BACKGROUND OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT
WHY WE STARTED:
"Because of the slum housing conditions; the highest unemployment rate in the whole of this country; police brutality against our elders, women, and children; Native Warriors came together from the streets, prisons, jails and the urban ghettos of Minneapolis to form the American Indian Movement. They were tired of begging for welfare, tired of being scapegoats in America and decided to start building on the strengths of our own people; decided to build our own schools; our own job training programs; and our own destiny. That was our motivation to begin. That beginning is now being called 'the Era of Indian Power'." (Dennis Banks, 1992)
During the Summer of 1968, two hundred members of the Indian community came together to discuss various issues and critical developments within the Native American community. Amongst them were :
1. Police Brutality
2. Slum Housing
3. 80% unemployment rate
4. Disgraceful if not shameful practices of the Minneapolis public school system and its lack of concern regarding Indian education.
5. Racist and discriminatory policies of the Hennepin County welfare system toward Native American clients.
6.Questionable behavior of federal government in its regard to Native policies.
From this meeting came the birth of the American Indian Movement (AIM). Calling the meeting were long time community activists George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt. Attending were some of Minneapolis's most active Native people: Mary Jane Wilson, Francis Fairbanks, Harold Goodsky, Melissa Tapio, Pearl Brandon, Darcy Truax, Charlie Deegan, George Millessay, Caroline Dickenson, Joanne Strong, Polly Chabwa, Arlene Dakota, Peggy Bellecourt, Ellie Banks, Bobby Jo Graves, John Red House, Audrey Banks, Alberta Atkin, Jeanette Banks. . .among others.
In addition to these issues, the Movement saw the need to protect treaty rights and preserve traditional Native Spirituality and culture. (Mandated boarding schools for Native children which took them away from their families and communities, forced relocation programs, and other government methods of "assimilation" had attempted to destroy Native culture and beliefs.) It also stressed the sovereignty of Native Nations.
"During the past twentyfive years, the American Indian Movement has taken on organizing and creating opportunities for people across the Americas and Canada. AIM is headquartered in Minneapolis and Chapters have formed in many cities and Indian Nations. The American Indian Movement is a spiritual and cultural movement with no formal membership.
"The philosophy of self-determination that the Movement is built upon is deeply rooted in traditional spirituality, culture, language and history of Native peoples of the land. AIM develops partnerships to address the common needs of the people as well as to ensure fulfillment of treaties made with the U.S. government guaranteeing the survival of Indian Nations."
--Laura Waterman Wittsock