Dennis Banks, Native American Activist And Wounded Knee Occupier, Dies At 80 : The Two-Method : NPR

Dennis Banks, a pacesetter of the American Indian Motion, burns a authorities proposal that might have let the AIM occupiers depart Wounded Knee in 1973. The Native American protesters then put the ashes into an envelope and despatched it again to the federal government.

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Dennis Banks, a pacesetter of the American Indian Motion, burns a authorities proposal that might have let the AIM occupiers depart Wounded Knee in 1973. The Native American protesters then put the ashes into an envelope and despatched it again to the federal government.

Bettmann Archive

Dennis Banks, a Native American activist who co-founded the American Indian Motion and helped lead the 1973 armed occupation of Wounded Knee, has died at 80.

His demise was introduced on Fb, and confirmed by his household in a press release to The Related Press.

Banks was Ojibwe and Turtle Clan, and his Ojibwe identify was Nowa Cumig. He died surrounded by his household on Sunday.

He co-founded the American Indian Motion, or AIM, in 1968 to advocate on behalf of native individuals and towards discriminatory federal insurance policies and practices. The subsequent yr the group, together with Banks, started a prolonged occupation of Alcatraz Island. That occupation captured nationwide consideration for his or her protest over, amongst different issues, dwelling situations on reservations.

But it surely was the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee that propelled Banks, specifically, to the highlight.

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NPR’s Leah Donnella has reported on that historic occasion:

“Throughout the 1973 demonstration, about 200 individuals occupied the city of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota — the positioning of an 1890 bloodbath by which U.S. troopers killed a whole lot of Native People. Protesters turned Wounded Knee into what one former AIM chief known as “an armed camp” so as to protest corruption in tribal management and draw consideration to the U.S. authorities’s failure to honor treaties.

“Over the course of the 1973 occupation, two Sioux males had been killed and a whole lot extra arrested. However the resistance, which lasted 71 days, underscored Native American civil rights points … “

In 1998, Banks informed NPR that the aim of the protest was to focus consideration on the U.S. authorities’s poor remedy of native individuals.

“It was aimed toward making an attempt to … result in main change in America relating to insurance policies, angle, and the conduct of white America,” he stated.

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As probably the most outstanding leaders of the occupation, Banks, together with fellow activist Russell Means, confronted felony badault and riot expenses. Each males had been acquitted of wrongdoing.

“Nonetheless, Banks spent 18 months in jail within the 1980s after being convicted for rioting and badault for a protest in Custer, South Dakota, earlier in 1973,” the AP stories. “He prevented prosecution on these expenses for a number of years as a result of California Gov. Jerry Brown refused to extradite him, and the Onondaga Nation in New York gave him sanctuary.”

Within the final ’70s, he developed the thought of the Longest Stroll, a five-month march from California to Washington, D.C. ” It was a departure from the actions at Wounded Knee,” Banks informed the Nationwide Museum of the American Indian. “This time we might pledge to stroll throughout with our pipes, and it might be an excellent religious stroll.”

Later in life, Banks based a wild rice and maple syrup firm, utilizing the sap from bushes on the Leech Lake reservation in northern Minnesota, the place he was born. Brian Bull, of South Dakota Public Radio, profiled Banks for NPR in 2001.

“You’d have a tough time guessing the … syrup peddler was as soon as considered a radical militant, the identical Dennis Banks who took up arms in 1973 or fraternized with different fiery AIM leaders,” Bull stated. “You would possibly even badume Banks has gone smooth within the final 20 years. However ask him what path Native individuals ought to take and the hearth comes again.

” ‘If we observe the white man, we will drown with the white man; we will burn with the white man; we will commit suicide with him; we will drink ourselves to demise with him,’ [Banks said.] … ‘Why cannot we observe our personal goals? And that is what I am doing. I am making an attempt to observe what I wish to do as my dream. How do I change into unbiased from all people else?’ “

Banks informed Bull that even in his maple syrup enterprise, he was constructing alternatives for his neighborhood and elevating consciousness of Native points. He pointed to a maple syrup label, the place it gave a nod to AIM.

He stated he did not really feel the have to be at each political rally, as a result of the younger individuals would carry the motion ahead — and that he wasn’t nervous whether or not that new era knew concerning the pivotal function that AIM performed in Native activism.

“To me it isn’t vital that they know,” he stated. “It is not essential that they know. It is solely vital that I bear in mind.”

Banks’ youngsters and grandchildren sang to him as he died on Sunday. “We proudly sang him the AIM track as his last ship off,” they wrote on Fb.


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