Cover image for Ojibwa warrior : Dennis Banks and the rise of the American Indian Movement
Ojibwa warrior : Dennis Banks and the rise of the American Indian Movement
Banks, Dennis.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xii, 362 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E99.C6 B258 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



"Born in 1937 and raised by his grandparents on the Leach Lake reservation in Minnesota, Dennis Banks grew up learning traditional Ojibwa lifeways. As a young child he was torn from his home and forced to attend a government boarding school designed to assimilate Indian children into white culture. After years of being "white man-ized" in these repressive schools, Banks enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, shipping out to Japan when he was only seventeen years old." "After returning to the states, Banks lived in poverty in the Indian slums of Minnesota until he was arrested for stealing groceries to feed his growing family. Although his white accomplice was freed on probation, Banks was sent to prison. There he became determined to educate himself. Hearing about the African American struggle for civil rights, he recognized that American Indians must take up a similar fight. Upon his release, Banks became a founder of AIM, the American Indian Movement, which soon inspired Indians from many tribes to join the fight for American Indian rights. Through AIM, Banks sought to confront racism with activism rooted deeply in Native religion and culture." "Ojibwa Warrior relates Dennis Banks's inspiring life story and the story of the rise of AIM - from the 1972 "Trail of Broken Treaties" march to Washington, D.C., which ended in the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building, to the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee, when Lakota Indians and AIM activists from all over the country occupied the site of the infamous 1890 massacre of three hundred Sioux men, women, and children to protest the bloodshed and corruption at the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation." "Banks tells the inside story of the seventy-one-day siege, his unlikely nighttime escape and interstate flight, and his eventual shootout with authorities at an FBI roadblock in Oregon. Pursued and hunted, he managed to reach California. There, authorities refused to extradite him to South Dakota, where the attorney general had declared that the best thing to do with Dennis Banks was to "put a bullet through his head."" "Years later, after a change in state govenment, Banks gave himself up to South Dakota authorities. Sentenced to two years in prison, he was paroled after serving one year to teach students Indian history at the Lone Man school Pine Ridge. Since then, Dennis Banks has organized "Scared Runs" for young people, teaching American Indian ways, religion, and philosophy worldwide. Now operating a successful business on the reservation, he continues the fight for Indian rights."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Author Notes

Dennis James Banks was born on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota on April 12, 1937. When he was 5 years old, he was taken from his family and sent to a series of government schools for Indians. He ran away often and at the age of 17, he returned to Leech Lake. Unable to find work, he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Japan. While there, he married a Japanese woman, had a child with her, and went absent without leave. He was arrested and returned to the United States. After being discharged, he moved to Minneapolis where he was arrested in a burglary and went to jail for two and a half years.

After being released in 1968, he co-founded the American Indian Movement to fight the oppression and endemic poverty of Native Americans. He led often-violent insurrections to protest the treatment of Native Americans and the nation's history of injustices against its indigenous peoples. These included a six-day takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, an armed 71-day occupation of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, and a protest in Custer, South Dakota over a white man being charged with involuntary manslaughter instead of murder after killing an Indian man. The protest became a face-off with Custer police that resulted in the murdered man's mother being beaten by officers. In 1975, Banks was found guilty of riot and assault with a deadly weapon for his role in the riot in Custer. Facing up to 15 years in prison, he jumped bail. He was a fugitive for nine years before finally turning himself in and serving 14 months in prison.

