AIM Linkage Highly Inaccurate

Aug 20th, 2015 | By | Category: 27-1: Tribal College Communities

Dear Editor,

I write as a charter subscriber of TCJ and am a passionate mainstream supporter of the tribal college movement. Over these years, it’s been a joy to watch the development of the new colleges as they have struggled to grow into the vision of their founders and tribes. Their efforts, persistence, and success are deeply inspiring.

Perhaps most impressive is the grassroots nature of [the] whole effort, combined with the ways the various colleges are working together to help everyone succeed. Each tribal college, while maintaining its tribal base, collaborates with those of other tribes to further the interests of everyone—tribal members, students, and tribal nations. You’ll understand that I can write this because of the attention I’ve paid to TCJ. I was surprised by your editorial in the latest issue of TCJ because it introduces the truly grassroots base of the tribal colleges in the context of the AIM occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.

Neither Means nor Banks were Oglala and neither of them grew up on a reservation. In fact, the Ojibway were historically enemies of the Sioux nations. So it is highly inaccurate to call AIM’s 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee a grassroots action. Perhaps it encouraged some of the early TCU leaders to move forward with their own dreams, but that is probably the most that can be said. For an alternative view, you might want to read Joseph Trimbach’s American Indian Mafia. Its sensational title belies the author’s careful record of the actual events and is the only contemporary daily eyewitness [account] of the event.

The TCU movement is the first constructive grassroots movement which has improved the lives of the various tribal peoples. It also deserves highest praise for its remarkable success in bringing together so many tribal nations.

With gratitude and respect for the work of Tribal College Journal.

Kathryn S. Campbell, Ph.D., D.Min.
Charles City, Iowa

Editor’s Response:

Unfortunately, our collective historical memory of Wounded Knee 1973 has been fixated on the actions of AIM. Indeed, nearly the entire historiography of the event has focused on the organization and leaders such as Banks and Means. Few have examined the grassroots origins of the takeover. We have all but forgotten those local Oglala people who summoned AIM in an effort to confront tribal chairman Dick Wilson. Akim Reinhardt’s ethnohistory, Ruling Pine Ridge, is probably the first and only book to truly grapple with the grassroots origins of Wounded Knee 1973.

Our historical memory has likewise fixated on the animosities between the Ojibwe and Sioux nations as recorded by Euro-Americans who were encroaching on Native lands. Indeed, it was that very encroachment which generated conflicts between countless Native nations. Across North America, tribes were forced off their traditional homelands and onto those belonging to other peoples. Like the devastating impact of European diseases such as smallpox, such conflicts were tearing through parts of Indian Country decades, even centuries before European settlers ever arrived there.

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