American Indian Movement of Colorado

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The American Indian Movement of Colorado (Colorado AIM), also called AIM-International Confederation of Autonomous Chapters, split by 1993-1994 from the Minneapolis-based, national organization of the American Indian Movement, since then known as the AIM Grand Governing Council, which claims the right to the name.[clarification needed] The organizations had tried to keep their dissension internal and presented the split as an ideological one. Notable activists associated with AIM of Colorado have been Russell Means and Ward Churchill.

Russell Means, a notable American Indian activist, served on AIM's Elders Council. In 1999 he held a press conference in Denver with Robert Pictou-Branscombe, a maternal cousin of Anna Mae Aquash, the high-ranking AIM woman who was murdered in December 1975 at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Both Branscombe, a Canadian, and Means accused top-ranking AIM leader Vernon Bellecourt of Minneapolis of having ordered the execution of Aquash, on the mistaken belief that she was a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant. Means alleged that Vernon's brother Clyde Bellecourt, a founder of AIM and continuing leader, was also implicated in the death of Aquash. He said that some members of AIM had tried to expel the two brothers, and this was the ultimate reason for the split in the organization. Branscombe and Means said that Arlo Looking Cloud, Theda Nelson Clarke and John Graham had been directly involved in the kidnapping and murder of Aquash.[1]

On 4 November 1999, in a follow-up show on Native American Calling the next day, Vernon Bellecourt denied any involvement by him and his brother in the death of Aquash. He suggested that Means had been involved.[2]

Looking Cloud and Graham were indicted by a federal grand jury in 2003, and convicted of the murder of Aquash in 2004 and 2010, respectively.[3][4] Each is serving a life sentence. By the time of the indictments, Theda Nelson Clarke was being cared for in a nursing home and was not indicted.[5]

The Colorado AIM came to national attention in 2005 because of publicity related to one of its leaders, Ward Churchill, who was fired that year from his tenured position as professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder after an investigation into academic misconduct. He serves on the Leadership Council of AIM of Colorado.

Recent AIM activism in Colorado has centered on protests against the Columbus Day parade, held annually in Denver. In 2015, Denver approved permanent recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day.


  1. ^ "Russ Means holds press conference on Annie Mae's murder 11-3-99: Accuses Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt of ordering her Execution", News From Indian Country, 3 November 1999, accessed 16 July 2011
  2. ^ Native American Calling, Native American Public Telecommunications, 4 November 1999, at News From Indian Country, accessed 17 July 2011
  3. ^ "Looking Cloud appeal decision", Eighth Circuit Court
  4. ^ Nomaan Merchant, "SD jury convicts man in 1975 AIM activist's death", Associated Press, Beaver County Times, December 11, 2010
  5. ^ "U.S. indicts Richard Marshall in Aquash murder case", News from Indian Country, August 26, 2008

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