Wounded Knee (1973) and American Indian Movement (AIM)

The Wounded Knee massacre is an episode that took place towards the end of the 19th Century and specifically in 1890. This was perpetuated by the Indian’s urge to attain freedom from the Americans who took their fortune in the Black Hills and failed to honor the treaties made between them. The trails of the dishonored treaties haunted the relationship between the native Indians and the American government until 1973 when this culminated into the Wounded Knee episode. This episode was propagated by the American Indian Movement that was established to address the needs of the Indian minorities that were being abused indirectly by the American government.Wounded Knee of 1973 is an incidence that led to hundreds of innocent people being killed, tortured and arrested and the American Indian movement (AIM) is a group of American Indians that highlighted the inequalities which led to the incident.

These two topics are mutual as the AIM played a significant role in the Wounded Knee massacre in 1973. Information drawn from them is meant to complement each other in order to clearly outline the history of the Indians and their position in the US. It is in this regard that this paper analyses the incidence of the Wounded Knee, the role of AIM in the same and the subsequent activities of the movement.Historical events and Background of the AIM and the Wounded Knee IncidentThe American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded in 1968 when the Native American people came together in a meeting with the Native Indians aimed at addressing the various issues that the Indian community was grappling with in their daily lives. This meeting ascertained that indeed, the Indian community was a victim of cruel treatment by the police, discrimination, racism, unemployment and unfair government policies (Brown 2007). As a result, AIM was formed to help this community address these issues sustainably.

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The leaders of the AIM advocated for the rights of the Indians residing in urban areas who increasingly were languishing in poverty and illness.The movement highly protested the trail of unjust treaties including the 1868 conflict of the Black Hills. This treaty indicated that the Black Hills of South Dakota were still in possession of the Sioux people, an asset that the natives wanted the government to return to them as a move to recover their independence (Reinhardt 2007: 65-67). The other bone of contention was the strip mining of the land that caused adverse health effects to the natives yet the tribal government still encouraged the activity. All these tensions culminated into regular violence between the native people and the tribal government supporters who was referred to as the GOON (Guarders of the Oglala Nation). This group was considered a government puppet and it mistreated, physically assaulted and even murdered the AIM leaders (Mary 1990: 32-35).

In 1972, the movement took over the Bureau of Indian affairs (BIA) over the pretext that the institution was highly corrupt and therefore it demanded reforms of the same. After failing to physically remove the corrupt BIA officials in power, the leaders proceeded to the Wounded Knee town. According to the studies, this was to indirectly reveal their discontent and historically symbolize the determination of their ancestors during the 1890 massacre (Tamara 2002).These activities of the AIM attracted the attention of the FBI and the CIA who took the step to get rid of the movement as its activities were becoming a source of civil unrest. The confrontation continued and led to the Wounded Knee incident in 1973 after the AIM leaders supposedly seized the Wounded Knee town south of Dakota as a move to resist the activities of the allegedly corrupt government (Hickory 2008). In response, the US government deployed the military that surrounded the area in an effort to recover it from the hands of the AIM. The incident lasted for 71 days during which both the government and the AIM supporters traded fire against each other (Brown 2007).

In the effort to end this, the government is accused of trying to starve the aim supporters present in the town by cutting off all the communications in the region and barricading the roads that led to the area (Hendrickson 2008). However, the supporters of the AIM smuggled the basic necessities like food and ammunition into the region and these helped the occupants to survive. In addition, significant numbers of medical practitioners and close to one hundred AIM supporters joined the occupants of the AIM in the town to demonstrate against the widespread injustices. Further, different supporters of the AIM held massive demonstrations in the streets towards the same course.In March, the government ceased its operations and brought down the roadblocks because of the tension from all these groups of people while assuming that the AIM warriors would leave the town.

