As I mentioned in my previous post, the American Indian Movement was formed in the summer of 1968, Minneapolis, Minnesota by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Eddie Benton Banai, and George Mitchell, all from surrounding Ojibwa Nations in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
I already covered the autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs of prominent members of AIM. For this post, I’ll introduce you to books about the movement by writers, journalists, professors, and a retired FBI agent who was in charge for the first two weeks of the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973.
There are many books on AIM, but these are the ones I purchased and read. I will recommend a couple in my TBR pile.
First up is In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen.
Here is the blurb, courtesy of Amazon.ca: On a hot June morning in 1975, a desperate shoot-out between FBI agents and Native Americans near Wounded Knee, South Dakota, left an Indian and two federal agents dead. Four members of the American Indian Movement were indicted on murder charges, and one, Leonard Peltier, was convicted and is now serving consecutive life sentences in a federal penitentiary. Behind this violent chain of events lie issues of great complexity and profound historical resonance, brilliantly explicated by Peter Matthiessen in this controversial book. Kept off the shelves for eight years because of one of the most protracted and bitterly fought legal cases in publishing history, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse reveals the Lakota tribe’s long struggle with the U.S. government, and makes clear why the traditional Indian concept of the earth is so important at a time when increasing populations are destroying the precious resources of our world.
This was a long and interesting read. Some dispute Peter’s book, saying it’s full of half truths, while others embrace it. Myself, I enjoyed each chapter.
Next up is Wounded Knee II by Rolland Dewing. There is no blurb I could find anywhere on this book. There isn’t even one on the back cover. So I’ll simply share my review from Goodreads:
This was a solid read and packed full of information. The author looked carefully at both sides and presented the reader with the facts. I liked this approach, because I wanted an unbiased presentation of what happened during Wounded Knee II. Some reviewers mentioned the writing was on the dry side, and I do agree. Still, it is one of my fave books on this topic.
I don’t think it’s in print anymore. If you can find yourself a copy, I highly recommend purchasing it. You won’t be disappointed.
I’m not listing these books by best to even-better. Because if I did, The Unquiet Grave by Steven Hendricks would be at the top. Here is the blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:
In 1976 the body of Anna Mae Aquash, an American Indian luminary, was found frozen in the Badlands of South Dakota—or so the FBI said. After a suspicious autopsy and a rushed burial, friends had Aquash exhumed and found a .32-caliber bullet in her skull. Using this scandal as a point of departure, The Unquiet Grave opens a tunnel into the dark side of the FBI and its subversion of American Indian activists. But the book also discovers things the Indians would prefer to keep buried. What unfolds is a sinuous tale of conspiracy, murder, and cover-up that stretches from the plains of South Dakota to the polished corridors of Washington, D.C. First-time author Steve Hendricks sued the FBI over several years to pry out thousands of unseen documents about the events. His work was supported by the prestigious Fund for Investigative Journalism. Hendricks, who has freelanced for The Nation, Boston Globe, Orion, and public radio, is one of those rare reporters whose investigative tenacity is accompanied by grace with the written word.
Steve covered all the bases and brought the story to life with excellent writing.
An interesting book that takes place during contemporary times is Wounded Knee 1973 by Stew Magnuson. People during the occupation came together at a workshop the author attended. Here is the blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:
The tiny village of Wounded Knee, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the southwestern corner of South Dakota, makes an unlikely emblem for the tragedy of the American Indian. But it was here in 1890 at nearby Wounded Knee Creek that the Lakota Sioux were massacred in a final stand against the U.S. Seventh Cavalry. And it was here in 1973 that the American Indian Movement chose to demonstrate their grievances by occupying the village in a protest against the U.S. government that lasted seventy-one days, involved assorted mayhem, resulted in a controversial trial, and stoked anger and resentment that continues to this day. On the fortieth anniversary of the 1973 occupation, Stew Magnuson explores the events and personalities of this struggle between Native Americans and the federal government. It remains unresolved.
