finzel, a Washington, D.C. attorney, served as a staff attorney for the Defense Committee, representing some of the 375 people charged with federal crimes arising from that struggle. Gordon, a former editor of Trial Magazine, published by the American Trial Lawyers Association, served first as the committee's press liaison and later as an investigator of Wounded Knee cases. As press liaison, she worked with international, national, and local press, prepared press releases, published the committee newsletter, and developed public education materials about the pending Wounded Knee cases and the reign of terror on the reservation under the brutal regime of tribal chairman Dick Wilson.
After being assaulted by Wilson's goon squad, Finzel and Gordon moved to Washington, D.C., where they continued support work on behalf of traditional Native American peoples and their support groups (Committee on Native American Struggles (CONAS), Native American Solidarity Committee (NASC), Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC), to name a few). It was through their lobbying efforts that the first meeting in modern times was arranged between Lakota traditional chiefs and the President of the United States, then Gerald Ford. They were also part of a team that prepared the first report to the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations.
In 1977, Finzel and Gordon moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Finzel worked as a staff attorney for the National Indian Youth Council, representing the traditional Choctaw/Chickasaw Tribal Councils seeking to maintain their traditional governmental structure. While carrying over her support work from Washington, Gordon focused on violations of sovereignty by energy exploitation of native lands in New Mexico and the West. With the National Lawyers Guild, they helped investigate and write a comprehensive report exposing energy exploitation of native lands in the southwest.
Finzel became a volunteer counsel to American Indians Against Desecration (AIAD). This organization was formed from a request by religious leaders at an International Indian Treaty Council meeting. From the late 70's through the early 90's they agitated, met, organized, sued, etc. to repatriate the remains of the ancestors stored in museums and laboratories around the world. As counsel for AIAD, Finzel was one of the lawyers in the Yellow Thunder Camp case in South Dakota, seeking to use a few acres of the sacred Black Hills for a traditional Indian religious camp.
Finzel is now a Federal Public Defender in Albuquerque. Gordon is a private investigator and trial consultant working out of Santa Fe.
From the guide to the Roger A. Finzel American Indian Movement Papers, 1965-1995 (bulk 1973-1979), (University of New Mexico. Center for Southwest Research.)