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Carina Dominguez
Indian Country Today

The co-founder of the American Indian Movement and longtime leader in the fight for Native civil rights has died.

Clyde Bellecourt, White Earth Nation, died from cancer at his Minneapolis home Tuesday, his wife Peggy Bellecourt confirmed with the Star Tribune. He was 85.

Bellecourt was a co-founder in 1968 of the American Indian Movement, which began as a local organization in Minneapolis that sought to grapple with issues of police brutality and discrimination against Native people. The group quickly became a national force. It would lead a string of major national protests in the 1970s.

AIM held major national protests in the 60s and 70s including the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties — a march to Washington D.C. — and the 1973 Wounded Knee Occupation in South Dakota.

Bellecourt stepped aside as an AIM leader because he was experiencing medical issues, he told Indian Country Today in 2020. The handoff signaled a new era for the movement.

George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis in 2020 just blocks from Bellecourt’s home and he said they started AIM on Minneapolis' Franklin Avenue in 1968 to protest police violence.

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Bellecourt’s family members and friends took to social media to share memories of him.

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Lisa Bellanger, the current co-director of AIM, said he was known worldwide and condolences were coming in from around the globe.

Activist Winona LaDuke, White Earth Nation, said he was very influential in her life.

“Clyde was a really good man and influenced a lot of people,” LaDuke said.

Founder of the American Indian Movement and elder statesman in the Twin Cities civil rights community Clyde Bellecourt (L) speaks to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a forum on race and economic opportunity in Minneapolis, United States, February 12, 2016.
Clyde Bellecourt, left, a founder of the American Indian Movement, shakes hands with Nelson Mandela, right, and gets a smile from Sheila Sisulu, South African Ambassador to the United States at a news conference in Minneapolis, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2000. (Photo by Mike Zerby, courtesy of the Star-Tribune)
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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