AIM was founded in the late 1960s to protest the U.S. government’s treatment of Native Americans and demand the government honor its treaties with Indian tribes. Means told the AP in 2011 that before AIM, there had been no advocate on a national or international scale for American Indians, and that Native Americans were ashamed of their heritage.
That’s part of AIM’s platform, but the initial impetus for founding AIM was much more local and practical. AIM’s initial goal was much like that of the Black Panthers in Oakland: push back against police intimidation and brutality against the Native American community in Minneapolis, namely police raids on Native American bars. The group formed a patrol that monitored police radios and either attempted to clear out bars before police arrived or monitor the police actions if they arrived after the police. By all accounts the patrols were incredibly effective with both police raids and arrests decreasing in the years after the program began.
Means, who was involved with various facets of Indian activism in the 1960s (his father took him to a protest on Alcatraz shortly after the government shuttered the infamous prison in the early 1960s), became involved in AIM a year or so later when he founded CLAIM, the Cleveland branch of AIM.