“I sure like you AIMs” Alan Houser would say to me. Those who knew understood how important this movement is. Having Russell Means pass is like watching a thunderstorm move away. His gift was that of the lightening strike. Often criticized, but never ignored. Carry his memory on your shoulders or choose to disagree, Russell Means was a contributor, not a watcher. He like other AIMsters are the epitome of Birgil Kills Straights words. Some may have forgotten, others born more recently without knowing, but “Things will never be the same.”
Follow are the words and thoughts of Birgil Kills Straight, 1973 Oglala Lakota Nation
“Things will never be the same again
and that is what the American Indian Movement is about.
They are respected by many, hated by some, but never ignored.
They are the catalyst for Indian Sovereignty.
They intended to raise questions in the minds of all.
Questions that have gone to sleep in the minds of Indians and non-Indians alike.
From the outside, AIM people are tough people, they had to be.
AIM was born out of the dark violence of police brutality
and voiceless despair of Indian people in the courts of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
AIM was born because a few knew that it was enough,
enough to endure for themselves and all others like them
who were people without power or rights.
AIM people have known the insides of jails; the long wait; the no appeal of the courts
for Indians, because many of them were there.
From the inside, AIM people are cleansing themselves;
many have returned to the old traditional religions of their tribes,
away from the confused notions of a society that has made them slaves
of their own unguided lives.
AIM is first a spiritual movement, a religious rebirth
and then the rebirth of dignity and pride in a people.
AIM succeeds because they have beliefs to act upon.
The American Indian Movement is attempting to connect the realities of the past
with the promise of tomorrow.
They are people in a hurry,
because they know that the dignity of a person can be snuffed by despair
and a belt is a cell of a city jail.
They know that the deepest hopes of the old people could die with them.
They know that the Indian way is not tolerated in White America,
because it is not acknowledged as a decent way to be.
Sovereignty, Land, and Culture cannot endure if a people is not left in peace.
The American Indian Movement is then the Warrior Class of this century
who are bound to the bond of the drum;
who vote with their bodies instead of their mouths.
Their business is hope.”
Charlene Teters, (Spokane), known for her activism and art, is presently a professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a founding Board Member of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media, her activist-career began with a vigorous dispute with the University of Illinois over their use of a stereotyped image of an American Indian for the school’s sports mascot. She picketed sports events and launched a national debate about the appropriateness of this practice by sports and media. This history of Teters’ work is the subject of a nationally aired award winning documentary “In Whose Honor?” by Jay Rosenstein.
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