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The American Indian Movement, 1968-1978

Primary Source Set

Founded in July 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the American Indian Movement (AIM) is an American Indian advocacy group organized to address issues related to sovereignty, leadership, and treaties. Particularly in its early years, AIM also protested racism and civil rights violations against Native Americans. During the 1950s, increasing numbers of American Indians had been forced to move away from reservations and tribal culture because of federal Indian termination policies intended to assimilate them into mainstream American culture. Founders of AIM included Mary Jane Wilson, Dennis Banks, Vernon Bellecourt, Clyde Bellecourt, and George Mitchell, while other activists like Russell Means worked with the organization prominently in the 1970s.

AIM staged a number of protest actions on historically significant sites of injustice and violence perpetrated by the federal government against Native Americans. These protests included the occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1970, protests at the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1972, the occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973, and the Longest Walk spiritual march from Alcatraz to Washington, DC to support tribal sovereignty and bring attention to anti-Indian legislation in 1978. AIM continues its work to the present day, speaking out against injustices and working to improve conditions for Native Americans. This primary source set uses documents, photographs, videos, and news stories to tell the story of the first decade of the American Indian Movement.

Additional resources for research

  1. American Indian Movement (AIM), Minnesota Historical Society.
  2. A Brief History of the American Indian Movement, American Indian Movement.
  3. Emily Chertoff, “Occupy Wounded Knee: A 71-Day Siege and a Forgotten Civil Rights Movement”, The Atlantic.

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