One Goal Of The American Indian Movement Was Weegy Homework

The American Indian Movement (AIM) is an American Indianadvocacy group in the United States, founded in July 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[1] AIM was initially formed to address American Indian sovereignty, treaty issues, spirituality, and leadership, while simultaneously addressing incidents of police harassment and racism against Native Americans forced to move away from reservations and tribal culture by the Indian Termination Policies. AIM's paramount objective is to create "real economic independence for the Indians."[2][3]

From November 1969 to June 1971, AIM participated in the occupation of the abandoned federal penitentiary known as Alcatraz, organized by seven Indian movements, including the Indian of All Tribes and Richard Oakes, a Mohawk activist. [4] In October 1972, AIM and other Indian groups gathered members from across the US for a protest in Washington, D.C. known as the "Trail of Broken Treaties." According to public documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), advanced coordination occurred between Washington, D.C.-based Bureau of Indian Affairs (the BIA staff) and the authors of a twenty-point proposal drafted with the help of the AIM for delivery to the U.S. government officials focused on proposals intended to enhance U.S.-Indian relations.

In the decades since AIM's founding, the group has led protests advocating indigenous American interests, inspired cultural renewal, monitored police activities, and coordinated employment programs in cities and in rural reservation communities across the United States. AIM has often supported indigenous interests outside the United States as well. By 1993, AIM had split into two main factions. One faction is the AIM-Grand Governing Council based in Minneapolis. The other faction is AIM-International Confederation of Autonomous Chapters, based in Denver, Colorado.



Main article: Uranium mining and the Navajo people

While government-directed Indian termination policies were enforced during the Eisenhower administration, hastily executed uranium mining contracts to permit it (even sanctioning it as "economic progress") preceded the imposition of unprecedented-scale government-sanctioned commercial uranium extraction operations from various parts of traditional Indian western North American tribal lands (not so named under the ancient land-use and resource-sharing ways of indigenous former inhabitants) and the uranium mining was permitted. However, the uranium mining contracts were signed without tribal permissions, and Navajo workers were not informed of the health risks involved with working in uranium mines.[citation needed]


On March 6, 1968, President Johnson signed Executive Order 11399, establishing the National Council on Indian Opportunity (NCIO). President Johnson said "the time has come to focus our efforts on the plight of the American Indian," and NCIO's formation would "launch an undivided, Government-wide effort in this area." While knowing little of the American Indian issues, Johnson tried to connect the nation's trust responsibility to the tribes and nations to civil rights, an area with which he was much more familiar.[5]

In Congress, the Democratic chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, James Haley from Florida, supported Indian rights; for example, he thought Indians should participate more in "policy matters," but "the right of self-determination is in the Congress as a representative of all the people."[6] In the 1960s Haley met with president Kennedy and then-vice-president Johnson, and pressed for Indian self-determination and control in transactions over land. One struggle was over the long-term leasing of American Indian land.[7] Non-Indian businesses and banks said they could not invest in leases of 25 years, even with generous options, as the time was too short for land-based transactions. Relieving the long-term poverty on most reservations through business partnerships by leasing land was seen as infeasible. A return to the 19th century 99-year leases was seen as a possible solution. But, an Interior Department memo said, "a 99-year lease is in the nature of a conveyance of the land." These battles over land had their beginnings in the 1870s when federal policy often related to wholesale taking, not leases. In the 1950s, many Native Americans believed that leases were too frequently a way for outsiders to control Indian land.

Main article: Tuscarora Reservation

Wallace "Mad Bear" Anderson was a Tuscarora leader in New York in the 1950s. He struggled to resist the New York City planner Robert Moses' plan to take tribal land in upstate New York for use in a state hydropower project to supply New York City. The struggle ended in a bitter compromise.[8]

Initial movement[edit]

As had civil rights and antiwar activists, AIM used the American press and media to present its message to the United States public. It created events to attract the press. If successful, news outlets would seek out AIM spokespersons for interviews. Rather than relying on traditional lobbying efforts, AIM took its message directly to the American public. Its leaders looked for opportunities to gain publicity. Sound bites such as the "AIM Song" became associated with the movement.


During ceremonies on Thanksgiving Day 1970 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth Rock, AIM seized the replica of the Mayflower in Boston. In 1971, members occupied Mount Rushmore for a few days, as it was created in the Black Hills of South Dakota, long sacred to the Lakota. This area was within the Great Sioux Reservation as created by the US Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868. After the discovery of gold, the federal government took the land in 1877 and sold it for mining and settlement to European Americans.

Native American activists in Milwaukee staged a takeover of an abandoned Coast Guard station along the Lake Michigan. The takeover was inspired by the 1969 Alcatraz occupation. Activists cited the Treaty of Fort Laramie and demanded the abandoned federal property revert to the control of the Native peoples of Milwaukee. AIM protestors retained possession of the land, and the land became the site of the first Indian Community School until 1980.[9]

Also in 1971, AIM began to highlight and protest problems with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which administered programs and land trusts for Native Americans. The group briefly occupied BIA headquarters in Washington, DC. A brief arrest, reversal of charges for "unlawful entry" and a meeting with Louis Bruce, the Mohawk/Lakota BIA Commissioner, ended AIM's first event in the capital.[10] In 1972, activists marched across country on the "Trail of Broken Treaties" and took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), occupying it for several days and doing millions of dollars in damage.[11]

AIM developed a 20-point list to summarize its issues with federal treaties and promises, which they publicized during their occupation in 1972. Twelve points addressed treaty responsibilities which the protesters believed the U.S. government had failed to fulfill:

  • Restore treaty-making (ended by Congress in 1871);
  • Establish a treaty commission to make new treaties (with sovereign Native Nations);
  • Provide opportunities for Indian leaders to address Congress directly;
  • Review treaty commitments and violations;
  • Have unratified treaties reviewed by the Senate;
  • Ensure that all American Indians are governed by treaty relations;
  • Provide relief to Native Nations as compensation for treaty rights violations;
  • Recognize the right of Indians to interpret treaties;
  • Create a Joint Congressional Committee to reconstruct relations with Indians;
  • Restore 110 million acres (450,000 km2) of land taken away from Native Nations by the United States;
  • Restore terminated rights of Native Nations;
  • Repeal state jurisdiction on Native Nations (Public Law 280);
  • Provide Federal protection for offenses against Indians;
  • Abolish the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
  • Create a new office of Federal Indian Relations;
  • Remedy breakdown in the constitutionally prescribed relationships between the United States and Native Nations;
  • Ensure immunity of Native Nations from state commerce regulation, taxes, and trade restrictions;
  • Protect Indian religious freedom and cultural integrity;
  • Establish national Indian voting with local options; free national Indian organizations from governmental controls; and
  • Reclaim and affirm health, housing, employment, economic development, and education for all Indian people.[12]

In 1973 AIM was invited to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to help gain justice from border counties' law enforcement and to moderate political factions on the reservation. They became deeply involved and led an armed occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1973. Other events during the 1970s were designed to achieve the goal of gaining public attention. They ensured AIM would be noticed to highlight what they saw as the erosion of Indian rights and sovereignty.[13][14]

The Longest Walk and The Longest Walk 2[edit]


"The Longest Walk" (1978) was an AIM-led spiritual walk across the country to support tribal sovereignty and bring attention to 11 pieces of anti-Indian legislation; AIM believed that the proposed legislation would have abrogated Indian Treaties, quantified and limited water rights, etc. The first walk began on February 11, 1978, with a ceremony on Alcatraz Island, where a Sacred Pipe was loaded with tobacco. The Pipe was carried the entire distance. This 3,200-mile (5,100 km)-Walk's purpose was to educate people about the US government's continuing threat to Tribal Sovereignty; it rallied thousands representing many Indian Nations throughout the United States and Canada. Traditional spiritual leaders from many tribes participated, leading traditional ceremonies. International spiritual leaders, as Nichidatsu Fujii, also took part in the Walk.

