Research compiled by: Jon'Tavia B, Isabella O, Madison S, Tierney P and Bridget M
Like many civil rights movements of the 1960s, the American Indian Movement brought their struggle for cultural-understanding and justice to the forefront of political discussion throughout the United States. Modern Native American activism traces back the founding of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in 1944. The NCAI was one of the first groups to effectively build a national alliance of Native Americans across tribal lines. Under the leadership of Vine Deloria, Jr., the NCAI became a vocal critic of the poor treatment of American Indians, particularly urban Indians, in the mid-1960s. Growing out of the NCAI's efforts, activists in Minneapolis founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968. The very first AIM programs in Minneapolis replicated the Black Panther Party's efforts to end police brutality by monitoring police actions and assisting vulnerable Native Americans. A shift in tactics occurred when Native American activists occupied Alcatraz Island in 1969 during an effort to reclaim the island. Inspired by the successful protest, AIM activists began to move to more high-profile protests in order to garner support through the national media, similar to what African-American activists had done throughout the 1960s. Native American activists launched a series of protests that drew on culturally significant lands such as Plymouth Rock in 1970 and Mount Rushmore in 1971. These public displays of direct action were a drastic change from more restrained efforts of NCAI, which continued to fight for justice through legal and legislative efforts in addition to grassroots organizing. AIM protests like the Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972, Occupation at Wounded Knee in 1973, and the legal battles surrounding the river shift at Blackbird Bend beginning in 1966, reveal the efforts of Native American activists and their supporters in their pursuit of justice.
During the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties, AIM protesters caravanned from California to Washington D.C. bringing attention to and demanding action against the disrespected treaties forged throughout the centuries after colonization. In the months to follow, the American Indian Movement made its way to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota (the site of the Massacre at Wounded Knee) to protest the violence, discrimination, and sub-human treatment of Native Americans. Lasting 71 days, the Occupation at Wounded Knee resulted in the death of protesters and federal officials alike, while attracting national attention and support to the cause. Participant, Donel Keeler, recalled the event as a kind of civil war--"it was the first time we [were] at war...with the federal government." Inspired by his interview, students delved into their research with an intensity and interest that produced a clear understanding of the events' influence.
"AIM occupation of Wounded Knee begins." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 18 July
In this program I learned the importance of peoples rights. I learned that Native Americans had a hard life and that they constantly had to fight for their rights. I hope I will always remember the important history of their tribes, and I hope I myself can stand up for everyone’s rights.