American Indian Movement Research Paper

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American Indian Movement

The poorest people in America are the American Indians and it is also a fact that Indian reservations have unique laws that has made it a nation by itself within the United States. The modern movements focus on the American Indian reservations being empowered by self-determination. This is important for the economic, social and cultural improvement of the American Indians. It was with the Nixon administration that the welfare of the tribes became the focus of the government. The subsequent administrations encouraged the Indians to adapt to a policy of political and economic self-determination. Today many reservations have become economic hubs with tax and regulation havens for investment. Thus as of now the Mescalero and White Mountain Apaches "have become premier private managers of multiple-use forest resource economies." (Legters; Lyden, 1994)

However it must be stated that only during the Reagan administration that there were major reports on Indian economic self-determination. A look at America's past and recent history will point out the reasons for the American Indian Movement -- AIM movement, how it came to be and how it functions today. The history of the strife begins with the colonization of America. On the formation of the United States, the new government continued the Indian policy that was formulated by Great Britain in colonial times. The English had made allies of the Indians and had deputed deputies or agents, to maintain proper relations with tribes and had created many boundaries for the Indian country that was distinct from the English held territories. Likewise there was a fair-trade plan and these were retained after freedom by the United States. (Fritz, 1963)

Much later there were clamor for reform especially from the settlers of the western frontier, and some prominent persons who advocated the cause of the Indians were eminent persons like John Beeson, and other missionary societies and their work caused the creation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1818. By the same time there was the formation of the Indian Office, with Thomas McKenney, as its head. He suggested that there be individual allotment of land to youthful Indians as part of an educational program. (Fritz, 1963) It was a continuous process but was still discriminatory on account of the bureaucracy and corruption. The Indians did not receive notice until the recent Nixon administration as mentioned earlier.

The basic problem:

Grabbing the Indian lands was the basic cause of the strife. Called the removal of the Indians policy, it was started in the 1830s by Andrew Jackson, and this resulted in the Whites encroaching the Indian lands, and likewise moves were made to altogether remove eastern Indians to west of the Mississippi, an area between the Father of Waters free of encumbrance. The concept of exchanging lands was the brainchild of Thomas Jefferson in 1803, and the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from the southeastern states was met with public disfavor. Likewise the Cherokees' conflict with Georgia caused the legislation for the making of the removal policy and in the Removal Act of 1830. The South Indians had five nations with well-defined land that had centuries of history; the northern tribes were weak and numerous. Thus between these tribes the removal policies were different. Indian self-determination inside their territories has now brought better deals in the community development and many judgments have provided them with safeguards. (Prucham, 1984)

While we consider nationhood, the violence that went behind the formation of the nation must be forgotten. But dispossession of the American Indians has been the part of a guilt that began with the expansion until the present time as a continuing act of violence that borders genocidal violence and the American history of the nineteenth century which established that the national identity carries this stigma. (Scheckel, 1998) The nation within the nation did not seem to work. It is with this background that the reasons that led to aggression by the Indians and the later formation of the movement that became popular as the AIM is to be examined.

American Indian Movement:

American Indians were inducted into the war effort during the Second World War. It was the experience in the Second World War that caused many Native Indians to take part in the national politics. Thus the veterans who witnessed the idealism overseas and the apathy to them within the country caused the formation of the protest groups far back in 1944 and in that year the first organization -- The National Congress of American Indians -- NCAI was formed and is a nationally registered Indian lobby. The aim was to secure for the members the rights and privileges that the Indians were entitled from the laws of the U.S., and preserve the Indian race and its culture. (Bolt, 1990)

In the 1970s the land grabbing and equality were not issues anymore. The issues were education and the Acts in the '70s that were the result of government action like the Self-Determination Act, and the education for the vocational education with the Vocational Education Act did not help the tribes in any way. These changes and inadequacies caused frustration in people who would shrug their isolation and would want to be educated and become better citizens. Thus the movement became routed in education institutions. (Bolt, 1990)

The American Indian Movement -- AIM is only thus the culmination of a struggle that spanned 500 years, and today the movement has transformed policy making such that it has become useful to all communities. The reason for the movement was to turn attention of Indian people to their inherited spirituality and check the aggressive policies of the United States, Canada, and other governments. The American Indian Movement has its HQ at Minneapolis and used the power of law by filing suit against the federal government on various issues of the Native Nations, enforcing their rights that were guaranteed in treaties, United States Constitution, and laws. The beginnings of the movement can be seen from the early 1970s.

The Events from 1970

The activism begins from 1968 Minneapolis Aim Patrol that dealt with the police brutality. Following this the activists occupied the Alcatraz Island in 1969 for a year and more. The organization so founded began to be called the United Indians of All Tribes which reclaimed federal land in the name of Native Nations. By 1970 the organization had founded a legal centre with nineteen thousand clients and then in the same year the AIM took over abandoned property at the naval air station near Minneapolis. This resulted in grants for education focus its attention on Indian education and leads to early grants for Indian education. Following that, the arrest of Old Crow created a furor with the take over of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' main office in Washington D.C. In the same year there was the first conference of the 18 chapters of AIM. Later the organization took over the dam at Lac Court Orieles Ojibwa in Wisconsin. The dam was controlled by Northern States Power that caused flood in the reservation land. This resulted in the return of twenty five thousand acres of land to the tribe with better business and living conditions. By the year 1972, a first school was opened and another K-12 school was begun for American Indian students and this has orientation to a student-centered education with culturally correct curriculum for Indians. (Wittstock; Salinas, n. d.)

In 1973 a legal suit saw to it that the U.S. District Court ordered the restoration of grants to the schools. Simultaneously the Lakota elders rose against the corruption in the BIA and Tribal Council, and resulted in a seventy one day battle with the U.S. military. By 1974 the Indian organization was recognized internationally with the International Treaty Council that got representation in the United Nations. It also resulted in the notorious Wounded Knee trials in Minneapolis and brought to light the government misconduct with the acquittal of the accused Indians. By 2001 the organization has become the representative of the American Indian tribes and is a great movement that protects the Indians both from the government and the expansionists in business. (Wittstock; Salinas, n. d.)

The demands that are yet to be fulfilled include: Restoration of treaty making, creating a treaty commission and the allowing of Indian leaders to have a say in congress, avoiding the treaty commitments and violations are some of the rights that the AIM is fighting for and which is yet to be realized. (Wittstock; Salinas, n. d.) There are many things to be achieved yet and the role of AIM grows day by day.

AIM in the mainstream

AIM is one of the reasons for Indians to have come into the arena of mainstream life both at the campuses and in society. American Indians have now come into the mainstream because they have become understanding of the ecological and environmental issues and have kept up with the times, both due to education and information…

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