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American Indian icon Dennis Banks dies

The Minnesota-born educator also starred in films like "Last of the Mohicans."

A legendary figure in the American Indian Movement (AIM) – which began in Minneapolis in the late 1960s – is gone. 

Dennis Banks, the Leech Lake Ojibwe member who co-founded AIM and was a major leader in the armed conflict at Wounded Knee in 1973, died Sunday night at the age of 80.

According to Facebook updates from relatives, he had been struck by pneumonia following open-heart surgery earlier this month. 

Here's the family's heartfelt goodbye to the beloved leader and educator:

So ends a long and storied life, which took Banks all over the world teaching Native American culture as a lecturer, musician, and writer.

He also made his mark in Hollywood, portraying Native characters in a number of films, perhaps most notably in 1992's TheLast of the Mohicans.

And his Wikipedia entry makes for some good reading, too, as Banks' adventures took some dramatic twists and turns over the years. After the Wounded Knee incident – which lasted 71 days – he was convicted on rioting charges but "went underground" as a fugitive instead of going to prison

As the Los Angeles Times notes, he finally went home to the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in the 1990s, founding a business that sold "wild rice and maple syrup, trading on his famous name."

There's a round of funeral services happening around the state this week, starting with a wake at the Minneapolis American Indian Center on Wednesday. Here are the full details:

Tragedy in the Banks family

Banks' passing comes about two years after the disappearance and death of his granddaughter, Bemidji resident Rose Downwind.

Downwind, a mother of five, was 31. Her boyfriend at the time of her death, Marchello Cimmarusti, pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Though he initially told authorities that Downwind had died after falling down some stairs during a physical struggle, he later admitted that he "snapped" on the night he killed her. 

Downwind's body was eventually found in a shallow grave following a large-scale search. 

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