Founder Of American Indian Movements Asks Sanders About Treaties

| Resist!

Above Photo: From VIdeo Still.

Clyde Bellecourt, whose Indigenous name is Nee-gon-we-way-we-dun (which means “Thunder Before the Storm”), took the microphone at a forum in Minnesota and makes a speech about the history of abuse of Indigenous Peoples and asks Bernie Sanders if he is elected president will he honor treaties the US made with Native Americans. Bellecourt founded the American Indian Movement with David Banks, Herb Powless, and Eddie Benton Banai, among others in 1968 and was elected its first chairman. Bellecourt was one of the organizers of the 1973 peace march to create a Federal Indian Commission. He also was a leader in protests at the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973, protesting the conditions at what had originally been a prison camp for Indigenous Peoples. He was convicted of drug charges in 1985 and sentenced to five years in prison, serving less than two years. Bellecourt lives in Minneapolis and continues to direct national and international AIM activities.


    Bellecourt was absolutely right in every syllable of what he said. The problem is the whole genocidal mentality of Empire that has characterized so many of the activities of the United States and Europe literally for centuries.

    I see no simple, easy, or quick answer to the problem; it’s too enormous and too deeply entrenched in the psyches of those carrying it out and of those ignorantly going along with it. But I do feel that of all the Presidential candidates (or “candidates”) the one who is by far the most likely to do what is right is Bernie Sanders (Jill Stein might be even better but she, of course, doesn’t count.)

    Although Bellecourt’s question (“Will you honor the treaties?”) was fully justified (our government has violated virtually if not literally every one of the hundreds of treaties they made with the Indians), I think that it was an unfortunate one to put to Bernie because it was impossible to answer and thus could only harm him. For him to say “yes” would be a lie; it would be impossible, and for him to say “no” would also obviously be unacceptable. He ducked the question skillfully and, in my opinion, appropriately.

    Bernie is the best ally they’ve got on the Presidential stage; why ding your allies?

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  • Peter Baldwin

    Maybe these things just have to be said because they come from wounds still raw and no one else besides Bernie is likely to react with any respect.


    Quite possibly so.

  • Peter Baldwin

    I don’t think Bernie was very “Presidential”, he could have appraised the situation as being of rare high opportunity and could have said to let him speak and thereby possibly opening a broader window to showing some humanity and heart that could have easily served him well politically.

  • Aquifer

    “(Jill Stein might be even better but she, of course, doesn’t count.)”

    And why not?