04 Mar Using the articles from AMERICAN EARTH written before 1900.? What does each selection show us about how the environmental consciousness of Americans was changing during th
using the articles from AMERICAN EARTH written before 1900. What does each selection show us about how the environmental consciousness of Americans was changing during this period?
American Indian Movement OVERVIEW
The American Indian Movement (AIM) was
founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during the
summer of 1968, when community activists
George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, and Clyde
Bellecourt organized a meeting attended by
about 200 Native Americans from the surround-
ing area. Actor Russell Means later became a
prominent leader in the group. The stated goal
of AIM is to foster spiritual and cultural revival
among native peoples in the hope of attaining
native sovereignty and the re-establishment of
the treaty system for dealingwith the ‘‘colonialist’’
governments of North and South America.
The first actions of the group focused on documenting cases of police brutality, using
police scanners and CB radios to arrive at the
scene of arrests of Native Americans. Inspired
by the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island, the
group began to look beyond its original focus on
urban Native American issues, and progressed
to more radical and ambitious methods. Their
major actions include the forceful takeover of
the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1972, followed
swiftly by the dramatic, 71-day siege that came
to be known as Wounded Knee II. In recent
years, the group has broken into factions, each
claiming to represent the true spirit of AIM, with
a western faction led by Russell Means and a
Minnesota faction led by Clyde Bellecourt.
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LEADERS: George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, and Clyde Bellecourt
YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1968
USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: United States
The American Indian Movement emerged from
social tumult of the late 1960s in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, founded by activists who were
determined to improve the lives of urban
Native Americans. In the summer of 1968,
George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, and Clyde
Bellecourt organized a meeting to discuss the
issues facing the Native American community
of Minneapolis. Among the problems
addressed were poverty, substandard housing,
the highest unemployment rate of any ethnic
group, and police brutality. The approximately
200 attendees founded a group called the
Concerned Indians of America. The name was
changed shortly afterwards to the American
Indian Movement to avoid reference to the
acronym commonly used for the Central
The earliest actions of the group involved the founding of the Minneapolis AIM Patrol, that used CB radios and police scanners to arrive at the scene of police investigations involving Native Americans, in order to document instances of police brutality. These AIM patrols continue to the present day.
Were it not the turbulent decade of the 1960s, with civil upheaval and social protest sweeping across the country in waves, AIM might have stayed an urban movement focused on local issues. Within a year of AIM’s found- ing, however, ‘‘Red Power’’ burst onto the national consciousness with the dramatic occu- pation of Alcatraz Island by San Francisco-area Native American activists. Inspired by the success and the boldness of the action, native youth from all over the country flocked to join in the protest, including members of AIM. Citing an 1868 treaty that said Indians could use any part of federal territory that was not being used by the government, the activists managed to hold on to the occupation for 19 months, and garnered much publicity for their cause before the government finally forced them off the island.
In 1972, AIM leaders in Colorado joined with other groups to organize what became the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan to Washington D.C. The plan was to attract publicity generated by the last days of the upcoming presidential campaign to draw attention to Native American issues. Native American activist from across the country formed a caravan and traveled from Denver to Washington to present Richard Nixon and the government with their platform of demands, which they called the 20 Points. When the caravan arrived at its desti- nation, the activists found little in the way of accommodations, as hundreds more activists arrived over the course of a few days in early November. The activists claimed that the gov- ernment had reneged on its promise to provide accommodations; the government blamed the situation on poor planning by the organizers of the caravan. At any rate, the immediate result was that a group of AIM members stormed the Bureau of Indian Affairs offices, overwhelming security, and occupying the office for six days.
The most dramatic confrontation with fed- eral authorities, however, came in 1973 when AIM activists led members of the Lakota Sioux tribe from the Pine Ridge reservation in a
A U.S. flag flies upside down outside an American Indian Movement (AIM) church. The church was erected on the site of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. AP/Wide World Photos.
Reproduced by permission.
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takeover and occupation of the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. Pine Ridge residents had been engaged in an ongoing internal poli- tical struggle pitting the traditionalists of the tribe against the more assimilated members. The traditionalists voted to impeach Dick Wilson, the government-backed head of the tribal administration, only to encounter federal resistance and brutal oppression by Wilson’s supporters. They turned to AIM for help, and found the activists more than willing to take up their cause. Group lore has it that it was the Lakota women who goaded the men into seizing the Wounded Knee site as a way to fight back and dramatize their plight. The siege that came to be known as Wounded Knee II lasted from February 27 until May 8, resulting in the deaths of two activists and one FBI agent and the arrest of nearly 1,200 people. Under the intense glare of the national media that drew relentless parallels to the 1890 massacre, the siege ended with a negotiated ceasefire and the activists abandoning the site. Meanwhile, the conflict between the traditionalists and the assimilators raged on in Pine Ridge and in the larger Native American community.
