Indianz.Com > News > People’s World: Indian rights activist Clyde Bellecourt passes on

Clyde Bellecourt & Winona LaDuke on Line 3 Update and the Start of AIM. Honor the Earth sends condolences to the Bellecourt family as we all mourn his passing on January 11, 20200. Video of Clyde Bellecourt and Winona LaDuke, both from the White Earth Reservation, visit together in Minneapolis, MN on May 17, 2021 back when Enbridge Line 3 was under construction in unceeded 1855 Treaty Territory. Video filmed and edited by Keri Pickett for Honor the Earth. From Wiki: Clyde Bellecourt, May 8, 1936 – January 11, 2022) was a Native American civil rights organizer. His Ojibwe name is Nee-gon-we-way-we-dun, which means "Thunder Before the Storm". He founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1968 with Dennis Banks, Eddie Benton-Banai, and George Mitchell. His elder brother, Vernon Bellecourt, was also active in the movement. Under Bellecourt's leadership, AIM succeeded in raising awareness of tribal issues. AIM shone a light on police harassment in Minneapolis. Bellecourt founded successful "survival schools" in the Twin Cities to help Native American children learn their traditional cultures. In 1972, he initiated the march to Washington, D.C. called the Trail of Broken Treaties, hoping to renegotiate federal-tribal nations' treaties. Non-profit groups he founded are designed to improve economic development for Native Americans.

Posted by Honor the Earth on Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Honor The Earth: Clyde Bellecourt, 1936-2022
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Thursday, January 20, 2022
People's World

An intrepid warrior, a tireless advocate for Indigenous rights, the last of the Old Guard of the American Indian Movement, a peerless paladin for the cause of Native liberation, fearless fighter confronting racism on the frontlines: Clyde Bellecourt was all of these and more.

Bellecourt passed away on Tuesday, January 11, at age 85 at his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

His was a life filled with triumph and tragedy for the “Indigenous cause.” He was Anishinaabe (Ojibwe), born and raised on the land of the White Earth Nation in northern Minnesota on May 8, 1936, the seventh of twelve children. At an early age, he was imbued with a sense of rage at the historic mistreatment and oppression of Native Americans in general and his parents in particular.

This legacy impelled him to a life of activism fighting the centuries of oppression of Indigenous people. In 1968, he was one of the co-founders of the American Indian Movement (AIM), along with Eddie Benton-Banai, Russell Means, Dennis Banks, and others. In those days, AIM was formed to combat police brutality against Native residents in Minneapolis.

Clyde Bellecourt
Clyde Bellecourt, 1936-2022. Courtesy photo

This writer first met Clyde and his brother, Vernon, at an AIM rally in the late 1970s. Those were turbulent times, when a new era of Indigenous resistance was sweeping the country.

Clyde’s Native name was Nee-gon-way-we-dun, which in English means “Thunder Before the Storm.” Considering what he did in his life, I would say he was also the Thunder and the Storm.

Traditionally, he was also a member of the Three Fires Society, the Gathering of the Sacred Pipes, and a Sun Dancer. Clyde emphasized the importance of maintaining traditional culture for Indigenous people.

His life was a crucible of activism that included the Liberation of Wounded Knee in 1973, the Trail of Broken Treaties, the Longest Walk, the founding of the Heart of Earth Survival Schools, the founding of the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center, campaigns for fair housing, the providing of legal services for the Indigenous, advocacy of education for Native people, fighting for environmental justice and opposition to cultural appropriation, and the fight against Indian mascots in sports.

Clyde founded or helped create the Peacemaker Center for Indian Youth, the Women of Nations Eagle’s Nest Shelter, the International Treaty Council, and the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media. He was also at Standing Rock in 2016. He was involved on so many battlefronts of the Indigenous struggle, in addition to being an advocate of human rights worldwide. Clyde was truly a powerhouse of struggle against oppression.

Accolades in his honor have poured in from around the globe.

Among the tributes to Clyde was that of Indigenous radio talk show host Jay Winter Nightwolf, Cherokee, in his program on Sunday evening, January 16, entitled, “Honoring and Celebrating the Life and Times of American Indian Leader and Founder of AIM, Clyde Bellecourt.” Among the guests on the program was Spike Moss, an African American civil rights and human rights fighter, a best friend of Clyde’s who had known him since 1966. Moss was also a speaker at Clyde’s wake Thursday in Minneapolis.

On Sunday evening, Moss spoke of Clyde’s courage and determination. “He was always brave and bold and believed in fighting for what is right no matter what they try to do to you,” Moss said.

This writer was also a guest on the program and spoke of the indelible legacy Clyde has left us that we must carry on.

A wake service was held Friday evening at the White Earth Indian Reservation, and Saturday morning a traditional Ojibwe funeral service was held, followed by the burial.

A cruel irony of his passing is that George Floyd was barbarically murdered by Minneapolis police 53 years after Clyde founded AIM to stop police brutality against Indigenous people in the very same city. This racist murder took place just a few block from Clyde’s home.

Clyde’s voice and legacy shall continue to resonate against racism and the oppression of humanity throughout the world.

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

This article originally appeared on People's World. It is published under a Creative Commons license.