No sign of slowing down: Activist marches on for Native American rights

Native American activist Clyde Bellecourt
Native American activist Clyde Bellecourt, who helped found the American Indian Movement, was photographed Friday, May 1, 2015 at Cedar Field in Minneapolis.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2015

White Earth band member Clyde Bellecourt has spent decades fighting for the rights of Native people.

He's marched in rallies and protests across the country, including one at a Minnesota Vikings football game last fall. Native drummers joined others to oppose the continued use of the Washington football team's name and mascot.

Bellecourt said Native Americans are treated differently.

"We're the only people in America that they still make fun of," he said. "They would never do that to black people. Little Black Sambo is gone. Frito Bandito is gone."

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Bellecourt, who turned 79 this month, has walked a sometimes hard road in life. He remembers mission school beatings and time inside the Red Wing juvenile facility. Later, addiction and crime would put him deeper into the corrections system.

He turned his life around, however, to emerge as part of a generation of Native Americans seeking to regain their traditional ways and language.

Bellecourt remains active in educating people about Native history and culture. He's unrelenting in his campaign to tell others about the genocide of native people, broken treaties, natural resource predation and other injustices.

Click on the audio to hear more from Clyde Bellecourt.