American Indian Movement

Published on December 13, 2010 by John

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Flag of the American Indian Movement.

The American Indian Movement (AIM) is a Native American activist organization in the United States. In October 1972 the American Indian Movement gathered its forces from across the country onto the Trail of Broken Treaties, championing Indian unity. The national AIM agenda focused on spirituality, leadership, and sovereignty. Thousands of volunteers emerged from reservations and cities alike, responding to the call within themselves that the time had come to take a stand against centuries of mismanaged U.S. government trust. Students in higher education, Indians in the ministry, Indians living in poverty and a smattering of bureaucrats and sympathetic public officials responded. AIM recruitment offices came to life and new chapters opened so fast the speed of the responses overtook the new AIM national office’s ability to record the list. The speed and intensity of AIM’s growth authenticated the desire to right wrongs, and there were many of them.

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AIM gained international press when it seized the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 1972, and in 1973 had a standoff at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. AIM was founded in 1968 by Dennis Banks, George Mitchell, Herb Powless, Clyde Bellecourt, Harold Goodsky, Eddie Benton-Banai, and a number of others in Minneapolis’ Native American community. Russell Means was another early leader. The early organization was formed to address various issues concerning the Native American community including poverty, housing, treaty issues, and police harassment. From its beginnings in Minnesota, AIM soon attracted members from across the United States (and Canada). It was also involved in the Rainbow Coalition (Fred Hampton). Charles Deegan Sr. was involved with the AIM patrol.

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, with the AIM-Grand Governing Council based in Minneapolis and affirming its right to use the name and trademarks for affiliated chapters.


Pre-AIM: The Early Years

Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson both made efforts to reform the neglect and damage done to the Indian nations. On March 6, 1968, 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.” Johnson, who knew nearly nothing of Indians, 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.

One champion of the pre-AIM period was Robert Burnett. The early to mid 1960s did not go well for tribes. In congress, the Democratic chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, James Haley championed Indians but with his own twist. He believed Indians should participate more in “policy matters” but “the right of self-determination is in the Congress as a representative of all the people.” Burnett, a former Rosebud (South Dakota) tribal chairman would prove to be a central figure in the development of the Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972. But in the 1960s he met with presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and pressed for Indian self-determination and control in transactions over land. One such struggle was the fight over long-term leasing.Non-Indian businesses and banks said they could not invest in leases of 25 years, even with generous options. Relieving the long-term poverty on most reservations through business partnerships was seen as infeasible. A return to the 19th Century 99-year leases was seen as a possible solution. Even when used “sparingly” as recommended in the discussions, the 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 wholesale taking, not leases, was on the president’s table. In the 1950s, leases were a way onto Indian land.

Another champion was Wallace “Mad Bear” Anderson, a Tuscarora leader in the 1950s. The rotund and highly outspoken Anderson travelled to Cuba and talked with Castro but found his defining moment in a struggle with the renowned New York planner Robert Moses. The struggle ended in a bitter compromise. (See also Tuscarora Reservation).

The initial AIM movement

AIM was founded at a time of continuing social change and protest following achievement of national legislation of the Civil Rights Movement, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. The AIM strategies were based on its leaders’ perceptions that Indian activists had failed to achieve enough results at the time of its founding. AIM believed that advocates for Indian interests who had worked within the American political system had not been effective. The political system simply ignored Indian interests. The AIM leadership decided at its founding that a more aggressive approach had to be adopted in order for their voices to be heard. Up to this time, Indian advocacy had worked within the system by lobbying activities with the US Congress and the state legislatures.

Early AIM protests

AIM used the American press and media to present its own unvarnished message to the United States public. It did so by ensuring an event which the press would want to cover. If successful, news outlets would seek out AIM spokespersons for interviews and receive its message. Instead of relying on traditional lobbying efforts, like other activist groups, AIM sought to control its message to the American public. AIM was always on the look out for an event that would result in publicity. Sound bites such as the “AIM Song” were often caught on camera and quickly became associated with the movement.