On July 15, 1978, "The Longest Walk" entered Washington, D.C., with several thousand Indians and a number of non-Indian supporters. The traditional elders led them to the Washington Monument, where the Pipe carried across the country was smoked. Over the following week, they held rallies at various sites to address issues: the 11 pieces of legislation, American Indian political prisoners, forced relocation at Big Mountain, the Navajo Nation, etc. Non-Indian supporters included the American boxer Muhammad Ali, US Senator Ted Kennedy and the actor Marlon Brando. The US Congress voted against a proposed bill to abrogate treaties with Indian Nations. During the week after the activists arrived, Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which allowed them the use of peyote in worship. President Jimmy Carter refused to meet with representatives of The Longest Walk.


Thirty years later, AIM led the Longest Walk 2, which arrived in Washington in July 2008. This 8,200-mile (13,200 km)-walk had started from the San Francisco Bay area. The Longest Walk 2 had representatives from more than 100 American Indian nations, and other indigenous participants, such as Maori. It also had non-indigenous supporters. The walk highlighted the need for protection of American Indian sacred sites, tribal sovereignty, environmental protection and action to stop global warming. Participants traveled on either the Northern Route (basically that of 1978) or the Southern Route. Participants crossed a total of 26 states on the two different routes.[15]

Northern Route[edit]

The Northern Route was led by veterans of that action. The walkers used Sacred staffs to represent their issues; the group supported the protection of sacred sites of indigenous peoples, traditional tribal sovereignty, issues related to native prisoners, and the protection of children. They also commemorated the 30th anniversary of the original Longest Walk.[15]

Southern Route[edit]

Walkers along the Southern Route picked up more than 8,000 bags of garbage on their way to Washington. In Washington, the Southern Route delivered a 30-page manifesto, "The Manifesto of Change", and a list of demands, including mitigation for climate change, a call for environmental sustainability plans, protection of sacred sites, and renewal of improvement to Native American sovereignty and health.[15]

Connection to other people of color[edit]

AIM's leaders spoke out against injustices against their peoples, as had the African-American leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. AIM leaders talked about high unemployment, slum housing, and racist treatment, fought for treaty rights and the reclamation of tribal land, and advocated on behalf of urban Indians.

With its provocative events and advocacy for Indian rights, AIM attracted scrutiny from the Department of Justice (DOJ).[16] The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used paid informants to report on AIM's activities and its members.[17][18]

In February 1973, AIM leaders Russell Means and Dennis Banks worked with Oglala Lakota people and AIM activists to occupy the small Indian community of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. They were protesting its corrupt government, federal issues, and the lack of justice from border counties. The FBI dispatched agents and US Marshals to cordon off the site. Later a higher-ranking DOJ representative took control of the US government's response. Through the resulting siege that lasted for 71 days, twelve people were wounded, including an FBI agent left paralyzed; in April a Cherokee and a Lakota activist died of gunfire (at this point, the Oglala Lakota called an end to the occupation.) Afterward, 1200 American Indians were arrested. Wounded Knee drew international attention to the plight of American Indians. AIM leaders were tried in a Minnesota federal court. The court dismissed their case on the basis of governmental prosecutorial misconduct.[19]


AIM protests[edit]

AIM opposes national and collegiate sports teams using figures of indigenous people as mascots and team names, such as the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Redskins, and has organized protests at World Series and Super Bowl games against these teams. Protesters held signs with slogans such as "Indians are people not mascots," or "Being Indian is not a character you can play."[20]

Although sports teams had ignored such requests by individual tribes for years, AIM received attention in the mascot debate. NCAA schools such as Florida State University, University of Utah, University of Illinois and Central Michigan University have negotiated with the tribes whose names or images they had used for permission for continued use and to collaborate on portraying the mascot in a way that is intended to honor Native Americans.

Goals and commitments[edit]

AIM has been committed to improving conditions faced by native peoples. It founded institutions to address needs, including the Heart of The Earth School, Little Earth Housing, International Indian Treaty Council, AIM StreetMedics, American Indian Opportunities and Industrialization Center (one of the largest Indian job training programs), KILI radio, and Indian Legal Rights Centers.[21]

In 1971, several members of AIM, including Dennis Banks and Russell Means, traveled to Mt. Rushmore. They converged at the mountain in order to protest the illegal seizure of the Sioux Nation's sacred Black Hills in 1877 by the United States federal government, in violation of its earlier 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie. The protest began to publicize the issues of the American Indian Movement.[3] In 1980, the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had illegally taken the Black Hills. The government offered financial compensation, but the Oglala Sioux have refused it, insisting on return of the land to their people. The settlement money is earning interest.[citation needed]

Work at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation[edit]

Border town cases[edit]

In 1972, Raymond Yellow Thunder, a 51-year-old Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge Reservation, was murdered in Gordon, Nebraska, by two brothers, Leslie and Melvin Hare, younger white men. After their trial and conviction, the Hares received the minimal sentence for manslaughter. Members of AIM went to Gordon to protest the sentences, as it was seen as part of a pattern of law enforcement in border counties that did not provide justice to Native Americans.[22] In the winter of 1973, Wesley Bad Heart Bull, a Lakota, was stabbed to death at a bar in South Dakota by Darrell Schmitz, a white male. The offender was jailed, but released on a $5000 bond and charged with second degree manslaughter. In protest of the charges, a group of AIM members and leaders from Pine Ridge Reservation and leaders went to the county seat of Custer, South Dakota, to meet with the prosecutor. Police in riot gear allowed only four people to enter the county courthouse. The talks were not successful, and tempers rose over the police treatment; AIM activists caused $2 million in damages by attacking and burning the Custer Chamber of Commerce building, the courthouse, and two patrol cars. Many of the AIM demonstrators were arrested and charged; numerous people served sentences, including the mother of Wesley Bad Heart Bull.[3]

1973 Wounded Knee Incident[edit]

Main article: Wounded Knee Incident

In addition to the problems of violence in the border towns, many traditional people at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation were unhappy with the government of Richard Wilson, elected in 1972. When their effort to impeach him in February 1973 failed, they met to plan protests and action. Many people on the reservation were unhappy about its longstanding poverty and failures of the federal government to live up to its treaties with Indian nations. The women elders encouraged the men to act. On February 27, 1973, about 300 Oglala Lakota and AIM activists went to the hamlet of Wounded Knee for their protest. It developed into a 71-day siege, with the FBI cordoning off the area by using US Marshals and later National Guard units.[3] The occupation was symbolically held at the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. The Oglala Lakota demanded a revival of treaty negotiations to begin to correct relations with the federal government, the respect of their sovereignty, and the removal of Wilson from office. The American Indians occupied the Sacred Heart Church, the Gildersleeve Trading Post and numerous homes of the village. Although periodic negotiations were held between AIM spokesman and U.S. government negotiators, gunfire occurred on both sides. A US Marshal, Lloyd Grimm, was wounded severely and paralyzed. In April, a Cherokee from North Carolina and a Lakota AIM member were shot and killed. The elders ended the occupation then.[14]

For about a month afterward, journalists frequently interviewed Indian spokesmen and the event received international coverage. The Department of Justice then excluded the press from access to Wounded Knee. The Academy Awards ceremony was held in Hollywood, where the actor Marlon Brando, a supporter of AIM, asked an Apache actress, Sacheen Littlefeather, to speak at the Oscars on his behalf. He had been nominated for his performance in The Godfather and won. Littlefeather arrived in full Apache regalia and read his statement that, owing to the "poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry," Brando would not accept the award. In interviews, she also talked about the Wounded Knee occupation. The event grabbed the attention of the US and the world media. The movement considered the Awards ceremony publicity, together with Wounded Knee, as a major event and public relations victory, as polls showed that Americans were sympathetic to the Indian cause.

