Thursday, March 26, 2009

Early AIM protest tactics

The tactics AIM adopted were premised on the fact that Indian activists failed to achieve results at the time of its founding. AIM believed that advocates for Indian interests who had worked within the American political system had not been effective. The political system simply ignored Indian interests. The AIM leadership decided at its founding that a more aggressive approach had to be adopted in order for their voices to be heard. Up to this time, Indian advocacy had been passive and consisted of the typical lobbying effort with the Congress and the state legislatures.[1]
AIM used the American press and media to present its own unvarnished message to the American public. It did so by ensuring that the members of the press would have an event they wanted to cover for their respective newspaper or television/radio station. If successful, news outlets would seek out AIM spokespersons for interviews and receive its message. Instead of relying on traditional lobbying efforts with the Congress or state legislature, AIM directly sought out the American public to ensure it would get AIM’s message. AIM was always on the look out for an event that would result in publicity. Sound bites such as the AIM Song were often caught on camera and quickly became associated with the movement.
The seizure of the Mayflower replica on Thanksgiving Day in 1970 during ceremonies commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim’s landing at Plymouth Rock, the occupation of Mount Rushmore in 1971, the Trail of Broken Treaties march and takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 1972, AIM’s occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in 1973, the Longest Walk in 1978, and other events during the 1970s were designed to achieve this effect. All of these events were undertaken to ensure AIM would be noticed in order to highlight its belief that the rights of Indian people had eroded. [2]
In view of the nature of its more provocative advocacy for Indian rights and the experience of other minority groups during the civil rights era, AIM encountered a similar reaction from the government.[3] The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used paid informants to report on AIM’s activities and its members. [4]

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