Protest marches

During ceremonies on Thanksgiving Day 1970, commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock, AIM seized the replica of the Mayflower. In 1971, members occupied Mount Rushmore for a few days. Also in 1971 AIM first targeted the incompetence of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and briefly occupied its central headquarters. The daily news and local media carried footage of AIM leaders having their heads bounced down the second floor marble stairs. A brief arrest, reversal of charges for “unlawful entry” and a meeting with Louis Bruce, the Mohawk/Lakota BIA Commissioner ended the first notice to the government that change was going to come. Bruce served sandwiches, and thus in genteel fashion the “citizen’s arrest of John Old Crow for incompetence and malfeasance,” ended, for the moment. The experience merely led to better preparation and strategic planning. In 1972, they marched on the “Trail of Broken Treaties” and took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). AIM’s occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1973, and other events during the 1970s were designed to achieve this goal of gaining attention. They ensured AIM would be noticed to highlight its belief that the rights of Indian people had eroded.

The twenty points were clear and potent reminders of the lack of faith set in motion in the early 1950s by Harry Truman’s BIA Commissioner Dillon Myer. The twenty points laid out the movement’s grievances against the federal government, including twelve points that directly or indirectly address treaty responsibilities in which the protesters believed the U.S. government had failed to fulfill.

1. Restoration of treaty making (ended by Congress in 1871).
2. Establishment of a treaty commission to make new treaties (with sovereign Native Nations).
3. Indian leaders to address Congress.
4. Review of treaty commitments and violations.
5. Unratified treaties to go before the Senate.
6. All Indians to be governed by treaty relations.
7. Relief for Native Nations for treaty rights violations.
8. Recognition of the right of Indians to interpret treaties.
9. Joint Congressional Committee to be formed on reconstruction of Indian relations.
10. Restoration of 110 million acres (450,000 km2) of land taken away from Native Nations by the United States.
11. Restoration of terminated rights.
12. Repeal of state jurisdiction on Native Nations (Public Law 280).
13. Federal protection for offenses against Indians.
14. Abolishment of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
15. Creation of a new office of Federal Indian Relations.
16. New office to remedy breakdown in the constitutionally prescribed relationships between the United States and Native Nations.
17. Native Nations to be immune to commerce regulation, taxes, trade restrictions of states.
18. Indian religious freedom and cultural integrity protected.
19. Establishment of national Indian voting with local options; free national Indian organizations from governmental controls
20. Reclaim and affirm health, housing, employment, economic development, and education for all Indian people.

The Longest Walk and The Longest Walk 2

The Longest Walk was an American Indian Movement led spiritual walk to support tribal sovereignty and bring attention to 11 pieces of anti-Indian legislation that would among things have abrogated Indian Treaties, quantified and limited water rights, etc. It started on February 11, 1978 with a Ceremony on Alcatraz where a Sacred Pipe was loaded with tobacco and that Pipe was carried the entire distance. This 3,200-mile (5,100 km) Walk’s purpose was to educate people about the United States government’s continuing threat to Tribal Sovereignty and served as a rallying point for many thousands of Indian People representing many Indian Nations throughout the United States and Canada. Most significantly, traditional spiritual leaders from many tribes came and ran Ceremonies, and even international spiritual people, primarily from Japan, also supported the Walk.

On July 15, 1978, “The Longest Walk” walked into Washington D.C. with several thousand Indian People and a number of non-Indian supporters. The traditional elders led the Walk into D.C. to the Washington Monument, where the Pipe carried across the country was smoked. Over the following week a number of rallys were held at various locations around Washington D.C. addressing various issues including the 11 pieces of legislation, American Indian political prisoners, forced relocation at Big Mountain, Navajo Nation etc. Some well known non-Indian supporters included American boxer Muhammad Ali, American Senator Ted Kennedy and actor Marlon Brando. The bill abrogating Indian Treaties was not passed. During the ensuing week of arrival, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed. President Jimmy Carter refused to meet with representatives of The Longest Walk.

