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Red Power: America's indigenous tribes are still fighting for sovereignty to this day

In October 1972, AIM organized the Trail of Broken Treaties, a caravan that traveled from the west coast to Washington, D.C. Participants called for tribal treaty authority to be restored, for the Indian Affairs Bureau to be abolished, and for investment in jobs, housing and education. Upon arriving in Washington, they barricaded themselves in the Indian Affairs Bureau building. The stalemate ended a week later when the federal government agreed to deal with the group's complaints and appoint a native to a post within the BIA.

This was followed by a 71-day siege of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, which began in February 1973. Located on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, the town was the site of a massacre in 1890 in which US Army soldiers slaughtered an estimated 150 indigenous people. In the 1970s, poverty and crime dominated the reserve. A group from Oglala Lakota asked AIM for help in dismissing their tribal leader Richard Wilson, whom they suspected of corruption. An attempt to prosecute him had previously failed.

AIM activists and members of the Oglala Lakota took control of Wounded Knee, calling on Wilson to resign and reiterating their call to the US government to honor their contracts. Soon they were surrounded by a "makeshift federal army" of the FBI, as historian Ian Record put it. The law enforcement officers were armed with machine guns and military equipment. When the protesters, whose food and supplies were cut off, surrendered 71 days later, two activists had already been shot. The cast had made headlines across the country.