Formed in August of 1968, the American Indian Movement Patrol (AIM Patrol) was a citizens’ patrol created in response to police brutality against American Indian people in Minneapolis. Patrollers observed officers’ interactions with American Indians and offered mediators that community members could call on for help. As of 2016, a similar but separate group operates under the same name.
The United States policies of termination and relocation brought large numbers of American Indian people to urban centers between the 1940s and 1960s. Through termination, the federal government dissolved many American Indian nations’ sovereign rights and absorbed their members into the U.S. mainstream. Through relocation, it encouraged American Indians to move from their reservations to urban centers. This set the stage for American Indian people to confront issues commonly associated with cities, including police brutality.
The American Indian Movement (AIM) is a national organization that formed in July 1968. Hundreds of people attended the first AIM meeting, on Plymouth Avenue in North Minneapolis. Originally called the Concerned Indian American Coalition (CIA), the group changed its name after an elder named Alberta Downwind insisted that they reclaim and repurpose the term “American Indian.” AIM members met regularly to advocate for Native civil rights, create community programs, and organize protests.
The patrol, one of AIM’s first programs, formed during a meeting held in Minneapolis on August 19, 1968. Of the roughly seventy people who attended, 50 percent voted to create the patrol. They agreed that patrollers would cover an area along East Franklin Avenue in the Phillips neighborhood in South Minneapolis, where there was a concentrated population of American Indian people.
Patrollers worked to decrease police brutality against American Indian people by limiting interaction between police and community members and offering itself as a crisis-resolution alternative. The patrol would also observe “any irregularities in police arrest procedures in the area” but would not physically interfere with police work. Citizen patrols like AIM’s formed across the nation during the late 1960s and 1970s. They included the Black Panther Party of Self Defense in California and the less well-known Soul Patrol in North Minneapolis.
In its early days, AIM Patrol worked with other programs created by the American Indian Movement, including the Legal Rights Center, which helped find lawyers for Native defendants. It was staffed by volunteers. Though most of them identified as American Indian, membership was open to all races and ethnicities. Volunteers wore red jackets and red shirts with the AIM logo while patrolling. At first, they only patrolled on Friday and Saturday nights. Eventually, they expanded their hours to include weekday evenings.
Five weeks after AIM Patrol was established, AIM leaders proclaimed that no Indians had been arrested—a dramatic reduction from the five to six arrests usually reported each day. A year later, AIM leaders claimed that twenty-two consecutive weeks had passed without any arrests of American Indians.
During the 1960s and 1970s, patrollers used walkie-talkies, two-way radios, cameras, tape recorders, and cars to communicate with each other. They documented police interactions with American Indian people and monitored police dispatches. Local residents called AIM Patrol to assist in deescalating potential fights and preventing intra-community violence. Patrollers also worked as security for community events such as powwows, school dances, and basketball games, and encouraged youth not to engage in drug or alcohol use.
The original incarnation of AIM Patrol disbanded around 1975. In 1987, however, AIM reinstated it after three high-profile murders of American Indian women in the Phillips neighborhood. This new incarnation of AIM Patrol was active throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, when gang violence in Minneapolis increased.
In 1991, the offices of AIM Patrol moved into the newly opened Elaine M. Stately Peacemakers Center at 2300 Cedar Avenue South. Reports of continued police brutality towards American Indian people—such as the 1993 incident in which Minneapolis police officers forced two men into the trunk of police car—affirmed AIM Patrol’s existence and original goals. Leadership changes and community disagreements in the same year, however, led to the group’s decline in the mid-1990s.
A new incarnation of the patrol, led by Mike Forcia, emerged in 2010.
In 2016, although a group of Minneapolis community members continues to operate as AIM Patrol, it is not sanctioned by the American Indian Movement.
Baccerra, Marilyn. "Indian Patrol Curb Arrests, Leader Says." Minneapolis Tribune, September 18, 1968.
Bancroft, Dick, and Laura Waterman Wittstock. We Are Still Here: A Photographic History of the American Indian Movement. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013.
Blair, Gary. “Cronick Resigns from AIM Patrol.” Ojibwe News, July 9, 1993.
"Bellecourt Asks for Aid for Patrols." Minneapolis Tribune, April 11, 1969.
Bellecourt, Clyde H., and Jon Lurie. The Thunder Before the Storm: The Autobiography of Clyde Bellecourt. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2016.
"'Brutality' Is Top Indian Complaint Against Police." Minneapolis Tribune, August 9, 1968.
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Cree, Delvin. “Community Concerned About Criminal Records of Peacemaker Center Associates.” Native American Press, June 18, 1993.
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Renville, Norma (operations manager, AIM Interpretive Center). Conversation with the author. November 9, 2016.
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The murders of three American Indian women—one in 1986 and two in 1987—lead to the reformation of the AIM Patrol after a twelve-year lapse.
Public Law 280 is passed, giving state governments jurisdiction over most of the Indian reservations in Minnesota, California, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
Relocation Act (Public Law 959) is enacted, establishing “job training centers” that would reimburse families for moving from reservations to cities while providing no similar support to those who remained on the reservations.
The American Indian Movement (AIM) is founded on July 28.
AIM Patrol is created in August.
In November, police officer Douglas Danielson is accused (and later found not guilty) of using excessive force against an American Indian youth. This is the first effort by AIM to extract justice from U.S. courts.
The Legal Rights Center is established.
The original AIM Patrol dissolves.
Kathy Bullman, a nineteen-year-old Native woman, is found dead in Minneapolis.
Two Native women—Angeline Whitebird-Sweet, age twenty-six, and Angela Green, age twenty-one—are murdered in Minneapolis.
AIM Patrol is restarted.
The Elaine M. Stately Peacemakers Center opens at 2300 Cedar Avenue South, providing a new home for AIM Patrol’s office.
Police force two intoxicated American Indian men into the trunk of a car and take them to a hospital, inciting national outcry.
Jon Lurie, a staff writer for the Native news and arts publication The Circle, interviews AIM Patrol director Mike Forcia about the group’s reemergence.