1960s Civil Rights for Native Americans
Native Americans suffered many injustices during the 1960s. Many negative stereotypes still existed about Indians, showing Native Americans in a bad light. Native Americans had the highest unemployment rates, the lowest average income, and suffered from poor health that they could not have fixed. Eisenhower also set up the policy of ‘termination.’ This policy was made to “end the status of Indians as wards of the government and grant them all the rights and prerogatives pertaining to American citizenship.” The results of this were disastrous, and many Native Americans remained poor. Still, Native Americans were constantly relocated to reservations that were supposed to preserve their societies, but actually left them powerless.
Finally, Native Americans began to organize a movement to help Native American rights. The first mark of Native American activism was when D’Arcy McNickle drafted the Declaration of Indian Purpose. It talked of how Native Americans’ intended to take control of their own lives, and how they disliked termination. This declaration started the ‘Red Power Movement.’ Shortly after, in 1968, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was created by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, and others. It was the major force behind the Red Power. Its goal called for renewal of traditional cultures, economic independence, and better education for Indian children.
Unlike other organizations, AIM used forceful tactics. For example, in November 1972, AIM staged a protest called the Trail of Broken Treaties. They marched to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to demand changes between Native Americans and the government. Then, they took over the BIA headquarters until their demands were somewhat met. Its most dramatic action taken, however, was in February 1973 at Pine Ridge Reservation located in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. U.S soldiers had killed more than 300 Sioux in 1890 in this same area. The president of the Reservation, Richard Wilson, banned all AIM activities on the reservation. 200 AIM members occupied Wounded Knee and demanded that the federal government investigate the tribal government which they seemed to think was corrupt. The federal government came to drive them out and fighting was initiated. Two AIM activists were killed and one federal marshal was wounded. The government agreed to listen to the AIM’s grievances, but after the fight was finally over, they did not keep to their promises.
There are other organizations that fought for Native American rights also at this time. The National Indian Education Association fought to improve access to education for Native Americans. The Native American Rights Fund provided legal services to Native Americans. The Council on Energy Resource Tribes helped keep control of their natural resources.