American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council

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The American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council (AIM-GGC or AIM for short) has stated goals include fostering a sense of unity and solidarity among American Indian and First Nation groups in the United States and Canada, respectively, enforcing treaty rights that up until the 1970s had been ignored, and defending Native people against abuse by the white government and population.

AIM was founded in Minneapolis in 1968 by two urban Ojibwas, Dennis Banks and George Mitchell. It drew inspiration both from the Civil Rights movement of the previous decade and fishing rights protests in the Pacific Northwest earlier in the 1960s.

AIM is best known for its confrontational protest tactics including:

  • The occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971
  • The occupation of a replica of the Mayflower in 1970
  • The occupation of Mount Rushmore in 1971
  • The occupation of Gordon, Nebraska in 1972
  • The Trail of Broken Treaties and the subsequent occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in 1972
  • The occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973

These protests generally had one of two goals: to enforce treaty rights, or to raise awareness of an Indian presence or contribution to history. One landmark victory that considerably raised the stature of AIM among American Indians was the occupation of Gordon, Nebraska in 1972, which eventually forced the authorities to bring murder charges against some people suspected of killing Lakota Raymond Yellow Thunder.

Coinciding with the Wounded Knee occupation was a state of civil war on Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation that pitted the government of Tribal Chairman Dick Wilson and his Guardians of the Oglala Naion (GOONs) paramilitary force against a coalition of American Indian Movement members and traditional Lakotas. The conflict lasted from 1972 to 1976 and eventually drew in Wilson's allies in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI under both the COINTELPRO and Operation Garden Plot programs. Wilson's election was highly disputed (he used violence to prevent voting) and eventually over 50 people were killed, mostly AIM and traditionalists but also two FBI agents who died in a shootout with the FBI. FBI Special Agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams were ambushed and killed execution-style. The ensuing case resulted in the trial and conviction of Leonard Peltier. During the trial, some attention had been focused on the unsolved murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash for her possible knowledge of the slayings of Agents Coler and Williams. Rumors circulated that Aquash cooperated with the government and was an FBI informant. The FBI maintains these rumors were untrue.[1] The coroner, Dr. W.O. Brown removed Aquash's hands and had them sent to an FBI lab in Washington for identification.[2] Brown died shortly after performing the autopsy on Aquash, and was not deposed.

Less dramatically, AIM is also infamously known for its opposition to the use of American Indian characters and imagery in college and professional sports. AIM has also challenged Ward Churchill's claims and accused him of being an FBI infiltrator of AIM under COINTELPRO. Less well known are its community powwows, its sponsorship of cultural events, and its crucial aid in the rebuilding of the Houma reservation in southern Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

AIM is strongest among the Lakota, Ojibwa, Navajo, and other tribes of the Plains, North Woods, and Pacific Northwest that have assimilated badly if at all and retained many aspects of traditional culture. Conversely, it is weakest among the tribes removed to Oklahoma (in particular the unfortunately named "Five Civilized Tribes"), the Pueblos, and other tribes that have either acculturated or accommodated to being surrounded by whites. The organization devolved into local autonomous groups in the late 1970s but retains international cultural exchange and solidarity across the United States and Canada. It has also reached out and created ties to indigenous people of Latin America.

References

  1. Accounting For Native American Deaths, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, Report of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Minneapolis Division, May 2000. Retrieved from www.fbi.gov, March 20, 2010.
  2. Arrest in the '75 murder of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, By CARSON WALKER, Associated Press. Retrieved from the Rad-Green -- Radical anti-capitalist environmental discussion mailing list, March 20, 2010.
  • American Indian Movement
  • Vine Deloria's Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence
  • James Wilson's The Earth Shall Weep
  • Leonard Peltier's My Life is My Sun Dance
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