Dennis Banks Biography

Dennis Banks

Anishinabe (Ojibwa) activist
Born: Apr. 12, 1937
Birthplace: Leech Lake, Minn.

At an early age, Dennis Banks was removed from his home and sent to boarding schools, run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in which native Indian languages were forbidden. After a hitch in the military, he got in trouble with the law and was eventually jailed for burglary. He was released from prison in 1968 and helped found the American Indian Movement (AIM). AIM spearheaded the 1969 Alcatraz occupation, in which the organization demanded the return of federal lands to Indian control; the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties caravan to Washington, D.C.; and the 71-day siege of Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1973. After a long trial, Wounded Knee felony charges against Banks and AIM co-founder Russell Means were dropped. In 1975, Banks was convicted for riot charges concerning the Custer courthouse incident that led to Wounded Knee. He went underground, returning in 1984 to serve more than a year in prison. Banks founded Sacred Run to promote the sacredness of all living things and has led runs across the United States, Canada, and Europe. He had small roles in the movies War Party (1988), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and Thunderheart (1992). His autobiography Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement, was published in 2004.

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