AIM Gathering Brings Indian Cultures Together
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Thousands of Indians, including some from Mexico and Guatemala, gathered for a long weekend of dance, song and traditional rites at the American Indian Movement’s 22nd Annual Gathering of Nations.
″When I was growing up, Indian people were almost taught to be ashamed of their heritage,″ said Clyde Bellecourt, who founded AIM in 1968. ″We try to get our young people away from that John Wayne, wild West, the-only-good- Indian-is-a-dead-Indian mentality.″
The four-day event that ends today stresses fellowship to build understanding between diverse tribes. Attendance should easily surpass last year’s mark of about 9,000, Bellecourt said.
About 50 tribes were represented at Fort Snelling State Park.
″It’s like we make one big city here that can speak to my culture, to his culture, to your culture and everyone’s culture,″ said Alfonso Perez, 41, who journeyed from Mexico City. ″We come with peace and dignity to share our culture with everybody.″
″I’m here because I’m culturally awake and I want to stay that way,″ said Mitch Walking Elk, 39, of Tahlequah, Okla. ″It’s fun and it’s serious. It’s rejuvenating.″
Julio Revolorio, 32, of Guatemala City said he was following his ancestors’ footsteps by traversing a continent that once had no national boundaries. All modern Indian people should take pride in the accomplishments of ancient civilizations throughout the Americas, he said
″The biggest thing is to thank the creator,″ said Revolorio, who participated in a traditional peace pipe ceremony.
Bellecourt said the political side of the event includes discussions of such issues as environmental protection, desecration of Indian burial grounds and fishing rights. On Sunday, there was an open discussion of the conflict in Oka, Quebec, between Mohawks and the government.
AIM gained notoriety in 1972 when it seized the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C. In 1973, AIM activists rioted in front of the courthouse in Custer, S.D.
Also in 1973, the 71-day occupation at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota left two Indians dead and a federal marshall paralyzed.