'We Are Still Here,' photo history of American Indian Movement

Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:45am EDT
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By Randall Mikkelsen

BOSTON (Reuters) - Dick Bancroft has been photographing the American Indian Movement (AIM) since it was founded in the late 1960s by activists with a vision of self-determination and a strategy of confrontation.

"We Are Still Here: A Photographic History of the American Indian Movement," published earlier this year with text by Native American journalist Laura Waterman Wittstock, is his record of the group's fight for civil rights.

AIM gained attention with occupations of sites such as a vacant U.S. naval building near Minneapolis and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, and its campaigning against police harassment.

But the group's image was marred by violence, including an armed 71-day standoff with U.S. authorities in 1973 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge reservation, and the killings of two FBI agents at Pine Ridge two years later. AIM split into two factions in 1993 as a result of infighting.

AIM is active in job-training, health and housing projects and worked for the adoption in 2007 of a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Over a 20-year period Minnesota-based Bancroft, 86, photographed AIM member Leonard Peltier, whose imprisonment for the FBI killings is protested by Amnesty International.

Bancroft spoke with Reuters about his work with AIM, which began in 1969 when he headed a charity committee in Minnesota that gave it early funding.

Q: How did you get involved with AIM?   Continued...

Unidentified American Indian youths ride a car adorned with a buffalo skull as the “Longest Walk” approaches Washington in this July 1978 handout photo. REUTERS/Dick Bancroft/Handout via Reuters