There is a little considered aspect of the covert means through which the United States maintains its perpetual drive to exert control over the territory and resources of others. It concerns, however, matters internal rather than external to the geographical corpus of the U.S. itself. It seems appropriate to quote a man deeply involved in the struggle for African liberation, Kwame Toure (formerly known as Stokley Carmichael). In a speech delivered at the Yellow Thunder demonstrations in Rapid City, South Dakota, on October 1, 1982, he said: "We are engaged in a struggle for the liberation of ourselves as people. In this, there can be neither success nor even meaning unless the struggle is directed toward the liberation of our land, for a people without land cannot be liberated. We must reclaim the land, and our struggle is for the land - first, foremost, and always. We are people of the land."
So in Africa, when you speak of "freeing the land", you are at the same time speaking about the liberation of the African people. Conversely, when you speak of liberating the people, you are necessarily calling for the freeing of the land.
But, in America, when we speak of liberation, what can it mean? We must ask ourselves, in America, who are the people of the land? And the answer is - and can only be - the first Americans, the Native Americans, the American Indian. In the United States of America, when you speak of liberation, or when you speak of freeing the land, you are automatically speaking of the American Indians, whether you realize it or not. Of this, there can be no doubt.
Those in power in the United States understand these principles very well. They know that even under their own laws aboriginal title precedes and preempts other claims, unless transfer of title to the land was is or agreed to by the original inhabitants. They know that the only such agreements to which they can make even a pretense are those deriving from some 371 treaties entered into by the U.S. with various Indian nations indigenous to North America.
Those in power in America know very well that, in consolidating its own national landbase, the United States has not only violated every single one of those treaties, but that it remains in a state of perpetual violation to this day. Thus, they know they have no legal title - whether legality be taken to imply U.S. law, international law, Indian law, natural law, or all of these combined - to much of what they now wish to view as the territoriality of the United States proper.
Finally, they are aware that to acquire even a semblance of legal title, title which stands a chance of passing the informed scrutiny of both the international community and much of its own citizenry, the U.S. must honor its internal treaty commitments, at the very least. Herein lies the dilemma: In order to do this, the U.S. would have to return much of its present geography to the various indigenous nations holding treaty-defined and reserved title to it (and sovereignty over it). The only alternative is to continue the violation of the most fundamental rights of Native Americans while pretending the issues do not exist. Of course, this is the option selected - both historically and currently - by U.S. policy makers.
The stakes involved are tremendous. The "Great Sioux" of Lakota Nation alone holds clear treaty rights over some 5% of the area within the present 48 contiguous states. The Anishinabe (Chippewa) are entitled to at least another 4%. The Dine (Navajo) already hold between 3% and 4%. Most of California has been demonstrated to have been taken illegally from nations such as the Pomo and Luisano. Peoples such as the Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Pasamadoquoddi - long believed to have been exterminated - have suddenly rematerialized to press treaty-based and aboriginal claims to much of New England. The list is well over 300 names long. It affects every quarter of the contemporary United States.
Giving all this up - or even losing a modicum of control over it - is an obviously unacceptable proposition to U.S. policy makers and corporate leaders. In order to remain a superpower (in both the military and economic senses of the term), the U.S. must tighten rather than relax its grip upon its "assets". Hence, given its priorities, America has had little choice but to conduct what amounts to a clandestine war against American Indians, especially of the AIM variety.
As concerns AIM, grey propaganda efforts have often centered upon contentions (utterly unsubstantiated) that the "Indian agenda" is to dispossess non-Indians of the home-owner, small farmer or rancher type living within the various treaty areas. [This flies directly in the face of the formal positions advanced by the AIM and associated groups working on treaty land issues. AIM has consistently held that it seeks lands held by the U.S. and various state governments (such as National and State Parks, National Forests and Grasslands, Bureau of Land Management areas, etc.) as well as major corporate holdings within the treaty areas. Small landholders would be allowed to remain and retain their property under "landed immigrant provisions" or, in some cases, naturalization.]
In terms of black propaganda, there have been a number of highly publicized allegations of violence which, once disproven, were allowed to die without further fanfare. This has been coupled to "leaks" from official government sources that AIM is a "terrorist" organization. [This is based on testimony of a single informer at a hearing at which the AIM leadership was denied the right to cross-examine or to testify.]
The propaganda efforts have, in large part, yielded the desired effect, souring not only the average American citizen's perception of AIM, but - remarkably - that of the broader U.S. internal opposition as well. The latter have been so taken in upon occasion as to parrot the government/corporate line that Indian land claims are "unrealistic", "not feasible", and ultimately a "gross unfairness to everyone else".
Even more directly parallel to the performance of U.S. covert agencies abroad is physical repression conducted at another level, that of outright cadre liquidation. For example, in the post-Wounded Knee context of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation, independent researcher Candy Hamilton established that at least 342 AIM members and supporters were killed by roving death squads aligned with and supported by the FBI. (The death squads called themselves GOONs, "Guardians of the Oglala Nation.") This was between 1973 and 1976 alone.
