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Lakota Woman

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Essay title: Lakota Woman

Lakota Woman Essay

In Lakota Woman, Mary Crow Dog argues that in the 1970’s, the American Indian Movement used protests and militancy to improve their visibility in mainstream Anglo American society in an effort to secure sovereignty for all “full blood” American Indians in spite of generational gender, power, and financial conflicts on the reservations. When reading this book, one can see that this is indeed the case. The struggles these people underwent in their daily lives on the reservation eventually became too much, and the American Indian Movement was born. AIM, as we will see through several examples, made their case known to the people of the United States, and militancy ultimately became necessary in order to do so. “Some people loved AIM, some hated it, but nobody ignored it” (Crow Dog, 74).

AIM was the first Native American group to realize that their message would not be heard with just words. Their words had gone unheard for too long, and it was time to take action. The need to take action stemmed from the way in which Native Americans were forced to live on a daily basis. Native Americans were forced to live on government appointed lands, and many of them lived in squalor. They felt that this country was rightfully theirs, and wanted an equal opportunity to be able to live where they pleased. Also, they were constantly discriminated against. Many stores and establishments had signs that read “No Indians Allowed.” AIM would go to these places and protest openly, sometimes getting violent. Many acts of violence and murder also occurred on reservation lands against Native Americans, and the white men who committed the crimes would receive a light sentence in court, sometimes not even be punished at all. Examples such as these show how the time was ripe for a movement such as AIM to be born.

The feelings of anger and despair among American Indians led to the Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972. Led by the AIM, the Trail of Broken Treaties was a march upon Washington D.C. in which several different Native American groups laid out a 20 point petition of demands. When these Native American groups were not housed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and were forbidden from conducting a ceremony at the grave of Ira Hayes, they became violent. They pushed the police officers out of the building and took over the BIA. A compromise was eventually reached, but the twenty demands were never looked into afterwards. To AIM, however, this was not a total defeat. “Morally, it had been a great victory. We had faced White America collectively, not as individual tribes. We had stood up to the government and gone through our baptism of fire. We had not run” (Crow Dog, 91).

Perhaps the greatest example of courage in the fight for Native American civil rights was at the siege at Wounded Knee in 1973. Several factors led up to this incident. The first was the way in which the Indian tribes were governed on the reservations. Because of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the government had written a constitution for all of the tribes, which was modeled after the U.S. Constitution. However, this new form of democracy conflicted with the tradition form of self-government that Native Americans were used to. They had no use for American democracy. Their ancestral Indian government had been based on religion, and this new form of government being imposed on them was strictly political. Also, many tribal presidents were “half-bloods” and very corrupt, often times being controlled by bureaucrats in Washington D.C. Dicky Wilson, tribal president of the Pine Ridge reservation, was one such leader. He abolished freedom of speech and assembly on the reservation, misused tribal money, and miscounted votes purposefully. He kept order with the help of his private army, the goons. Those who opposed him would either have their houses burned to the ground or be beaten, sometimes shot and killed. The final straw was when a white man, who had stabbed and killed and old Indian in front of a saloon in

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