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Chief Leonard Crow Dog, a pillar of the American Indian Movement, passes away at age 79

The Chief played a key role in the liberation of Indigenous peoples across the United States and will be deeply missed.

Chief Leonard Crow Dog, a pillar of the American Indian Movement, passes away at age 79
Image Source: Twitter/ nickwestes

Just past midnight on June 6, Lakota spiritual leader Chief Leonard Crow Dog passed away at the age of 79. He began his journey to the spirit world at his home at Crow Dog's Paradise on the Rosebud Indian Reservation on Sunday. As a deeply respected medicine man who served during the American Indian Movement’s 71-day siege of Wounded Knee on the Pineridge Indian Reservation in 1973, he will be missed by the community and beyond. Since his passing, many have taken to social media websites in order to mourn his death, Native News Online reports. Few, if at all, mainstream media outlets have chosen to report on his passing.


Philip Yenyo, the executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio, posted on his Facebook page shortly after Crow Dog's death, "It has sadly come to our attention that, at approximately 12:40 am, Chief Leonard Crow Dog has made his journey to the Spirit World. This is a huge loss to the Indigenous community of Turtle Island and to the American Indian Movement." Additionally, Leonard Peltier, considered by many as a political prisoner, published a statement regarding the Chief's death from United States Penitentiary in Coleman, Florida. "Being in prison it takes time before we can get info from the streets and family, but I just heard of the great loss for the Lakota Nation and all Native peoples," he stated. "I want everyone to know Leonard fought hard for our peoples and our treaties and our religious rights, he held perhaps thousands of ceremonies and brought back a lot of Native peoples to our religion. We will miss him and I don’t think he will ever be replaced."


Meanwhile, Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney Bordeaux ordered flags to be flown at half-mast on tribal government buildings and the tribal casino for one week in honor of Chief Crow Dog. Other notable individuals who published statements mourning his death include Gay Kingman, Executive Director, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Association; Faith Spotted Eagle, Water Protector; Ernie Stevens, Jr., Chairman, National Indian Gaming Association; and Phil Lane, President and Chair of the Board of Directors, Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest.


Crow Dog was a prominent Holy Man and Warrior dedicated to keeping Lakota traditions alive. As part of the American Indian Movement, he was involved in several protests and other acts of activism. For instance, he participated in the large march of the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties to Washington, D.C., in order to demand Presidential attention to Indian issues. Further to this, the Chief led protests in Rapid City and the town of Custer, South Dakota to demand justice for hate crimes against the Lakota. His contributions shaped the Native American Self-Determination and Education Act, a landmark bill signed in 1975 that ensured greater respect for cultural traditions, eliminating mandatory assimilation.


Following the Wounded Knee incident, the federal government arrested Crow Dog as a suspect and held him at the maximum-security unit at Leavenworth. He was shortly convicted and sentenced to a long term in prison before the National Council of Churches took up Crow Dog's case and raised $150,000 for his appeal. Though his appeal was denied, a federal judge ordered that Crow Dog be immediately released after recognizing the support he had garnered over the years. At the time, he had already served two years in prison. Now, he will be remembered for his unparalleled contributions. In the words of President Lane, "Chief Leonard Crow Dog's life has been dedicated to uplifting our Indigenous peoples and our human family for more than 50 years. And his work will continue stronger than ever from the Other Side Camp!"


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