In proportion to the population of the reservation, this is a rate of violent death some 12 or 14 times greater than that prevailing in Detroit, the so-called "murder capital of America". In a more political sense, it is greater than the violent death rate experienced in Uruguay during the anti-Tupamaro repression there, in Argentina under the worst of its succession of juntas, or in El Salvador today. The statistics are entirely comparable to what happened in Chile in the immediate aftermath of Pinochet's coup.
As is currently the case in El Salvador, where the Reagan administration contends that the police are understaffed and underequipped to identify and apprehend death squad members, the FBI-which is charged with major crimes in reservation areas-pleaded "lack of manpower" in solving the long list of murders involving AIM people. (The FBI saturation of the Pine Ridge area was greater on a per capita basis than anywhere else in the country during this period.)
[To date, of the murders documented by Hamilton, *none* has been solved. On the other hand, the FBI experienced no such personnel problems in identifying and "bringing to justice" AIM people accused of murder. The most famous example is Leonard Peltier, accused of killing two FBI agents on Pine Ridge in 1975; pursued in what the Bureau itself termed "the biggest manhunt in history", and convicted in what turned out to be a sham trial, Peltier is currently serving a double life sentence. (See, "The Ordeal of Leonard Peltier", by William M. Kunstler]
More to the point than this transparent rationale for inaction is the case of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. A young Micmac woman working with AIM on Pine Ridge, Aquash was told outright during the fall of 1975 by federal agent David Price (who was involved in the assassinations of Mark Clark and Fred Hampton [Black Panther leaders] in Chicago in 1969, and who has been involved more recently in paramilitary operations against the Republic of New Afrika) that "You'll be dead within a year". Aquash's body was found less than six months later, dumped in a ravine in the northeast quadrant of the reservation. A pathologist hired by the government determined her death as being due to "exposure." An independent pathologist readily discovered she had died as a result of a .38 calibre slug entering the back of her head at a pointblank range. [ATS Note: Recent events and allegations have implied that Anna Mae Aquash's murderers were AIM members. See August 1995 interview with Robert Robideau for more information. Of course, FBI involvement in her murder is highly probable but likely of a different nature than what is described above.]
Nor is Pine Ridge the only locale in which this clandestine war has been conducted. Richard Oaks, leader of the 1970 occupation of Alcatraz Island by "Indians of All Tribes", was gunned down in California the following year. Shortly thereafter, Hank Adams, a fishing rights leader in Washington state, was shot in the stomach. Larray Cacuse, a Navajo AIM leader, was shot to death in Arizona in 1972. In 1979, AIM leader John Trudell was preparing to make a speech in Washington, DC. He was told by FBI personnel that, if he gave his speech, there would be "consequences". Trudell not only made his speech, calling for the U.S. to get out of North America and detailing the nature of federal repression in Indian country, he burned a U.S. flag as well. That night, his wife, mother-in-law, and three children were "mysteriously" burned to death at their home on the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada.
Further, it is hoped that the reader might become more attuned to the "why" of such seemingly aberrant circumstances: that the liberation of Native Americans fits well within the more global anti imperialist struggles waged elsewhere, as the quotation from Kwame Toure indicates. AIM presents the same sort of threat to the U.S. status quo as do land-based movements in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.
This situation, so little known in America, has been recognized in locations as diverse as Nicaragua, Vietnam, Libya, Iran, Cuba, Mozambique, Ireland, Palestine, and Switzerland, through the work of the International Indian Treaty Council. It is high time that it was fully realized by those among the broad progressive [sic] opposition within the United States itself.
For those who desire further and more detailed information, the following are recommended as excellent additional readings:
Brandt, Johanna, "The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash", James Lorimer and Co., Toronto: 1978.
Churchill, Ward, and Vander Wall, Jim, "Agents Of Repression: The FBI's Secret War Against The Black Panther Party And The American Indian Movement", South End Press, Boston: 1988.
Churchill, Ward, and Vander Wall, Jim, "The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents From The FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent In The United States", South End Press, Boston: 1990.
Johanssen, Bruce, and Roberto Mastas, "Wasi'chu: The Continuing Indians Wars", Monthly Review Press, New York: 1979.
Mathiessen, Peter, "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse", Viking Press, New York: 1983. New release with epilogue, 1991.
Messerschmidt, Jim, "The Trial of Leonard Peltier", South End Press, Boston: 1983.
Wyler, Rex, "Blood of the Land: The U.S. Government and Corporate War Against the American Indian Movement", Everest House Publishers, New York: 1983.
Arm The Spirit is an autonomist/anti-imperialist collective based in Toronto, Canada. Our focus includes a wide variety of material, including political prisoners, national liberation struggles, armed communist resistance, anti-fascism, the fight against patriarchy, and more. We regularly publish our writings, research, and translation materials in our magazine and bulletins called Arm The Spirit. For more information, contact:
Arm The Spirit
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