Column: Vernon Bellecourt changed perceptions

"[Vernon] Bellecourt -- Indian activist, citizen of the world, politician, provocateur and ambassador for the dispossessed -- was a giant force in helping to end the triumphal approach to the history of this state. Bellecourt died last weekend at 75, and is being buried today on his native White Earth Indian Reservation. During his life he helped change the way we see the world, and the way we see ourselves.

Along with his brother, Clyde, Vernon helped found the American Indian Movement in 1968. Sometime in the 1970s, the Bellecourts objected to celebrating a race war in the Capitol of all Minnesotans. The painting was removed, and the state's consciousness was raised.

Vernon was a catalyst for change. He campaigned endlessly against the use of stereotypical names and emblems, angering sports fans who think Indians are gone and that, if they weren't, they'd be honored by being called the "Fighting Sioux," and worse.

For nine years, this newspaper tried not to use names such as the nickname of the Washington football team. I won't mention it. You know what it is. In a backward move, that policy was relaxed four years ago, when editors decided that they would use the offensive nicknames, but only with "care and judgment.""

Get the Story:
Nick Coleman: Bellecourt helped change our perception of state history (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 10/17)

Vernon Bellecourt, Who Protested the Use of Indian Mascots, Dies at 75 (The New York Times 10/17)
Bellecourt remembered as diplomat for justice (The Fargo Forum 10/17)

Relevant Links:
American Indian Movement -

Related Stories:
Vernon Bellecourt, an obituary by Suzan Harjo (10/15)
Vernon Bellecourt, AIM activist, passes away (10/15)