Once released, he moved to the Pine Ridge Reservation to work as a drug addiction and alcoholism counselor. He appeared in several movies and documentaries including War Party, Thunderheart, The Last of the Mohicans, Older Than America, We Shall Remain, Part V: Wounded Knee, A Good Day to Die, and Nowa Cumig: The Drum Will Never Stop. His autobiography, Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement written with Richard Erdoes, was published in 2005. He died from complications of pneumonia following open-heart surgery on October 29, 2017 at the age of 80.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Banks opens his honest and moving autobiography with the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee, pondering how he got there, from his 1937 birth in Leech Lake, Minnesota, to a major confrontation with the U.S. government. He recalls being separated from his family, language, and traditions while he lived a life of innumerable rules at a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. He escaped at 16, joined the air force, and was later imprisoned for burglary. In prison, Banks studied the history of American Indian civil rights and became committed to the American Indian Movement (AIM), overseen by the spiritual leaders Mary Crow Dog and Leonard Crow Dog, subjects of previous books by coauthor Erdoes. The decision to make AIM confrontational but not violent led to the occupations of Alcatraz and Mt. Rushmore, the 1972 march on Washington, and Wounded Knee, which Banks considers the greatest event in the history of Native America in the 20th century. For readers who can recall the spotty media coverage of these events, this powerful litany of AIM's accomplishments is especially provocative. --Deborah Donovan Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A compelling account of one of the most influential Indian leaders in the United States, this autobiography describes how Banks was taken from his family as a young child and placed into a government boarding school by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in an attempt to ?acculturate? him. Nine years later, he returned to the Ojibwa ?rez? only to find that he had forgotten his native Anishinabe language and many of his culture?s traditions. ?My teachers [?] had made me into an ?apple??red outside but white inside.? Nonetheless, Banks stayed for two years, reconnecting with family and relearning skills like rabbit trapping, before he joined the Air Force in search of ?three meals and warm place to sleep.? When he returned from his tour in Japan in the late 1950s, he re-experienced the prejudice, brutality and poverty that were preying upon his people in America. Angered by what he saw, Banks founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) with the help of his friends. His retelling of these events reads as seamlessly as a great campfire story (or a well-edited oral transcript). He takes readers deep inside the traditional Sun Dances and Sweat Houses of his Ojibwa Tribe and deep into the action of the Trail of Broken Treaties?a peaceful march on Washington that turned into a historic, six-day takeover of the BIA headquarters. Bank?s 11-year run from the FBI, his many wives and children and the strategies of AIM all find their place in his winding narrative, making this volume an important addition to this history of Native American and civil rights movements in the United States. 73 b&w photos. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

The American Indian Movement's (AIM) initial purpose upon its founding in 1968 was to protect the civil rights of Native Americans living in urban areas. Its scope quickly expanded as AIM turned to the problems of native peoples throughout the United States, especially on reservations. Banks, one of the founders of AIM, details the emergence of the organization and its national leaders, including Russell Means, Clyde Bellecourt, and George Mitchell. He also examines events that grabbed national headlines, such as the 1969-71 occupation of Alcatraz and the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee. Evident throughout is the belief that tribal governments aided the federal government in oppressing native peoples; in order for true reform to occur, entrenched accommodationist tribal leadership would have to be uprooted. Particularly enlightening is Banks's discussion of the role of spiritual leaders within AIM. Their vital role in the organization is often overlooked in discussions of AIM's activities. This autobiographical account by an important Native American leader is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Dennis Banks, best known as cofounder of the American Indian Movement (AIM) with Oglala Lakota activist/actor Russell Means, has produced a remarkable memoir with coauthor Erdoes that recounts in rich detailed and with occasional wit Banks's life from his birth on the Leech Lake Reservation in 1937 through the activist 1970s. Banks's early life was typical of many Native American men of this generation: youth on a reservation, the "silent terror" of boarding school, frequent drinking and jail time, a stint in the armed forces. By 1968, Banks and other founders of AIM were ready for fundamental change. The book concentrates on 1968 through 1975, beginning with AIM's founding to resist police abuse of Native Americans in Minneapolis, through the takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in 1972 and the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. The years 1973 through 1976 were spent mainly on the run or under arrest, especially following a shootout at Pine Ridge in 1975 in which two FBI agents and one Native man were killed, chronicled here with a taut narrative. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. B. E. Johansen University of Nebraska at Omaha

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
1. A Night to Rememberp. 3
2. At the Center of the Universep. 12
3. The Yellow Busp. 24
4. Interludep. 32
5. Machikop. 43
6. We AIM Not to Pleasep. 58
7. Crow Dogp. 95
8. On the Warpathp. 105
9. Yellow Thunderp. 114
10. Fishing in Troubled Watersp. 121
11. One Hell of a Smoke Signalp. 126
12. The Town with the Gunsmoke Flavorp. 145
13. A Place Called Wounded Kneep. 157
14. The Siegep. 167
15. A Nation Rebornp. 181
16. The Stand Downp. 196
17. The Waters of Justice Have Been Pollutedp. 210
18. The Symbionese Liberation Armyp. 228
19. The Informerp. 266
20. Fields of Terrorp. 284
21. Outlawedp. 299
22. Exilep. 312
23. Onondagap. 329
24. Freedomp. 338
25. Suddenly I Am an "Elder"p. 348
26. Looking Backp. 354