AIM Song

Severt Young Bear and the Porcupine Singers, 1977

What is the American Indian Movement?

What were the occupations of Alcatraz Island and Wounded Knee?

Why is it significant that the song's vocables are not language specific? How does this contribute to its use as a song to bring people from different Native American nations together?

How does this song connect contemporary Native Americans to their ancient ancestors?

Why do you think Blackfire featured this song on their 2007 album [Silence] Is a Weapon?

"AIM Song" performed by Blackfire on [Silence] Is a Weapon, ©2007. Available on Itunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:

http://ojibwe.net/songs/womens-traditional/aim-song/

AIM button

AIM button commemorating the Occupation of Wounded Knee.

Like many Native American songs, this song, which does not have a real title, was composed freely and spontaneously. Its origins were not documented and remain unclear, but it has become associated with the American Indian Movement (AIM), which was formed in 1968. AIM was most active in the early 1970s, participating in the occupations of Alcatraz Island, from November 1969 to June 1971, and Wounded Knee in February 1973.

Severt Young Bear is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe in Porcupine, South Dakota, and is leader of the Porcupine Singers. He was active in AIM and has written about "AIM Song." He recalls that it was first performed by the Porcupine Singers at a powwow held in the basement of Holy Rosary dormitory on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He does not remember who wrote it, but it is possible it was Drury Cook, a member of the Porcupine Singers from the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. Young Bear recalled that the song was performed again, spontaneously, at a conciliatory event in Gordon, Nebraska, following the racially motivated murder of Raymond Yellow Thunder by four white men. Several months later, Young Bear was invited to attend an AIM convention, where the delegates were looking to select a song to represent the movement. Other songs were presented, but his song was selected as the official AIM song. At the time Young Bear explained that the song "represented both the anger and the protest against the violation of human rights" (Young Bear and Theisz, p. 156).

Young Bear led many performances of the song in the 1970s, particularly during the Wounded Knee incident, when 200 Oglala Lakota occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They occupied the town for seventy-one days, protesting both corruption in tribal government and the American government's failure to honor the terms of its treaties with Native peoples. AIM leaders surrendered only after officials promised to investigate their complaints.

The song has become a staple of protests and intertribal powwows, often used as a warm up to "open the drum." The vocables are simple and not language-specific, thus making the song intertribal, a statement to, for, and on behalf of all Native Americans. It is featured on Blackfire's 2007 album, [Silence] Is a Weapon. (For more on Blackfire and this album, see "[Silence] Is a Weapon" in VAT, Unit 10.)