Though AIM participated in other actions, most notably the Longest Walk protest march from San Francisco to Washington D.C., the influence of the group began to decline by the mid 1970s. This decline is thought to be at least partially due to the FBI’s infamous operation COINTELPRO, in which dissenting groups with anti-government leanings were ‘‘neutralized’’ through the same ruthless counterintelligence tactics employed against hostile governments.
Today, AIM is a splintered shadow of its former self, with two factions engaged in a war of rhetoric that seems to be another reflection of the struggle between the traditionalists and the assimilators. One faction, based in Colorado and loosely organized around University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill and actor Russell Means, plays the traditionalist role; another, led by one of AIM’s founding fathers, Clyde Bellecourt, is incorporated under the laws of the United States, has returned to its early urban focus, and points to its legislative accomplish- ments and its history of establishing native schools and social programs.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
At the heart of AIM is the idea of Indian sover- eignty and cultural revival. In its heyday, the group inspired many young men and women to
Russell Means, an American Indian Movement leader, stands in front of a statue ofMassasoit and speaks to a crowd in 1970. AP/Wide World Photos
1969: 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island by Native American activists.
1972:AIM leaders in Colorado joined with other groups to organize what became the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan to Washington D.C.
1973: AIM activists led members of the Lakota Sioux tribe in a siege that came to be known as Wounded Knee II.
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reclaim their traditions and ethnic pride. The group’s spirituality is infused with a warrior ethic and a determination to restore dignity to the Native American people.
The group’s own materials speak proudly of its history of ‘‘forceful action.’’ In seizing BIA headquarters and in sustaining the occupation of
Wounded Knee, AIM has used force in pursuit
of its goals, but has never been wantonly violent.
In their words, AIM is ‘‘Pledged to fight White
Man’s injustice to Indians, his oppression,
persecution, discrimination and malfeasance in
the handling of Indian Affairs. No area in North
America is too remote when trouble impends for
PRIMARY SOURCE In Court, AIM Members Are Depicted as Killers
The former companion of a leader in the
American Indian Movement clutched a single
feather as she took the witness stand in a federal
court here on Wednesday and tearfully depicted
the movement’s leaders as murderous.
In a full but silent courtroom, the witness, Ka-Mook Nichols, said leaders of the militant
Indian civil-rights group known as AIM had
orchestrated the death of one of its ownmembers,
Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, nearly three decades
ago. And Ms. Nichols implicated Leonard
Peltier, AIM’s best-known member, in the earlier
killing of two federal agents, crimes for which
Mr. Peltier has been sent to prison for life.
Mr. Peltier, who has always maintained his innocence, has an international following among
those who believe he was framed by federal
authorities seeking revenge.
The trial, in its second day, will determine the fate of Arlo Looking Cloud, a former low-
level AIM member charged with killing Ms.
Pictou Aquash, another AIM member. But the
testimony here stretched far beyond this case,
presenting a sweeping and frightening look at
violence and suspicion inside the militant move-
ment that drew national attention to southwest
South Dakota in the 1970s.
‘‘You would think the American Indian Movement was on trial,’’ Vernon Bellecourt, a
spokesman for the movement, said angrily from
his seat in the front row of the gallery, which has
been full of people who remember those volatile
clashes between Indians and federal authorities:
AIM sympathizers, residents from the Pine
Ridge Reservation where the occupation of
Wounded Knee took place, and federal agents, now mostly retired.
Mr. Bellecourt denied all accusations against the movement, and said the latest revela- tions were merely another effort by the federal authorities to hide their own wrongdoing. ‘‘It’s virtually impossible,’’ he said, ‘‘for an Indian to receive a fair trial in South Dakota.’’
Ms. Nichols, who had an 18-year relation- ship and four children with Dennis Banks, a leader of AIM from its earliest days in the late 1960s, told jurors how she joined the movement as a high school student living on Pine Ridge and never confided all she had seen until now because she supported the group’s goals—treaty recognition, self-determination for Indians, a return to traditional ways.
‘‘At the time I was committed to the move- ment and I believed in what the movement stood for,’’ saidMs. Nichols, now 48. ‘‘I never talked to anybody about anything.’’
