The Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters building was raided, ransacked, vandalized, and ultimately occupied for almost a week—November 3rd through the 9th of 1972...
Nearly 500 American Indians marching with the American Indian Movement (AIM – a liberally funded “progressive grassroots” movement) ended their attention grabbing parade called the Trail of Broken Treaties, in front of the BIA building in Washington D.C.. This cross-country political parade was intended to highlight American Indian’s social issues, such as their standard of living and obligated treaty rights as legally sovereign nations.
Activist and news contributor Bob Simpson would point out that “leaders of the Trail of Broken Treaties were negotiating with the Interior Department over the question of housing. Suddenly fighting broke out between several GSA security guards and a group of young Indians.” He goes on to say that “apparently the guards misunderstood that the BIA had given the Indians permission to stay in the building past closing time. The guards were quickly overpowered and escorted from the building. Indians ran through the BIA building at 19th & Constitution breaking up furniture to barricade entrances and manufacture makeshift weapons. The occupation was on.”
Once inside the Indian Affair’s building, protesters displayed their militant frustration towards the interior of the building. These radicals threw over furniture against windows and doors barricading against potential police interference. Other members of the group set multiple fires in different interior offices and vandalized the polished marble lobbies. Unfortunately many historic documents were destroyed in the vandalism—with a second estimated valued loss of $700,000 to American taxpayers.
The following day on November 4th—John Chancellor, reporting desk anchor for NBC News mentioned: “Several hundred American Indians remained in the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington today. They took it over late yesterday after scuffles with police.” Moments later, news field-anchor John Cochran reported live stating: “It was peaceful if not quiet at the Indian Affairs Bureau, but nothing was settled today. The Indians are waiting for The Administration to respond to their demands for reforms in the way the government deals with Indians. And they’re asking for a decent place to eat and sleep while in Washington. Until they get it, they vow to stay in what they call ‘their embassy.”
After a few days of altercation, the protesters began to run out of supplies. There was quickly little food and provision to sustain their opportunistic operation. The AIM protesters would not allow any police or government representatives to cross into the Bureau of Indian Affairs building. Because of this, two children of BIA employees were recruited (whether by coercion or force is unknown) to bring in supplies and rations for the volatile American Indian protesters.
It was reported that the radical AIM’s actions created the loss, destruction, and theft of many historical records—mainly critical treaties, property deeds, and water rights documentation. Even Indian officials stated that the consequences to the American Indian Movement’s actions could set the North American Indian culture back 50 to 100 years—with a final estimated loss of nearly $2.28 million dollars in damages and theft by the hostile takeover of the BIA to the American taxpayer.
In the end, it was the Nixon Administration who would secretly sign the “Menominee Restoration Act” on December 22nd, 1973. This policy would ultimately give the Menominee Indians full recognized tribal status by the U.S. government, and returning their land assets to trust status. Although it was only one tribe benefiting from this policy, it was a direct message sent to those who understood Nixon’s political interests as a Democratic politician. Especially when it was obvious his administration passively gave in to the demands.
As I have researched, I have uncovered further evidence of the serious corruption and politicization that governmental and political entities tend to enable and create.
We all know that the Nixon Administration was deemed corrupt, but just how deep did this administration sink in enabling the American Indian Movement’s hostile takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters building? It’s a great question. And the answer lies in the aforementioned involvement of certain political and governmental parties.
After the short BIA building takeover of 1971, there was research and formal organization prepared for and recruited by AIM. These consisted of sympathetic volunteer lawyers, professors, and scholars that would look up legislative policies, executive orders, as well as the BIA budget and its formal practices. The Nixon administration was said to have supported the AIM financially through proxy. That is, sympathetic groups were committed to the financial backing of AIM. Financial backing could only be committed through allotted special funds to meet the rapidly growing liberal civil rights movements of the 1970’s.
The year prior to the BIA takeover in Washington D.C.— Democratic (and quite liberal) President Nixon stated in his 1970 address to Congress:
“The special relationship between Indians and the Federal government is the result instead of solemn obligations which have been entered into by the United States Government. Down through the years, through written treaties and through formal and informal agreements, our government has made specific commitments to the Indian people.
For their part, the Indians have often surrendered claims to vast tracts of land and have accepted life on government reservations. In exchange, the government has agreed to provide community services such as health, education and public safety, services which would presumably allow Indian communities to enjoy a standard of living comparable to that of other Americans.
This goal, of course has never been achieved…”
Younger American Indians and First Nations peoples would give the most support to the American Indian Movement’s radical cause. The groups and entities found sympathetic to the BIA takeover of 1972 were:
This is also this same type of ideology and behavior that commits citizens to the destruction of their own history that we will never, ever see again in America. This past historical event should also concern every single one of us regarding corruption in politics, including political and cultural “grassroots” movements… because “movements” only carry temporary momentum, and are contrary to societal continuity and perseverance.
Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
Daniel L. Smith,
 Simpson, Robert. "Native Americans Take Over Bureau of Indian Affairs: 1972." Washington Area Spark. Last modified May 10, 2013. https://washingtonareaspark.com/2013/03/26/native-americans-take-over-bureau-of-indian-affairs-1972/.
 The Washington Post (Washington D.C.). "Amnesty Denied To Indians." November 10, 1972. https://www.maquah.net/Historical/1972/images/72-11-10_amnesty_denied.jpg. Note: An initial first estimate was officialized at about $250,000 in damages within the building.
 "Occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs" NBC News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 11/03/1972. Accessed Sat Jan 11 2020 from NBC Learn: https://highered.nbclearn.com/portal/site/HigherEd/browse/?cuecard=5170
 The Washington Post (Washington D.C.). " Justice Eyes Way to Charge Indians.” November 10, 1972. https://www.maquah.net/Historical/1972/images/72-11-1_justice_charge_indians.jpg.
 The Washington Post (Washington D.C.). " Damage to BIA Third Heaviest Ever in U.S..” November 11, 1972. https://www.maquah.net/Historical/1972/images/72-11-11_damage_to_BIA.jpg.
 Nixon, Richard. "Special Message to the Congress on Indian Affairs." The American Presidency Project. Last modified July 8, 1970. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/special-message-the-congress-indian-affairs.