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Dennis Banks | Carl Stokes

Dennis Banks

Born on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota as a member of the Anishinabe tribe, Dennis Banks has made it his life's work to stand up for the rights of American Indians. He has led protests, stood eye to eye with the American government, gone to jail and worked to secure a place for his people in a sometimes hostile environment.

In 1968, Banks founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) - an organization that would take up the cause of defending American Indian traditions against the onslaught of federal government interference. While the means Banks went to as he fought to protect his heritage have sometimes been questioned, the ends he sought were oftentimes considered fair and just, even by those who opposed him.

The movement was involved in the occupation of Alcatraz Island, as Banks attempted to force the federal government to honor all of the treaties that had been made - and subsequently broken - with the many American Indians tribes. In the early seventies, Banks became increasingly confrontational after years of frustrations that yielded little action. His 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington where Congressional leaders refused to meet with his delegation was a precursor to the events that would explode on the nation less than a year later.

1973 proved to be the year that AIM, under Banks' leadership, took up arms in resistance. On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, AIM took control of Wounded Knee for 71 days. Later on that year, after a settlement had been reached, Banks again appeared in Custer, South Dakota as American Indians held a protest after a jury acquitted a white man convicted of murdering an Indian.

After the protest, Banks was arrested, along with 300 of his fellow protestors. While he was found innocent of charges at Wounded Knee, his involvement at Custer landed him a jail sentence. Refusing to serve time, Banks fled to the underground - where he lived for a time with the likes of Marlon Brando and other American Indian sympathizers- until then California governor Jerry Brown amnesty.

While Banks eventually would serve 18-months for his roles in American Indian protests, he was always striving towards his goal of making life for his people better. He became the first American Indian chancellor at Deganawide Quetzecoatl University and he has organized several cross-country runs designed at teaching people the balance between the earth and mankind.

The most influential of these treks, The Sacred Run, has occurred all over the world and encompassed well over 58,000 miles.

While the great protests and stand-offs are in his past, Banks still runs AIM from his two headquarters in Kentucky and Arizona, always with his single goal: to make the world better.

Carl Stokes  (return to top)

Bio goes here.

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