I enjoyed Stew’s account of the workshop. It gave me a look into how the people felt forty years after the occupation.
It’s only fair to here from the man who worked for the FBI during the occupation of Wounded Knee II. Joseph H. Trimbach, special agent in charge, wrote American Indian Mafia with the help of his son.
Here is the blurb, courtesy of Amazon.ca: The book the AIM leadership does not want you to read!
For the first time, the true history of AIM is revealed through the eyes of an FBI Agent who was there. And for the first time, the AIM leadership’s dirty little secrets are exposed, unlike in any other history book. In fact, this book exposes the history books. It is time to set the record straight for the benefit of all Native Americans.
Like In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, some dispute the text in this book while others embrace it. I enjoyed hearing from the author whose name kept appearing in the various books I read on AIM. I encourage you to give it a read.
This is another book by Stew Magnuson called The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder. AIM is included, of course, but you’re also taken on a journey into history and how racism came into play in the area.
Here is the blurb, courtesy of Amazon.ca: The long-intertwined communities of the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation and the bordering towns in Sheridan County, Nebraska, mark their histories in sensational incidents and quiet human connections, many recorded in detail here for the first time. After covering racial unrest in the remote northwest corner of his home state of Nebraska in 1999, journalist Stew Magnuson returned four years later to consider the border towns’ peoples, their paths, and the forces that separate them. Examining Raymond Yellow Thunder’s death at the hands of four white men in 1972, Magnuson looks deep into the past that gave rise to the tragedy. Situating long-ranging repercussions within 130 years of context, he also recounts the largely forgotten struggles of American Indian Movement activist Bob Yellow Bird and tells the story of Whiteclay, Nebraska, the controversial border hamlet that continues to sell millions of cans of beer per year to the “dry” reservation. Within this microcosm of cultural conflict, Magnuson explores the odds against community’s power to transcend misunderstanding, alcoholism, prejudice, and violence.
I enjoyed Stew’s writing. It read like a novel. Get yourself a copy.
Last but not least, Like a Hurricane by Paul Chaat Smith and Robert Allen Warrior, is on my TBR list. Here is the blurb from Amazon.ca:
It’s the mid-1960s, and everyone is fighting back. Black Americans are fighting for civil rights, the counterculture is trying to subvert the Vietnam War, and women are fighting for their liberation. Indians were fighting, too, though it’s a fight too few have documented, and even fewer remember. At the time, newspapers and television broadcasts were filled with images of Indian activists staging dramatic events such as the seizure of Alcatraz in 1969, the storming of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building on the eve of Nixon’s re-election in 1972, and the American Indian Movement (AIM)-supported seizure of Wounded Knee by the Oglala Sioux in 1973. Like a Hurricane puts these events into historical context and provides one of the first narrative accounts of that momentous period.
Unlike most other books written about American Indians, this book does not seek to persuade readers that government policies were cruel and misguided. Nor is it told from the perspective of outsiders looking in. Written by two American Indians, Paul Chaat Smith and Robert Allen Warrior, Like a Hurricane is a gripping account of how for a brief, but brilliant season Indians strategized to change the course and tone of American Indian-U.S. government interaction. Unwaveringly honest, it analyzes not only the period’s successes but also its failures.
Smith and Warrior have gathered together the stories of both the leaders and foot soldiers of AIM, conservative tribal leaders, top White House aides, and the ordinary citizens caught up in the maelstrom of activity that would shape a new generation of political thought. Here are insider accounts of how local groups coalesced to form a national movement for change. Here, too, is a clear-eyed assessment of the period’s key leaders: the fancy dance revolutionary Clyde Warrior, the enigmatic Hank Adams, and AIM leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means. The result is a human story of drama, sacrifice, triumph, and tragedy that gives a ground-level view of events that forever changed the lives of Americans, particularly American Indians.
That’s it. Are there any books you’ve read that you’d like to recommend?