The American Indian Movement was instigated in 1968, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The movement began with 200 members from the Indian society (Nichols, 13). The people came to an assembly called by activist George Mitchell, Clyde Bellecourt and Dennis Banks. These activists were from the American native community. Aggravated decades of centralized Indian policy and discrimination, they formed an alliance to discuss these critical issue limiting them from controlling their destiny. The movement was formed out of determination and ferment. In the meeting which was held in October 1968, issue relating to brutality of police, injustices in courts and poverty affecting Indians were addressed.
American Indians are not members to the constitution. This is because most members of the community became citizens only in 1942, through an act of congress however they did not surrender their membership of the American Indian Movement. The movement has pressed for their culture and rights to be included in the constitution without success. In the 1950s, most of American Indian communities were terminated from federal relations and but through congressional act they were restored (Capture, Duane and Chandler, 120).
Initially, the movement was named Concerned Indians of America, but it was renamed to American Indian Movement due to the contradictory acronym of CIA. Although, the movement officially started in 1968, their activities date back five hundred years ago (Busacca, 42). Their issue of contention started with their first encounter with explorers. Native Americans objected non native compelling them from the land.
In the beginning, the movement’s agenda was to propagate injustices directed to Indians, but it grew to high profile status with time. Russell Means become the most famous Indian in America at the Wounded Knee conquest period. As the movement grew with time, it was difficult to associate it with some people. The official website of the group states that the movement stands for many issues at the same time. For instance, safeguard of the accord of rights, protection of culture and spirituality. In 1971, at the movement’s national conference a consensus was agreed upon that it was necessary to shift the organization approach to policies from a theoretical to practical perspective. On this thought the movement started building employment services, schools and houses. All these activities took place in Minnesota the Birth place of American Indian movement.
In the month of November 1968, Richard Oakes led a group of Indians in taking a ship from San Francisco to Alcatraz. They carried a treaty claiming that the island belonged to the Indians. Following this ideology led most Indian tribes in occupying the Land for nineteen months. The United States authority allowed them to stay on the island until when a ship wreck and fire happened in the area. The government, cut water supply to the area to evacuate occupants but this did not work. In 1971, the government sent their security agencies to remove the occupants by force.
In 1971, some members of the movement protested at Mount Rushmore. Russell Means, Dennis Banks and other American natives secured the mountain throughout the remonstration (Nichols, 86). They drew the attention of the media and the plight of Indian Americans came to light the state government and the American public. On the same year, there was demonstration at Plymouth Rock led by Russell. This backed their concept of drawing the countries attention to their concerns.
In 1971, the Native American School was built in Minnesota. The school was built to teach the cultural values of Native Americans. Parents were also incorporated into the school to learn what their children learnt. The school is still in existence to date. Several other schools were built to propagate this agenda.
In 1972, a fleet of cars travelled to Washington Dc from West Coast to demonstrate against the treaty with American Indians which was broken (Stern, 40). The caravan had no place to reside in Washington prompting the irritated African Indian movement heads to charge to the white house. The mission aborted prompting them to take over the Bureau of India building and ransacked all the files and documents. The treaty presented to the government had 20 points jolted down. However, no action was taken although President Nixon gave them money to cater for their expenses back to their homes. The government denied hearing to their grievances until all the confiscated documents were returned. In 1973, the government revised their decision and decided to consider the twenty points.
In 1973, Wesley Heart was stabbed to death by a white station employee in a bar. The suspected as arrested and presented before court but an unfair judgment was made. The murderer was convicted of manslaughter and was released on bond. The mother of the victim sought the assistance of the American Indian Movement for justice to prevail. A procession of two hundred activists protested to the court over the leniency of the judgment.
David Hill, Dennis Banks and Russell Means went into conciliation with the judge. The negotiations were not smooth prompting the protesters to burn a patrol car and Custer South commerce building. Most of the protesters were arrested and jailed alongside their leaders Banks, Hill and Means.
In 1973, a group of American Indian Movement followers went to Wounded Knee and took over a trading post and a church. This was the start of a siege between the movement and the United States government that lasted for a period of seventy one days.
This incident brought the attention of the world to the Wounded Knee, and a communication center was established at Rapid City. The center was set up by in volunteer’s house. The police raided the house at several instances but no weapons, drugs or alcohol were found in the house. The communication center was later destroyed by floods and the house was abandoned.
In 1975, Federal Bureau Agents went to a house in South Dakota, and shots were fired. The shooting led to the death Jimmy Stunts, a young Native American gentleman. This prompted protest over the innocent killings that happened to the innocent movement members.
In 1978, Dennis Banks and Russell Means, lead a large crowd of American Indian movement members in the longest walk at the time (Johnson, Troy and Joanne, 22). The walk was to Washington DC from West Coast. The walk was meant to protest against the government’s adamancy in addressing Indian Issues.
In 1976, Anna Aquash, an American Indian Movement member was found dead in a ranch house near a small reservation city. The Federal Bureau Agents cut her hands as evidence while she had been shot on the back and head. No arrests or trial were made on the matter. Twenty eight years later, Arlo Cloud was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1999, two men of Native American origin were found dead in White Clay Nebraska (Stern,67). The family of the victims called for justice to be upheld but no action over the killings was undertaken. This sparked a lot of protest over the White Clay issue. The issue has never been resolved to date but a camp was set up at the place. Recently, the government moved to stop vehicles from coming to white clay to search for liquor but the move was stopped due to legal issues.
Controversies surrounding the issues of Native Americans have been witnessed on various occasions. One of them is the issue of Bear Butte. The place is located in the outskirts of South Dakota. This is a sacred sight in which the Native American people perform their religious ceremonies. During summer people continuously stream to the site from various parts of the country. A citizen was granted a liquor license by Sturgis city council on the camp ground but there were Native Americans from all over the place protesting against the license.
The issue of the treaty has always been an issue of contention between the Indian tribes and the government. Every treaty between the two groups has been broken sparking a lot of protest. Native Americans are still pursuing the treaty rights. Land has also been a great issue of address.
The movement’s activities have resulted in many people being convicted of crimes in pursuit of justice. However, most of their demands have not been honored. Protests from the movement members have prompted the government to provide justice in the shooting by the Federal Bureau agents.
In a recap, The American Indian Movement was warranted in their activities. Many people do not agree with the manner in which they propagated their grievances but it was essential for the movement to bring the word and the government to their attention. All their issues were not addressed but the movement was steady fast in helping Native Americans live in a better and just environment.
Busacca, Jeremy. Seeking self-determination: framing, the American Indian Movement, and American Indian media. New York: New Age International, 2008. Print.
Capture, George P., Duane Champagne, and Chandler C. Jackson. American Indian nations: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2007. Print.
Johnson, Troy R., Joane Nagel, and Duane Champagne. American Indian activism: Alcatraz to the longest walk. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997. Print.
Nichols, Roger L. The American Indian: past and present. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.
Stern, Kenneth S. Loud Hawk: the United States versus the American Indian Movement. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. Print.