The Many Faces of the Red Power Movement: IAT and AIM (by Hannah Walhout)


California Common Core Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies: Grade 9-10

Key Ideas and Details:

2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

3. Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

Craft and Structure:

4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

6. Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

8. Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.

9. Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.



This lesson will provide students with a background on the history of the Red Power movement, both in the narrative of American Indian history and in relation to other contemporaneous social justice movements. The document analysis activity will also allow students to examine two iterations of Red Power activism, facilitating an understanding of different interpretations within the movement as a whole and drawing connections between historical context and rhetoric.



The students will be provided with a general background on the Red Power movement and its place in the history of American Indian activism through a short lecture. Once they have gained an adequate grasp of the broader topic, they will be asked to apply this understanding to primary documents from the movement. Half of the class will read a proclamation from Indians of All Tribes, and the other half will read a statement from the American Indian Movement. They will deliberate on their interpretations with other students in their group, and then engage in a debate-style discussion about the significance of each document and their relationship to each other. Through this activity, they will practice synthesizing information from a source, connecting that information to the historical context that produced the source, and engaging with another source on the same topic to create a nuanced understanding of a singular “movement.”



The Red Power movement was born from a shared history of oppression and activism among Native Americans, but there were different interpretations, rhetoric, and goals — specifically both nonviolent and more militant approaches — coexistent within the movement.



1. What was the historical context and motivation for the Red Power movement?

2. What were the philosophy and goals of Indians of All Tribes?

3. What were the philosophy and goals of the American Indian Movement?

4. How were their aims and interpretations similar, and what can that show us about the Red Power movement as a whole?

5. How were their aims and interpretations different, and what can that show us about Red Power movement as a whole?

6. This question does not have a right or wrong answer, but brings up an important overarching issue for this lesson: What does it mean for a movement or organization to be a “nonviolent,” “radical,” “militant,” or other descriptors we often use? Can they be more than one of those things? Can they work together?



Note: Students will be asked to create their own glossaries as a homework assignment, to practice identifying key terms and providing their audience with historical context. For this reason, the following list is not exhaustive.

Social justice: A doctrine or ideology of equality, characterized by philosopher John Rawls as “provid[ing] a way of assigning rights and duties in the basic institutions of society and defin[ing] the appropriate distribution of benefits and burdens of social cooperation.” It is the overarching desire that drove the Red Power movement and many movements before it.

Militant: Taking an aggressive approach to support a cause. Being militant does not always mean being violent, although violence can be part of it.

Radical: Subscribing to extreme politics or social views that are non-traditional and not shared by the mainstream.

Pan-Indianism: A recognition of the shared history of oppression amongst all American Indians, constructing a group identity of solidarity across tribal divisions.

Cultural violence: The act of denying, destroying, or stigmatizing the cultural structures and systems of a group. This need not involve literal violence, although the two are often connected. Cultural violence helped construct negative ideas and stereotypes about American Indians that allowed various forms of exploitation and oppression.

Forced assimilation: A process whereby a person or group is made to adopt the culture, language, values, etc. of another (often the majority) group. For example, many American Indian children were historically removed from their lands and sent to Indian boarding schools in order to be raised in a Euro-American environment. This is a byproduct of cultural violence.

Indian termination and relocation: A policy from the mid-20th century that terminated all recognition of Indian tribal sovereignty by the U.S. government. American Indians were granted full citizenship status in an attempt to better assimilate them into mainstream society. In conjunction with this, the Indian Relocation Act of 1956 encouraged American Indians to leave the reservation system and relocate to urban areas. This often resulted in urban poverty and American Indian ghettos in the cities targeted by relocation. These policies can be seen as part of a larger process of forced assimilation, and were some of the main grievances of the Red Power movement.

Self-determination: The right of a particular people, place, or community to determine their own form of government. Synonymous with political autonomy or agency.



