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The American Indian Movement

Brief overview and history

By Karis Pryor

The American Indian Movement (AIM), began in the prisons of the American Midwest in the mid-1960’s. Frustrations with the overbearing and unfair prison systems were coming to a head as Native Americans began condemning the United States for imposing poverty, broken health and despair among their people.

It was within the walls of federal and state penitentiaries, the Native people embraced their spiritual uniqueness and cultural heritage. In 1968, a group of Indian ex-convicts, including Clyde Bellecourt, Dennis Banks and George Mitchell, decided to try and bring some direction to a rebirth within the Minneapolis-St. Paul community. These three individuals helped the Native people organize themselves for self-protection against the abuse of judicial systems across the country through urban-oriented political group tactics such as sit-ins and other pressurized methods.

Throughout the years, AIM has been successful in many political movements to preserve and save the Native American heritage. For example, in November of 1969, over 200 Native Americans seized the abandoned federal penitentiary on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, occupying it for 19 months.

AIM has always relied on a spiritual base to clearly articulate the claims of the Native Americans and has had the discipline and determination to see these claims come to fruition. AIM has successfully and repeatedly brought suit against the federal government for the protection of the rights on Native Nations guaranteed in treaties, sovereignty, the United States Constitution, and laws.

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In order to successfully portray the hard work and importance of the American Indian Movement, I will be using the most affective and necessary technology. This technology will include Dreamweaver Creative Cloud, Photoshop and other software and hardware.

Among the many powerful and influential leaders of this movement, Clyde Bellecourt is one of the most active. Bellecourt, born on May 8, 1936, was a part of the Ojibwe Nation, or Anishinabe, and plays a huge role in many of the organization’s achievements. He is the founder and Director of AIM, and was seen as a major figure in the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.

Bellecourt is highly dedicated to his community and bettering a future for the youth. He played a founding role in an ongoing Indian School System, Legal Rights Center and the International Indian Treaty Council. He is also directing the Peacemaker Center for Indian youth as well. He stated, “This generation of little children is the 7th Generation. Not just Indian children but white, black, yellow and red. Our grandfathers said the 7th generation would provide new spiritual leaders, medicine people, doctors, teachers and our great chiefs. There is a spiritual rebirth going on.”

Not only was Bellecourt devoted to the future of the children, but the foundation of families as well. In an effort to keep families together, Bellecourt founded and is currently Chairman of the Board of American Indian OIC, a very innovative job program that has successfully transferred over 14,000 people from welfare to full-time employment.


The Founders of the American Indian Movement

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Russell Charles Means

Russell Means aided in the foundation of AIM in 1968 in Minneapolis, Minn. Means was born on November 10 of 1939 on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He was an American actor, a Native American Oglala Lakota rights activist and a libertarian political activist. Means died on October 22, 2012 in South Dakota, but his legacy will continue to live on.

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Dennis Banks

Dennis Banks was a dedicated Native-American leader, teacher, lecturer, activist and author during his time. Banks was born on April 12, 1937 on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation and is still alive today at 78 years old. One of Banks' famous quotes is, "Even the people who come our way look upon us in amazement, that we run only for the healing of Mother Earth".

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Vernon Bellecourt

Vernon Bellecourt, along with his brother Clyde, was a part of the founding group for AIM. Vernon was a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, served as a Native American rights activist and was a key leader in AIM. In Ojibwe translation, Vernon's name means "Man of Dawn". Vernon was born on the White Earth Indian Reservation on October 17 of 1931 and died on October 13, 2007 in Minneapolis, Minn.