Visiting Minneapolis for the holidays, we happened to walk by the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center and its Thunder Before the Storm Gallery, located in the Ancient Traders Market, 1113 E. Franklin Avenue (at South 15th Avenue).
As a child in the 1960s and 1970s, I learned about the powerful activism of the American Indian Movement; they were in the newspapers constantly with bold actions around native people’s rights in the US and elsewhere.
Their multipronged approach included:
- Nonviolent direct action such as the occupation of
Alcatraz Island and the Trail of Broken Treaties March on Washington/occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs offices
- Shows of force, including the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota
- Creating alternative institutions such as schools, community media (including a radio station), and career training programs
- Legal actions in the courts
(See a detailed history at http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5564875fe4b0a715f94b3b42/t/558850b7e4b010cd4058b0d6/1434996919389/AIMPastPresentFuture.pdf; scroll down to the section, “A Brief History of he American Indian Movement.”)
Later, in 1980, I attended the Black Hills Gathering, as did many people involved with AIM, several of whom spoke from the stage. The Black Hills Gathering fused the causes of environmentalism/protecting land and water/the safe energy movement with those of indigenous rights around the world, and particularly the native peoples of North America.
Along with the Seabrook, NH nuclear power plant site occupation of 1977, the Black Hills Gathering was a turning point in my own activist journey. I’d already been involved in the safe energy movement for several years, starting well before Seabrook, and before that was a high school and college activist on ending the Vietnam War, abolishing nuclear weapons, LBG rights, and students’ rights.
The Black Hills Gathering was my first deep exposure to the specifics of the indigenous people’s movements. Speaker after speaker drew connections among seemingly disparate struggles like the Dine (Navajo) people’s resistance to uranium mining in the Southwest, the struggle to replace a collaborationist tribal government on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation, and the battles of native peoples around the country and around the world to block the corporatization and expropriation of land, water, and other resources.
I trace my advocacy on water issues, and my promotion of the idea that urban rooftops could be food and energy sources, to this 3-day outdoor conference and festival. Those are both areas that I still talk about 35 years later; they’re even discussed in my newest book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World.
Walking into the AIM Interpretive Center, seeing the photos on the walls, brought back all those memories.
The gallery doesn’t get a lot of visitors, but it is open to the pubic (and it’s part of a neighborhood that’s a hotspot of American Indian culture). We were lucky enough in our visit to meet Eric Byrd, AIM’s archivist and curator, who filled us in on plans for future exhibits and on the photo-history publishing program the organization is working on.
If you’re in the Twin Cities, pop on in. If you’re not, visit the website.