American Indian Movement-West: “No one is illegal, We are all one river”

Posted by admin on Dec 4th, 2008

By Brenda Norrell, Narconews

SAN FRANCISCO — AIM-West is hosting the 40th Anniversary Reunion of the American Indian Movement, Nov. 24 — 28. With the theme, “No one is illegal — Somos un solo rio/We are all one river,” the topics include the militarization of the US borders, treaty rights, protection of sacred places, international Indigenous rights and religious freedom for prison inmates.

Bill Means, cofounder of the International Indian Treaty Council, is among the featured speakers at the sunrise gathering on Alcatraz Island on Thursday, Nov. 27. The weeklong AIM-West reunion includes Native Americans who have made history in the struggle for Indigenous Peoples rights, including Madonna Thunder Hawk, Manny Pino, Lenny Foster, Mike Flores, Charlie Hill and Patricia Bellanger.

The theme is “We Are One River, and “No One is Illegal!” This includes recognition of Indigenous Nation’s inherent right to self-determination, honor and respect for treaties ratified by the US Congress, protection of
sacred sites, freedom for political prisoners, and the encouragement for the U.S. to adopt the United Nations General Assembly Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The discussions include strategies for the “Manifesto for Change”, Green power and Red Power, a sustainable future, and taking a stand in solidarity with our relations from Mexico, Central and South America.

During the organizing session in San Francisco on Tuesday night, Tony Gonzales said the reunion, which includes speakers, concerts and an Unthanksgiving Feast, offers the opportunity to focus on the direction and needs of the future. Pegge Lemke said, following the US elections, it is important to remember that it is the people who hold the power. Lemke said it is the people who have “the power to empower others to return to a more natural way of life and live in balance and rhythm.”

AIM-West said in its announcement that AIM founded or inspired organizations including American Indian OIC (Opportunities Industrialization Center), Legal Rights Center, Little Earth of United Tribes Housing, Native American Community Clinic, Migizi Communications and Indian education that began with Little Red School House and Heart of the Earth Survival Schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

AIM members brought the plight of Indian people to the attention of the world community through the creation of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), a United Nations non-governmental organization based in San Francisco. The IITC was founded in 1974 at a gathering by the American Indian Movement in Standing Rock, South Dakota attended by more than 5,000 representatives of 98 Indigenous Nations throughout the Americas. In 1977, the IITC became the first organization of Indigenous Peoples to be recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, AIM-West said.

Despite the history and the accomplishments, AIM is difficult to identify for some people. It seems to stand for many things at once-the protection of treaty rights and the preservation of spirituality and culture. But
what else?  “Unlike the American civil rights movement, with which it has been compared, AIM has seen self-determination and racism differently. Desegregation was not a goal. Individual rights were not placed ahead of the preservation of Native Nation sovereignty. At the 1971 AIM national conference it was decided that translating policy to practice meant building organizations—schools and housing and employment services,” AIM-West said.

Over the years, as these organizations have grown, they have continued to serve the community from a base of Indian culture.

“Before AIM in 1968, culture had been weakened in most Indian communities due to U.S. policy, the American boarding schools and all the other efforts to extinguish Indian secular and spiritual life. Now, many groups cannot remember a time without culture. This great revival has also helped to restore spiritual leaders and elders to their former positions of esteem for the wisdom and the history they can teach. All of these actions are in concert with the principles of AIM and came into being at this time in history because Indian people have refused to relinquish their sovereign right to exist as free and non-colonized people,” according to the statement.

AIM-WEST was established to bring about awareness on issues that concern or affect Indians of the Americas on a daily basis. Further, it advocates for communities to establish strategic processes, procedures for standard setting, and for the betterment and well-being of all Indigenous peoples. AIM-WEST addresses issues implicit in international laws and standards related to human rights, the environment, and promotes and show cases cultural and traditional events to complement the diversity of Indigenous peoples representative from throughout the Americas and Pacific region. It is common knowledge San Francisco is that microcosm of the new American Indian merging together in mainstream USA today, AIM-West said.

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