On July 11, 2008, an 8,200-mile (13,200 km) walk, which had started from the San Francisco Bay area, for the protection of American Indian Sacred sites, the commemoration of The Longest Walk and its support for Tribal Sovereignty, environmental protection, and to stop global warming, reached Washington, D.C after starting on February 11 on Alcatraz. There were two routes, a Southern Route and a Northern Route. The Northern Route generally followed the route of the original Longest Walk and was led by veterans of that original walk. Participants crossed 26 states on the two different routes. The Longest Walk 2, consisting of over 100 American Indian nations, also had other Indigenous Peoples such as Maori from Aotearoa a number of non-Indigenous, including international people, who also walked. The Southern Route picked up more than 8,000 bags of garbage on their way to Washington, D.C. In Washington, the Southern Route delivered a 30-page manifesto, “The Manifesto of Change”, and a list of demands, including mitigation for climate change, environmental sustainability plans, protection of sacred sites, and renewal of improvement to Native American sovereignty and health. The Northern Route chose a different way of asserting its issues, relying on the Sacred staffs and promoting the message of support for the protection of Sacred sites for Indigenous Peoples, Traditional Tribal Sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples, the protection of Children (the Northern Route was led by a Children’s Staff), and native prisoners. This Walk commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the original Longest Walk.

Connection to other minorities

AIM’s leaders spoke out against similar disadvantages the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were opposed to. 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 whose situations bred illness and poverty. They opened the K-12 Heart of the Earth Survival School in 1971, and in 1972, mounted the Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington, D.C. They took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), in protest of its policies, and demanded reforms. With its provocative events and advocacy for Indian rights, AIM attracted scrutiny from the FBI and Department of Justice. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used paid informants to report on AIM’s activities and its members. In February, 1973 AIM leader Russell Means as well as others took over a small Indian community of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. They were protesting because of its supposedly corrupt government. When FBI agents were dispatched to remove the AIM occupiers, a standoff ensued. Through the resulting siege that lasted for 71 days, two people were killed, twelve wounded, and twelve hundred arrested. Wounded Knee was a seminal event, drawing worldwide attention to the plight of American Indians. AIM leaders were later tried in a Minnesota court and, after a trial that lasted for eight months, were acquitted of wrongdoing.


AIM protests

AIM has opposed the use of caricatures of indigenous people as mascots for national and collegiate sports teams, such as the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Redskins. AIM organized protests at World Series and Super Bowl games involving those teams. Protesters held signs with slogans such as “Indians are people not mascots,” or “Being Indian is not a character you can play.

Although such requests were ignored 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 negotiated with the tribes whose names or images they used for permission and to collaborate on portraying the mascot in a way that honors Native Americans.

Goals and commitments

AIM has been committed to improving conditions faced by native peoples. They 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.

In 1970, 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 by the United States Federal Government. The protest brought the issues of the American Indian Movement to the attention of the media.

In 1972 at Gordon, Nebraska, an American Indian, Raymond Yellow Thunder, was murdered by two white men, Leslie and Melvin Hare. After their trial, the Hares received the minimal sentence of manslaughter. Members of AIM went to Gordon to protest the sentencing. In the winter of 1973, Wesley Bad Heart Bull was stabbed to death at a bar by a white male, Darrell Schmidt. The offender was jailed, but was quickly released on a $5000 bond. He was charged with second degree manslaughter. In protest of the charges, a group of American Indian Movement members traveled to Custer, South Dakota. AIM leaders Dennis Banks, Russell Means and David Hill held negotiations with the judge in the case, but the talks were not successful. In response to this, the Custer Chamber of Commerce building, two patrol cars, and a sign were burned down. Many of the AIM demonstrators were jailed due to the protest.

1970s Wounded Knee FBI stand-off at Pine Ridge Reservation

In February 1973, a group of AIM members took part in a seventy-one day long siege at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.The occupation was in response to the 1890 massacre of at least 150 Lakota men, women, and children by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry at a camp near Wounded Knee Creek [21] During the siege, the American Indians occupied the Sacred Heart Church and the Gildersleeve Trading Post. Although periodic negotiations were held between AIM spokesman and U.S. government negotiators, there was shooting from both sides. There were two AIM members killed at Wounded Knee and numerous others were wounded.

During the stand-off Marlon Brando asked a Native American woman, Sacheen Littlefeather to speak at the Oscars on his behalf, refusing the Oscar for his performance in The Godfather. She appeared in full Apache clothing. She stated that owing to the “poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry” Mr. Brando would not accept the award. The event grabbed the attention of the US and the world media. This was considered a major event and victory for the movement by its supporters and participants.

1980s support of Nicaraguan Miskito Indians

During the Sandinista/Indian conflict in Nicaragua of the mid-1980s, 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 lost AIM some support from certain US left-wing organizations in the U.S. who opposed Contra activities and supported the Sandinista movement. 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.

