Dennis J. Banks (Ojibwe), whose American Indian name was Nowa Cumig, co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), actor, lecturer and author, has walked on and has begun his journey to the spirit world from complications developed after open heart surgery last week. He was surrunded by family and friends at the time of his death. He passed away at 10:10 p.m. – CDT. Banks was 80 years old.
His family released this statement:
“Our father Dennis J. Banks started his journey to the spirit world at 10:10 pm on October 29, 2017.
Our father will be laid to rest in his home community of Leech Lake, MN. Presiding over traditional services will be Terry Nelson. We welcome all who would like to pay respects. As soon as arrangements are finalized, we will post details.”
Banks was hospitalized various times in recent years. After suffering a heart attack in 2008, Banks was diagnosed with diabetes.
“I have lived a good long life and met several good human beings. I know there are still many issues out there, many mountains to climb and many rivers to cross. I am going to stretch my life out as long as I possibly can, but I won’t be a living vegetable,” Banks told his family and friends during a recent hospital stay.
After being hospitialized in Rapid City, South Dakota with heart problems in September, Banks was given new medicine that caused him to have nightmares. He stopped taking the prescription telling those close to him when it is time to make his journey he wants to do so with a his own mind with clear thinking.
Banks co-founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul twin city area. At the tail-end of the Civil Rights Movement, AIM became a powerful force in Indian Country bringing attention to the dismal living conditions and abuse American Indians faced in the United States.
In November 1972 Banks led AIM into Washington, D.C. where the group took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in the nation’s capitol. In 1973, Banks, along with Clyde Bellecourt and the late Russell Means, led a group of AIM members to takeover Wounded Knee, which lasted for 71 days.
In 1978 Banks, along with others, conceived the Longest Walk that went from California to Washington, D.C. to bring attention to treaties that were proposed to be eliminated through legislation in Congress.
In recent years, Banks has traveled extensively across the United States as a leading advocate for rights for American Indian people. Banks visited Standing Rock several times during the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline.
“We are related, we are children of this planet that we call Mother Earth” Banks said at his last public appearance at the Suquamish Nation with the Mother Earth Tour in September.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
American Indian activist Dennis Banks, left, speaks to reporters before boarding a canoe to spread a net on Lake Bemidji on Friday, May 14, 2010. Jeff Baenen | AP file 2010