The Native American Embassy
equivalent suggestion from a black activist might have imagined the
NAACP, the Black Panthers, CORE, SNCC, and UN. Ambassador
Ralph Bunche plotting strategies together.
The idea ultimately failed, but its vision of unity did win the
support of the NCAI convention. Wishful thinking or not, at the end
of 1971 it was still possible to believe that Indians of all political
stripes, backgrounds, ages, and tribes could and should stand to-
gether. They had serious arguments and differences, but every fam-
ily had those. In essence, the Common Indian Front proposal said
Indians are all part of the same family, and, in the end, the family
would always be on the same side.
When Deloria wrote his broadside, AIM might have felt fortu-
nate to be included on equal standing with the major players of In-
dian politics. In truth, they were not major players until the action in
Gordon a few months later. AIM had been around since 1968, often
attending (and causing a stir at) the same conferences as everyone
else. Its leaders—Clyde Bellecourt, Dennis Banks, Russ Means—
were a familiar sight. They, too, were family. In this family, AIM was
the second cousin you knew growing up (or maybe he was you)—
charming, rowdy, a bit wild, who later did three years at the state
prison for stealing cars. People in the NCAI, NTCA, and NIYC were
the favored ones who stayed out of trouble, entered professions, and
often had college degrees instead of prison records.
- If this warning of Deloria's to other insiders of Indian affairs had
fallen mostly on deaf ears, so had another one that both he and Clyde
Warrior had offered. Both of them believed that whoever was able to
reach out effectively to the traditional people at places like Pine
Ridge would be able to forge a political and spiritual alliance that
could control the agenda of Indian politics.
In the early months of 1972, riding in on the cloud of fury, tra-