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Arts & Life

AIM Founder Dennis Banks Has Died

dennis_banks.jpg
Lee Strubinger
/
SDPB

A co-founder of the American Indian Movement, Dennis Banks, has died at the age of 80.

His family wrote on his Facebook page that he passed away Sunday night.

He’s credited with bringing AIM to South Dakota.
 
Dennis Banks was a key leader in both the Custer courthouse riots and Wounded Knee occupation in 1973.
 
Bill Means is from the Pine Ridge Reservation. Means joined Banks in many actions over the years. Means says Banks did a lot for native communities not only as an activist, but as a teacher and spiritual leader.
 
He says Banks was a man who led by example…
 
“He never did anything, or expected anything, from the people that he wouldn’t do himself. As most of the AIM leaders, he served time on behalf of the people for various demonstrations we had in Custer, in particular, and other places, where he put himself on the front lines, rather than stand in the back. So, I think he will be remembered as a great leader, a great speaker, and a great man.”
 
Banks was Ojibwe and lived in the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota. He developed pneumonia following heart surgery earlier in October.
 
Former US Senator Jim Abourezk met Banks during the Wounded Knee occupation in ’73. Abourezk says he admired Banks…
 
“He was a very soft spoken person, which would surprise anyone who thought he was a member of AIM. He seemed wise, he knew a lot of things and spoke of them very calmly. So I was impressed with him and I consider him a friend.”
 
Family members say Banks will be buried near Leech Lake, Minnesota, with traditional services.