Subscribe to our Daily Digest e-mail
National Indian Gaming Association Mourns the Loss of Native American Activist Dennis Banks

The National Indian Gaming Association joins the rest of Indian Country in mourning the loss of Native American rights advocate and leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM) Dennis Banks.

According to a statement released by his family, Banks, 80 walked on to the spirit world on Sunday, October 29, 2017 after a fight with pneumonia, which came after open-heart surgery. The official family statement shared on Banks' Facebook page.

"Our father Dennis J. Banks started his journey to the spirit world at 10:10 pm on October 29, 2017. As he took his last breaths, Minoh [Grandson] sang him four songs for his journey. All the family who were present prayed over him and said our individual goodbyes. Then we proudly sang him the AIM song as his final send-off." NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. said, "We are saddened to hear about the passing of Dennis Banks. His leadership and activism will never be forgotten. He lived his life advocating on behalf of Indian country, always putting the rights of our Native people first." Stevens continued, "As a young teenager, I learned first-hand about the passion and dedication Dennis had for the advocacy of our Native people. He was a great mentor to many."

Banks was born in 1932 on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe reservation in northern Minnesota. He was a leader, teacher, lecturer, activist, and author. At age five he was separated from his family and placed at Pipestone Indian Boarding School. He left boarding school at age 17 and went on to serve in the U.S. Military and was stationed in Japan.

In 1968, Banks helped found AIM to address racism, police brutality and protect civil rights of Indian People. As one of the founders of the AIM, Dennis Banks spent much of his life protecting the traditional ways of Indian people and engaging in legal cases protecting treaty rights of Native Americans. In 1969, AIM activists took over Alcatraz Island, which made national headlines.

In 1972, he led the Trail of Broken Treaties to march on Washington, DC and demand a seat at the table to ensure and protect the civil rights of Native Americans. Government officials refused to meet with them, which led to a takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters. A year later, in 1973, Dennis Banks and other members led one of the most instrumental movements in modern day history at Wounded Knee. Wounded Knee was located on the poorest region in the United States, Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Besieged by federal agents for 71 days, activists remained vigilant and refused to surrender. They aimed to bring to the forefront, issues of poverty, lack of jobs, mistreatment, and of course broken treaties. Between 1976 and 1983, Banks earned an associate of arts degree at the University of California, Davis, and taught at Deganawidah-Quetzecoatl (DQ) University (an all-Indian controlled institution), where he became the first American Indian university chancellor. In the spring of 1979, he taught at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

In 1987, Banks was active in convincing the states of Kentucky and Indiana to pass laws against desecration of Indian graves and human remains. He organized reburial ceremonies for over 1,200 Indian grave sites that were disturbed by graverobbers in Uniontown, Kentucky. In 1988, Banks organized and led a spiritual run called the Sacred Run from New York to San Francisco, and then across Japan from Hiroshima to Hokkaido. Also in 1988, his autobiography Sacred Soul was published in Japan and won the 1988 Non-fiction Book of the Year Award. Banks continued to stay involved in American Indian issues, including AIM. He traveled the globe lecturing, teaching Native American traditions, and sharing his experiences. He had key roles in the films, The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Thunderheart (1992) and Academy Award nominated film A Good Day to Die (2010).

In 2004, Banks co-authored Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian. His success in creating change for Indian Country is a direct result of his traditional, humble upbringing and diplomatic nature. He was able to see both sides of the coin and was cognizant of differing viewpoints, which enabled him to bring people together for the greater good. Chairman Stevens had the amazing opportunity to experience this first hand. "As a young man growing up in and around the turbulent era of activism in the seventies, I always gravitated toward the leadership in those circles. Sometimes I was looking for attention or just trying to get as close to the leadership as a young teenager had a right to. I wanted to be involved in something meaningful and influential for and in Indian Country. Most of the time issues were out of my level of understanding but I would always garner some sort of encouragement. Dennis Banks was one of those leaders who had the patience and understanding for a young warrior wanting to learn more about being a leader. He took this young, energetic activist and provided a kind, fatherly influence that stayed with me throughout my life and career. Him humbleness, diplomacy and ability to bring many views together to make change for Indian Country have had a lasting impact in my life. Rest in Peace, Dennis Banks. You are my hero!"

