MINNEAPOLIS — Clyde Bellecourt, one of the original founders of the American Indian Movement (AIM), passed away Jan. 11 due to complications with cancer, according to Lisa Bellanger, Co-Director of the American Indian Movement’s Grand Governing Council. His Ojibwe name is Nee-gon-we-way-we-dun—“Thunder Before the Storm.“ He was 85 years old.
Along with Dennis Banks, Eddie Benton-Benai, and George Mitchell, Clyde Bellecourt co-founded the American Indian Movement in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1968. In its beginning, the American Indian Movement aimed to address systemic issues of poverty, discrimination, and police brutality against urban American Indians.
Bellecourt and AIM were involved in many highly publicized protests including the Trail of Broken Treaties, a cross-country march to Washington, D.C., to reignite federal-tribal nations’ treaties and relations, and the Wounded Knee Occupation, where approximately 200 Oglala Lakota and the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, SD for 71 days. AIM also participated in the Occupation of Alcatraz (1969-1971).
Bellecourt participated in the Wounded Knee Occupation, which eventually went to receive international press coverage. At Wounded Knee, Bellecourt became a negotiator, where Russell Means, Carter Camp, and Bellecourt eventually held a meeting with an official representative for the U.S. President to discuss the federal government’s Indian policy.