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April 12, 1937 – Sunday, October 29, 2017

Service Information
Battle Point Community Center-Federal Dam, MN
Saturday, November 4, 2017
10:00 AM

Visitation Information
American Indian Center and Battle Point Community
See Obituary

Dennis James “D.J. Banks, also known as Nowa Cumig, co-founder and leader of the American Indian Movement journeyed to the Spirit World Sunday Night in Rochester, MN. He was 80 years old.

Dennis was born on the Leech Lake Reservation in 1937 to Bertha Banks and was raised with Anishinabe traditions and language by his grandparents in Federal Dam. When he was four years old, he was forcibly taken to the Pipestone and Flandreau Indian Schools where he spent his childhood away from his family. After boarding school, Dennis joined the Air Force and was stationed in Japan where he awoke to the plight of native Japanese farmers fighting to save their land. It was while imprisoned for stealing groceries to feed his family that Dennis was inspired by the Black Civil Rights Movement. From that point forward, Dennis dedicated his life to empowering Indigenous Peoples around the world.

In 1968, Dennis co-founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. From the takeover of the BIA building in Washington DC., to the Custer courthouse protests, to the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff, to the Longest Walks and Sacred Runs. Dennis worked tirelessly to bring international awareness and dialogue to issues affecting Indigenous People.

Once he returned to his Leech Lake homelands, he spent his life building community through the revival of traditional Anishinabe lifestyles and practices. Dennis created and hosted The Great Anishinabe Canoe Race for community youth – The Yamamoto Cup. From the ground up, he built the Dennis Banks Company that harvested and sold Leech Lake wild rice and local maple syrup products to customers globally.

Because of Dennis’ life’s work, the fate of Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples around the world was forever changed.

Dennis spent his free time visiting with friends and family, walking, playing cribbage, playing Scrabble, playing the slots …. and ALWAYS reflecting …. and ALWAYS planning for the future.

“Flesh offerings will be taken at the door!” – D.J. Banks

All night wake will be held Wednesday, November 1 beginning at 12 noon and Celebration of Life at 7 pm at the American Indian Center, 1530 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis. Further all night wakes Thursday beginning at 2 pm and Friday beginning at 12 noon and Celebration of Life at 7 pm at the Battle Point Community Center, 10051 Battle Point Trail NW, Federal Dam. Funeral service on Saturday at 10 am at the Battle Point Community Center. Interment at Battle Point Cemetery, Federal Dam.

10 Guestbook Entries

  1. Tootsie Johnson & Melvin Frazier

    Our deepest sympathies to the Banks family. We are truly sorry for your loss. We are honored to meet this wonderful person. The Native Americans sure lost a great leader. My husband and I are sure glad we met and spent the day with him this summer. Again we are so sorry. From his Navajo friend’s in Shiprock, New Mexico, you guys are in our thoughts and prayers. God bless!

  2. Eva Wilson

    My heartfelt condolences to the family. Prayers for strength. Prayers for the family in your time of sadness and grief. Our community shares in your grief. He will truly be missed.

  3. Margaret Lovrien

    I send my sympathy to the family and tribe members of Dennis Banks. He inspired many people to rise up from difficulty and be a positive influence in life. May his legacy live on in his People who have the power to shape the future with renewed vigor.

  4. Lois Johnson


  5. John Erickson

    Rest in peace my friend, it has been a long journey but even better things to come!!!

  6. A Veteran

    Thanks for serving.

  7. Richard G. Barnett

    Saddened to hear of Mr. Banks’ passing. What a courageous, dedicated man! Although I never met him, his work, his life,has given me a better understanding of the plights of indigenous people here in SD and throughout the world!

  8. Judy Sobolik

    The family of Dennis Banks, the Leech Lake community, and the world have suffered a great loss. Me. Banks was a brave and visionary leader who fought long and hard to win back what was lost and improve the lives of his people. He gave hope and set an example for us. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on. Miigwech, Nowa Cumig!

  9. leila locklear

    Tuscarora nation of North Caroline
    I’m proud to know I was able to know my elder and talk to him. He is already missed. A great hero with our people.

  10. Kathleen Zachary

    Dennis will be remembered forever by all of us who joined hands with him in the struggle. We owe him a debt that will never be able to be repaid. Walk forever in Paradise!


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