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American Indian Movement


Prior to the formation of AIM, issues involving U.S. Indian–non-Indian relations had largely faded away. Starting in the 1950s, the U.S. government had embarked on a serious policy plan to terminate its responsibilities to Native Americans pursuant to extant treaties and agreements. This action included the relocation of thousands of reservation Indians to urban areas and the termination of federal duties to two major tribes, the Menominee of Wisconsin and the Klamath of Oregon. (Federal rights were restored to both a few years later.) However, by the 1970s, relocation as well as termination policies were all but abandoned.

A number of problems arose when Native Americans left the reservations and intermingled with local towns, where Native Americans allegedly caused and/or became parties to local disturbances or crimes. Moreover, after WORLD WAR II and the KOREAN WAR, many Native Americans who had served in the armed forces no longer wanted to return to stereotypical Indian lifestyles. As more intermingling and merging occurred, other Native Americans became increasingly intent on searching for their cultural roots and maintaining their ethnic identities. They vowed not to be assimilated and thus their views paralleled the ideals of other CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTS of the era. The most radical elements to emerge from these militant Native American groups ultimately formed the AIM, which was intended as an indigenous version of the BLACK PANTHER PARTY.

During the summer of 1968, about 200 members of the Native American community in urban Minneapolis, Minnesota, met to discuss various issues, including slum housing, alleged police brutality, unemployment, and alleged discriminatory policies involving the local county's WELFARE system. The group had been impressed with media coverage of the Black Panther policy of monitoring routine police interrogations or arrests and adopted similar tactics.

From the beginning, the group stirred controversy in seeking attention. Mobilizing in different cities and gaining momentum, it employed increasingly negative tactics such as holding an "anti-birthday party" for the United States atop Mt. Rushmore on the Fourth of July, painting Plymouth Rock bright red on Thanksgiving Day 1970, and seizing the Mayflower replica. All of these actions served to alienate many would-be sympathizers. However, AIM did get the media attention it desired, which seemed only to spawn further controversy. When the group organized a hostile occupation of Alcatraz Island off the coast of California, AIM finally became a force to be reckoned with, however so briefly.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Air weapon to Approximation of lawsAmerican Indian Movement - History, Alcatraz, Trail Of Broken Treaties, Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge, Later Years