Pine Ridge Reservation violence[edit]

AIM members continued to be active at Pine Ridge, although Wilson stayed in office and was re-elected in 1974 in a contested election. Violent deaths rose during a "reign of terror", and more than 300 political opponents of his died violently during the next three years.[citation needed] On June 26, 1975, two FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams were on the Pine Ridge Reservation searching for someone who was wanted for questioning relating to an assault and robbery of two ranch hands. The FBI agents were driving in two unmarked cars and followed a red pick-up truck matching the suspects description. The FBI agents were shot at by the occupants of the vehicle and others. The agents managed to fire five rounds before being killed, while at least 125 bullet holes were fired at them. The agents were also shot at close range with physical evidence suggesting that they had been executed. Later reinforcements arrived, and Joe Stuntz, an AIM member who had taken part in the shootout was fatally shot and was found wearing Coler's FBI jacket. Three AIM members were indicted for the murders: Darryl Butler, Robert Robideau and Leonard Peltier, who had escaped to Canada. An eyewitness testified that the three men joined the shooting after it had started. In 1991, Peltier admitted firing at Agents in an interview. Both Butler and Robideau were acquitted at trial while Peltier was tried separately and controversially convicted in 1976 and is serving two consecutive life sentences. Amnesty International has refereed to his case under its "Unfair Trials" category.[23][24][25][26]

Informants true and false[edit]

In late 1974, AIM leaders discovered that Douglas Durham, a prominent member who was by then head of security, was an FBI informant. They confronted him and expelled him from AIM at a press conference in March 1975. Durham's girlfriend, Jancita Eagle Deer, was later found dead after being struck by a speeding car while many believed Durham was guilty.[25] Durham was also scheduled to testify in front of the Church Committee, but that hearing was suspended due to the illegal invasion of Pine Ridge reservation and the subsequent shoot out.[25]

With some members in fugitive status after the Pine Ridge shootout, suspicions about FBI infiltration remained high. For various reasons, Anna Mae Aquash, the highest-ranking woman in AIM, was mistakenly suspected of being an informant, even after she had voiced suspicions about Durham. Aquash had also been threatened by FBI agent David Price[25][27] According to testimony at trials in 2004 and 2010 of men convicted of her murder, she was interrogated in the fall of 1975. In mid-December she was taken from Denver, Colorado, to Rapid City, South Dakota, and interrogated again, then taken to Rosebud Reservation and finally to a far corner of Pine Ridge Reservation, where she was killed by a gunshot wound to the back of the head. Her decomposing body was found February 1976. After the coroner failed to find the bullet hole in Aquash's head, the FBI severed both of her hands and sent them to Washington, DC, allegedly for identification purposes, then buried her as a Jane Doe.[25] Aquash's body was later exhumed and given a second burial.

1980's support of Nicaraguan Miskito Indians[edit]

During the Sandinista/Indian conflict in Nicaragua of the mid-1980's, Russell Means sided with Miskito Indians opposing the Sandinista government. The Miskito charged the government with forcing relocations of as many as 8,500 Miskito. This position was controversial among other left wing, indigenous rights groups, and Central American solidarity organizations in the U.S. who opposed Contra activities and supported the Sandinista movement.[28][29] The complex situation included Contra insurgents' recruiting among Nicaraguan Indian groups, including some Miskitos. Means recognized the difference between opposition to the Sandinista government by the Miskito, Sumo, and Rama on one hand, and the Reagan administration's support of the Contras, dedicated to the overthrow of the Sandinista regime.[30]

AIM protests and contentions[edit]

Many AIM chapters remain committed to confronting government and corporate forces that they allege seek to marginalize Indigenous peoples.[31] They have challenged the ideological foundations of US national holidays, such as Columbus Day[32] and Thanksgiving. In 1970 AIM declared Thanksgiving a National Day of Mourning. This protest continues under the work of the United American Indians of New England, who protest continued theft of indigenous peoples' territories and natural resources.[33][34] AIM has helped educate people about the full history of the US, and advocates for the inclusion of Indigenous American perspectives in U.S. history. Its efforts are recognized and supported by many institutional leaders in politics, education, arts, religion, and media.[35]

Professor Ronald L. Grimes wrote that "In 1984 the Southwest chapter of the American Indian Movement held a leadership conference that passed a resolution labeling the expropriation of Indian ceremonies (for instance, the use of sweat lodges, vision quests, and sacred pipes) a "direct attack and theft." It also condemned certain named individuals (such as Brooke Medicine Eagle, Wallace Black Elk, and Sun Bear and his "tribe") and criticized specific organizations such as Vision Quest, Inc. The declaration threatened to "take care of" those abusing sacred ceremonies.[36]


In June 2003, United States and Canadian tribes joined together internationally to pass the "Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality." They felt they were being exploited by those marketing the sales of replicated Native American spiritual objects and impersonating sacred religious ceremonies as a tourist attraction. AIM delegates are working on a policy to require tribal identification for anyone claiming to represent Native Americans in any public forum or venue.

In February 2004, AIM gained more media attention by marching from Washington, D.C., to Alcatraz Island. This was one of many occasions when Indian activists used the island as the location of an event since the Occupation of Alcatraz in 1969, led by the United Indians of All Tribes, a student group from San Francisco. The 2004 march was in support of Leonard Peltier, whom many believed had not had a fair trial; he has become a symbol of spiritual and political resistance for Native Americans.[37]

In December 2008, a delegation of Lakota Sioux, including Talon Becenti, delivered to the U.S. State Department a declaration of separation from the United States citing many broken treaties by the U.S. government in the past, and the loss of vast amounts of territory originally awarded in those treaties, the group announced its intentions to form a separate nation within the U.S. known as the Republic of Lakotah.[38]

AIM Timeline[edit]

