American Indian Movement, Warriors of The Past

Warriors are made out of struggle and in Native culture, legends play an essential role in how we organize, defend, and take care of one another.

We organize to seek change in our communities filled with violence, injustice, racism, and crime. One such organization was The American Indian Movement, founded in Minneapolis in 1968, by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Russell Means, and Vernon Bellecourt.

Storied 1968: American Indian Movement

AIM’s initially focused on tribal issues like poverty, systemic racism, and poverty. It slowly transitioned to other areas like treaty rights, tribal unemployment, education, cultural continuity, and the preservation of Indigenous culture.

As the government's path for forced assimilation and broken persisted, Indigenous people continued to struggle to maintain their identity and reconnect. Pan-Indian groups originated in the late ’60s when many Indigenous people left the reservations in order to find jobs and better opportunities in urban areas.

From 1969 to 1971, AIM participated in many movements, including the occupation of Alcatraz, and protested The Trail of Broken Treaties in Washington, D.C. The coordinated effort intended to enhance US–Indian relations. Organized protests led to cultural renewal, increase employment programs, and monitored police activity.

Furthermore, the civil rights movement forced U.S., leaders to acknowledge some issues within tribal communities. President Johnson signed Executive Order 11399, establishing the National Council on Indian Opportunity, which provided aid in some areas. AIM went public with many issues to garner publicity and support but it also shed light on issues within government agencies, such as the  Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Most notably, AIM activists are known for the siege at the Pine Indian Reservation, where they protested the local corrupt government, federal issues affecting Indigenous communities, and an ongoing crime against Native people.

The occupation led to the deaths of 2 FBI agents, which led to the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier. On June 26, 1975, Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A Williams (FBI) were on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation looking for Jimmy Eagle in connection with a recent assault and robbery. At approximately 11:50 am, the two FBI agents who drove unmarked cars came under gunfire killing both agents within minutes.

There were a total of 125 bullets found near the FBI agents from a .223 Remington rifle. Three men were arrested for the supposed involvement in the shooting – Dino Butler, Robert Robideau, and Leonard Peltier who were at the Jumping Bull compound at the time of the shootings.

Inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case have raised many doubts. Numerous people have recanted their stories, evidence has gone missing, and key witnesses have been silenced. Furthermore, many involved in the case stated they were coerced to stay quiet or given immunity to testify against Peltier. Retired agent Coleen Rowley, recently stated, that the AIM organization and Leonard Peltier's involvement, were viewed against the FBI family.

Many people have come forward to request Leonard Peltier's release and clemency has been evaded for close to five decades. The trial and subsequent hearings were filled with inconsistencies and process violations – the very thing AIM helped to eradicate. Unfortunately, ideological differences split AIM into two very different groups, and no longer have the support from the communities it once did.

About Jeanette Centeno

Jeanette Centeno (Taíno) is a nurse with 18 years of experience, ranging from Spinal Cord Injury patients to case management. She is committed to advocating for adequate healthcare and proper intervention for all people. Centeno currently works at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, one of the leading acute care hospitals in treating Spinal Cord Injury.

2 Comments on “American Indian Movement, Warriors of The Past”

  • Kay Bear


    I have long felt the injustice and brutality done to the Native people.
    I am a white woman, with a disgust for what the white has done and are still doing to the great Native American tribes.
    You all deserve so much more.
    I hope mthis gentleman gets a reprieve very soon, and that the Natives can get a fair shake from a government that should be ashamed of themselves, and their ancestors.

    Sending you all the love, and Light to you that I can.

  • Rose


    I have signed partitions for every president to release Leonard for years. How about this president? Biden may be more open! Thank you for your work. Rose

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