But on Wednesday, Ms. Nichols described details of the group’s wanderings around the country—those fleeing the authorities, building bombs and planning their next moves. She also told how AIM leaders worried that their own members might be spying for the authorities.
She testified that the leaders, including Mr. Banks and Mr. Peltier, strongly suspected Ms. Pictou Aquash, a Micmac Indian who left Canada to join the movement, might be a federal informer. At an AIM convention in June 1975, Ms. Nichols said, leaders openly discussed that possibility.
Mr. Peltier once put a gun to Ms. Pictou Aquash’s head, Ms. Nichols testified, and
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Indians. AIM shall be there to help the Native People regain human rights and achieve restitu- tions and restorations.’’
Besides being forceful, AIM actions have also been obviously calculated for optimal dra- matic effect. The Trail of Broken Treaties was specifically planned around the expectation of
media coverage. The Wounded Knee site was
specifically chosen for its symbolic value. For
their part, the national media was understand-
ably eager to cover the colorful defenders of an
oppressed tradition; they made excellent copy.
AIM has had no shortage of charismatic,
photogenic leaders who look great on film,
demanded to know if she was a spy. Another time, he talked about giving her truth serum, Ms. Nichols testified. All this made Ms. Pictou Aquash angry and fearful, she said. ‘‘I knew she was scared of Dennis and Leonard at that point.’’
Months later, on Feb. 24, 1976, Ms. Pictou Aquash’s decomposing body was found in a ravine on Pine Ridge. She had been shot in the head, but the authorities said they could not identify her for several weeks. The day the body was found, however, Mr. Banks called Ms. Nichols and said Ms. Pictou Aquash had been turned up dead, Ms. Nichols testified.
‘‘From the day he called me, I started believ- ing it was the American Indian Movement that has something to do with it,’’ she said.
Mr. Banks, whohas been separated fromMs. Nichols since 1989, was traveling and could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. But Mr. Peltier’s lawyer, BarryA. Bachrach, said his client considered Ms. Nichols’ testimony utterly false.
‘‘He has no idea why she’s saying this,’’ Mr. Bachrach said in a phone interview. ‘‘Anna Mae was not afraid of AIM or Leonard. Ka-Mook is doing nothing but parroting government testimony.’’
Mr. Looking Cloud’s lawyer, Tim Rensch, suggested that Ms. Nichols might be seeking revenge on her former companion, Mr. Banks, because he had once had an affair with Ms. Pictou Aquash. He also suggested that she might be in it for money—the government has paid her $42,000, partly for moving expenses to protect her from AIM members—or even plan- ning to write a book.
But on Wednesday, Ms. Nichols said she simply was telling the truth on behalf of a dear friend,Ms. Pictou Aquash. One reason, she said, that AIM leaders might have feared the possibi- lity of spying so much was that Ms. Pictou Aquash had witnessed sensitive information.
She said that she had been riding in a motor home with Ms. Pictou Aquash, Mr. Peltier and others one day in 1975 when Mr. Peltier began boasting about shooting the federal agents at Pine Ridge.
Ms. Nichols testified thatMr. Peltier made a gun with his fingers and said that one agent had begged ‘‘for his life, but I shot him anyway.’’
Mr. Peltier, in a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., denies all connection to the killings and to any boasting. ‘‘Why is she doing this?’’ Mr. Bachrach said. ‘‘Leonard is baffled.’’
The defendant in this trial, Mr. Looking Cloud, seemed almost an afterthought on Wednesday. In opening statements, his lawyer, Mr. Rensch, acknowledged that Mr. Looking Cloud had been there with other AIM members when Ms. Pictou Aquash was killed, but that he had not participated or known what was coming.
Wearing glasses, with a braid running down his back, Mr. Looking Cloud, 50, looked small and hunched at the defense table. His lawyer said he quit AIM after what happened to Ms. Pictou Aquash, and wound up drinking too much, living on the streets of Denver.
Source: New York Times, 2004
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Russell Means and perhaps Ward Churchill being the preeminent examples.
Be that as it may, the movement proved to be no match for the resources of the federal government; the FBI used such techniques as infiltration and ‘‘snitch-jacketing’’ (planting mis- information to the effect that a particular key group member was a government informant) to exploit the community’s historically divisive nature, exacerbating the infighting and tribal corruption that ultimately put the movement into decline.