However, the AIM warriors interpreted this move as the defeat of the government and instead celebrated this perceived victory by declaring the nation free. This prompted the government to resume the activities and as a result, massive arrests of the AIM allies were conducted by the FBI. This was purportedly done in the ‘dark’ as the communication network in the region was cut by the government and the media was taken away too (Dennis and Richard 2004:39-48). It is estimated that several followers of the AIM and the AIM warriors were killed mainly from fatal gun shots and bullet woundsIn May, the government initiated the negotiations with the AIM leaders by sending them a letter and later on meeting them. They discussed the contentious issues that included the Fort Laramie treaty. The AIM leaders agreed to all the propositions of the meeting and by 5th of the same month, the war ended. The occupants of the town voluntarily vacated the town but the government immediately renounced the propositions of the treaty (Hendrickson 2008). This led to massive murders and again, close to 70 AIM supporters and other proponents lost their lives (Minnesota Historical Society 2009).

However, by the 8th of May, both parties disarmed and brought this operation to the end. The perpetrators were apprehended and charged in the court of law but they were later acquitted because of the misconduct by the legislation.The Activities of the AIM after the Wounded Knee IncidentThe other activity of AIM that received equal publicity took place in 1975 during the Oglala fire fight. This happened as a result of increased animosity and tension between the FBI and the Indian proponents and especially because of the events of the Wounded Knee (Donald 2009). Studies indicate that after this incident, the FBI closely monitored the activities of the AIM (Eye Witness History 2009). This fight led to the death of two FBI officials and the perpetrators were brought to book.However, since its inception, the American Indian Movement‘s major goal was to protect the needs of the minority by bringing to the fore the problems that these minority groups of people faced.

Studies show that this movement has staged various protests in favor of the needs of the indigenous Americans (Paul and Robert 1996: 56-77). Among the most infamous protests after the Wounded Knee in 1973 was the longest Walk in 1978. The group also acts as the government watchdog as it monitors the activities of the police and therefore seeks to stop any injustices that could be done by the same.Furthermore, the movement took up the noble cause of directing the employment program both in the rural and urban centers in all American states (Reinhardt 2007:75-79). This has ensured that all the Americans are given equal opportunities to access chances for employment.

In addition, the movement has expanded its horizons and seemingly, it is notable for campaigning for the rights of the minority outside America. On a more practical approach, the movement has set up different institutions to address the needs of the minority. These include the AIM Street Medics, Centers for Indian legal rights, International Indian Treaty council and KILI radio (Tamara 2002). All these institutions offer invaluable services to the public as a wholeStudies also indicate that the movement has played an instrumental role in initiating and maintaining ethical conscience about the traditional symbols (Brown 2007). In this regard, the movement is very active in revising the symbols that demean the culture of the Indian people. By confronting the national perception of some traditional events such as the Thanks giving story, the movement has played a leading role in changing the attitudes of the Americans towards the native Indians.

These efforts have been appreciated by different groups of people ranging from politicians to civil society groups and international organizations (Dennis and Richard 2004:39-48).Furthermore, studies also point out that through these activities, other organizations like the Indigenous People Caucus (IPC) have been formed to fight for the rights and respect of the native people as well as their culture (Brown 2007). It can not be disputed that these secondary organizations were satisfied by their initial activities of this movement. Aim is also actively involved in opposing the employment of native Indian drawings as symbols for different sports team. Despite having received minimal attention in this regard, the concept is gradually gaining publicity and relative attention as different education institutions positively respond to the same.

ConclusionIn general, it can be concluded that AIM played a fundamental role in highlighting the shortcomings of the federal government with regard to governance. In addition, its role in bringing to the fore and addressing the historical problems of the native Indians can not be overstated. However, its mandate is still unclear and as it continues to actively participate in civil society activities, efforts should be made to clearly define its mandate. It is worth noting that the movement is relatively influential and its activities tend to attract considerable attention and therefore, in order to avoid the recurrence of the Wounded Knee incident, the government should clearly outline its mandate. This research presents some gaps regarding the liberation and future activities of the movement that should be filled by upcoming studies.



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