  • 1968- MINNEAPOLIS AIM PATROL: created to monitor police treatment of urban American Indians and their treatment in the justice system.
  • 1969- INDIAN HEALTH BOARD of Minneapolis founded. This was the first American Indian, urban-based health care provider in the nation.[citation needed] The San Francisco-based United Indians of All Tribes and the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement occupied ALCATRAZ ISLAND, a former federal prison site, for 19 months. They reclaimed federal land in the name of Native Nations. The first American Indian radio broadcasts — Radio Free Alcatraz — were heard in the Bay Area. |Some AIM activists joined them.
  • 1970- LEGAL RIGHTS CENTER: created in Minneapolis to assist American Indians. (As of 1994, over 19,000 clients have had legal representation, thanks to AIM's work.)[citation needed] AIM takeover of abandoned property at the naval air station near Minneapolis focuses attention on Indian education and leads to early grants for Indian education.
  • 1971- CITIZEN'S ARREST OF JOHN OLD CROW: Takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' headquarters in Washington, D.C., to publicize improper BIA policies. Twenty-four protesters arrested for "trespassing" and released. BIA Commissioner Louis Bruce shows his AIM membership card at the meeting held after the release of protesters. FIRST NATIONAL AIM CONFERENCE: 18 chapters of AIM convened to develop long-range strategy for the movement. TAKEOVER OF WINTER DAM: AIM assists the Lac Court Oreilles (LCO) Ojibwe in Wisconsin in taking over a dam controlled by Northern States Power, which had flooded much of their reservation land. This action gained support by government officials and an eventual settlement with the LCO. The federal government returned more than 25,000 acres (100 km2) of land to the LCO tribe for their reservation, and the Power company provided significant monies and business opportunities to the tribe.
  • 1972- RED SCHOOL HOUSE: the second survival school to open, offering culturally based education services to K-12 students in St. Paul, Minnesota. HEART OF THE EARTH SURVIVAL SCHOOL (HOTESS): a K-12 school established to address the extremely high drop-out rate among American Indian students and lack of curricula that reflected American Indian culture. HOTESS serves as the first model of community-based, student-centered education with culturally correct curriculum operating under parental control. TRAIL OF BROKEN TREATIES: a pan-Indian march across country to Washington, DC, to dramatize failures in federal policy. Protesters occupied the BIA national headquarters and did millions of dollars in damages, as well as irrevocable losses of Indian land deeds. The protesters presented a 20-point demand paper to the administration, many associated with treaty rights and renewed negotiations of treaties.
  • 1973- LEGAL ACTION FOR SCHOOL FUNDS: In reaction to the Trail of Broken Treaties, the government canceled education grants to three AIM-sponsored schools in St. Paul and Milwaukee. AIM files legal challenges, and the US District Court orders the grants restored and government payment of costs and attorney fees. WOUNDED KNEE '73: AIM was contacted by Oglala Lakota elders of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for assistance in dealing with failures in justice in border towns, the authoritarian tribal president, and financial corruption within the BIA and executive committee. Together with Oglala Lakota, armed activists occupied the town of Wounded Knee for 71-days against US armed forces.
  • 1973 - On February 27, 1973, at large public meeting of 600 Indians at Calico Hall organized by Pedro Bissonette of Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO) and addressed by AIM leaders Banks and Russell Means. Demands were made for investigations into vigilante incidents and for hearings on their treaties, and permission given by the tribal elders to make a stand at Wounded Knee.
  • 1974- INTERNATIONAL INDIAN TREATY COUNCIL (IITC): an organization representing Indian peoples throughout the western hemisphere was recognized at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. WOUNDED KNEE TRIALS: Eight months of federal trials of participants in Wounded Knee took place in Minneapolis. It was the longest Federal trial in the history of the United States.[citation needed] As many instances of government misconduct were revealed, the US District judge Fred Nichol dismissed all charges due to government "misconduct" which "formed a pattern throughout the course of the trial" so that "the waters of justice have been polluted."[citation needed]
  • 1975- FEDERATION OF SURVIVAL SCHOOLS: created to provide advocacy and networking skills to 16 survival schools throughout the US and Canada. HUD chose AIM to be the primary sponsor of the first American Indian-run housing project, LITTLE EARTH OF UNITED TRIBES.
  • 1977- MIGIZI Communications founded in Minneapolis. The organization is dedicated to producing Indian news and information, and educating students of all ages as tomorrow's technical work force. INTERNATIONAL INDIAN TREATY COUNCIL: establishes Non-government organization status at United Nations offices in Geneva; attends the International NGO conference and presents testimony to the United Nations. AMERICAN INDIAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE LEGISLATION: AIM proposes legislative language which is passed in Minnesota, recognizing State responsibility for Indian education and culture. This legislation was recognized as a model throughout the country.[citation needed]
  • 1978- FIRST EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR AMERICAN INDIAN OFFENDERS: AIM establishes the first adult education program for American Indian offenders at Stillwater Prison in Minnesota.[citation needed] Programs later established at other state correctional facilities modeled after the Minnesota program.[citation needed] CIRCLE OF LIFE SURVIVAL SCHOOL established on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. The school receives funding for three years of operation from the U.S. Department of Education. RUN FOR SURVIVAL: AIM youth organize and conduct 500-mile (800 km) run from Minneapolis to Lawrence, Kansas, to support "The Longest Walk." THE LONGEST WALK: Indian Nations walk across the US from California to DC to protest proposed legislation calling for the abrogation of treaties with Indian nations. They set up and maintain a tipi near the White House. The proposed legislation is defeated.
  • 1979- LITTLE EARTH HOUSING PROTECTED: an attempt by the US HUD to foreclose on the Little Earth of United Tribes housing project is halted by legal action; the US District Court issues an injunction against HUD. AMERICAN INDIAN OPPORTUNITIES INDUSTRIALIZATION CENTER (AIOIC): creates job-training schools to alleviate the unemployment issues of Indian people. More than 17,000 Native Americans have been trained for jobs since AIM created the AIOIC in 1979. ANISHINABE AKEENG Organization is created to regain stolen and tax-forfeited land on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.
  • 1984- FEDERATION of NATIVE CONTROLLED SURVIVAL SCHOOLS: presents legal education seminars at colleges and law schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, South Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma for educators of Indian students. National conference held in San Jose, California, concurrent with the National Indian Education Association Convention.
  • 1986- SCHOOLS LAWSUIT: Heart of the Earth and Red School House successfully sue the U.S. Department of Education, Indian Education Programs for ranking the schools' programs below funding recommendation levels. The suit proved discriminatory bias in the system of ranking by the Department staff.
  • 1987- AIM PATROL: Minneapolis AIM Patrol restarts to protect American Indian women in Minneapolis after serial killings committed against them.
  • 1988- ELAINE STATELY INDIAN YOUTH SERVICES (ESIYS): developed to create alternatives for youth in Minneapolis as a direct diversion to gang-involvement of Indian youth. FORT SNELLING AIM ANNUAL POW WOW: AIM establishes an annual pow-wow to recognize its 20th Anniversary, at Fort Snelling in Minnesota. The event becomes the largest Labor Day Weekend event in any Minnesota state park.[citation needed]
  • 1989- SPEARFISHING: AIM is requested to provide expertise in dealing with protesters at boat landings. American Indian spearfishing continues despite violence, arrests, and threats from whites. Senator Daniel Inouye calls for a study on the effects of Indian spearfishing. The study shows only 6% of fish taken are by Indians. Sports fishing accounts for the rest.
  • 1991 PEACEMAKER CENTER: AIM houses its AIM Patrol and ESIYS in a center in the heart of the Indian community, based on Indian spirituality. SUNDANCE RETURNED TO MINNESOTA. With the support of the Dakota communities, AIM revives the Sundance at Pipestone, Minnesota. Ojibwe nations have helped make the Minnesota Sundance possible. The Pipestone Sundance becomes an annual event. In 1991, some self-appointed leaders of the Oglala Lakota, Cheyenne and other nations declare independence from the United States. The group establishes a provisional government to develop a separate national government. Elected leaders and council members of the nations do not support this action. NATIONAL COALITION ON RACISM IN SPORTS AND MEDIA: AIM organizes this group to address the issue of using Indian figures and names as sports team mascots. AIM leads a walk in Minneapolis to the 1992 Super Bowl. In 1994, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune agrees to stop using professional sports team names that refer to Indian people unless these have been approved by the tribes.
  • 1992- THE FOOD CONNECTION: organizes summer youth jobs program with an organic garden and spiritual camp (Common Ground) at Tonkawood Farm in Orono, Minnesota.
  • 1993- EXPANSION OF AMERICAN INDIAN OIC JOB TRAINING PROGRAM: the Grand Metropolitan, Inc. of Great Britain, a parent of the Pillsbury Corporation, merges its job training program with that of AIOIC and pledges future monies and support in Minnesota. LITTLE EARTH: after AIM's 18-year struggle, the HUD secretary Henry Cisneros rules that Little Earth of United Tribes housing project shall retain the right to preference for American Indian residents when considering applicants for the project. WOUNDED KNEE ANNIVERSARY: At the 20th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Incident at Pine Ridge Reservation, the elected Oglala Sioux Tribe president, John Yellow Bird Steele, thanked AIM for its 1973 actions.[citation needed]

Due to continuing dissension, AIM splits: AIM Grand Governing Council (AIMGGC) is based in Minneapolis and still led by founders. AIM-International Confederation of Autonomous Chapters is based in Denver, Colorado.

