“Indian children are resources of our tribes: they are the tribal chairmen, they’re the tribal social workers, they’re the tribal judges, the tribal attorneys, and the tribal educators . . . we had to train the leaders.”
Pat Bellanger, quoted in Survival Schools: The American Indian Movement and Community Education in the Twin Cities, 2013
Pat Bellanger (White Earth Ojibwe) was a cofounder of the American Indian Movement (AIM). She participated in many protests including the occupation at Wounded Knee (1973) and the protest at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC (1972). Bellanger was also a board member of the International Indian Treaty Council, which was recognized by the United Nations as a consultative entity. She spoke before the UN in Geneva in 1977 and was an active member of the Women of All Red Nations (WARN).
Bellanger worked behind the scenes for the welfare of Indigenous people. She pushed for better education for Native children in public schools. She was a leader in the survival school movement in the Twin Cities. Survival schools were established to give Native American children places to learn without the racial prejudices, social barriers, and academic struggles they faced in the public school system.
She lobbied for the Indian Child Welfare Act, which became law in 1978. This legislation gave tribes jurisdiction over their children, including in adoption cases. Known by the nickname “Grandmother AIM,” Bellanger was a fierce advocate for Native people, especially Native women and children, on a local and international level.