The American Indian Movement (AIM) is a grassroots movement for Indigenous rights, founded in 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Originally an urban-focused movement formed in response to police brutality and racial profiling, AIM grew rapidly in the 1970s and became the driving force behind the Indigenous civil rights movement. AIM members and their allies have conducted some of the highest-profile protests and acts of civil disobedience in American Indian history. Although AIM split in two in 1993, its successors continue its legacy of fighting for Native American rights, holding the United States responsible for the dozens of treaties it has broken and drawing attention to the cause of Indigenous peoples around the world.
In the first half of the 20th century, the federal government imposed a higher degree of control over Indian lands, with the intention of breaking up tribes and assimilating their members into American cities. “Termination policy” became federal law in 1953, as Congress formally ended its recognition of more than 100 tribes, encouraging Indians to leave reservations for the cities of the West and Midwest. A significant number of people moved from reservations to the cities, where they encountered a lack of educational opportunities and racial profiling at the hands of the police.
Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt, two Ojibwa men who had met in prison, founded AIM in 1968 in Minneapolis, along with Bellecourt’s brother Vernon and Banks’ friend George Mitchell. AIM’s original goal was to curb racial profiling in Minneapolis and give a voice to Native Americans living in the city.
One of AIM’s first actions was to create the AIM Patrol, which monitored how police and the courts treated Native Americans. AIM also supported the creation of the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis to provide healthcare to the Native community. Its leaders took inspiration from the civil rights movement and the policies of nonviolent confrontation that many of its leaders espoused, although as the years went on AIM members would occasionally take up arms. Continue reading from History