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Clyde Bellecourt, longtime Native American activist, has died

Bellecourt passed away Tuesday at his home in Minneapolis. He was 85.

MINNEAPOLIS — A noted civil rights leader and one of the founders of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Clyde Bellecourt, has died.

Bellecourt passed away from cancer Tuesday morning at his home in Minneapolis at the age of 85.

AIM was founded in Minneapolis in 1968 by Bellecourt, Dennis Banks, Russell Means, Eddie Benton-Banai, and George Mitchell. The organization sought to grapple with issues of police brutality and discrimination against Native Americans.

Bellecourt's older brother, Vernon Bellecourt, who passed away in 2007, was also a member of AIM and a nationally recognized Indian activist. 

AIM would lead a string of major national protests in the 1970s, including a 71-day occupation in 1973 of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, to highlight corruption on the reservation and federal injustices against Indians.

Among Clyde Bellecourt's recent passions was coordinating the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media, which targets sports teams who use Native American mascots and names. Bellecourt was a leader in urging teams like the Washington Redskins to stop the practice. 

Credit: KARE

The coalition won a significant victory in 2020, when the Redskins officially became the Washington Football Team following years of protests. 

Following the news of Bellecourt's death, several local and state leaders offered their tributes. 

Governor Tim Walz tweeted:

"Clyde Bellecourt sparked a movement in Minneapolis that spread worldwide. His fight for justice and fairness leaves behind a powerful legacy that will continue to inspire people across our state and nation for generations to come."

Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan tweeted in part, "Indian Country benefited from Clyde Bellecourt's activism - he cleared a path for so many of us."

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement:

“I’ve had the honor of knowing Elder Bellecourt for many years. He served dutifully as Co-Chair of the Police Community Relations Council. Most of all I will remember him as a passionate advocate for human rights here in Minneapolis and across the world. He will be greatly missed by many. My thoughts and prayers are with his dear wife Peg and their family tonight. “

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