Documenting the American Indian Movement’s first 12 years

“We Are Still Here,” a new book on AIM, is discussed at Minneapolis Central Library

Dick Bancroft and Laura Waterman Wittstock collaborated on a new book documenting the early years of AIM. Credit: Ryan Faircloth
Dick Bancroft and Laura Waterman Wittstock collaborated on a new book documenting the early years of AIM. Credit: Ryan Faircloth

Dick Bancroft said he “didn’t know an Indian person” in 1970, but over four decades later his photos illustrate a new book on the American Indian Movement produced in collaboration with author Laura Waterman Wittstock.

Bancroft and Wittstock filled a quiet Minneapolis Central Library room for a Feb. 16 discussion of their book, “We Are Still Here.” The book includes photos and stories documenting 12 years of the American Indian Movement’s history.

Often referred to as AIM, the American Indian Movement was founded in 1969 in Minneapolis, according to Indians.org. According to the American Indian Movement’s website, the American Indian Movement was started because of the police brutality and the treatment of American Indian people by the Minneapolis courts.

After a short introduction, Bancroft presented a slideshow of various photos from the book to the audience. He originally planned for the book to consist of mostly his photos, which he enlisted Wittstock to caption for him.

However, as time passed the idea for the book grew. Wittstock said the book “just got bigger and bigger,” expanding into what was more or less a “contemporary history of the American Indian Movement from 1970-1982.”

Before Bancroft started photographing the American Indian Movement in 1970, he had little knowledge of American Indians and their place in society.

“They were the invisible minority, and they were very invisible,” Bancroft said.

Wittstock and Bancroft reached out to many involved in the American Indian Movement, even those dating back to its earlier days.

“We did dozens of interviews, and culled the language down to fit a story about the American Indian Movement, from the early days to Geneva, when they went to the United Nations,” Wittstock said.

Before closing, Wittstock spoke about what the American Indian Movement had to go through to gain more awareness for the cause, such as going to the United Nations to push for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“We are losing indigenous people at an alarming rate, just like the birds and the animals and all of that, we’re losing people as well,” Wittstock said. “It’s something that we need to be alarmed about.”

Wittstock and Bancroft were happy about the success the book has had, considering the amount of books that don’t succeed.

“I’m pleased that the book is doing well,” Wittstock said. “We actually have gotten royalties.”