In recent years, the Minnesota faction has tempered its traditional rhetoric with a willing- ness to use the U.S. legal system for its purposes, to good effect. A legal corporate entity, the AIM Grand Governing Council has filed successful suits against the U.S. government, established schools and job programs, and has generally assumed the role of a Native American civil rights organization. Most recently, Bellecourt has founded the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media (NCRSM) to organize against the use of Native American images and names in professional and collegiate sports. Though its mission might have once seemed quixotic, NCRSM has recently made important inroads toward accomplishing its goals. In the end, it may be that by working within the legal system and using its assets wisely, the modern Minnesota AIM may accomplish more than the more radicalized 1970s AIM could ever have hoped to achieve with its ‘‘forceful actions.’’
In contrast, Autonomous AIM styles itself as an uncompromising native liberation movement and as the real keepers of AIM spirituality and Native American heritage. Completely decentra- lized, Autonomous AIM’s interests and mission are the local issues of the chapters. In Colorado, where Autonomous Aim originated, these have centered on organizing against Denver Columbus Day celebrations.
National AIM was incorporated by the Bellecourt brothers in 1993, who wasted no time in issuing a September press release announcing that ‘‘ . . . only those chapters which have been duly authorized and chartered by the National Office should be recognized in the future as legit- imate representatives of the American Indian
Movement. Questions in this regard can be resolved by calling the National Office.’’
In response, 60 representatives of 19 state chapters met in New Mexico in December 1993 and issued the Edgewood Declaration, defining themselves as a confederacy of autonomous chapters and renouncing any national authority claimed by the Bellecourts’ organization. According to Means, the Declaration did not represent the forming of a new group, but rather a reaffirmation of the principles that had gov- erned AIM since 1975, when a national meeting of AIM members from throughout the United States had decided to abolish national offices and suspend the practice of electing national leaders and spokespersons.
These dueling proclamations were the cul- mination of a contentious war of rhetoric that had been raging for years. The precise origins of the conflict between the factions are difficult to ascertain. Accounts of the events that led up to the Edgewood Declaration are only to be found in the group’s own materials; it has been well established that the leaders of both sides of the struggle are no strangers to historical exaggera- tion and self-serving embellishment.
It appears that the fight began as a dispute over the leadership of the Colorado AIM chap- ter. The chapter had been established by Vernon Bellecourt and Joe Locust in 1970. By 1972, Bellecourt had returned to the national offices in Minnesota, and the chapter steadily grew inactive and lost membership over the next dec- ade. In 1983, Locust recruited GlennMorris and Ward Churchill, a fiery rhetorician and profes- sor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, to help revitalize the chapter. Membership grew over the next 10 years, and the chapter was successful putting together a coalition to organize a massive protest against the Columbian Quincentennary in 1992. The event was hailed as a great victory for Colorado AIM, and drew lots of national press. Almost immediately, the mutual recrimi- nations began on both sides, with Vernon Bellecourt holding a press conference where he maintained that Morris and Churchill had been expelled from AIM. In response, Means, Churchill, and their supporters met in Edgewood, Colorado, to formulate the Declaration that formally severed any remaining ties with the newly incorporated National AIM Grand Governing Council. Today, more than a
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decade later, the war of rhetoric continues with no signs of abating.
The American IndianMovement emerged out of the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, when a group of local activists led by George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, and others began meeting to discuss the problems faced by Native Americans in urban Minnesota. The group began by organizing local patrols to docu- ment and/or to prevent instances of police bru- tality in and around Minneapolis. Within a year of its founding, the group was inspired by the occupation of Alcatraz by San Francisco-area activists. A group of Minnesota AIM members visited the occupiers, returning to Minnesota with a bigger vision for the movement and a new national agenda.
Numerous actions modeled after the Alcatraz occupation followed, culminating with the 1973 takeover and occupation of the Catholic Church and museum that had been erected at the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. The ensuing siege by federal authori- ties lasted for 71 days, under the full glare of the largely sympathetic national media. Wounded Knee II became the celebrated cause of the poli- tical left, drawing celebrity advocates such as Marlon Brando, who famously used the broad- cast of the Oscars that year to denounce the federal government’s handling of the situation.
In the ensuing years after Wounded Knee, the FBI managed to infiltrate, prosecute, and basically degrade the movement into a shadow of its former self. Today, AIM is split into two factions, each claiming to represent the authentic spirit of the original movement, one based in Colorado and the other, led by the Bellecourts, based in Minnesota. The Minnesota faction is incorporated under the laws of the state of Minnesota and the United States, and has estab- lished an impressive history of legislative and social accomplishments.
