Last Updated on April 29, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1382
Mary first encountered AIM at a powwow at Leonard Crow Dog’s home in 1971. She asked who Leonard Crow Dog was, taking note of his long hair, which was adorned with feathers. All the young men were wearing their hair long; one stood up and gave a speech about genocide and about how celebrating Thanksgiving was celebrating one’s own destruction. Leonard Crow Dog then said that they must all now speak “with [their] bodies” in protest against the white man.
After Mary joined AIM, she stopped drinking. While there were many problems with AIM’s approach, it galvanized the American Indian community and gave them a purpose. Unlike the black movements of the same time, however, they did not want inclusion in the white world; rather, they wanted out. While at first they hated all white people, they came to realize that there were white supporters of AIM, such as Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda.
Many in the movement married according to Indian custom; such marriages were not recognized by federal or state law. Mary entered one such marriage—with Leonard Crow Dog—and became pregnant. During this period, many of the old medicine men joined the youth movement, approving of its core aims. AIM would travel through reservations, occasionally holding up trading posts but never doing significant damage. The press, however, gave the impression that AIM was very violent. AIM held Sun Dances in the summer, in order to gather and get to know each other properly. After the Sun Dance of 1971, a member of the group, Richard Oaks, was murdered by a white man. This occurred shortly after another Sioux had been beaten to death. These violent acts birthed the Trail of Broken Treaties.
In organizing the Trail of Broken Treaties, AIM leaders set up a series of caravans led by a spiritual leader, to begin at Wounded Knee and travel along the “Trail of Tears,” the road marched by the Cherokees who were driven out of their land following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. AIM members arrived in Washington, where they slept in a church, then at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where they took over the building. Nixon eventually sent an aide to tell them to go home, saying that much had been done for them already. AIM participants realized that while they “behaved nicely” they did not draw any attention, so they began pushing police and guards out of the building and starting fights. After this, it became a confrontation, with the police trying to force them out of the building and eventually cutting the telephone wires. In the end, a compromise was reached; the federal government offered to pay the Indians’ expenses and appoint two officials to consider their demands. Nothing substantial came of the offer, but the movement felt that the demonstration had been a victory, because it proved that they were able to work collectively against the government.
Indian religion was important to those who had been radicalized: they believed that as long as the old traditions were followed, their culture had not been stamped out. Mary first learned about the old ways from her grand-uncle Grandpa Dick Fool Bull, who discussed his desire to be buried in the traditional way and took Mary to peyote meetings. At her first peyote meeting, she “felt the drumbeat in [her] heart” and the next morning she told her mother that she been to a Native American Church meeting. Her mother was initially hurt but accepted Mary’s freedom to choose her spiritual path. Two weeks later, Mary had a dream in which she saw the life experiences of another Indian woman long ago. Mary believed the dream was sent by the peyote.
Mary only truly understood the importance of peyote to Leonard Crow Dog, a traditional Indian medicine man, after she married him. Peyote came to the Plains Indians just as...
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