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Teaching Guide: Exploring the American Indian Movement

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, The American Indian Movement, 1968-1978, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. According to the excerpt from a newsletter, what actions was the federal government taking to address Native American concerns in 1970 through the National Council on Indian Opportunity?
  2. What major conditions of Native American life did the American Indian Movement protest in the 1970s? Cite evidence from the sources to support your answer.
  3. Consider the interview with Earl Livermore, the interview with Ramona Bennett, and the photograph of Native American protesters in Terre Haute. What strategies for protest and advocacy did American Indian Movement activists use? Who were their audiences? What connections do you see among the actions described in this set?
  4. Using the photograph taken at Wounded Knee, the photograph of Russell Means, and the footage from the trial of Dennis Banks and Russell Means, compare and contrast the tactics used by the American Indian Movement with those of other activist groups during the civil rights era.
  5. Do a close reading of the print. What is its central message? How does it relate to the concerns of the American Indian Movement?
  6. Describe the perception of the American Indian Movement explained in the Senate Judiciary Committee report. How did this perception influence federal government response to the American Indian Movement?
  7. The button, the story about the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Wounded Knee protest, the interview with Clyde Bellecourt, and the news story about the Leonard Peltier case explore the legacy of the American Indian Movement and its protests. What is this legacy? How did perceptions of AIM change over time?

Classroom activities

  1. Many of the most prominent leaders of the American Indian Movement were men. Using the interview with Ramona Bennett as inspiration, ask students to research and select a female activist from AIM and tell her story in a short paper or presentation. Which issues was she concerned about? What actions did she take? What is the legacy of her contribution to AIM? Female subjects might include Mary Jane Wilson, Wilma Mankiller, or Grace Thorpe.
  2. Ask students to listen to the news story about the Leonard Peltier case. Instruct them to do further research about him and his case and write a letter to the editor advocating for either releasing him or keeping him in prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

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