Books Matthiessen, Peter. In The Spirit of Crazy Horse. New
York: Viking Press, 1983.
Periodicals Davey, Monica. ‘‘In Court, AIM Members are Depicted
as Killers.’’ New York Times. February 5, 2004.
Web sites PBS.org. ‘‘Alcatraz Is Not an Island.’’ <http://
(accessed October 15, 2005).
MSNBC.com. ‘‘Time & again—Wounded Knee—Siege of
1973.’’ <http://msnbc.com/onair/msnbc/Time and Again/
archive/wknee/1973.asp> (accessed October 15, 2005).
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Neuner, Matthias, ed. (2003). National Legislation Incorporating International Crimes: Approaches of Civil and Common Law Countries. Berlin: Wissenschafts- Verlag.
Sadat-Wexler, Leila (1999). “National Prosecutions for International Crimes: The French Experience.” In International Criminal Law, 2nd edition, ed. M. Cherif Bassioiuni. New York: Transnational Publishers.
Schabas, William A. (1999). “International Sentencing: From Leipzig (1923) to Arusha (1996).” In International Criminal Law, 2nd edition, ed. M. Cherif Bassioiuni. New York: Transnational Publishers.
Schabas, William A. (2004). “Addressing Impunity in Developing Countries: Lessons from Rwanda and Sierra Leone.” In La voie vers la Cour pénale internationale: tous les chemins mènent à Rome (The Highway to the International Criminal Court: All Roads Lead to Rome), ed. Hélène Dumont and Anne-Marie Boisvert. Montreal: Éditions Thémis.
Schwelb, E. (1946). “Crimes Against Humanity.” British Yearbook of International Law 178.
Tully, L. Danielle (2003). “Human Rights Compliance and the Gacaca Jurisdictions in Rwanda.” British Columbia International & Comparative Law Report 26:385.
Viout, Jean-Olivier (1999). “The Klaus Barbie Trial and Crimes Against Humanity.” Hofstra Law & Policy Symposium 3:155. New York: Hofstra University Press.
Weinschenk, Fritz, (1999). “The Murders among Them— German Justice and the Nazis.” Hofstra Law & Policy Symposium 3:137.
John McManus Matthew McManus
The views herein expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Canadian
Department of Justice or the Government of Canada.
Native Americans The international community has not legally admon- ished the United States for genocidal acts against Native Americans, yet it is clear that examples of genocidal acts and crimes against humanity are a well-cited page in U.S. history. Notorious incidents, such as the Trail of Tears, the Sand Creek Massacre, and the massacre of the Yuki of northern California are covered in depth in separate entries in this encyclopedia. More contro- versial, however, is whether the colonies and the Unit- ed States participated in genocidal acts as an overall policy toward Native Americans. The Native-American population decrease since the arrival of Spanish explor- er Christopher Columbus alone signals the toll coloni- zation and U.S. settlement took on the native popula- tion. Scholars estimate that approximately 10 million pre-Columbian Native Americans resided in the pres- ent-day United States. That number has since fallen to approximately 2.4 million. While this population de-
crease cannot be attributed solely to the actions of the U.S. government, they certainly played a key role. In addition to population decrease, Native Americans have also experienced significant cultural and propri- etary losses as a result of U.S. governmental actions. The total effect has posed a serious threat to the sustainability of the Native-American people and cul- ture.
Ideological Motivations Two conflicting yet equally harmful ideologies signifi- cantly influenced U.S. dealings with Native Americans. The first sprang from the Enlightenment and, more specifically, John Locke’s Second Treatise of Govern- ment. Locke proposed that the individual had an exclu- sive claim to one’s person. The fruits of one’s labor, as an extension of the individual, then, become the labor- er’s property. Thus, individuals acquire property rights by removing things from the state of nature through the investment of their labor. This particular theory of property helped justify the many harmful policies against Native Americans throughout United States his- tory. European settlers falsely saw the Americas as a vast and empty wasteland that the Native Americans had failed to cultivate and, therefore, had no worthy claim to. Euro-Americans saw themselves as the torch- bearers of civilization and therefore thought they were uniquely situated to acquire the vast wilderness and de- velop it (this later developed into the idea of Manifest Destiny). To the Euro-American mind, that the Native Americans must yield to European settlement was inev- itable. This line of reasoning went so far as to result in a common nineteenth-century belief that the extinction of Native Americans was also inevitable.
The second ideological m
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