February 19, 2012

AIM play stirs controversy

10-minute play about AIM stirs controversy in Mpls. Indian community

By Sheila ReganA 10-minute play by Navajo playwright Rhiana Yazzie was at the center of a controversy within the local Native American community. The play focuses on two fictional characters in 1968--the year that the American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded--and several real-life people are mentioned, including AIM co-founder Clyde Bellecourt.The problems:In a draft of the play one of the characters, Moon, calls out for help because he and the other character are handcuffed to a light pole by the police and left there--Yazzie said it is based on a real incident that happened in 1971. Moon calls out for Bellecourt, calling him "Belly Court."

According to Bellecourt, his objections to the play stem from the fact that it doesn't talk about the great things that the AIM movement accomplished. "It makes jokes about me and my brother," he said. The play, he said, "doesn't talk about hope, or about all of the accomplishments of the movement." He also didn't like that the two characters "talked like they are drunk," and also used foul language.
The outcome:Yazzie said she is baffled by the objections. "This play is so pro-AIM and so pro-Indian," she said. "The fact that Clyde is even protesting it shows there's a deeper vanity or vendetta or personal hurt that he was going after."

In the end, Bellecourt and AIM decided against a protest, and allowed the History Theatre to use the AIM logo. Bellecourt was satisfied with the changes to the script, he said, and didn't want the American Indian actors in the show to lose their pay. In addition, a two-page history of the AIM movement was distributed by the ushers, according to Bellecourt.
Comment:  For more on AIM, see AIM Interpretive Center Planned and Means Receives Lifetime Achievement Award.

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