Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, dies at age 85: NPR


Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, dies at age 85: NPR

Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, will appear in 2018 at Minneapolis City Hall. Bellecourt, a leader in the Native American civil rights movement and a founder of the American Indian Movement, died Tuesday night at the age of 85 from cancer.

Amy Forliti / AP

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Amy Forliti / AP


Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, will appear in 2018 at Minneapolis City Hall. Bellecourt, a leader in the Native American civil rights movement and a founder of the American Indian Movement, died Tuesday night at the age of 85 from cancer.

Amy Forliti / AP

Clyde Bellecourt, one of the most significant Native American leaders in the fight for civil rights, died Tuesday night in Minneapolis, his son Wolf confirmed. Minnesota Public Radio.

Bellecourt was 85 and had been battling prostate cancer.

Bellecourt, who was born and raised at White Earth Indian Reservation, co-founded the American Indian Movement in 1968. It began as a local organization in Minneapolis and has expanded over decades to advocate for civil rights throughout the United States and Canada and around the world. AIM says that today it represents over 375 million Indigenous people all over the world.

“At heart, AIM is deeply rooted in spirituality and a belief in the connection between all indigenous peoples,” Bellecourt wrote in a letter for the organization.

One of AIM’s original motives was to help combat and monitor police violence against natives. Over the decades, the group has expanded to advocate for fair housing and education for indigenous communities, providing legal aid, and protesting against cultural appropriation. Bellecourt and others, for example, protested the Super Bowl in 1992, calling it the now former name of the Washington Football Team, which was a racist slander against Indians.

“His life’s work was always about his people … He really loved where he came from,” Bellecourt’s eldest son, Little Foot, told NPR.

“When I was a young boy, I used to wonder why my father was not so much around. And as I got older, I learned to realize that his work and everything he did was for our family and extended family and our indigenous peoples throughout the United States and Canada, “he said.

Clyde Bellecourt, leader of the American Indian Movement, speaks at a press conference in New York in 1973. Bellecourt and two doctors, Alan Berkman and Barbara Zeller, had just returned from Wounded Knee, SD, where AIM led a 50-day takeover.

Jim Wells / Associated Press

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Jim Wells / Associated Press


Clyde Bellecourt, leader of the American Indian Movement, speaks at a press conference in New York in 1973. Bellecourt and two doctors, Alan Berkman and Barbara Zeller, had just returned from Wounded Knee, SD, where AIM led a 50-day takeover.

Jim Wells / Associated Press

In 1978, Bellecourt addressed protesters in Washington, DC, at the end of an event called The Longest Walk. The journey lasted from February to July of that year, when Native Americans marched across the country to protest legislation in Congress.

“We want you to know that we are trying to draw attention to and get your support to turn back the anti-Indian stance, the anti-Indian legislation, John Wayne’s border mentality that exists among the media today, and the reporting. ” Bellecourt said in his remarks in DC

“We ask you to help us stop these genocidal practices that are taking place against my people. We are coming here to DC to inform the world that our culture is very much alive … Our religion and our way of life have survived all this We want you to know that our strength is back, “he said.

Although widely known for his activism, Bellecourt’s son said his father loved watching baseball and the Minnesota Vikings. He was also deeply passionate about cooking and was engaged in dinners with his family.

“Many people do not know that my father really loved to cook. He was really good in the kitchen … He got up at five in the morning and started making things he learned to make from his mother.” said Little Foot Bellecourt.

His death is mourned over generations of Indians.

“Today we lost a civil rights leader who fought for more than half a century on behalf of indigenous peoples in Minnesota and around the world. Indian Country benefited from Clyde Bellecourt’s activism – he paved the way for so many of us,” Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan tweeted.

“Travel well, Neegawnwaywidung,” she said, referring to Bellecourt’s Ojibwe name, which translator to thunder before the storm.

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