AIM protests and contentions

Many AIM chapters remain committed to confronting government and corporate forces that they allege seek to marginalize indigenous peoples.They have challenged the ideological foundations of national holidays, such as Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. AIM argues that Thanksgiving should be a National Day of Mourning, and protests what it perceives to be the continuing theft of indigenous peoples’ territories and natural resources. AIM has helped educate people about the full history of the US and assert the Native American perspective in U.S. history. Its efforts are recognized and supported by many institutional leaders in politics, education, arts, religion, and media.

The 2000s

In April 2003, AIM chapters met at a conference with the founder of the Center for the SPIRIT (Support and Protection of Indian Religions and Indigenous Traditions) to discuss plans to protect and maintain Native American religious rights. In June of that year, United States and Canadian tribes joined together internationally to pass the “Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality.” SPIRIT teamed up with the AIM to declare war against all “plastic Indians.” 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 non-AIM student Occupation of Alcatraz in 1969. Their 2004 march was in support of Leonard Peltier, whom they felt was wrongly imprisoned and who has become a symbol of spiritual and political resistance for Native Americans.

In December 2008, a delegation of Lakota Sioux including Talon Becenti delivered a declaration of separation from the United States to the U.S. State Department. 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.

AIM Timeline

1968 MINNEAPOLIS AIM PATROL : created to address issues of extensive police brutality.

1969 ALCATRAZ ISLAND occupied for 19 months. AIM was there when United Indians of All Tribes reclaimed federal land in the name of Native Nations. First Indian radio broadcasts—Radio Free Alcatraz—heard in the Bay Area of San Francisco. INDIAN HEALTH BOARD of Minneapolis founded. This is the first Indian urban-based health care provider in the nation.

1970 LEGAL RIGHTS CENTER : created to assist in alleviating legal issues facing Indian people.(In 1994, over 19,000 clients have had legal representation, thanks to AIM’s founding of the Legal Rights Center).

1970 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’ main office in Washington D.C. to show improper BIA policies. 24 arrested for “trespassing” and released. BIA Commissioner Louis Bruce shows his AIM membership card at the meeting held after the release of those arrested. FIRST NATIONAL AIM CONFERENCE: 18 chapters of AIM convened to develop long-range strategy for future directions of the movement. TAKEOVER OF DAM: AIM assists the Lac Court Orieles Ojibwa in Wisconsin in taking over a dam controlled by Northern States Power which flooded much of the reservation land. This action leads to support by government officials and eventual settlement, returning over 25,000 acres of land to the tribe and actually providing 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, MN. HEART OF THE EARTH SURVIVAL SCHOOL: a K-12 school established to address the extremely high drop-out rate among American Indian students and lack of cultural programming. 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 march on Washington, DC ending in the occupation of BIA headquarters and resulting in the presentation of a 20-point solution paper to President Nixon.

1973 LEGAL ACTION FOR SCHOOL FUNDS: In reaction to the Trail of Broken Treaties the government abruptly canceled education grants to Heart of the Earth Survival School, Red School House and the Indian Community School of Milwaukee. Through successful legal action, the US District Court orders the grants restored and government payment of costs and attorney fees. WOUNDED KNEE ’73: AIM was contacted by Lakota elders for assistance in dealing with the corruption within the BIA and Tribal Council, which led to the famed 71-day occupation and battle with the US. armed forces.

1974 INTERNATIONAL INDIAN TREATY COUNCIL (IITC): an organization representing Indian peoples throughout the western hemisphere at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. WOUNDED KNEE TRIALS: Eight months of trials in Minneapolis resulted from events which occurred during the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation. This was the longest Federal trial in the history of the United States. Many instances of government misconduct were revealed with the result that 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.”

1975 FEDERATION OF SURVIVAL SCHOOLS: created to provide advocacy and networking skills to 16 survival schools throughout the US and Canada. LITTLE EARTH OF UNITED TRIBES: HUD chose AIM to be the prime sponsor of the first Indian-run housing project.

