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American Indian Movement

Founders of American Indian Movement (AIM)

Russell Means
Russell Means came into prominence in the Native American community through his membership in the American Indian Movement (AIM). As one of the key members of AIM, he took part in a variety of actions and protests, including demonstrations at Mt. Rushmore in 1970 and 1971 and the boarding of the Mayflower II in Plymouth, MA on Thanksgiving, 1970. Most notably, however, Means was a key organizer of the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan in 1972, culminating in the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) offices in Washington D.C. He also took part in the occupation of Wounded Knee, SD during early 1973, which sought to draw attention to grievances with the tribal government and to address harsh living conditions on Native American reservations (Wilson 2001).
(‘Means, Russell and Peltier, Leonard’ by Michael Coleman, Graduate Student, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Learning To Give, Points of Light Institute, 2005)

Dennis Banks
Dennis Banks is best known as a co-founder the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968. AIM was established to protect the traditional ways of Indian people and to engage in legal cases protecting treaty rights of Natives, such as hunting and fishing, trapping, and wild rice farming.

Banks participated in the 1969 – 1971 occupation of Alcatraz Island. In 1972 he assisted in the organization of AIM’s Trail of Broken Treaties, a caravan across the United States to Washington, D.C. to call attention to the plight of Native Americans. The caravan members anticipated meeting with congressional leaders about related issues. When government officials refused to meet with delegates of the group, they seized and occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs office.

Dennis Banks also spearheaded the movement on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1973 to oust the corrupt government-appointed chairman. These activities led to the occupation of Wounded Knee and a siege of 71 days, which received national attention. Banks was the principal negotiator and leader of the Wounded Knee forces.

Read More about Banks

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