On the eve of the 1972 presidential election, a caravan of American Indian activists arrived in Washington D.C. as part of a planned demonstration named the Trail of Broken Treaties. When government ineptness was interpreted as a betrayal, the leaders of the American Indian Movement (AIM) seized the moment and led militant activists into barricading themselves in the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters on November 2, 1972. The march to Washington and arrival at the end of October received little media coverage, but the occupation generated instant nationwide headlines, providing AIM leaders with a vehicle to disseminate their goals and policies.
Framing Red Power serves two goals. The first is provide access to newspaper sources related to the Trail of Broken Treaties and subsequent occupation of the BIA headquarters. Readers can search, browse, and manipulate machine-readable text. Furthermore, this project seeks to utilize textual analysis tools to explore how the media received AIMís message and how the activists used the media to construct specific images of itself and their goals. These issues give us a lens to understand the connections between media, politics, and imagecraft.
American culture and politics are rich with symbols. For instance, Presidents become substitutions to descriptions for eras ("the age of Reagan") or a certain style ("Jacksonian"). Rather than dismiss political image craft and media coverage as inauthentic, studying the historical significance of media tells us important information about the way media serves as a medium for disseminating information and conveying ideas. Indeed, even Machiavelli noted that image craft was intrinsic to politics. Media serves as a method for people to understand reality. Nor is political image craft solely the product of political actors; audiences filter images projected upon them through political, cultural, and intellectual assumptions.
Print media—not what "actually" happened, but a type of narrative that tells stories about what happened—is particularly acute for the study of politics. Although television since the 1960s has risen in political importance by serving as an important vehicle for discussing public policy, the medium should not downplay the significant role of print media. Newspaper coverage often sustains their coverage on events for a longer period of time. While television networks turned their attention to significant national stories in the early 1970s—the 1972 presidential election, the Watergate scandal, and the drawdown in Vietnam—print media sustained their coverage on the Trail of Broken Treaties and its aftermath. Furthermore, while television may succeed in bringing an audience to the scenes of news, their greatest weakness is in scaling down analysis to short interpretive statements rather than the in-depth scrutiny afforded to print media.