1977 MIGIZI Communications founded in Minneapolis. The organization is dedicated to produce Indian news and information and educate students of all ages as tomorrow’s technical work force. INTERNATIONAL INDIAN TREATY COUNCIL: establishes Non-government organization status within United Nations in Geneva and attends the International NGO conference and presents testimony to the United Nations. AMERICAN INDIAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE LEGISLATION: AIM introduces legislative language which is adopted, recognizing State responsibility for Indian education and culture. This legislation was recognized as a model throughout the country.

1978 FIRST EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR AMERICAN INDIAN OFFENDERS: AIM establishes the first adult education program at Stillwater Prison in Minnesota. Programs later established at other state correctional facilities modeled after the Minnesota program. 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 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 anti-Indian legislation calling for the abrogation of treaties. A tipi is set up and maintained on the grounds of the White House. The proposed anti-Indian legislation is defeated. WOMEN OF ALL RED NATIONS (WARN): established to address issues directly facing Indian women and their families.

1979 LITTLE EARTH HOUSING PROTECTED: an attempt by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to foreclose on the Little Earth of United Tribes housing project is halted by legal action and the US District Court issues an injunction against HUD. AMERICAN INDIAN OPPORTUNITIES INDUSTRIALIZATION CENTER (AIOIC): creates job training schools to attack the outrageous unemployment issues of Indian people. Over 17,000 Native Americans have been trained for jobs since AIM created the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center in 1979. ANISHINABE AKEENG Organization is created to regain stolen and tax forfeited land on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

presents legal education seminars for educators of Indian children at colleges and law schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, South Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma. 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 unfairly ranking the schools’ programs below funding recommendation levels. The schools proved bias in the system of ranking by the Department staff.

1987 AIM PATROL: Minneapolis AIM Patrol comes full circle in restarting the Patrol to deal with the serial killings of American Indian women in Minneapolis.

developed to create alternatives for youth as a direct diversion to gang-involvement of Indian youth. FORT SNELLING AIM ANNUAL POW WOW: With the 20th Anniversary of AIM, an annual pow wow is established at historic Fort Snelling. The event becomes the largest Labor Day Weekend event in any Minnesota state park.

1989 SPEARFISHING: AIM is requested to provide expertise in dealing with angry protesters on boat landings. Spearfishing continues despite violence, arrests, and threats from white racists. 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: with an American Indian spiritual base, AIM houses its AIM Patrol and ESIYS in a center in the heart of the Indian community. SUNDANCE RETURNED TO MINNESOTA. With the support of the Dakota communities, a great spiritual rebirth took place at Pipestone, Minnesota. Ojibwe nations, too, have helped make the Minnesota Sundance possible. The Pipestone Sundance has since become an annual event. In 1991, leaders of the Oglala Lakota, Cheyenne and other nations declared independence from the United States. The group established a provisional government and began the other work of developing a separate nation. NATIONAL COALITION ON RACISM IN SPORTS AND MEDIA: organized to address the use of Indians as sports team mascots. AIM led a walk in Minneapolis to the 1992 Super Bowl. In 1994, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune agreed to stop using professional sports team names that refer to Indian people.

1992 THE FOOD CONNECTION: organized summer youth jobs program with an organic garden and spiritual camp (Common Ground) at Tonkawood Farm in Orono MN.

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. LITTLE EARTH: after an 18-year struggle, HUD secretary Cisneros rules that Little Earth of United Tribes housing project shall retain the right to Indian preference. WOUNDED KNEE ANNIVERSARY: Gathering for a twentieth anniversary of the Wounded Knee action, Oglala Sioux tribal president thanks AIM for the 1973 actions.

1996 April 3–8, 1996 – As a representative of the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council (AIMGGC) and special representative of the International Indian Treaty Council, Vernon Bellecourt along with William A. Means, President of IITC, attended the Preparatory Meeting for the Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-Liberalism hosted by the Emiliano Zapata Liberation Movement (EZLN), held in LaRealidad in the Lancondone Rainforest of Eastern Chiapaz, Mexico July 27 – August 3, 1996 – The second meeting for the Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-Liberalism was again hosted by the EZLN and was attended by delegates of the International Indian Treaty Council and the American Indian Movement.

