American Indian Movement Founder Dies

Dennis Banks led the siege at Wounded Knee
By Josh Rosenblatt,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2017 5:15 PM CDT
American Indian Movement Founder Dies
   (Chris Polydoroff)/Pioneer Press via AP)

Dennis Banks, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement, died on Oct. 29 at the age of 80. Banks, a member of the Chippewa tribe who was born on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, died of complications from pneumonia 10 days after undergoing open-heart surgery, the Star Tribune reports. He came to prominence in 1968, with the advent of the American Indian Movement, a political force that raised awareness about Native American issues through the use of marches and sit-ins and sometimes-violent confrontations with authorities. In its heyday the group occupied Alcatraz prison and took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC, for six days.

Banks and his organization are perhaps most famous for their 1973 standoff with federal agents at the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, the New York Times reports. On Feb. 27, 1973, 200 AIM followers and Oglala Lakota staged an armed occupation of the town of Wounded Knee, SD, and weathered a 10-week siege by US marshals and FBI agents. Two of the protestors were killed and one federal agent shot and paralyzed. Banks was charged with assault and conspiracy, but a federal judge dismissed the case, citing government misconduct. A Facebook message signed by his children and grandchildren said those present at Banks' death "proudly sang him the AIM song as his final send off." (More Dennis banks stories.)

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