1. I ask this as a reflective, philosophical question to myself in order to try and make sense of a few things: What do the words “warrior” and “empower” mean?

    When I hear the term “warrior” applied to women, I think of women like Annie Mae Pictou, and also of Annie Mae’s daughters who fought for decades for justice for their murdered mother. I think of Lozen, an Apache warrior, who was referred to as “a shield for her people.” I think of Mary Harris Jones who fought, and was jailed for, children’s human rights in eliminating child slave labor in the coal mines and factories during the turn of the century US. I think of Boudicca of the Iceni who—after being publicly raped and then flogged by Roman soldiers—marshalled other warriors, male and female alike, in ancient Britain and nearly completely drove every last Roman soldier out of Britain. I think of brave sister sex trafficking survivors like Christine Stark, Bridgette Perrier and Trisha Baptie (all whom are Indigenous) who are well-respected leaders in the survivor movement fighting for restorative justice for sex trafficking victims/survivors.

    None of those women participated in, or facilitated, the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of a sister at the behest of men who may or may not have been in those same social justice movements. And every one of those women became empowered through fighting for liberation from an oppressor—which is quite a different matter than seeking to have the same right to oppress as the oppressor.

    Lozen did not seek to have the same “rights” as the white US Calvary men whom she was protecting her people from. She fought for liberation FROM an invading oppressive imperialist regime that was out to exterminate the Apaches. She did not facilitate the rape and murder of one of her sisters at the behest of male Apache warriors (and I don’t think the Apache men were about that anyway—they had their hands full with struggling for survival and fighting an armed foreign enemy).

    Boudicca of the Iceni did not seek to become a Roman soldier with the same “right” as a Roman soldier to inflict abuses on her fellow Britons that Roman emperor Nero and his troops did. She fought to liberate herself and ALL her fellow ancient British tribesmen/women from brutal Roman rule.

    Mary Harris Jones did not seek to become an unscrupulous coal or timber baron or factory owner with the same “right” as other capitalists to exploit children as a slave labor force. She fought to liberate children from slave labor, period.

    Christine Stark, Bridgette Perrier, and Trisha Baptie do not seek to have the same “rights” as pimps and traffickers. They seek restorative justice for those who’ve been victimized by traffickers and they seek to put traffickers out of business—and they do not fight for justice and human rights by attacking fellow survivors or by pimping out other women and kids while calling that “empowerment.”

    From what some of the women who were active in AIM during the 1970’s have said over the years to other women, the male leadership of AIM slapped the women around, treated them like disposable domestic slaves, and behaved more like partied-up royalty at a Roman orgy than like the social justice warriors they claimed to be.

    Empowerment comes with liberation from oppression. And unless I am mistaken, a warrior is someone who fights against oppression and injustice without attacking or hurting or oppressing the very same people they claim to be helping to liberate.

    • Well said, and when you consider Banks claim of “elk medicine” and the
      apparent sense of entitlement he felt if gave him it becomes a little
      difficult to make a case that he felt women amounted to something more
      than objects or subservient “domestics”.
      Upon Annie’s arrival at WK2 she was “welcomed” by Banks in being informed
      kitchen help was needed, such was the mindset.
      The word warrior among our people has become cliche in my opinion, much
      the same as chief has, or the wearing of bonnets – titles and articles once
      earned by merit and recognition now little more than an affectation to
      add to a resume.
      Granted warriors do exist among the genders such as you have listed, but a
      majority of pretenders and poseurs as well – especially it seems among men.
      The only empowerment women had in AIM was the result of association or
      relationship through blood or marriage, and that was limited and subject to approval.
      I’d like to think that had women been on equal footing the direction
      taken at WK2 might have been different, but when taking into consideration personalities like Thunderhawk and Decora Means it may
      be only wishful thinking, the same power struggles and desire to rule probably would have existed.

      • Yes, there are a lot of troubling things regarding Thunderhawk and Decora Means and women from among many different nations who also share those same personality traits. Patriarchy with a female face is just as oppressive as patriarchy with a male face, if you get me. Because it would still the same problematic system, and the only thing that would be different would be a changing of the guard so to speak.

        I don’t know what Dennis Banks thinks he meant by his claim of “elk medicine”, all I know is that it ended up being bad medicine for other people who did not deserve to have to deal with the fallout. He certainly was not very considerate and respectful of his first wife, Kamook who had given him the best years of her life in addition to giving him several children. And having watched the interview he had on YouTube where he was asked about Annie Mae being interrogated and whatnot, his body language struck me as if he was trying to hide something—and that “something” was his participation in other AIM members’ interrogation, kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of Annie Mae whom he claimed to have loved and trusted. I am hard pressed to believe Banks was innocent in that fiasco.

        As to the limited power of the other women in AIM at that time, there is something I think they could have done that would have been truly empowering to prevent a sister from meeting the fate Annie Mae was subjected to, but it really would have required a certain personal grounding to have the confidence to do it. They could have claimed some real empowerment by wholesale refusing to continue supporting the male AIM leadership over the treatment of the women and refused to participate in the demise of Annie Mae. In other words, as the old saying goes, those Pie Patrol women could have “left the theater if they didn’t like the movie.”

        Without the women’s support, the male leadership of AIM would have been caught between the shit and the stink and been forced to change their ways in order to continue being leaders of a social justice movement and have that movement really be the powerful medium of change for the people that it could have and should have been. It’s a shame that more of the Pie Patrol members did not see where their real empowerment was all along and that this empowerment was not contingent upon competing for approval from a few men who behaved very badly—not just towards the women, but towards other men too.

      • “And having watched the interview he had on YouTube where he was asked about
        Annie Mae being interrogated and whatnot, his body language struck me as if
        he was trying to hide something”

        Banks has a lot to hide, with the more notable being made obvious by his
        lack of ability to do so. His furtive glancing about when asked speaks
        volumes as well.
        AIM had a history of not only threatening an individual, but their families
        and children as well, combine that with the fact that the rez is very much a
        closed society with law enforcement not giving much of a rip what goes on unless
        or until the pot boils over and it becomes a petri dish for viral malignancies
        like the leadership to develop.
        Without the checks and balances of tradition, which they studiously went about
        usurping, the malignancy spread.
        AIM could have been something meaningful, instead it became a criminal organization,
        and now it is about would have, could have, should have, while contending with their

        ““left the theater if they didn’t like the movie.” Apparently they believed it was
        the only show in town while the non aligned surely considered AIM’s, and as Russell
        said about Banks, ability to make people disappear.
        As sorry a bunch of individuals as could possibly be found anywhere.
        “Blame” for their ascendency can be laid at many doorsteps, among them the media
        and a fawning, non indigenous population that suddenly remembered that “cherokee
        princess” somewhere in their ancestry or went for the AIM okey doke of being a
        reverse apple – white outside but blood red inside where it counted.
        Lacking both the career criminals of the AIM leadership would in all likelihood
        have spent their lives in and out of prison…..and the nations would have been
        better for that.
        This scam strategy of being a reverse apple has now evolved into the marketing
        of our ceremonies – instead of Queen for a Day they’ve tweaked that old television
        format into Indian for a Day.
        From what I’ve seen on the net the “Queen” was lauded and given prizes, AIM’s
        version of Indian for a Day takes the opposite approach, the expectation is that
        they will be praised and awarded cash prizes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s