As I tried to find a place to sit walked with my plate of sloppy Joe’s and baked beans I knew there was something famous about him. He was sitting alone at a corner table my mind raced as I tried to place his name with a face. I sat down next to him, deciding to wing it and said, “Hi, aren’t you famous?” He smiled at my stupidity and began to tell me who he was.
After some research and two sloppy Joe’s at a Work Fair/Feast for Indian month I discovered that Clyde Bellcourt is a founder of the American Indian Movement. He was a major figure in the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 and played a founding role in an ongoing Indian School System, Legal Rights Center and the International Indian Treaty Council. He is also directing the Peacemaker Center for Indian youth and the AIM Patrol which provides security for the Minneapolis Indian community. I also discovered that at 78 years old Mr. Bellecourt is active in Social Media and has a Facebook page, Wiki, and MySpace page. Maybe I should help him make a few Vines.
Clyde Bellecourt was born in 1939 on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota, Bellecourt had problems in school and eventually dropped out. He was angry that Native Americans, if they were talked about in school at all, were usually described as killers or savages. After quitting school and failing to find work, he became involved in crime and robberies and wound up in prison.
In prison in Minnesota, Bellecourt had given up hope. He decided to go on a hunger strike, figuring he would die. A fellow inmate brought him a book dealing with his Ojibwa history. Reading the book made Bellecourt proud once again to be a Native American and filled him with hope.
After his release from prison, Bellecourt and two others founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968 to educate even more people and to work for improved conditions and rights for Native Americans.I remembered my favorite Aunt Sandy talking about thepart that she played in the AIM movement. The organization established job training, education programs and youth centers, forced the government to improve public housing for Indians, and set up schools such as the Heart of the Earth Center for American Indian Education in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The center focused on American Indian history and traditions.According to one of the articles I read Clyde sees a bright future: “This generation of little children is the 7th Generation. Not just Indian children but white, black, yellow and red Bellecourt remains active in trying to improve the lives of Native Americans, emphasizing the need for more and better education. Our grandfathers said the 7th generation would provide new spiritual leaders, medicine people, doctors, teachers and our great chiefs. There is a spiritual rebirth going on.” As one of the original founders of the American Indian Movement (AIM).
I finally remember where we had met I was his primary nurse at the hospital when he was first diagnosed with heart problems. Cylde now tells me he has a implanted heart monitor and defibrillator that keeps his heart happy. I am happy for him, 78 years old and still fierce.