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Clyde Bellecourt is confirmed dead at the age of 85.

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Clyde was best known as a American civil rights activist.
Clyde Bellecourt
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Clyde Bellecourt
Born (1936-05-08) May 8, 1936 (age 85)
DiedJanuary 11, 2022(2022-01-11) (aged 85)
OccupationCivil rights organizer
Known forCo-founding the American Indian Movement
RelativesVernon Bellecourt (brother)
Clyde Howard Bellecourt (May 8, 1936 - January 11, 2022) White Earth Ojibwe) was a civil rights organizer noted for co-founding the American Indian Movement (AIM) in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1968 with Dennis Banks, Eddie Benton-Banai, and George Mitchell. His older brother, the late Vernon Bellecourt, was also active.
Under Bellecourt's leadership, AIM raised awareness of tribal issues related to the federal government, monitored police harassment in Minneapolis, created welfare programs for urban Indians, and founded Indian 'survival schools' in the Twin Cities to teach children life skills and to help them learn their traditional cultures. He initiated the Trail of Broken Treaties, a long march to Washington, DC in 1972 to serve as a first step to renegotiating federal-tribal nations' treaties and relations. In addition, he founded non-profit groups to undertake economic development to benefit Native Americans.
His Ojibwe name is Nee-gon-we-way-we-dun, which means "Thunder Before the Storm."
1 Early life
2 Career
3 Activism
4 1985 Conviction
5 Current activities
6 References
7 Further reading
8 External links
Early life
Clyde Bellecourt was the seventh of 12 children born to his parents (Charles and Angeline) on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. Among his older siblings was brother Vernon Bellecourt. This reservation was considered the largest and most poor of northern Minnesota's Ojibwe communities. In his youth, Clyde fought against authorities, believing that they did not treat his family and other Indians with respect. As a child, he could hear his parents speaking in low tones late at night in a language he did not understand. When he asked what they were saying, he was told to think about his education and do as well as he could. The years in school were not pleasant. As a boy, he attended a reservation Catholic mission school run by strict nuns of a Benedictine order.
The Bellecourt family moved to Minneapolis Twin Cities in the 1950s, encouraged by the federal government to seek a setting where there might be more job opportunities. They found the city difficult, and Clyde reacted to perceived discrimination and feeling out of place. He regularly received detentions at school.
Getting involved with bad influences, Bellecourt ultimately incurred criminal charges. He was convicted and sentenced to the adult correctional facility at St. Cloud for a succession of offenses, including burglary and robbery.
At the age of 25, Bellecourt was transferred to Stillwater Prison in the eponymous city of Minnesota, where he served out the remainder of his sentence. There he met numerous other Native American, many of them also Ojibwe. Among those were Eddie Benton-Banai (Ojibwe, 1931-2020), who had started a cultural program at prison for Native Americans, and Dennis Banks (Ojibwe, 1937-2017). After working together in prison, they decided to create a similar program in Minneapolis, to aid urban Indians.
Bellecourt helped found AIM during a Minneapolis meeting in July 1968 with Banks and George Mitchell of the Leech Lake Reservation. Eddie Benton-Banai, who was raised on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in northern Wisconsin, was also one of the founders. They were discussing how to raise awareness of issues American Indians faced in the Twins Cities, and to solve those problems. Topics included police harassment and brutality against Native Americans, discrimination by employers, discrimination in school, poor housing, and high unemployment among American Indians. Bellecourt was elected the group's first chairman, Dennis Banks field director, and Charles Deegan vice chairman.
They began to monitor arrests of American Indians made by the local police department to ensure their civil rights were observed and they were treated with dignity and respect. Benton-Banai had also worked on this issue before serving time in Stillwater Prison.
In 1971, Bellecourt visited the Chicago Indian Village (CIV), an inter-tribal group protesting to raise awareness of and solutions for poor housing conditions for Native Americans in Chicago. The CIV had occupied the former site of a battery of Nike anti-aircraft missiles at Belmont Harbor in Chicago.
In August 1972, tribal chairman Robert Burnette of the Rosebud Reservation proposed a peaceful march on Washington, D.C., which became known as the Trail of Broken Treaties. They wanted to highlight the failures of the federal government in fulfilling its treaty obligations, and proposed new legislation to remove the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) from the Department of the Interior. The group supported establishing a Federal Indian Commission, to report directly to the president rather than through other officials, in order to ensure that Indian interests were considered in all aspects. Organizers originally planned a peaceful tour of Washington landmarks and meeting with leading government officials to present their "20 points," as a list of their grievances and demands.
