"The purpose of occupying Alcatraz was to start an Indian movement and call attention to Indian problems.... It has served its purpose."
~ Adam Nordwall to the press
1972: Trail Of Broken Treaties
AIM logo (Source) Digital Public Library of America
In October of 1972, the American Indian Movement (AIM) organized a nationwide protest attended by hundreds of Native Americans, converging in Washington DC, to present a 20 point position paper outlining their demands.
"The U.S. President should propose by executive message, and the Congress should consider and enact legislation, to repeal the provision in the 1871 Indian Appropriations Act which withdrew federal recognition from Indian Tribes and Nations as political entities, which could be contracted by treaties with the United States, in order that the President may resume the exercise of his full constitutional authority for acting in the matters of Indian Affairs - and in order that Indian Nations may represent their own interests in the manner and method envisioned and provided in the Federal Constitution."
~ First point in the 20 Point Position Paper
Upon arrival in Washington DC the Indians took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters for six days, but ultimately the government would not negotiate nor address their demands for restoration of their land and sovereignty.
Indians occupy an auditorium in the BIA headquarters (Source) Native Voices
New York Times article on the protest (Source) New York Times
Occupiers guard the BIA with clubs (Source) Timeline
1973: Wounded Knee Incident
"The 1973 conflict at Wounded Knee involved a dispute within Pine Ridge’s Oglala Lakota Tribe over the controversial tribal chairman Richard Wilson. Wilson was viewed as a corrupt puppet of the BIA by some segments of the tribe, including those associated with the American Indian Movement. An effort to impeach Wilson resulted in a division of the tribe into opposing camps that eventually armed themselves and entered into a two-and-a-half month conflict that involved tribal police and government; AIM; reservation residents; federal law enforcement officials; local citizens; nationally prominent entertainment figures; national philanthropic, religious, and legal organizations; and the national news media. When the siege ended on May 9, 1973, two Indians were dead and an unknown number on both sides were wounded, including casualties among federal government forces."
~ Alvin M. Josephy, Joane Nagel, and Troy Johnson, editors, Red Power: The American Indians’ Fight for Freedom
Poster from Wounded Knee occupation (Source) Native Voices
AIM defending Wounded Knee. (Source) Socialist Worker
Poster remembering the occupation (Source) Native Voices
Though these protests were not entirely successful, they spotlighted Indian issues that began with the arrival of the settlers. The Red Power Movement resulted in legislation supporting Indian self-determination and sovereignty. It also promoted cultural pride.
(Source) Nixon Foundation (0:37)
"It turned that whole tide of assimilation. People were proud of who they were as Native people."
~ Dr. LaNada War Jack, one of the leaders of the occupation, to the New York Times, 2019
(Source) Personal Interview with Madonna Thunder Hawk (0:14)
The US Government passed laws focused on education and preserving native culture, including 1972 Indian Education Act and 1976 Indian Healthcare Act. The 1975 Indian Self- Determination/Assistance Act promoted Indian sovereignty and allowed tribes to control use of federal funding. The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act sought to keep American Indian children in Native families, so they would continue to have connections to their culture and tribes would continue to exist as a people.
"A 1976 study by the Association on American Indian Affairs found that 25 to 35% of all Indian children were being placed in out-of-home care. Eighty-five percent of those children were being placed in non-Indian homes or institutions."
~ Steven Unger, The Destruction of American Indian Families, 1977
President Ford visits Oklahoma in 1975. (Source) Native Voices