1998 February 27, 1998 – 25th Anniversary of Wounded Knee, an Oglala Lakota Nation resolution established February 27 as a National Day of Liberation. July 16–19, 1998 – 25th Annual Lac Courte Oreilles Honor the Earth Homecoming Celebration to celebrate and honor the people of Lac Courte Oreilles and the American Indian Movement who participated in the July 31, 1971 takeover of the Winter Dam and the Birth of Honor the Earth. August 2–11, 1998 – 30th Anniversary of the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council; Sacred Pipestone Quarries in Pipestone, Minnesota. Welcoming Feast and Celebration/Conference commemorating AIM’s 30th Anniversary. February, 1999 – Three activists working with a group of UÕwa Indians in Colombia 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 were seized near the village of Royota, in Arauca province in northeastern Colombia on Thursday, February 25 while preparing to leave the territory of the UÕwa after a two week on-site visit. Ingrid, Lahe and Terence were kidnapped on February 25 by armed gunmen in Uw’a Indian Territory of northeastern Columbia. On March 5, their brutalized and bullet-riddled bodies were discovered across the border in Venezuela.

July, 2000 – AIM 32nd Anniversary Conference on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Nation Reservation in northern Wisconsin

October, 2000 – Commission to seek justice for Ingrid Washinawatok and companions established.

March 2001 – Representatives of the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council 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 – Civil lawsuit for false arrest brought by five anti-wahoo demonstrators against the city of Cleveland

November 2001 – The American Indian Forum on Racism in Sports and Media, Black Bear Crossing, St. Paul, Minnesota

August 2002 – 12th Annual International Youth & Elders Cultural Gathering and Sundance, Pipestone, Minnesota

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

August 2004 – 14th Annual International Youth & Elders Cultural Gathering and Sundance, Honor Your Grandparents: Wisdom Keeper of Tomorrow, Pipestone, Minnesota

May 2005 – First Annual Clyde H. Bellecourt Endowment Scholarship Fund and Awards Banquet, Minneapolis Convention Center

July 2005 – 15th Annual International Youth & Elders Cultural Gathering and Sundance, International Prayer Vigil for the Earth, Pipestone, Minnesota

May 2006 – Second Annual Clyde H. Bellecourt Endowment Scholarship Fund and Awards Banquet, Minneapolis Convention Center

July 2006 – 16th Annual International Youth & Elders Cultural Gathering and Sundance, Pipestone, Minnesota

Other Native American organizations

Other Native American rights activists have created groups such as WARN (Women of All Red Nations), NATIVE (Native American Traditions, Ideals, Values Educational Society), LISN (League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations), Mexica Movement, EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), and the IPC (Indigenous Peoples Caucus). 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.

International Indian Treaty Council

The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) was established in June 1974 by the American Indian Movement. The AIM gathering, which occurred in Standing Rock, South Dakota was attended by delegates of ninety-eight Indigenous Nations. 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.

Campaigning goals

In order to effectively reach their goals the IITC uses networking, coalition building, 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.

The United Nations Adoption of Indigenous Peoples Rights

On September 13, 2007 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” There were 144 states or countries that voted in fair. Four voted against it while 11 countries/states abstained. Those four that voted against it were the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Their main reason for voting against it was because they felt as if it “goes too far.” The importance of this Declaration is that the Indigenous Peoples have the chance to have their rights recognized. Some of their rights include rights to self-determination, traditional lands and territories, traditional languages and customs, natural resources and sacred sites.

Ideological differences within AIM

In 1993, AIM split into two factions, each claiming to be the authentic inheritor of the AIM tradition. One group is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and associated with leadership by Clyde Bellecourt, is known as the AIM-Grand Governing Council. AIM-International Confederation of Autonomous Chapters is led by Ward Churchill and Russell Means.

In 1993 the latter group issued its “Edgewood Declaration”, citing organizational grievances and complaining of authoritarian leadership by the Bellecourts. Ideological differences were growing, with the Grand Governing Council (GGC) taking a spiritual, perhaps more mainstream, approach to activism. The GGC tends toward a more centralized, controlled political philosophy.

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.

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Modern Language Association (MLA):

"American Indian Movement" Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia 27 May. 2015. <>.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):, "American Indian Movement" in Unabridged. Source location: Native American Encyclopedia Available: Accessed: May 27, 2015.

BibTeX Bibliography Style (BibTeX)

@ article {NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com2015,
    title = { Unabridged},
    month = May,
    day = 27,
    year = 2015,
    url = {},
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