  • 1996- April 3–8, 1996 - As a representative of the AIM Grand Governing Council and special representative of the International Indian Treaty Council, Vernon Bellecourt, along with William A. Means, President of IITC, attends the preparatory meeting for the Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-Liberalism (IEHN), hosted by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), held in LaRealidad, Eastern Chiapas, Mexico, July 27 - August 3, 1996. The second meeting for the IEHN in 1997 is hosted by the EZLN and attended by delegates of the IITC and AIM.
  • 1998- February 12, 1998 - AIM is charged with Security at the Ward Valley Occupation in Southern California. The occupation lasts for 113 days and results in a victory for the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) against the plan to use the area for the disposal of nuclear wastes. February 27, 1998 - 25th Anniversary of Wounded Knee, an Oglala Lakota Nation resolution establishes February 27 as a National Day of Liberation. July 16–19, 1998 - 25th Annual Lac Courte Oreilles "Honor the Earth" Homecoming Celebration to honor the people who participated in the July 31, 1971, takeover of the Winter Dam and the beginning of the "Honor the Earth" observance. August 2–11, 1998 - 30th Anniversary of the AIM Grand Governing Council; Sacred Pipestone Quarries in Pipestone, Minnesota. Conference commemorating AIM's 30th Anniversary.
  • 1999- February 1999 - Three United States activists working with a group of UÕwa Indians in Colombia are kidnapped by rebels. Ingrid Washinawatok, 41 (Menominee), a humanitarian; Terence Freitas, 24, an environmental scientist from Santa Cruz, California; and LaheÕenaÕe Gay, 39 of Hawaii, are seized near the village of Royota, in Arauca province in northeastern Colombia on February 25 while preparing to leave after a two-week on-site visit. On March 5, their bullet-riddled bodies are discovered across the border in Venezuela.
  • 2000 - July 2000 - AIM 32nd Anniversary Conference on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Nation Reservation in northern Wisconsin. October 2000 – AIM founded commission to seek justice for Ingrid Washinawatok and companions.
  • 2001 - March 2001 – Reps of the AIM GGC attend the Zapatista Army of National Liberation March for Peace, Justice and Dignity, Zocolo Plaza, Mexico City. July 2001 – 11th Annual Youth & Elders International Cultural Gathering and Sundance, Pipestone, Minnesota. August 2001 – Five "anti-wahoo" demonstrators with AIM bring civil lawsuit for false arrest against the city of Cleveland, Ohio. November 2001 – The American Indian Forum on Racism in Sports and Media is held at Black Bear Crossing, St. Paul, Minnesota.
  • 2002 - August 2002, 12th Annual International Youth & Elders Cultural Gathering and Sundance, Pipestone, Minnesota.
  • 2003 - May 2003- Quarterly Meeting of the AIM National Board of Directors, Thunderbird House, Winnipeg, Manitoba. August 2003 – 13th Annual International Youth & Elders Cultural Gathering and Sundance, Pipestone, Minnesota.
  • 2004 - August 2004 - 14th Annual International Youth & Elders Cultural Gathering and Sundance, Pipestone, Minnesota.
  • 2005 - May 2005 – First Annual Clyde H. Bellecourt Endowment Scholarship Fund and Awards Banquet, Minneapolis, Minnesota. July 2005 – 15th Annual International Youth & Elders Cultural Gathering and Sundance, Pipestone, Minnesota.
  • 2006 -May 2006 – Second Annual Clyde H. Bellecourt Endowment Scholarship Fund and Awards Banquet, Minneapolis. July 2006 - 16th Annual International Youth & Elders Cultural Gathering and Sundance, Pipestone, Minnesota[39]

Other Native American organizations[edit]

Other Native American rights activists have created groups such as Women of All Red Nations (WARN),[40] NATIVE (Native American Traditions, Ideals, Values Educational Society), LISN (League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations), EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), and the IPC (Indigenous Peoples Caucus).[37] Although each group may have its own specific goals or focus, they are all fighting for the same principles of respect and equality for Native Americans. The Northwest Territories Indian Brotherhood, the Committee of Original People's Entitlement were two organization that spearheaded the native rights movement in northern Canada during the 1960s.

International Indian Treaty Council[edit]

AIM established the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) in June 1974. It invited representatives from numerous indigenous nations, and delegates from 98 international groups attended the meeting. The sacred pipe serves as a symbol of the Nations "common bonds of spirituality, ties to the land and respect for traditional cultures". The IITC focuses on issues such as treaty and land rights, rights and protection of indigenous children, protection of sacred sites, and religious freedom.

The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) uses networking, technical assistance, and coalition building. In 1977, the IITC became a Non-Governmental Organization with Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The organization concentrates on involving Indigenous Peoples in U.N. forums. In addition, the IITC strives to bring awareness about the issues concerning Indigenous Peoples to non-Indigenous organizations.[41]

The United Nations Adoption of Indigenous Peoples Rights[edit]

On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the "Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples." A total of 144 states or countries voted in favor. Four voted against it while 11 abstained. The four voting against it were the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, whose representatives said they believed the declaration "goes too far."[42]

The Declaration announces rights of Indigenous Peoples, such as rights to self-determination, traditional lands and territories, traditional languages and customs, natural resources and sacred sites.[42]

Ideological differences within AIM[edit]

Main article: American Indian Movement of Colorado

In 1993, AIM split into two factions, each claiming to be the authentic inheritor of the AIM tradition. The AIM-Grand Governing Council is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and associated with leadership by Clyde Bellecourt and his brother Vernon Bellecourt (who died in 2007). The GGC tends toward a more centralized, controlled political philosophy.

The AIM-International Confederation of Autonomous Chapters, based in Denver, Colorado, was founded by thirteen AIM chapters in 1993 at a meeting in Denver, Colorado. The group issued its "Edgewood Declaration", citing organizational grievances and complaining of authoritarian leadership by the Bellecourts. Ideological differences were growing, with the AIM-International Confederation of Autonomous Chapters taking a spiritual, perhaps more mainstream, approach to activism. The autonomous chapters group argues that AIM has always been organized as a series of decentralized, autonomous chapters, with local leadership accountable to local constituencies. The autonomous chapters reject the assertions of central control by the Minneapolis group as contrary both to indigenous political traditions and to the original philosophy of AIM.[43]

Accusations of murder[edit]

Main article: Anna Mae Aquash

At a press conference in Denver, Colorado on 3 November 1999, Russell Means accused Vernon Bellecourt of having ordered the execution of Anna Mae Aquash in 1975. The "highest-ranking" woman in AIM at the time, she had been shot execution style in mid-December 1975 and left in a far corner of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation after having been kidnapped from Denver, Colorado and interrogated in Rapid City, South Dakota, as a possible FBI informant. Means implicated Clyde Bellecourt in her murder as well, and other AIM activists, including Theresa Rios. Means said that part of the dissension within AIM in the early 1990s had related to actions to expel the Bellecourt brothers for their part in the Aquash execution; the organization split apart.[44]

Earlier that day in a telephone interview with the journalists Paul DeMain and Harlan McKosato about the upcoming press conference, Minnie Two Shoes had said, speaking of the importance of Aquash,

Part of why she was so important is because she was very symbolic, she was a hard working woman, she dedicated her life to the movement, to righting all the injustices that she could, and to pick somebody out and launch their little cointelpro program on her to bad jacket her to the point where she ends up dead, whoever did it, let's look at what the reasons are, you know, she was killed and lets look at the real reasons why it could have been any of us, it could have been me, it could have been, ya gotta look at the basically thousands of women, you gotta remember that it was mostly women in AIM, it could have been any one of us and I think that's why it's been so important and she was just such a good person.[45]

McKosato said, "...her [Aquash's] death has divided the American Indian Movement..."[45] On 4 November 1999, in a follow-up show on Native American Calling the next day, Vernon Bellecourt denied any involvement by him and his brother in the death of Aquash.[46]

At Federal grand jury hearings in 2003, the Indian men Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham were indicted for shooting Aquash in December 1975. In February '04, Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted of murder in Rapid City. He named as the gunman John Graham, who was in the Yukon. After extradition, John Graham was convicted, in 2010 in Rapid City, of the murder. In both trials, hearsay testimony about the motive for the murder included statements that Aquash heard Leonard Peltier say he killed the FBI agents at Oglala in June 1975, and fear that Aquash could be working with the FBI. Peltier was convicted in 1976 of murder for the Oglala killings, on other evidence.

