During ceremonies on Thanksgiving Day 1970, commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock, AIM seized the replica of the Mayflower. In 1971, members occupied Mount Rushmore, in 1972, they marched the “Trail of Broken Treaties” and took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. AIM’s occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1973, and other events during the 1970s were designed to achieve this goal of gaining attention. They ensured AIM would be noticed to highlight its belief that the rights of Indian people had eroded.
The Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972 that culminated in a seven day takeover of the central Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C. also gathered together the philosophical and focus that AIM needed for its future work. Written by Hank Adams (Assinaboine) and others, the document was delivered to the White House during the occupation.
The twenty points were clear and potent reminders of the lack of faith set in motion in the early 1950s by Harry Truman’s malevolent BIA Commissioner Dillon Myer. They tell in twenty simple sentences with amazing clarity the story of everything that was wrong with the government’s supposed trust responsibility. Twelve of the 20 points directly or indirectly address treaty responsibility in which the U.S. fell dramatically short.
- Restoration of treaty making (ended by Congress in 1871).
- Establishment of a treaty commission to make new treaties (with sovereign Native Nations)
- Indian leaders to address Congress
- Review of treaty commitments and violations
- 5. Unratified treaties to go before the Senate
- All Indians to be governed by treaty relations
- Relief for Native Nations for treaty rights violations
- Recognition of the right of Indians to interpret treaties
- Joint Congressional Committee to be formed on reconstruction of Indian relations
- Restoration of 110 million acres of land taken away from Native Nations by the United States
- Restoration of terminated rights
- Repeal of state jurisdiction on Native Nations
- Federal protection for offenses against Indians
- Abolishment of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Creation of a new office of Federal Indian Relations
- New office to remedy breakdown in the constitutionally prescribed relationships between the United States and Native Nations
- Native Nations to be immune to commerce regulation, taxes, trade restrictions of states
- Indian religious freedom and cultural integrity protected
- Establishment of national Indian voting with local options; free national Indian organizations from governmental controls
- Reclaim and affirm health, housing, employment, economic development, and education for all Indian people