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A Photographic History of the American Indian Movement

Photography by Dick Bancroft, Text by Laura Waterman Wittstock, Introduction by Rigoberto Menchu Tum

Minnesota Historical Society Press (May 15, 2013)

A powerful, insider’s history of the first decade of the American Indian Movement.


The American Indian Movement, founded in 1968 in Minneapolis, burst into that turbulent time with passion, anger, and radical acts of resistance. Spurred by the Civil Rights movement, Native people began to protest the decades—centuries—of corruption, racism, and abuse they had endured. They argued for political, social, and cultural change, and they got attention.

The photographs of activist Dick Bancroft, a key documentarian of AIM, provide a stunningly intimate view of this major piece of American history from 1970 to 1981. Veteran journalist Laura Waterman Wittstock, who participated in events in Washington, DC, has interviewed a host of surviving participants to tell the stories behind the images.

The words of Russell Means, Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Eddie Benton Banai, Pat Bellanger, Elaine Salinas, Winona LaDuke, Bill Means, Ken Tilsen, Larry Leventhal, Jose Barreiro, and others tell the stories: the takeovers of federal buildings and the Winter Dam in Wisconsin, the founding of survival schools in the Twin Cities, the Wounded Knee trials, international conferences for indigenous rights, the Trail of Broken Treaties Caravan and the Longest Walk for Survival, powwows and camps and United Nations actions. This is the inside record of a movement that began to change a nation.

Author information

Dick Bancroft has been the unofficial photographer for the American Indian Movement since 1970. He has traveled the world to take these photographs.

Laura Waterman Wittstock (Seneca Nation), a writer and media consultant, covered the early years of the American Indian Movement as a journalist.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, recipient of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize, is an activist for indigenous rights in Guatemala.

Reviews and news

In the Media:

Star Tribune Feature

Reuters Feature

The Uptake (video)

MPR’s State of the Arts


Censored News: Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

The Martha Fast Horse Show (radio)

First Person Radio (May 8, 2013)

Dick Bancroft (1927-2018)
Star Tribune
Pioneer Press

Advance Praise:

“When the American Indian Movement was formed . . . little did we realize how much impact AIM would have not only in the United States but in indigenous communities around the world. Dick Bancroft captured on still film the struggle we were going through.

“We held on to each other, never hiding our feelings, never afraid of the camera. We rose from streets and climbed the highest mountains, crossed the mighty rivers and kept focused on our course. Bancroft’s lenses were there, clicking clicking clicking. And he froze in time the many moments we will love to see every day. To tell the stories around every powwow conference, gathering, or Sun Dance. Hundreds of years from now, our children’s children’s children will look at these photos and know a little of the struggle we went through for them. They will even smell the sweet grass, the sage, and the cedar and raise their fists in pride and say ‘Bring it on America, bring it on!!’”
Dennis Banks

“Dick Bancroft and Laura Waterman Wittstock have performed a valuable service documenting this critical struggle, and they’ve got it right. This is a must-have book for those interested in the rights of indigenous cultures everywhere and the future health of the planet.”
Peter Coyote, actor and writer

“Bancroft’s photographic images are acts of respect—each exposure a gesture of high regard, a nod of admiration. The history of AIM is profoundly deepened by Bancroft’s attentions.”
George Slade, independent photography curator and historian

More on Dick Bancroft and his photography:

Minnesota Public Radio Feature: “You Should Meet Dick Bancroft”

Dick’s photography was featured in the exhibit Hanta Po at the Ancient Traders Gallery in Minneapolis, MN 2006, video from exhibit here.

Of interest: MNopedia, Heart of the Earth Survival School

  • 240 pages
  • 180 color photos
  • 10.5 x 11 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873518871

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