Summary and Reflection
There must first be the understanding that there were many nations who lived in the Northern Hemisphere before it became the nations of Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America. They were known as the Cherokee, the Creek, the Algonquin, or the Chippewa. These nations were established in relative proximity of others such as the Crow, the Shoshone, and the Iroquois. Many once sovereign Indian nations had resided throughout the easternmost majority of what is now America and Canada. The expansion of European industries and the availability of natural resources that were found with North America caused forceful takeovers of Native lands and strategic genocide of many Native Nations by the rising American nation. These Native nations were forced from their lands under heavy physical pressure from the United States government and many endured weather, famine, and disease as they migrated from their homes to lands promised to them.
Long before the state of North Dakota or the city of Cheyenne in Wyoming ever existed, there were the nations of the Dakota, the Sioux, the Lakota, and the Cheyenne Indians. These natives were repressed into small reservations and forced to comply with state regulated hunting and fishing practices, even if they restricted the Indians’ ability to provide sustenance for the tribe. Natives did not simply concede their lands, and instead they presented instances of forceful resistance. Historical accounts of the war of 1812, the Battle of Tecumseh, and the Removal Act of 1830, show that the Native Americans were forcefully exiled, but many stood up for what was rightfully theirs and were killed because of it. Native tribes were under intense physical pressure from incoming settlers throughout the mid-1850s and into the 20th century. Atrocities were committed in which cultural lands were repeatedly taken from the Native, thousands of Indian people were murdered, and treaties that were made to negotiate peace and property were soon after broken by the United States of America.
Natives spanning from under the Great Lakes region to the southern coast were moved west of the Mississippi river into Oklahoma and Kansas lands which were eventually revoked by reneged treaties. With the assistance of the collaboration of many Native nations and the social paradigm shift in regards to the American Indian struggles, AIM had some success in throwing off the tyrannical shackles of the American government, both federal and statutory. Indian Nations lived in impoverished conditions and faced much difficulty in maintaining tribal member numbers and their rituals. A distraught activist for native people took charge of the political protests against the violations of the United States governments. Dennis Banks headed up the American Indian Movement (AIM) of 1972, a group that called for renewed ratification of treaties negotiated by Indian parties and the United States during the 1850’s.
My way of both peaceful and of violent protests, AIM refused to allow the crimes committed by the American government to continue to be brushed under the proverbial rug of history. Ojibwa Warrior: the Rise of the American Indian Movement presents the written perspective of the lead activist and provides an intimate experience into many Native American customs and culture that has been largely oppressed for hundreds of years. Banks offers a one-of-a-kind introduction to the way life once was for a long subdued culture and how a modern Native can work to push back governmental influence and provide a sacred ground for the communities he represents. Banks was involved in many spiritual events, and also as a key component of many dangerous protests or takeovers. Banks survived numerous standoffs with authorities, including numerous accounts with Federal Marshalls, Lawyers, the FBI, and even United States army battalions aiming to “shoot or kill.” The author ventures to explore many rituals and ceremonies unbeknownst or unavailable to him previously, and he shares these events with the reader.
The discovery of connection with the Native Spirit is presented in many ceremonies, rituals, and in birth and death of Native people. Ojibwa Warrior begins with the flash introduction to the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, the historic site of the tragedy suffered by the Lakota people. The Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890 ended with hundreds massacred by the American cavalry. The presence of AIM’s occupation brought back to the surface of American culture the issues of Native American injustices. Banks and his AIM group overtook the town of Wounded Knee and forced out of town the businesses funded by revenue tourism. This was an act of reprisal and a determination to ascertain the lands that were in effect stolen from the Lakota tribes in South Dakota. AIM supporters flooded the holdout, and the Wounded Knee occupation began the Sioux Nation sovereignty within the borders of the United States. This standoff lasted from January through May of that year, and ended with the surrender of the Indian stronghold and just one Indian fatality. The incident at Wounded Knee was just one of the few that Banks and AIM inspired or spearheaded.
Through a series of hostile takeovers, standoffs with government factions, and the prosecution of those who perpetrated hate crimes, the AIM movement brought justice for cruelties suffered by the American Indian people. They accessed the American public through the media, and it became well known the actions of AIM and the prejudiced trials their supporters underwent. Support for their cause moved throughout the nation and into Europe. Native tribes banded together to face their adversity head-on and were supported by whites and blacks alike. During the Wounded Knee takeover, supply shipments were airdropped by former US Soldiers to aid the Indian protest. The Trail of Broken Treaties was a national campaign of three caravans traveling from the west coast to the east, and this movement was supported by many parties along the way. When AIM reverted to occupation of the BIA, the Black Panthers provided support for the movement.