The activists occupied the Department of Interior headquarters, specifically the Office of Bureau of Indian Affairs, before beginning negotiations for their 20 points. They allegedly caused extensive damage to treaty files and other records of the history between the federal government and the tribes. They called for ending corruption and mismanagement within the BIA. Bellecourt and other AIM leaders led the negotiations with the federal government.
In 1973 AIM activists were invited to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota by its local civil rights organization to aid in securing better treatment from state and local law enforcement in the border towns, which had been slow to prosecute attacks against Lakota. They were also protesting the failed impeachment of the elected tribal chairman, Richard Wilson, who was opposed by many on the reservation, and poor living conditions. AIM led an occupation of the Town of Wounded Knee within the reservation. FBI agents and U.S. Marshals soon surrounded the town, and there was a 71-day armed standoff. Two people were killed in the events.
Bellecourt became a negotiator. Eventually, he, Russell Means, and Carter Camp held a meeting with a representative for the US President. They negotiated an audit of Wilson's operation of tribal finances and an investigation of alleged abuses by his private militia, the Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOONs).
After leaving Pine Ridge, Bellecourt and Means were arrested in Pierre, South Dakota; the court set a bond at $25,000. They were served a restraining order against approaching closer than five miles to the town of Wounded Knee. After being released on bond, Bellecourt went on a fundraising tour across the United States, trying to raise money for the activists still occupying Wounded Knee.
After the occupation of Wounded Knee ended, Bellecourt hosted seminars and other public appearances. He claimed that "the seminar represents the beginning of an educational effort by AIM and a turning point for the organization, which hopes to avoid violent confrontations in the future." Throughout the rest of his speaking tour about Wounded Knee and the BIA takeover, Bellecourt would maintain that Christianity, the Office of Education, and the Federal government were enemies to Indians. He defended AIM actions at the BIA and Wounded Knee, saying, "We are the landlords of the country, it is the end of the month, the rent is due, and AIM is going to collect."
1985 Conviction
In January 1986, Bellecourt met with an undercover agent in a laundry room at Little Earth of United Tribes, a south Minneapolis housing development, and sold her LSD. Bellecourt was arrested, along with a group of Indian and non-Indian associates, in possession of an estimated $125,000 worth (5000 "hits") of LSD and other "hard" drugs (cocaine). Charged on eight counts of being a major drug distributor, each compounded by a conspiracy charge, Bellecourt accepted a plea bargain deal. He confessed, entering a guilty plea to lesser felonies. Federal District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced him to five years imprisonment (of which he served less than two). Bellecourt had become addicted to drugs before his arrest; he later said that the conviction and imprisonment helped him break the addiction.
Current activities
Bellecourt lives in South Minneapolis with his wife Peggy. Their four children are grown. He continues to direct national and international AIM activities. He coordinates the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media, which has long protested sports teams use of Native American mascots and names, urging them to end such practices; the Washington Redskins finally dropped their mascot in 2020 in response to years of protests. He also leads Heart of the Earth, Inc., an interpretive center located behind the site of AIM's former 'survival school', which operated from 1972 to 2008 in Minneapolis.
Bellecourt founded the Heart of the Earth Survival School in 1972, which was approved for 501(c)(3) status in 1974. The passage of the American Indian Education Act enabled Native American tribes and related groups to contract to operate BIA funded schools for Native American students. Heart of the Earth won such contracts for 24 years. The school covered students from preK-12. In the 1980s, it added adult learning and prison programs. Heart of the Earth has coordinated a national law education program.
Developed as an independent charter school in 1999, when it was considered an option of the public school district, Heart of the Earth took over ownership of its site. It continued to offer a wide variety of independent cultural programs, awarded scholarships to Indian students, and developed indigenous language research.
The charter was revoked in 2008 because serious financial irregularities were discovered, and the school closed. The former executive director was convicted of embezzling more than one million dollars. In all, more than 10,000 Native American students attended the school in its 40-year history.
Other organizations founded in part by Bellecourt include the Elaine M. Stately Peacemaker Center for Indian youth; the AIM Patrol, which provides security for the Minneapolis Indian community; the Legal Rights Center; MIGIZI Communications, Inc.; the Native American Community Clinic; Women of Nations Eagle Nest Shelter; and Board of American Indian OIC (Opportunities Industrialization Center), a job program to help Native Americans get full-time jobs.
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