See also[edit]

Notes, references[edit]

  1. ^ "American Indian Movement"
  2. ^Bellecourt, Clyde. Interview with Peter Matthiessen.
  3. ^ abcdMiner, Marlyce. "The American Indian Movement"Archived 2014-01-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^In The Spirit of Crazy Horse: The FBI's War Against The American Indian Movement. New York, Penguin Group, 1992, pp.37, 51
  5. ^"Records of the National Council on Indian Opportunity"[permanent dead link], LexisNexis
  6. ^Thomas Clarkin. Federal Indian Policy in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, 1961–1969 (2001) University of New Mexico Press, p. 157 ISBN 978-0-8263-2262-3
  7. ^Robert Burnett, Richard Erdoes. The Tortured Americans Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall (1971) ISBN 978-0-13-925545-8
  8. ^Wilson, Edmund. Apologies to the Iroquois : with a study of The Mohawks in high steel by Joseph Mitchell. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1959. 310p. OCLC 221890637
  9. ^"American Indian Movement | Encyclopedia of Milwaukee". Retrieved 2018-01-27. 
  10. ^"B.I.A I'm Not Your Indian Any More," Akwesasne Notes, p.47
  11. ^Legislative Review, November 1972
  12. ^"Twenty Points", American Indian Movement Website, see for the complete text of the Twenty Points
  13. ^Banks, pp. 108-113; Leonard Crow Dog; Richard Erdoes. Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men (New York: Harper Perennial, 1996), pp. 170-171 ISBN 978-0-06-092682-3
  14. ^ abMary Crow Dog; Richard Erdoes. Lakota Woman (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990) p. 88 ISBN 978-0-06-097389-6
  15. ^ abcBernardo Parrella (July 25, 2008). "Global Voices in English » USA: Longest Walk 2 for Native Americans rights". Global Voices Online
A member of the Warrior Society Mitakuye Oyasin wears an AIM jacket at the raising of the John T. Williams Memorial Totem Pole, Seattle Center


In the summer of 1968, Native American activists Dennis Banks, George Mitchell, and Clyde Bellecourt gathered hundreds of like-minded individuals in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Armed with ultimate goal of forcing the United States to recognize Native American sovereignty, the activists formed the American Indian Movement group, or the AIM.

As stated on AIM's official website, the American Indian Movement’s goals were: the recognition of Indian treaties by the United States government, among other goals such as sovereignty and the protection of Native Americans and their liberties. AIM has sought to accomplish these goals over the past five decades by bringing a multitude of successful lawsuits against the federal government with n the hopes of changing U.S. policy.

Key events for the American Indian movement include the group’s formation in Minnesota in 1968, as well as the initial occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969. The movement also organized the “Trail of Broken Treaties” March, where protesters marched on Washington, D.C.

Following the 1973 occupation by AIM leader Russell Means and his supporters at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, the AIM became an internationally known and recognized civil rights group. The New York Times even ran a story that reported on the vanishing number of Indians, as well as to their unfair treatment by the United States Federal government. In an Atlanta newspaper in 1973, Russel Means said that if the Indian voice isn’t heard among the U.S. government officials, “the situation…will evolve into a bigger and larger Wounded Knee.”  It seems that Means was indeed correct, as an FBI officer was killed in a shootout with AIM at the Pine Ridge Reservation two years later.

Symbols and Logos of the American Indian Movement

The displayed Alcatraz Proclamation stating the reasons for their right to the island

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A more clear view of the proclamation

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Close up of "United Indian Property" vandalized sign

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Occupiers in the main cell block of Alcatraz Penitentiary

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The Catalyst of the American Indian Movement

The dynamic movements of the 1960’s-1970’s gained momentum as several causes came to the forefront following the Civil Rights Movement. Previously believed to avoid protests, American Indians disproved this stereotype at the occupation of Alcatraz starting in November of 1969. It is said that this kickstarted the American Indian Movement. The decision to occupy Alcatraz originates from the government’s House Resolution 108. This policy requires Native Americans to follow the same laws as American citizens. This law rules that reservation lands that were once protected, and limited to Indian tribes, are now open to the public. Concrete justification for their right to Alcatraz was demonstrated in the Sioux treaty of 1868. This treaty stated American Indians would receive land no longer used by the Federal government that was previously theirs.

In March of 1963, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was shut down.  The first occupation of “The Rock” occurred a year later. Indian students mobilized for the second and third occupations after San Francisco Indian Center caught on fire. The second short occupation took place on November 9th, 1969. This occupation was significant due to media coverage airing the proclamation “To the Great White Father and All His People,” which emphasized the island’s significance to them. The third, final, and longest occupation started on November 20th, 1969. Nineteen months of resistance was organized by Indians of All Tribes. Indians who were reliant on the government for employment and living assistance following their forced removal and relocation found themselves with no means to support themselves. The government failed to implement a program that helped Indians adjust. Instead, Indians were displaced and had to rely on each other for aid. This new sense of community among Indians in a unfamiliar place began the formation of a strongly connected faction that would later be ready to challenge discriminatory practices.

The four hour occupation that took place in March of 1964 was a protest led by five Indians claiming the land and voicing their dissatisfaction with how Indians in the surrounding urban areas were treated. By November 20th of 1969, numerous tribes were ready for a full occupation of the island. The boats transporting 92 Indians successfully avoided the National Guard, and they quickly established themselves on the island.  Requests were made for federal funding, but the government refused and decided to not intervene- this would later lead to the demise of the occupation. Despite lack of government aid or acknowledgement, Indians persevered for nineteen months. They vandalized the existing government signage to designate it as Indian property. The plan was to establish a cultural center in contrast with San Francisco's plan to make it a commercial hotspot. Negotiation rather than forced removal was proposed, but the Indian community was unaffected and did not plan to leave. Supplies came in on boats from activists and Indians still living in the Bay area. Facilities were formed rapidly. Housing was available and job formation was a staple of the island to ensure the incoming residents could adapt and function as they normally would. Educational services were provided as well. More Indians relocated to the island due to its success and support even from celebrities. After the daughter of the unofficial leader, Richard Oakes, died, the island transitioned to harsh leadership under Stella Leach. The island was torn into those in support of Leach and those who didn’t like how the island was now being run. Bay Area Native American Council (BANAC) included Bay area Indians and occupiers. The government made a failed attempt to negotiate only with this organization rather than everyone involved in the occupation. All negotiations were refused.

To terminate their means of getting water, the government hauled away the barge providing their only source. When flames broke out, and with no water to put them out, the island’s buildings burnt down. Leaders like Leach left, students came and went, and violence was unavoidable with the remaining residents on the island. When the government’s back up plan was revealed via a reporter, a mere thirty Indians remained. Support was no longer coming in, and most Indians were ready to advocate for their cause in another way. The government sent federal agents to lead removal in 1971, and no resistance occurred. Although the significance of the Alcatraz occupation dwindled drastically near the end, the American Indian Movement became prevalent across the nation. The occupation banded together tribes of students, families, and Bay area citizens to bring attention to an issue that needed national attention, which it earned with great success.




The Trail of Broken Treaties 

The trail of broken treaties originated out of an idea of a march on Washington. The focus of the march was to draw attention to treaty rights and issues that faced Native Americans. At the end of September, 50 representatives from different organizations met in Denver and discussed their plans for the march. It was at this meeting that the march was given the name of The Trail of Broken Treaties. Caravans started in Seattle, San Francisco, and LA and travelled from West to East. The caravans stopped at Indian communities along the way and gathered supporters before ending in DC in the last week of the presidential election of 1972. Upon arriving in DC, the members had planned to present their 20 Point Position paper to the presidential candidates, Nixon and McGovern. The paper was created in Minneapolis and it expressed the goals and ideology of the Trail of Broken Treaties including the demand for the federal government to return to treaty making with Indian Nations, a creation of a treaty commission that would review treaty violations and the appropriate compensation for these violations, and a call to conduct federal Indian policy in context of treaty relations. Unfortunately, when the caravans had arrived in D.C., they discovered that both Nixon and McGovern were out of town. The caravan also found that their lodging arrangements had fallen through. The activists had gone the next day to discuss their plans with Commissioner Bruce at the BIA. The activists were told they could stay in the BIA auditorium while the assistant secretary Harrison Loesch, Bruce and Trail leaders discussed housing arrangement. The activists were told that they could lodge in the Department of Interior which was across the street from the BIA, but when they arrived, they found that the doors were locked. The activists felt as if they had been tricked into leaving the BIA so they returned to the BIA. The occupation of the BIA eventually emerged from suspicious, tension, and paranoia.

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Trail of Broken Treaties and The Occupation of the BIA Gallery

This gallery displays 15 pictures from the AIM's march on Washington and their occupation of the BIA. The AIM wanted to present their 20 points of interest to Presidential candidates Nixon and McGovern. I have captioned these picutres with 15 of the AIM's requests. The requests are from the American Indian Movement's 20 Point Position Paper.>READ THE ENTIRE PAPER HERE</>as.

