Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

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. 

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-11-25 at 7.53.37 AM

Another 5,000 lbs. of goldfish removed from Carver County lakes

It all likely stemmed from people dumping their pets into local waters a few years ago.

Rosaleia Shelton

Appeal to find 19-year-old missing from Bloomington

The teen left her home on Monday afternoon.

hospital, emergency room

Deaths of twin fetuses after woman was shot ruled a double homicide

The woman was shot in the abdomen in mid-September.

Payton Willis / Gopher Basketball

Gophers improve to 5-0 with win over Jacksonville

The Gophers are establishing momentum early in the season.

Anthony Edwards

Ant's massive slam leads Timberwolves to fifth straight win

The dunk didn't count, but provided the highlight of the night.

Cam Talbot / Minnesota Wild

WIld arrive late, Cam Talbot stays on point to beat Devils

Despite a 30-minute delay, the Wild picked up a 3-2 victory.

Screen Shot 2021-11-24 at 4.10.54 PM

Appeal to find 35-year-old missing from Oak Grove home

Police say he's not believed to be in danger.

vote, election

7 MN Republicans urge states to audit 2020 election results

There has been no evidence of significant fraud in any single U.S. state.

child vaccine pexels

How many MN kids age 5-11 have received a COVID vaccine dose?

The governor says the state has one of the highest child vaccination rates in the U.S.

police lights

Seven juveniles arrested in connection with stolen vehicles in Woodbury

Woodbury authorities have issued a warning following a spate of auto thefts.

police lights squad car dark - Unsplash

1 dead after driver crashes into stalled vehicle on shoulder

The vehicle stopped on the side of the road was unoccupied at the time.

Related

American Indian activist Russell Means dies

Russell Means, the charismatic Oglala Sioux, writer, actor and activist who the New York Times says helped revive the warrior image of the American Indian in the 1970s with guerrilla-tactic protests, has died at 72. He was tried in Minnesota after a violent 71-day standoff with federal agents in 1973 at Wounded Knee, S.D.