Students watch a video about the events that lead to the American Indian Movement (AIM). They learn about similarities between AIM and the Civil Rights Movement.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Unit 10: Modern Montana." This concluding unit will ask students to determine how Montana compares to other states, and how it has become the state it is today.
4.7: Explain the history, culture, and current status of the American Indian tribes in Montana and the United States.
- Video: Montana Mosaic: American Indian Movement in Montana
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
Tell students they will be watching a video about the events surrounding and leading up to the formation of the American Indian Movement, and some of the movement’s goals. Explain that in the 1950s and 1960s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs paid to relocate 100,000 American Indians from their reservations. In 1968, the relocation efforts ended, and AIM began. AIM was founded by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Eddie Benton Banai, and George Mitchell. While most of AIM’s demonstrations took places throughout the 1970s, AIM continues their commitment to shape federal policy and to regain control over their nations’ future.
Play the video, Montana Mosaic: American Indian Movement in Montana. [2:28]
Explain to students that social movements begin when people start to demand certain rights. A movement grows as more people become aware of the issues and take action.
Explain that AIM was successful in bringing media attention to American Indian treaty issues. The highest-profile demonstration took place at Wounded Knee in 1973, led by Dennis Banks and Russell Means. As a result of Wounded Knee and other demonstrations, the US government wrote and tried to pass legislation that provided more power to American Indian people.
Ask if students know of any other social movements in America, past or present. Have they heard of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1960s, or the Women’s Suffrage Movement of the early 1900s? Have they heard of Occupy Wall Street, or LGBTQIA movements, or Black Lives Matter?
Give a short background of the Civil Rights Movement: African Americans wanted equality. They and their allies used a variety of methods, including nonviolent protest, boycotts, marches, and legal battles in the courts. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and guaranteed equal voter registration requirements for all applicants. It also ended legal racial segregation in business, schools, and public places.
Ask students if they think the American Indian Movement is similar to the Civil Rights Movement. Describe some of the similarities. (A few people courageously started the movement, others joined. They marched to Washington and used the power of the media to influence the government. They used the courts).
What are the differences? (Answers include issues over treaties, American Indians vs. African Americans, different leaders).
For information on AIM, read the background essay in the video’s support materials.