The 1960s are well known in popular American memory as being a time of activism and change. Up until recently, most high school curricula focused only on the most celebrated movements — such as the “Civil Rights Movement” associated with prominent activists like Martin Luther King, Jr. However, this era produced a huge volume activism and protest that extended beyond these more famous events. The successes, failures, and visibility of these first movements were part of a context that sparked calls for social justice from a wide variety of marginalized groups. The Red Power movement grew out of the American Indian community, relying on an idea of pan-Indianism — solidarity across traditional tribal boundaries — to challenge oppressive government policies and call for greater sovereignty and self-determination.1

Though probably inspired by Black Power or Chicano movements, the Red Power movement was significantly different from other social justice movements because of historical context. American Indians had historically faced a massive degree of literal and cultural violence from the United States government. Examples range from King Philip’s War in the 17th century beginnings of violent colonization, to Indian Removal and ethnic cleansing in the 1830s, to the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, to the practice of forced assimilation and Indian boarding schools that lasted into the early 20th century. Red Power grew out of a response to this historical oppression, as well as the more contemporaneous policies of Indian Termination and Relocation.

The documents studied in this lesson come from two organizations within the Red Power movement that were associated with two landmark events in the history of American Indian activism. The first is the Alcatraz Proclamation from a group called Indians of All Tribes, an organization in San Francisco made up mostly of Bay Area college students.2 In 1969, IAT began a nineteen-month occupation of Alcatraz, which they claimed as Indian land under an 1868 federal treaty guaranteeing all unused government land to the Sioux.3 The occupiers, mostly urban Indians and allies, supported a nonviolent strategy and chose Alcatraz as a symbolic location to create optimum visibility for their movement.

The other is the Statement on Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement. AIM, while actually founded after IAT and the Alcatraz Occupation brought Native American issues to national attention, would rise to prominence a few years afterwards. There are a lot of similarities to radical groups like the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, as AIM was a more militant group than IAT. It was founded in Minneapolis in 1968 with the initial goal of stopping police brutality against Indian people in the city.4 However, support from the reservations grew as AIM added confronting corruption and incompetence in tribal councils into their platform. They hosted an ambitious occupation of Wounded Knee (the location of the 1890 massacre) in 1973. Activists from AIM occupied the town for 71 days in a continuous standoff with the FBI and other law enforcement, as part of an effort to oust corrupt tribal leader Richard Wilson as well as demand recognition of broken treaties, reopening of negotiations with the government, better reservation conditions, and public awareness.5

IAT and AIM had different ideologies, and their respective Occupations came to symbolize slightly different things. However, they were both part of a Red Power movement reliant on solidarity between tribes and organizations. The activism aided by their efforts led to a broader public concern for American Indian issues and significant tangible progress in the form of legislation, such as the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. Their work also led to a collective ethnic renewal that encouraged stronger ties to Native heritage, culture, history, and institutions.6



The Alcatraz Proclamation

AIM Statement on Wounded Knee

The Native American Power Movement — info for homework help



This lesson plan may be completed over the span of two class periods, each period being approximately 50 minutes to one hour in length. Students should already have a basic understanding of American Indian-U.S. government relations, as Indian Relocation and Wounded Knee (1890) should have already been discussed in class. The lesson will begin with a short lecture/discussion covering very basic information about the Red Power movement and a brief description of the occupations of Alcatraz and Wounded Knee. After the lecture, the students will be asked to read and annotate a short primary document — half will read the Alcatraz Proclamation, the other half the AIM Statement on Wounded Knee. The majority of this class period will be set aside to allow students to discuss the document with others who read it, and to divvy up assignments and responsibilities for the preparation of a presentation the following day. On day two, each group will present their document in the style of a debate, and then will be able to engage with the other “side” in a discussion about the pros, cons, goals, and ideologies of the IAT and the AIM.

Day one:

Begin class by asking if anyone has heard of the Red Power movement. If someone raises their hand, ask them to provide their own explanation of what it is and then allow further discussion. This scenario is unlikely, however, and it will be important to address that the movement is not very well known in comparison to other so-called “civil rights movements” happening at the same time. Continue by asking if anyone has heard of the Black Power movement, and open the floor for around five minutes of discussion about students’ knowledge Black Power and these types of movements in the 1960s. Use this short discussion as a segue to a more formal lecture about Red Power.