Even when Dennis Banks was a fugitive seeking asylum and sanctuary from the FBI who was searching for his capture, many supporters posted on their front door that the leader would be welcome behind those walls. The action of the American Indian Movement created a congregation of Native Tribes, worked to put the spotlight social injustice, and provided a positive change for the Natives of North America. The American Indian Movement made stands against inhumane treatment, neglect, and prejudice that were ever evident in American dealings with the Native nations. They made transparent the cloaked misconduct that had occurred between the two cultures. The struggles of the American Indians were no longer a veiled secret after the progressive American Indian Movement, and the world became aware of the conviction of these nations to have their land returned to them and to reconcile long-standing travesties. The struggle of the American Indian continues to this day.
The book Ojibwa Warrior was my first introduction to the Indian Rights Movement, and I was thoroughly impressed in all aspects of the political movement. Dennis Banks and company fought hard to bring these issues to light, and with peaceful and sometimes violent protests, the American Indian Movement created momentum for the rights of the Native Americans. Without the introduction to this autobiography, the amount of civil unrest that is seeded in this cause would have been unbeknownst to me. Ojibwa Warrior makes every attempt to create an emotional connection between the reader and the American Indian causes for duress. The book presents civil disobedience and peaceful protestation that is not promoted in other aspects influenced by main stream media. Dennis Banks shows that there can be movements made against an oppressive government, and he provides the position of unrest maintained by the Indian Nations.
As an American Indian who was raised without much connection to his ancestral heritage, Banks made every effort to reinvigorate the Great Spirit within his life. As the author connected with the ceremonies and rituals of the Indian people, the reader was also introduced to the inner workings of the Native American cultures. This intimate setting allows the reader to feel as if they were a part of the ceremony. Banks made a clear effort to show the spirituality of the Native people, and by presenting the situations in first person narrative, the reader experiences the spirituality for the first time the same as the author. The descriptions of the events and the emotions that the author underwent are clearly expressed throughout the book.
As the reader begins to establish a personal connection with the American Indian culture, the progressive movements that AIM is a part of strike a chord within the reader’s heart. As the group travels and expands, so too does the interest of the reader. The hardships and the victories are very emotional for the author and the reader alike.
Through the trials and tribulations of American Indian Movement, from the Walk of Broken Treaties to the takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C to the 71 day militarized occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973; the history of Native American discounting becomes apparent. Ojibwa Warrior exemplifies the courage that must be mustered to face such an ominous foe as the United States Government. As Natives to the land of North America, the idea of AIM being an American terrorist cell never resonated within the reader, and instead an exponential amount of empathy for the needs of the oppressed people grows.
Redirecting from the misconceptions of a culture comprised of powwows and rain dances, Ojibwa Warrior reinforces the present dynamics of the American Indian culture. The book speaks of the connection to the land and the Great Spirit, but it also drives hard the Native’s continued resistance to and struggle with the American government. The book refuses to let the reader continue to carry on with ignorance of the maltreatment and dishonorable discourse that the United States perpetrated against the Natives. The author ensures the education of the reader in historical accounts of the dealing of Native Americans and the federal government.
Banks illustrates the unemployment, poverty, and famine that is rampant in the American Midwest due to abused powers by appointed Indian representatives and the white Americans’ discriminatory practices against the Indian people. The author also presents the multitude of accounts of mutually agreed upon treaties between the two cultures that went unanimously unfulfilled by the United States government. Banks argues that if these treaties were created under the supervision of the United Nations there would have been substantial recourse to the historical accounts of habitual fallout on the behalf of the United States.
This autobiography has instilled a sense of guilt and remorse within me as a reader. The historical account of the continued cruelty enacted by the government that represents the American people causes me to have feelings of detachment to this government. It is shown in Native Nations that shortly after the standoff at Wounded Knee there were settlements offered to the Lakota people for restitution; however they were refused by the Lakota in favor of regaining control of their lands. The struggle is ongoing for the Native Americans to remain in touch with their heritage while also attempting to remain relevant in modern times. The American Government ought to relinquish the illegitimate hold on Native lands so that these cultures can restore spiritual balance on their own accord.