Hundreds of protestors including representatives from many Native American tribes are still gathered at Standing Rock, North Dakota, in their effort to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from threatening sacred lands and water. Native people banded together in protest nearly 50 years ago, too, as Rediscovered Radio producer Jocelyn Robinson reminds us.
The American Indian Movement was created in 1968 to advocate for native rights; it had Native spirituality and self-determination at its core. By 1974, several AIM activists were on trial for the armed occupation of the village of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, and one of the movement’s co-founders, Clyde Bellecourt, traveled around the country to raise awareness and money for the cause. He spoke at Antioch College, and we have audio of his visit in the WYSO Archives.
Bellecourt talked about the power of Indian solidarity, and he reminded the audience about an Indian leader born here in Greene County.
"We decided then that we’d launch one more effort, an effort that would pull together one of the greatest alliances to ever take place here in the western hemisphere, one that would surpass even our great grandfather Tecumseh from this area. One that would make every Indian person in this country either stand up and be counted, or remain an Uncle Tomahawk or an apple or whatever they were."
Bellecourt was describing the 1971 protest called the “Trail of Broken Treaties,” a convoy of native activists that went from Seattle to Minnesota where they drafted a 20-point proposal to the US government, which they planned to deliver to the Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in Washington, DC.
"We would launch a caravan from the West Coast and we would travel for over a month and half before we’d get to St. Paul," he said. "And along the way we would stop in every urban ghetto setting where Indian people resided and every reservation, and we’d ask them to join us, because when we got St. Paul, we were gonna have a conference, and we were gonna decide our relationship to the federal government once and for all. Over two hundred tribes met in St. Paul Minnesota, delegates and representatives from almost every movement organization in the country with a relationship to Indian affairs gathered there. And we didn’t set down and talk about the Indian problem anymore. We talked about a white problem. We talked about the problem in Washington and how they’re recreating problems for Indian people."
Now a revered elder at age 80, Clyde Bellecourt has been at Standing Rock to pray and bear witness to the movement he helped found. His autobiography, The Thunder Before the Storm, was released last month.
Native American rock band Redbone with their AIM-inspired 1973 single, “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee.”
Rediscovered Radio is made possible in part by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.