Give a 10-12 minute lecture on the Red Power movement, covering significant events like the Occupation of Alcatraz, the Trail of Broken Treaties, Wounded Knee II, and The Longest Walk, as well as the specific origins of Indians of All Tribes and the American Indian Movement. Also address the growing idea of pan-Indianism. This lecture should not be exhaustive and is not the main focus of the class; rather, it should provide only the information necessary to facilitate their individual and peer-based document analysis.

Students will have 5-7 minutes to read and annotate the document assigned to them. Afterwards, they will be given the remainder of the class period (approximately 30 minutes) to discuss the documents with the other students who read them and come up with a “game plan” for the debate the next day. During this time, students will be expected to produce a list detailing who will perform what tasks or preparations for the following day, which will also require them to solidify a format and argument for their presentation. Students should be made aware of the following goals for the debate:

1. Prepare a 15 minute presentation on your document.

– Present the content of the document, including the arguments and goals expressed in it.

– Explain why the document is effective. You should try to imagine yourselves as members of the organization that produced the document, explaining why your goals and interpretations are important and successful.

2. Be prepared for a 7-10 minute “cross-examination” of the other group. Come up with some questions to ask them, and expect to have to “defend” your document against the questions they ask you.

3. Be prepared for a short final “debrief” where you will also be expected to discuss the ways in which the documents are similar or can work together.

4. All students from each group will be expected to speak and contribute during the debate.

Homework assigned:

1. Complete the assigned task for the debate. Students should be provided with the “info for homework help” link for reference, if needed.

2. Compile a glossary of significant terms from the document. This assignment will encourage the students to think about the key terms and concepts addressed in the lesson, as well as providing any necessary clarification for the students who read the other document.

Day two:

The entirety of the second class period will be devoted to a debate-style symposium event.

The group who read the IAT document will present first, and will be given no more than 15 minutes. The AIM group will follow, again with a time limit of 15 minutes.

The IAT group will then be given the opportunity for a 10 minute “cross-examination,” where they may ask the AIM group any relevant questions for the purpose of clarifying, challenging, affirming, or complicating the AIM presentation. The AIM group will then have 10 minutes to do the same for the IAT group. These questions should be somewhat impromptu, based on what students have learned from the other group’s presentation, so they can demonstrate analytical thinking about a text that they had no previous experience with.

The final 5-10 minutes of class will be a collaborative wrap-up/debrief period, where students will be able to discuss their thoughts on both documents and how they relate to what the have learned about the Red Power movement and other issues in American Indian history.



Davies, Wade and Peter Iverson. “American-Indian Identities in the Twentieth Century.” OAH Magazine of History 9.4 (Summer 1995): 15-21.

Deluca, Richard. “‘We Hold the Rock!’: The Indian Attempt to Reclaim Alcatraz Island.” California History 62.1 (Spring 1983): 2-22.

Fortier, James. Alcatraz Is Not an Island. 2001.

Johnson, Troy. “The Occupation of Alcatraz Island: Roots of American Indian Activism.” Wicazo Sa Review 10.2 (Autumn 1994): 63-79.

Johnson, Troy and Donald L. Fixico. The American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz Island: Red Power and Self Determination.

Nagel, Joane. “American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Politics and the Resurgence of Identity.” American Sociological Review 60.6 (Dec 1995): 947-965.

Smith, Paul Chaat and Robern Allen Warrior. Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee. New York: The New Press, 1996.

Wilkinson, Charles. Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2005.



1 “Pan-Indian Movements.” Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society.

2 Richard Deluca, “‘We Hold the Rock!’: The Indian Attempt to Reclaim Alcatraz Island,” California History 62.1 (Spring 1983), 2.

3 Ibid.

4 Troy Johnson, “The Occupation of Alcatraz Island: Roots of American Indian Activism,” Wicazo Sa Review 10.2 (Autumn 1994), 68.

5 Charles Wilkinson, Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2005), 129.

6 Joane Nagel, “American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Politics and the Resurgence of Identity,” American Sociological Review 60.6 (Dec 1995), 947.

One thought on “The Many Faces of the Red Power Movement: IAT and AIM (by Hannah Walhout)

  1. Hannah, I have some questions about your research on awkwardness in sociolinguistics. I read your abstract and I am very interested in your paper.
    Taylor Strickland
    University of Florida

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s