American Indian Movement Essay: Activism and Repression Native Americans have felt distress from societal and governmental interactions for hundreds of years. American Indian protests against these pressures date back to the colonial period. Broken treaties, removal policies, acculturation, and assimilation have scarred the indigenous societies of the United States. These policies and the continued oppression of the native communities produced an atmosphere of heightened tension. Governmental pressure for assimilation and their apparent aim to destroy cultures, communities, and identities through policies gave the native people a reason to fight.
The unanticipated consequence was the subsequent creation of a pan-American Indian identity of the 1960s. These factors combined with poverty, racism, and prolonged discrimination fueled a resentment that had been present in Indian communities for many years. In 1968, the formation of the American Indian Movement took place to tackle the situation and position of Native Americans in society. This movement gave way to a series of radical protests, which were designed to draw awareness to the concerns of American Indians and to compel the federal government to act on their behalf. The movement’s major events were the occupation of Alcatraz, Mount Rushmore, The Trail of Broken Treaties, and Wounded Knee II.
These AIM efforts in the 1960s and 1970s era of protest contained many sociological theories that helped and hindered the Native Americans success. The Governments continued repression of the Native Americans assisted in the more radicalized approach of the American Indian Movement. Radical tactics combined with media attention stained the AIM and their effectiveness. Native militancy became a repertoire of action along with adopted strategies from the Civil Rights Movement. In this essay, I will explain the formation of AIM and their major events, while revealing that this identity based social movement’s radical approach led to a harsher governmentally repressive counter movement that ultimately influenced the movements decline.
The growing pan-Indian activism that was becoming increasingly strong in regions of the United States helped develop the American Indian Movement. Educated young urban Indians were becoming involved in rights issues and insisted on self-determination in the 1960s era of protest. The Native Americans began to witness the lessons and accomplishments of the civil rights movement within the United States. “As civil rights issues and rhetoric dominated the headlines, some Indian groups adopted the vocabulary and techniques of African Americans in order to get Indian issues covered by the media and thus before the American public” (Johnson 31). In Minneapolis, Minnesota a large percentage of the native community complained about frequent harassment and brutality by local police forces.
In an effort to address this issue, the formation of Indian patrol units took action by monitoring the activities of police in Indian neighborhoods. Eventually, three of these patrol leaders, Clyde Bellecourt, Dennis Banks, and George Mitchell organized the American Indian Movement in the summer of 1968. “Molded loosely after the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense established by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California, two years previously, the group took as its first tasks the protection of the city’s sizable native community from a pattern of rampant police abuse and the creation of programs for jobs, housing, and education” (Churchill 243). The meeting by this group of individuals was to combat the local problems facing the native communities of Minneapolis and St.
Paul. The original organization that emerged from these early planning sessions was named the Concerned Indians of America. A week after the name was revised due to the unfavorable acronym and converted to the American Indian Movement. The new name would become important for the actions they would later undertake, “the name of this groupwas perfection itselfit sounded authoritative and inclusiveit suggested action, purpose, and forward motionit was big, transcending the lesser world of committees” (Smith and Warrior 127). Shortly, after fulfilling local obligations the AIM began to address the state and national arenas.
Indian youth from colleges, reservations and urban centers began to speak out against treatments they were receiving, while advocating self-government and autonomy. The AIM focus took a shift from socioeconomic discrimination against Indians towards the government’s policies and programs. This identity based movement began to receive extreme support from returning Native American Vietnam veterans. .