Charles Trimble: NCAI's role in 'Trail' buyout
"Sam Deloria e-mailed me recently saying that he didn't realize I was the Office of Economic Opportunity's ''bag man'' in the infamous buy-out of AIM and the occupiers of the BIA building during the Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington, back in 1972. It seems he read it in a review of a book recounting those times. It got me to reminiscing.

The occupation of the BIA building occurred in November 1972, during my very first weeks in office as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. Prior to the arrival of the TBT caravan in Washington, NCAI and other Indian organizations had convened meetings to facilitate the TBT activities when they did arrive. We had hoped to help avert any violent confrontations, but were pretty much ignored by AIM, and disdainfully declined by the National Council on Indian Opportunity, the administration's Indian outlet, under the leadership of Vice President Spiro Agnew. So we decided to sit by and see how things played out.

Several days into the occupation, I was contacted by a staff member in the Nixon White House, and was asked if NCAI would serve as a go-between in an arrangement the administration made with the AIM occupiers of the building. We would serve as a pass-through to AIM of federal funds and they would in turn vacate the building. The funds, at first estimated in the amount of $45,000, would be used ostensibly to help the Indian people who came in with the TBT caravan return to their homes across the country.

The occupation had become a stand-off situation in which both parties - AIM and the administration - wanted to extricate themselves without bloodshed and/or embarrassment.

Franklin Ducheneaux, Cheyenne River Sioux, was serving as our in-house legal adviser at the time, as I recall, and we at first declined to become involved. Although we were assured the entire arrangement was worked out with AIM, and that we would only serve as the conduit, we still declined, knowing that we would be painted as sell-outs, and nothing good could come of it."

Get the Story:
Charles Trimble: Buy-out on the Trail of Broken Treaties (Indian Country Today 2/15)

Relevant Links:
National Congress of American Indians - http://www.ncai.org