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American Indian Movement

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WRA 125 Assignment 2

28 October 2005

An Internal "Cold War" - U.S. Government Versus AIM

For the past 50 years, the United States Government has been conducting disinformation campaigns against minority groups such as the Black Panther Party, Black Liberation Army and the Palestine Solidarity Committee. The American Indian Movement (AIM) was not an exception. Propaganda was only one of the many tactics adopted by the government that AIM encountered. Others include assassinations, unprovoked armed confrontations and "fabrication of evidence in criminal cases" (Churchill 219). I will be evaluating Ward Churchill's article "Renegades, Terrorists, And Revolutionaries" on the government's propaganda war against AIM and will also be analyzing his claims as well as some of his rhetorical strategies within his writing. Were the U.S. government and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) really guilty of oppressing AIM as Churchill claims?

Ward Churchill is Creek-Cherokee, a member of Keetoowah Band Cherokee, and was born on October 2, 1947. In addition to being a professor of ethnic studies of American Indian studies at the University of Colorado, Churchill serves as a co-director of the Colorado chapter of AIM and vice chairman of the American Indian Anti-Defamation Council. Not only was Churchill a past national spokesperson for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, he is also a prolific writer on issues affecting indigenous people and has written numerous articles and books including Indians Are Us?, Since Predator Came, Marxism and Native Americans and From A Native Son.

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Churchill claims that during the 1970s, the U.S. government carried out a "counterinsurgency war against the American Indian Movement" (Churchill 219) and their objective was to oppress and halt the American Indian Movement's ability to "pursue an agenda of Indian treaty rights, land recovery, and national sovereignty in North America" (Churchill 219) making them a target of negative propaganda and oppression. I believe that Churchill's claims are valid and deserve merit due to the fact that he supports his claims with evidence and refers to reliable authorities and sources. He also cites specific examples, uses valid numbers, statistics and facts to support his thesis and claims. I will also be using several outside sources, including the book Prison Writings written by Leonard Peltier to strengthen my position.

The siege at Wounded Knee, which happened on February 28 1973, is one of the examples that Churchill included in the article. AIM was preparing for a conference to reveal Richard Dick Wilson's, the local tribal chairman, corruption at Wounded Knee when they were besieged. According to John William Sayer, a Honorary Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Law School, "Wilson had won office with the help of wealthy whites and then rewarded them with reservation contracts" (29), and has his own army called GOONs which were also a part of the federal forces besieging AIM. Authorities then substituted direct coverage with phony press briefings which allows them to "deliberately misrepresent reality in a number of ways" (Churchill 220). I feel the authorities using these despicable methods to undermine the credibility and warping the intentions of AIM is a perfectly valid example of negative propaganda being worked against AIM. Churchill reinforced his claim further by offering more examples, that the media was barred from Wounded Knee, thus allowing the government to cover up its own actions. For instance, the burning of a church which was "widely attributed to AIM "vandalism"" (Churchill 221) was actually done by the GOONs to "destroy evidence.

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There was lots of powerful ammunition - artillery, too - fired into the church by them Goons, the marshals, and the FBIs" (Kenneth Saul Stern 180).

Churchill then moved on to a period known as the "reign of terror" (Churchill 221). On June 26, 1975, Ron Williams and Jack Coler, two FBI agents, were attempting to arrest an AIM member, Jimmy Eagle on the charge of theft. Churchill argued that as there were about 150 FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) personnel in the area, this incident was probably a set up by the FBI to "provoke an armed confrontation" (Churchill 222) resulting in the use of force. This information is further reinforced by Leonard Peltier, who was at the scene and a member of AIM. "There were dozens, maybe hundreds, of FBI . . . out there, suddenly appearing within minutes . . . and they were all gunning for us" (Peltier 127). This was an obvious act of oppression against Native Americans and AIM in particular. How could so many FBI and BIA personnel react so swiftly? Moreover, the FBIs story of sending two of their agents on a minute task of arresting a cowboy boots thief is non-convincing and ridiculous. As we all know, the FBI has more important matters to attend to - like fabricating evidence and planning schemes. Indeed,

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