The American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded in 1968 (six years after I was born). Reading about the individuals involved in the movement profoundly changed my view of American history and Native Americans and drew me into further study. I always knew that “we” (European settlers/government) failed to honor treaties and agreements made with them over the course of history. I knew atrocities were committed … but that was history and in the past. Reading individual accounts, biographies and autobiographies led me to better understand and empathize. Further study helped me understand that atrocities haven’t ended. Exploitation hasn’t ended. I actively challenge bias when I encounter it, but my understanding is directly limited by my privileged position in society.
Wikipedia: The original founders of AIM included Dennis Banks, Alan Morsette, George Mitchell, George Mellessey, Herb Powless, Clyde Bellecourt, Vernon Bellecourt, Harold Goodsky, Eddie Benton-Banai, and a number of others in the Minneapolis Native American community. Russell Means, born Oglala Lakota, was an early leader in 1970s protests.
The stories of the founders and pivotal figures of AIM provided a window into that world for me. AIM, its leaders and its members occupy my attention today because co-founder Dennis Banks died. Russell Means passed in 2012. Leonard Peltier remains incarcerated as an American political prisoner on very thin “evidence,” questionable and coerced testimony, and inconsistent FBI investigations. One of the Bellecourt brothers is living and one has passed.
Slavery was an atrocity. Violence and discrimination against people of color obviously continue and are particularly pernicious under Trump. However, genocide against indigenous peoples of North and South/Central American decimated or destroyed whole peoples and continues today with poor conditions on the reservations, marginalization, discrimination and violence. We should all be ashamed … and we should all stop appropriating their culture (by naming sports teams, by selling spirituality, by wearing costumes, by promoting stereotypes etc.).