Wake and funeral services for Banks began today at the Minneapolis American Indian Center. Wake services also will take place Thursday at the Northern Lights Casino in Walker, Minnesota, and on Friday at Banks' home in Federal Dam, Minnesota. A traditional burial will take place Saturday in Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig Cemetery at Battle Point on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota.




article Dick Bancroft, 1927-2018, photographed the American Indian Movement
(Minnesota) -- “He will speak at funerals when no one else dares and he’ll visit you in prison even if he agrees with why you are there,” explorer Ann Bancroft said of...


article American Indian Movement Leader to Speak in Tucson
(Arizona) -- It’s been half a century since Clyde Bellecourt founded the American Indian Movement, which has worked to protect the rights of Native Americans...


article A walking tribute to an American Indian icon: Family, others walk to remember Dennis Banks
(Minnesota) -- About a dozen people relaxed under some trees between the Palace Casino and adjacent ball fields and powwow grounds late Tuesday afternoon, their journey...


article American Indian Movement founded 50 years ago
(Minnesota) -- Nothing changed the face of Indigenous people and their culture like the American Indian Movement, founded in 50 years ago on July 11, 1968 in Minneapolis...
article American Indian Movement founded 50 years ago
(Indian Country) -- Nothing changed the face of Indigenous people and their culture like the American Indian Movement, founded in 50 years ago on July 11, 1968 in...


article BOOK: AIMing for the Truth: the story of Native activist Clyde Bellecourt
(Minnesota) -- At the start of his fast and furi-ous story, “The Thunderbefore the Storm: TheAutobiography of Clyde Bellecourt,”the famed American Indian...


article Photo exhibit of American Indian activism opens in Minneapolis
(Minnesota) -- A photo exhibit highlighting recent American Indian activism has opened at the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center, 1113 E. Franklin Av. in...


article AIM’s Longest Walk 5.3 visits CBC Chambers
(Washington) -- Before he passed away, American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks declared a mission for his final walk across the country – a three-year...


article New AIM chapter in Bemidji formed
(Minnesota) -- Local indigenous activists hope to take on racism and discrimination through a new Bemidji chapter of the American Indian Movement. Curt Buckanaga, the...


article ‘People Are Angry’: American Indian Movement Slams Trump Over ‘Pocahontas’ Remark
(Minnesota) -- The Twin Cities-based American Indian Movement has joined the chorus of protests from Native-American organizations around the country denouncing...


article MUMIA: Dennis Banks, warrior for Indian rights, presénte
(USA) -- In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, two names emerged from the Native American and Indigenous community that stood for resistance to white repression and...


article A fighter against oppression to his last breath
(Minnesota) -- DENNIS BANKS, a co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and lifelong freedom fighter for Indigenous rights, passed away on October 29 at age 80.


article The Legacy of Dennis Banks
(Minnesota) -- Noted civil rights activist Dennis J. Banks, who co-founded the American Indian Movement and championed indigenous rights in the face of continuing...
press release National Indian Gaming Association Mourns the Loss of Native American Activist Dennis Banks
(Indian Country) -- The National Indian Gaming Association joins the rest of Indian Country in mourning the loss of Native American rights advocate and leader of the...


article Dennis Banks Makes Final Journey Home to Leech Lake Indian Reservation
(Michigan) -- Dennis J. Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), made his final journey home to the Leech Lake Indian Reservation on Thursday afternoon...


article American Indian community honors Dennis Banks' vision and leadership
(Minnesota) -- With a ceremonial fire burning outside and the aroma of sage wafting inside, a tribute to an influential American Indian activist began Wednesday at a...
article Leech Lake offices to close Friday in honor of Banks
(Minnesota) -- Leech Lake offices will close Friday in honor of Dennis Banks, who died Sunday and age 80. The Leech Lake Tribal Council and band staff offered...


article American Indian Movement Co-Founder Dennis Banks Dies at 80 Years of Age
(Minnesota) -- American Indian Movement co-founder, activist, author and teacher Dennis Banks has died at 80 years of age. Banks died from complications of pneumonia he...
article Native American activist Dennis Banks' life in photos, 1937-2017
(Minnesota) -- Dennis Banks, who helped found the American Indian Movement and engaged in sometimes-violent uprisings against the U.S. government, including the armed...
article Reporter's Notebook: Trailing AIM Activist Dennis Banks In The Cold
(Minnesota) -- As NPR's The Two-Way has just reported, American Indian Movement activist and co-founder Dennis Banks has died at the age of 80. Banks is best...
article Services set for AIM leader Dennis Banks in Minneapolis
(Minnesota) -- Funeral services for Dennis Banks, leader and co-founder of the American Indian Movement, will begin at noon Wednesday with a wake and service at the...


