Starting From the Bottom

American Indian Movement Interpretive Center Logo.

At the beginning of this semester, I knew I was interested in doing my research project on Native American history. I originally looked into mapping the changing Native Reservation demographics (i.e., change in the population, geographical changes, changes in education and health care) but on further discussion, I decided to narrow my research and focus on the American Indian Movement (AIM), particularly how it relates to movements in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Minnesota as a whole. I will also look into sources from surrounding midwestern states to provide a wider frame on AIM and related movements.

I hope to also find themes within AIM resistance art and compare those themes with other Civil Rights movements from the time. After WW2, Civil Rights movements swept the country and many organizations worked side by side to advocate for each other and their causes. I hope that through this research I can find commonalities that link these movements together, in relation to AIM specifically. I believe art has a way of telling history that words cannot.

Art from Civil rights movements, like AIM, contain a powerful message that can only be delivered through color and shape. Art is a common language among people, from something as everyday and simple as a red stop sign to something as widely revered as Michelangelo’s, David; art, through shape and color, can unite people and make them aware of things that might get lost within spoken language. I hope that by incorporating art from the AIM movement, I can bring a greater sense of community and understanding to my audience and myself about history that is commonly only seen on surface-level; if it is seen at all.

Primary Sources

  1. “AIM / Remember Wounded Knee Patch, 1973.” Minnesota Historical Society. Accessed February 17, 2020.
  2. “American Indian Movement Button.” Accessed February 17, 2020.
  3. “‘Longest Walk Protest March to Oppose Abrogation of All Native American Treaties and the Genocide of Indian people, TLW Newsletter, Pg. 3. March 15, 1978.” UC San Diego Library | Digital Collections, July 23, 2015.
  4. N.A. “Taking Aim”. Filmed, 2010. Youtube Video, 10 minutes. Posted May 22, 2013.
  5. “Record Poster for The Longest Walk: Collections Search Center, Smithsonian Institution.” Record Poster for The Longest Walk | Collections Search Center, Smithsonian Institution. National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2014. .

“Taking Aim” is a short documentary that contains interviews from some of AIM’s founders, and talks about reasons the group was made, as well as what motivated and continues to motivate it today.

Secondary Sources

Journal Article:

D’Arcus, Bruce. The Urban Geography of Red Power: The American Indian Movement in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, 1968–70. July 2009.

The Urban Geography of Red Power: The American Indian Movement in Minneapolis-St. Paul, written by Bruce D’Arcus, talks about how radical movements are generally centered around urban areas. While D’Arcus talks about the Red Power Movement, he places a large amount of focus on the growth of the AIM Patrol movement that started within the Native American populations in the Twin Cities area. He provides interesting insights into the growth of AIM and some of the factors that led to its growth.


Banks, Dennis, and Richard Erdoes. Ojibwa Warrior : Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement. Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

Dennis Banks, along with Clyde and Vernon Bellecourt, and Russell Means, founded AIM in 1968. This book addresses Native American Civil Rights movements, particularly how AIM impacted Native activism and a new identity as an “Indian People” rather than separate identities. This book also touches on aspects of AIM in Minnesota and provides insight into how the Movement reached grew and spread across the US.

Other Secondary Sources:

  1. “American Indian Movement (AIM): Overview.” Overview – American Indian Movement (AIM) – Minnesota Historical Society Library. Accessed February 17, 2020.
  2. Banks, Dennis. “Dennis Banks: ‘We AIM Not to Please’.” Liberation School, August 13, 2014.
  3. Elbein, Saul. “The Youth Group That Launched a Movement at Standing Rock.” The New York Times. The New York Times, January 31, 2017. Article about a youth movement and activism that sparked national interest in the Keystone pipeline. “She and White Eyes proposed a 500-mile relay run from the Sacred Stone Camp to Omaha to deliver a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, asking it to deny the Dakota Access Pipeline permission to cross the Missouri River.”

One thought on “Starting From the Bottom

  • Nicely done Emma. This is a solid foundation upon which to build out your project. Right now, you’re focusing on Native American history, but moving forward begin incorporating art history and the social history of protest movements into your analysis. If you want to show commonalities between AIM and other social movements, you’ll need a solid foundation in those literatures as well. Beginning with AIM iconography is an effective start, however, and should continue to be your PRIMARY focus.

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