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Eddie Benton-Banai, American Indian Movement co-founder, dies at 89

Eddie Benton-Banai in 1971. The co-founder of the American Indian Movement has died aged 89....
Eddie Benton-Banai in 1971. The co-founder of the American Indian Movement has died aged 89.(J Walter Green/AP)
Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 1:10 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - An influential indigenous leader who helped found the American Indian Movement has died at age 89.

Eddie Benton-Banai, an Anishinaabe Ojibwe of the Fish Clan from Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in Northern Wisconsin, made it his life mission to connect American Indians to their spirituality and sovereignty.

The American Indian Movement was formed partly in response to alleged police brutality against Indigenous people. American Indian Movement co-founder, Clyde Bellecourt, says the group’s creation can be traced back to a cultural program that he and Benton-Banai started in a Minnesota prison back in the 1960s.

He was a grand chief, or spiritual leader, of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge and was also present during Wounded Knee village’s occupation in 1973.

A family friend says Benton-Banai died Monday at a care center in Hayward, Wisconsin, where he stayed for months. He remembered Benton-Banai as a holy man.

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