article Dennis Banks, American Indian activist, AIM and Wounded Knee figure, dies
(Minnesota) -- American Indian activist Dennis Banks of Cass Lake died Sunday night, his family said on Monday. He was 80 years old. The family posted on Banks'...
article Dennis Banks, American Indian Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 80
(Minnesota) -- Dennis J. Banks, the militant Chippewa who founded the American Indian Movement in 1968 and led often-violent insurrections to protest the treatment of...
article Native American activist Dennis Banks dies at 80
(Minnesota) -- Dennis Banks, a founding member of the American Indian Movement, died Sunday, according to his family. Banks, an Anishinabe, Ojibwa, was 80. In 1968, he...
article Obituary: Longtime American Indian activist Dennis Banks
(Minnesota) -- Dennis Banks, a longtime national American Indian activist who was acquitted in the famed 1970s Wounded Knee uprising trial, has died, his family said...


article KADER: Urban American Indian Populations Age As Unelected Leadership Walks On
(Ohio) -- In the Midwestern city of Cleveland, Ohio, the professional sports teams are better known than the ethnic struggles of its rank and file citizens.


article American Indian Movement launches community patrol in Winnipeg
(Manitoba) -- A new community patrol has hit Winnipeg's streets. A chapter of the American Indian Movement has started in the city's core area and will patrol...


article AIM leader Clyde Bellecourt tells his story in new book
(Minnesota) -- Over the past 48 years, one of the principal figures in the national movement to end discrimination and right centuries of injustices against American...


article Man arrested for spray-painting US flag gets $55K in lawsuit
(Pennsylvania) -- A man arrested for painting the letters “AIM” on an American flag that he flew upside-down at his house in protest has settled his free...
article Why a Penn. man arrested for flag desecration was awarded $55,000
(Pennsylvania) -- A Pennsylvania man was arrested in 2014 for flying a upside down, spray-painted flag off of his front porch. Joshua Brubaker later sued the township of...


article Dick Bancroft has shot photos of the American Indian struggle for 46 years
(Minnesota) -- Dick Bancroft was a dropout from the University of Minnesota, an insurance salesman, then a Presbyterian missionary who lived in Nairobi, Kenya, with his...


article A.I.M. leaders question Anna Mae at Wounded Knee Legal Defense Office in 1975
(South Dakota) -- Behind the scenes in the 1975 murder of American Indian Movement leader, Naguset Eask, lays a saga of lost love, nawizi (jealousy), revenge, a...


article Native Sun News: Murder of Anna Mae still leaves open questions
(Nova Scotia) -- Initially told that Anna Mae Pictou Aquash was killed by the FBI and honored with a traditional burial worthy of a woman warrior, the actual truth is...


article John Trudell, 69; Native American activist, poet
(California) -- John Trudell, who was a spokesman for American Indian protesters during their 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island and later headed the American Indian...


article American Indian Movement Conference live from San Francisco
(California) -- The annual AIM West Conference began today with a memorial for Darrell Standing Elk, Lakota. Standing Elk was honored by his family and friends.


article Dennis Banks Issues a State of War Declaration between AIM and Drugs; Will Lead Longest Walk 5 – War on Drugs
(Michigan) -- Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, has announced he will lead the “Longest Walk 5 – War on Drugs,” along a three-...


article COLUMN: Little Known Characters in America: Russell Means
(Illinois) -- Russell Means was an American Oglala Lakota Indian born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota on November 10, 1939. To escape the poverty of...


article Judge Rules Pennsylvania’s Man had Right to Fly American Flag Upside Down Sprayed with AIM on It
(Pennsylvania) -- A county judge in Blair County, Pennsylvania has dismissed criminal charges against Joshuaa Brubaker, 38, of Duncansville, Pennsylvania, who was...


article AIM Leader Dennis Banks to Sign Copies of “A Good Day to Die” DVD
(Michigan) -- Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, will be in suburban Grand Rapids to sign copies of “A Good Day to Die: The Movement that...


article 'We Just Want to Be Treated Equal': AIM Protests Racism at Civic Center
(South Dakota) -- The American Indian Movement held a peaceful protest outside the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota, on Wednesday to raise...


article Peaceful protest brings attention to recent racial incident in Rapid City
(South Dakota) -- The American Indian Movement held a peaceful protest Wednesday evening outside the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. It was all to bring attention to the...


article DUNN: The means to an end
(Massachusetts) -- Readers younger than 50 might never have heard of the following incident that took place on Thanksgiving Day 1970 in Plymouth.


article Man Charged for Displaying Upside Down American Flag with AIM on It to be Represented by Penn State Victims’ Attorney
(Pennsylvania) -- Joshuaa Brubaker, who was charged with a misdemeanor for hanging an American flag upside down with “AIM” sprayed in white letters, will be...


article AIM Supporter Charged With Desecrating American Flag
(Pennsylvania) -- Joshua Brubaker of Blair County, Pennsylvania has been cited for displaying an upside down American Flag spray-painted with “AIM” across it...

visionary sponsor advertisement

sponsor advertisement