It’s a sad day for me! My mentor, friend, uncle, spiritual brother, Nowa Cumig, Dennis Banks, has journeyed to the spirit world! He will meet up with many other great indigenous world leaders, both male and female, who have passed before. All these leaders have sacrificed much in order to get recognition for their indigenous & treaty rights. They were spiritual leaders of their people and many of them entered the Sundance. Sweat lodges and other ceremonies were a part of every-day life. Imagine hero’s like Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Quanah Parker and the like. You are in good company Dennis! You were a modern day warrior for your people!
I met Dennis through my mom, Janet McCloud. They were very close friends.
I love this photo. It was daybreak at one of mom’s gatherings. Charlie Hill, Red Crow & Buddy Redbull did a performance. It was the first time we heard Buddy sing “Journey to the Spirit World”. It was something I’ll never forget!
Some people don’t know that Dennis Banks, Russell Means and other leaders of the American Indian Movement came to Sapa Dawn and its sweat lodge before launching their 1973 Wounded Knee Occupation in South Dakota. That’s something I’m so proud of, Sapa Dawn.
Dennis visited Sapa Dawn on a regular basis and considered it a sacred place! It was established by my mom at her home and surrounding 10 acres in Yelm, Washington as a retreat, naming it the Sapa Dawn Center. "Sapa" meaning grandfather, a tribute to my dad, Don McCloud, who died in April 1985. "The elders have said this is a spiritual place. For over 30 years, we've used this land to teach our traditional ways," my mom wrote in 1999. "When all is going crazy . . . our people can come back to the center to find the calming effect; to reconnect with their spiritual self."
In August 1985, 300 women from many countries found their way to Sapa Dawn to talk about concerns they shared. "There was no motel in Yelm then," recalls McCloud. "So we put up tepees. One woman said: 'Where's the motel?' Mom said, 'Here's a key: tepee number one or tepee number two.” The women camped for five days, talking about social, economic and family problems troubling native people throughout the Western Hemisphere. That was the birth of what now is called the Indigenous Women's Network, a coalition championing native women, families and tribal sovereignty from Chile to Canada, and which adopted my mom, Janet McCloud as a founding mother.
Dennis has instilled pride in native communities, all through his life! In his later years, he was a tireless advocate for health and wellness in tribal communities, the unacceptability of domestic violence and abuse of women, including the issue of missing/ murdered indigenous women. He was truly an advocate for our people!
We love you Nowa Cumig and know that the energy you carried will be multiplied many times and by many people!