Skip to main content

Indians helping Indians

The 'new' American Indian Movement moves forward

The American Indian Movement in Southern California can't help but keep a
strong and visible profile because of our "American Indian Movement Today"
talk-radio show on WorldTalkRadio.com, including numerous community
projects and activities in the name of AIM. We are the "new" AIM, a
proactive advocacy organizations registered as nonprofit corporations.
Check out our southern California chapters at www.aimriverside.org or
www.sandiego.org. However, we still subscribe to the principles and
philosophy of the AIM Grand Governing Council at www.aimovement.org.

We want people to know that AIM is not the boogeyman they think it is. We
are not militants; that is a label the government uses to classify people
so they can legally circumvent citizens' civil rights. We are warriors and
have been for thousands of years. Hate and violence is not our way and
never has been, but we will defend our people with our last breath.

AIM is a spiritual movement of dedicated warriors. We mean no harm to
anyone and desire to practice our traditional and spiritual culture in
peace. As one who performs all the pre-production news stories for our
successful radio show, it affords me the opportunity to understand the
daily struggle in Indian country. The caseloads are overwhelming and at
times seem endless.

The U.S. government can apologize to Japanese-Americans, blacks and others,
but they cannot even apologize to indigenous Americans. They humiliate and
insult Indian people with the federal holiday called Columbus Day. Asking
Indian people to celebrate Columbus Day is like asking Jews to honor
Hitler. History books may have been written by the victors, but that does
not necessarily mean that the words are true.

AIM is about bringing the truth into the light that others may not have to
stumble in the darkness. We replace lies and deception with truths for our
people. We place our people and culture above our own self-interests.
Understand that the American Indian Movement has been around since 1492.
However, we did not give it a name until 1968.

For 400 years, the dominant culture has been on the offense, taking
everything from Indian people. In the 1960s and '70s, AIM came into being
and was able to maneuver the federal government to a stalemate position.
Some of the Indian achievements were accomplished by legislating the Indian
Civil Rights Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, etc.

Today, Indian people and tribal governments are on the offensive; it is now
our time. The dominant culture is on the defensive trying to hold on to
their ill-gotten gains taken from American Indians. The difference is that
we are not stealing it; we are legislating it back, or winning legal court
decisions and even buying it back. Sadly, it scares the dominant culture
and results in what appears to be a rise in discrimination against Indians.

Today, I read countless active legal cases preparing for our weekly radio
show. For example, a tribe in Ohio is suing for more than 145 square miles
that was taken from them in violation of their treaty rights. Numerous
non-Indian communities are trying to stop Indian governments from buying
back original lands and placing them in trust, thus taking the land out of
the non-Indian community tax base. In Roseburg, Ore., two non-Indian city
council members are accusing Indians of "stealing their land" due to a
planned convention center to be constructed by the Cow Creek Tribe. This
land will be placed in federal trust as reservation land. Therefore, the
city will lose the tax revenue from the land.

Indians stealing land? Now that is one nobody would have seen coming.

Our new strategy here in AIM is to play by the rules and beat them --
government and political institutions -- at their own professional game. We
are encouraging Indian youth to enter law and politics, but never forget
their traditional or spiritual ways so as to not succumb to the dominate
culture's greed and ego, better known as the "me, myself and I" or "instant
gratification" culture. Understand we are neither Republicans nor
Democrats, liberals or conservatives. We are Native American Indians with a
unique spiritual culture. Our new goal is to not tie our future survival to
any one political party, but to play both sides to our own political
advantage as they have played the divide and conquer strategy against
Indian people for hundreds of years.

The new energy in Indian country is unity. Recently returned from a
conference in Minneapolis as guest speakers, we spoke to representatives
from more than 500 tribes. Unity was the theme and my phone has not stopped
ringing from Indian people all across America looking to unite. It was made
clear that if we (American Indians) could speak as one voice, America would
have to listen and sit down to the table of peaceful dialogue.

This month we launched AIM Riverside Chapter (www.aimriverside.org) as a
nonprofit corporation similar to the San Diego Chapter, with others coming
soon.

How can America claim to be this great moral power in the world when it has
its own backyard to clean up -- namely, Indian issues? We don't mean to
take away from other minorities' issues, but Indian issues are very complex
and comprehensive. America will truly achieve its greatness when it can
come to terms with all the treaty, legal and civil rights issues that need
to be resolved. Let the negotiations begin that we may all live in a truly
equal America for all.

Marty Firerider, Anishnaabe, is a co-host of the talk radio program
"American Indian Movement Today," which can be heard at WorldTalkRadio.com.
A Vietnam veteran national activist, he has worked as a political lobbyist
and economic development specialist for veterans rights in Washington, D.C.
He is former CEO of the American Veterans Chamber of Commerce and is
currently CEO of the American Indian Movement Inc. for AIM San Diego, a
California nonprofit corporation.