All photos taken from this album 

Preamble to the 20 Point Position Paper

This is the preamble to the 20 Point Position paper that AIM members wrote in Minneapolis on their Trail of Broken Treaties. The members sought to present their 20 points to the Presidential candidates, Richard Nixon and George McGovern.

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Videos from the Trail of Broken Treaties and the Occupation of the BIA

These videos all document the American Indian Movement's occupation of the BIA. The first two videos are oral histories from activists who were present at the event. One of the women interviewed even recounts how she worked for the BIA. She confirms the abuse and neglect towards Native Americans that take place within and because of the BIA. She recounts how she helped lead the group of AIM members into the Bureau. The third video is hisotrical footage from the event. 

Newspaper articles on the Trail of Broken Treaties and the Occupation of the BIA

These newspaper articles from the New York Times report on the Trail of Broken Treaties or the Occupation of the BIA. Before the takeover of the BIA, the caravan to Washington DC was sparsely covered. The New York times only produced one short article on the Trail of Broken treaties which is shown above. After the AIM seized control of the BIA, however, they began to receive national attention. The 500 Native Americans denied federal court orders to leave the building multiple times. The Native Americans made several demands from the federal government including reform of land policies, speedy treaty revisions, and the removal of several Federal officials who deal with Indian Affairs. Many Native Americans as well as other supporters gathered outside of the BIA to show their support and bring reinforcements and supplies. During their time in Washington, the AIM had also planned a march to Arlington Cemetery to conduct a spiritual ceremony to honor Indians who have fought in wars, but the march was banned by the US Army. The Native Americans eventually left the building after about a week. The Nixon Administration had promised a thorough review and consideration of their grievances as well as amnesty for the occupation and the $2,000,000 of damage left to the building. On their way out of the building, demonstrators took with them artifacts and paintings from the BIA.

Below is a transcript from an NBC news report of the occupation of the BIA.

AIM Leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means speak on BIA Occupation

Mr. DENNIS BANKS (American Indian Movement): The nine-point peace package has been accepted by the Interior Department for further exploration. Justice Department officials further assured us, the occupants of the BIA building, that no arrests would be made during the next thirteen hours. The negotiating committee will reconvene at nine o’clock Sunday morning to deal with the proposed peace package and to get clarification on the duties and responsibilities that John Ocroe has here with the BIA. That’s the end of that statement regarding our meetings with the Justice and Interior officials. I’m, I’m--The meeting is favorable, however the committee is not comfortable with the results at this point, that’s why the, we’ve asked to continue negotiations for tomorrow. Now, I understand also that Interior Secretary Morton has made a statement that the people gathered here do not represent Indian people. He claims he does. Secretary Morton is not Indian and for the past so many years that the secretary or Interior Department has handled Indian affairs, the only conclusion that I can arrive at is that the Interior Department also has never represented Indian people.

Mr. RUSSELL MEANS (American Indian Movement Leader): The fact is the press, you know I love the network coverage tonight that concern Carl MacIntyre and that unfortunate incident of the little girl this morning. Our points are not getting across by the national press and once again I want to say that the national press is managing to edit Indian people out of existence. Sensationalism is continually brought out to the front rather than the fact that we are putting our lives on the line for a twenty-points solution paper to any problems.

Mr. BANKS: The Interior Department has been negative to all of the recommendations and demands that we have set before them. They have done so even early this morning when the secretary confined Commissioner Bruce to the Interior Department building. Point number four demanded that there be a restoration of duties and responsibilities and power and authority back to Commissioner Bruce. We demanded that the Interior Department reinstate Commissioner Bruce’s authority. They answered by confining him and restricting him to the Interior Department building. That was their answer. Which again, in the face of what is happening here, they have slapped again, slapped the Indian in his face trying to use Commissioner Bruce as a tool for their benefit. They have kept him behind locked doors which is symbolic in a way because all of us are political prisoners. And I want to restate a position that only with general assembly approval will we release this building. The other alternative is for them to come in here and take it by force. And we will resist at all cost until that decision has been reached by the general assembly itself again.


1972, November 5). AIM Leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means on BIA Occupation. [Television series episode]. NBC Learn. Retrieved from

NBC News Report Transcript

House Committee Hearings Begin into Takeover of Bureau of Indian Affairs- 12/4/1972


A month ago, 500 angry Indians took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, stayed there for a week and ransacked the place. The Bureau is still not functioning. Today, Congressional hearings opened on the takeover. Ron Nessen reports.

RON NESSEN reporting:

While the mess at the Bureau of Indian Affairs is still being cleaned up, a House subcommittee began hearings to determine which government officials were responsible for letting the Indians occupy the building, stay six days, and wreck it. The first witnesses were Interior Secretary Morton, Indian Commissioner Bruce, and Assistant Secretary Loesch. Indians crowded the spectator section but no Indians from the protest were invited to tell why they did it. Loesch said he intended to have riot police clear the building the first night of the occupation. But Morton said this was overruled by John Ehrlichman of the White House with President Nixon’s approval to avoid violence. Morton said he agreed to try to get the Indians out by court order rather than by force.

Mr. ROGERS MORTON (Secretary of Interior): The decision was made to use due process of law. The event in my judgment, and I will take full responsibility for that judgment, was that the event was of such a character that the courts should become involved and the Department of Justice should become involved and that’s the route we chose.

Reporter: But Mr. Loesch, you wanted to handle it differently. You wanted to go in and move them out with police the first night.

Mr. HARRISON LOESCH (Assistant Secretary of Interior): That’s true.

Reporter: Well who overruled that decision?

Mr. LOESCH: You heard my testimony. This was an administration decision.

Reporter: That means a White House decision?

Mr. LOESCH: No, sir. That means a decision in which Mr. Hitt and Secretary Morton were fully advised and fully concurred.

NESSEN: The subcommittee invited John Ehrlichman and other White House officials to explain their handling of the Indian occupation. The subcommittee especially wanted to know whether a showdown was delayed to avoid to possible violence just before the presidential election. But Ehrlichman and the others declined to testify on grounds that presidential advisors are not required to answer such questions. So the whole story may never be known publicly. Ron Nessen, NBC News, Washington.


Wounded Knee Occupation 1973 

The occupation of Wounded Knee began February 27, 1973 and lasted until May 9, 1973. The 71 day occupation began as a result of the failed impeachment of tribal chairman Dick Wilson, who the Oglala Lakota residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation believed to be corrupt and disrespectful of their culture. After this failure, they turned to AIM for help to protest and remove Wilson from office. On February 27, more than 50 cars full of demonstrators entered the hamlet of Wounded Knee and marked the beginning of the occupation. United States Federal Marshals and the National Guard were prepared for a demonstration from AIM and they blocked off the four routes leading into Wounded Knee. They also cut off electricity and water to the town in an effort to quickly end the siege. The event was covered extensively by the media and garnered support and sympathy from those outside of the reservation. Included in this group of sympathizers was Larry Levin, a member of the airlift crew that dropped food and supplies for the cut-off residents of Wounded Knee.


On the day of the supplies drop, April 17, 1973, Levin described the scene of Wounded Knee from their aircraft:

“I saw the whole panorama of Wounded Knee open up before me -- the hard metallic shapes of armored personnel carriers and military vehicles totally surrounding the village. There were roadblocks on all approaches to the village, and satellite bunkers, communication outposts, and sandbagged trenches everywhere… I saw no people, no movement.”

During the occupation, two Native Americans, Frank Clearwater and Lawrence Lamont, died and one FBI agent, Lloyd Grimm, was shot and paralyzed. After the death of Lamont on April 26th, the Oglala Lakota decided to pursue an agreement with the government to end the occupation. While members of AIM wanted to continue the occupation, an agreement was reached between the occupiers and the government and on May 9th, 1973 the occupiers officially surrendered. More than 300 people were arrested attempting to enter or leave the town during the occupation and, as the agreements called for the arrest of any occupiers with outstanding warrants against them, more arrests ensued at the end of the occupation. Russell Means, one of the AIM leaders during the occupation, was charged with assault, larceny and conspiracy after the occupation but his case was eventually dismissed.

