Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
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Monday, December 20, 2010

The American Indian Movement: Success or Failure?

Part 3:

The successes of the American Indian Movement have seemed to correlate along with the spurts of fierce resistance throughout the history between the Native Americans people of the United States and the federal government. Overall, it has been a difficult road, traveled similarly by all indigenous people around the world as they come to grips with the reality of society changing and the difficulties of adapting to the world around them. Civilizations are only going to grow more complex and evolve, even as you are reading this note.
The strength and character of the First Nations people can be seen in these types of circumstances. Often in times of struggle, people rely on their own set of personal beliefs to comfort them through the tough times as a form of mental preparation for these concerns. From just what I have observed in those around me on the reservation, without a sense of personal identity, people can then also tend to lose a sense of purpose as well. These are not just individuals who are concerned for their tribal heritage, but respect that legacy as their birthright, for which they sometimes heavily rely on to tell them who they really are as Indian people. The demographic that AIM actively seeks out, not only focuses around the motivated or passionate one's, but all people with concern for people with indigenous backgrounds. Personally, I feel that it is only logical for a person to have an urge to be proactive in helping others when they can begin relate with them on a more personal level. Ultimately, all it really takes for a person to be involved with any social organization or social movement is desire or the will to do so.

A strong sense of belief towards an organizations' cause and main message includes the idea that the proposed changes are for improving the quality of life for all, but especially for those living on poverty stricken reservations. People support AIM by contributing resources and funding to help keep the movement moving forward, but there continued to be occasional setbacks.

The American Indian Movement has been successful in gathering some media attention in the United States, but much like other social issues concerning American Indians, not much concern is showed. The use of video on the Internet is one way that AIM has taken advantage of the media. In Canada, some of the biggest uproars can be heard and seen on this short film, “Not So Gentle Neighbor”, it allows for viewers to observe some of the more extreme cases of racism in Canada. Normally, in local papers and news channels, AIM is depicted and smeared as gun-toting renegades. For example, in accordance to that video made by one of AIM’s affiliates, the Okiijida Society, the Canadian government works close with local officials to ensure that AIM’s public image is subject to “smear campaigns”. Otherwise, AIM provides routine radio webcasts on their AIM Grand Council Media Project website to discuss current issues and spread awareness throughout communities. Through this kind of medium, AIM has had the capabilities to spread its awareness more effectively by reaching out through networking on the radio and the Internet.

Everything in this world has to experience and manage the unpredictable nature of change. American Indian members of the AIM organization are no exception, for they too have had to endure some transformation to evolve with the times. Live web television casts can be viewed routinely on any DSL and radio discussions are available for modem users as well. These are just two examples of how the Internet is utilized by AIM in order to keep up with the technologies of today. During the progression of AIM, supporters have risen from all facets of Indian communities. In the beginning, AIM was influenced by members of the same tribe and had one organizational structure. In the world of the American Indian Movement today, there is no one set standard for how politics are done in all Indian communities. There are an abundant amount of American Indian tribes with different beliefs and needs. The voice of the people can be heard deep inside the grassroots level of the movement where the individuals who are responsible for making progress in their own communities are tirelessly working.

The successes of AIM are not as evident as other social movements in past history. Some believe that the 20-Point Manifesto to congress was a big step in articulating the acts that need to be taken in order for American Indian reservations to be truly sovereign states, and some steps needed to reverse the damage caused by white education, religion, and harsh government policies, which have all contributed to the deterioration of Native American culture. The banding together of the various tribal members for a common cause to restore the culture, has proved to me to be a big success in restoring hope to the next generations. Bringing the awareness to the discrimination that most people tend to neglect and ignore is another positive impact that can be deemed as successful because acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step to any recovery process or change in behavior. The foundation of AIM has been set upon by the guidance of tribal leaders or the tribal councils of the individual tribes. The cultural rebirth can be recollected by a document from AIM’s 25th Anniversary Conference/International Peoples Summit, it states,

“The re-birth of dignity and pride in a people...AIM succeeds because they have beliefs to act upon...” (Kills Strait)

That is the way I feel about the successfulness of this movement. If there has been one fundamental impact that has the magnitude to deem AIM’s efforts as a success, it would be in the fact that it is progressively spreading its' message through Indian communities providing the hope that has been lost for centuries.

*Painting by respected Mohawk elder, Louis Hall - December 1973

Other Sources:

Banks, Dennis. Background of the American Indian Movement. Dennis Banks Homepage n.d. American Indian Movement. 9 Feb 2006 .

Boardman, Edna. Banks, Dennis, with Richard Erdoes. Ojibwa Warrier: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement. Kliatt 1 January 2006. 11 Feb 2006 .

Founding of the AIM. American Indian Cultural Support. 1999. Michigan State University Library. 6 Feb 2006 .

Founding of the AIM continued. American Indian Cultural Support. 1999. Michigan State University Library. 6 Feb 2006 .

Goldberg, Robert A., Grassroots Resistance: Social Movements in Twentieth Century America. Belmont, California: Wadworth, 1991.

Kills Strait, Birgil. AIMWhat is it? First Nations. 1-6 Sept 1993. AIM 25th Anniversary Conference/International Peoples Summit. 7 Feb 2006 .

Okiijida Society, prod. Not So Gentle Neighbor. n.d. Documentary. AIM Multimedia Archive. 9 Feb 2006 <>.

Pratt, Capt. Richard C. Kill the Indian and Save the Man: Capt. Richard C. Pratt on the Education of Native Americans. History Matters. 1973 Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press. 6 Feb 2006 .

Wittstock, Laura W., and Elaine J. Salinas. A Brief History of the American Indian Movement. American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council. American Indian Movement. 8 Feb 2006