The failed impeachment of Dick Wilson sparked the occupation of Wounded Knee, but another objective was to bring attention to the broken treaties between the federal government and the Native Americans throughout U.S. history. The location itself was a statement to the abuses the Native Americans faced from the federal government due to the previous atrocities committed on the site. In the aftermath of the 1973 occupation, AIM continued to bring attention to the broken treaties, even citing the agreement to end the Wounded Knee occupation as a broken agreement. The document in the gallery below, produced by AIM, states the agreement was “immediately and perfunctorily broken” and serves as another example of AIM attempting to point out the injustices of the federal government toward the Native peoples even after the occupation.

Wounded Knee Gallery 

The last major event of the American Indian Movment

The Longest Walk ended the American Indian Movement’s series of major events. From San Fransisco (the location of the Alcatraz occupation) to Washington D.C’s Washington Monument, the American Indian Movement’s Dennis Banks presented the idea for the approximately 3,000 mile march against recently proposed bills. These bills endangered hunting and fishing rights as well as potentially shutting down schools and hospitals used by Natives. American Indians’ tribal legal capacity would be restricted. Two thousand participants marched, Native Americans, and supporters of the Indian resistance movement marched. More than 20 people walked the entire distance for five months. In the end, none of the bills were passed. The Civil Right's period American Indian Movement 's last major event ended with success. Today, Longest Walks are still used to commemorate the first Longest Walk. "Longest Walk 5" is in process right now. Each Longest Walk following the first one focuses on different issues affecting the Native American community.

The picture above is an image of an Indian emcampment at Wounded Knee in 1973 and shows how the native populations experienced a cultural revival during this time. 





There is little doubt that the formation of the AIM provided a much needed cultural revival for the American native peoples. Due to the militant nature of their organization, however, many of the activists who were involved with AIM were constantly busy battling with the United States in the form of court appearances and various legal fees. Despite this, however, the occupations that were organized by the American Indian Movement still served to draw international attention to the issues of current Native Americans. The worldwide attention helped the Native American's and their struggle within America, influenced court decisions and positively influenced the ways in which the Native Americans were treated. By changing both the perspectives of individual people as well as striving to change written law, AIM has succeeded in improving the standard of living for Native Americans living in the United States.

Works Cited: 

“1978: ‘Longest Walk’ draws attention to American Indian concerns.” Native Peoples’ Concept of Health and Illness. Accessed on March 28, 2017.

“A brief history of the American Indian Movement.” None. April 1st, 2017.

“A Good Day to Die- Bureau of Indian Affairs Sit-In.” Youtube, January 26, 2012. Accessed March 31, 2017,

"A Long List of Grievances." New York Times (1923-Current File), Nov 12, 1972. 1. Date Accessed March 28, 2017,

“AIM and Wounded Knee Documents.”American Indian and Cultural Support. Accessed April 1, 2017.

“AIM Leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means on BIA Occupation.” [Television series episode]. NBC Learn. 1972, November 5. Accessed on March 28, 2017,

“American Indian Movement.” None. April 2nd, 2017.

 “American Indian Movement.” None. March 31st, 2017.

“American Indian Movement.” None. March 30th, 2017.

“American Indian Movement: Overview.” None. March 30th, 2017.

“A Photographer Remembers Wounded Knee, 40 Years Laters.” NPR. February 27, 2013. Accessed on April 1, 2017.

Bell, Chuck. "AIM Leader Protests Motion by Prosecutors." The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984) Sep 12 1973: 1. ProQuest. 29 Mar. 2017 

Goldstein, Margaret. You Are Now on Indian Land: The American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island, California, 1969. Minneapolis, MN. Lerner Publishing Group, 2011.

“Holding the Rock: The “Indianization” of Alcatraz Island, 1969-1999.” The Public Historian. 2001. Accessed on March 28, 2017.

“House Committee Hearings Begin into Takeover of Bureau of Indian Affairs.” NBC Learn. December 4, 1972. Accessed March 28, 2017,

"Indians in Capital Defy a Court Order." New York Times (1923-Current File), Nov 04, 1972. 42, Date Accessed March 28, 2017,

"INDIANS STAYING IN U.S. BUILDING." New York Times (1923-Current File), Nov 05, 1972. 37, Accessed March 28, 2017,

"INDIANS TO BEGIN CAPITAL PROTESTS." New York Times (1923-Current File), Oct 31, 1972. 31. Date Accessed, March 30, 2017,

“Memories of the Wounded Knee Airlift April 17, 1973.” February 17, 1998. Accessed April 1, 2017.

“Native Americans Take over the Bureau of Indian Affairs:1972.” Washington Area Spark, November 29, 1972. Accessed March 28, 2017,

“Native Americans walk from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. for U.S. civil rights, 1978.” Global Nonviolent Action Database. Accessed on March 28, 2017.

“Occupy Wounded Knee: A 71-Day Siege and a Forgotten Civil Rights Movement.” The Atlantic. October 23, 2012. Accessed April 1, 2017.\

“Occupation of Wounded Knee is Ended.” The New York Times. May 9, 1973. Accessed April 1, 2017.

“Planning, the Caravan, and the Breakdown.” Framing Red Power, 2009-2017. Accessed March 30, 2017,

Sterba, James P. "They'Re Trying Not to Vanish." New York Times (1923-Current file) Nov 11 1973: 232. ProQuest. 29 Mar. 2017.

“The 20 Point Position Paper Preamble and the 20 Point Position Paper” The American Indian Movement, October 1972. Accessed March 29, 2017,

 “The Occupation of Alcatraz Island: Roots of American Indian Activism.” Wicazo Sa Review. 1994. Accessed on March 28, 2017.

“Trail of Broken Treaties.” Youtube, February 27, 2013. Accessed March 31, 2017,

“Urban Rez: BIA Takeover.” Youtube, October 11, 2013. Accessed March 31, 2017,

Wurtzburg, Susan J. "American Indian Movement (AIM)." The
Seventies in America (Online Edition)
, January. April 1st, 2017.

A movie made about the American Indian experience and their struggle for civil rights.

Alcatraz Proclamation given by Richard Oakes

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Native American interviewed after the Occupation of Alcatraz

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Young Natvie Americans giving the Red Power salute.

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Alcatraz poster faulting the government for unfairly taking back Alcatraz after removing the last occupiers

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Photo by Bernie Boston. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.


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Photo by Geoffrey Gilbert. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Start Collection © Washington Post.


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Photo by Geoffrey Gilbert. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Start Collection © Washington Post.


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Photo by Geoffrey Gilbert. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Start Collection © Washington Post.


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Photographer unidentified. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Start Collection © Washington Post.



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Photo by Pete Copeland. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Start Collection © Washington Post.


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Photo by Bernie Boston. Courtesy of the DC Public Library, Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.


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Photo by Pete Schmick. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Start Collection © Washington Post.


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Photo by Pete Schmick. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Start Collection © Washington Post.


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Photographer unknown. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.


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Photo by Pete Schmick. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Start Collection © Washington Post.

One of the checkpoints into the hamlet

Wounded Warriors 

Lakota elders gathering to discuss the events of the occupation 

Photo taken during the AIM takeover and ultimate surrender at Wounded Knee

Backside of an FBI photo describing the depiction of a shot agent

A poster appealing to people to show their solidarity with the occupiers 

Occupiers escort negotiator Harlington Wood into the town 

The May 5th Agreement describing some of the conditions agreed to by the negotiators and occupiers 

Russell Means announces the end of the occupation 

The New York Times article announcing the end of the occupation 

Video on the events of Wounded Knee

Document produced by AIM describing the neglected aspects of the May 5th agreement

Button promoting the 1978 Longest Walk

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Poster Propaganda for the 1978 Longest Walk

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Banner supporting Indian resistance at the end of the Longest Walk

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Partcipant wearing tradtional clothing at the end of the Longest Walk

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Indian Encampment at the Longest Walk ending point at the National Mall in Washington D.C.

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Speech given at the conclusion of the Longest Walk in 1978 by Dr. Lehman Brightman.

Participants carrying the sacred pipe across Illinois while running in the Longest Walk 1978

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Six Nations Delegates participating in the Longest Walk

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