Dennis Banks FBI File

Dennis Banks passed away on October 29, 2017. On November 1, 2017 I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI for any files related to Banks. Most of the FBI files related to the American Indian Movement have been public for a number of years but I was curious to see if the FBI would release anything new Banks following his death. After I filed the request the only thing I heard was a notice saying my request was overly broad and I could reduce the scope to enable faster processing.

Today, 932 days later, the FBI responded to the FOIA request with 210 pages of information. I can’t say there’s anything drastically new in the material, but I’ve uploaded them here for future reference.

File 1 - Custer Protest - Deals with the FBI investigation into the protest at the Custer County Court on February 6th, 1973.

File 1 - Banks Investigation 1976-1977 - Deals with a continuing FBI extremist investigation into Banks in 1976 and 1977 while he was residing in California and teaching at DQ University.

File 3 - Investigation closed - 14 pages on the closing of the aforementioned investigation following California’s state supreme court ruling Banks could not be extradited from the state to face charges in South Dakota related to the 1973 protest in Custer.

The one thing I would note in the files is page 108 of the Custer files has a statement from a BIA employee who was also listed as involved in an “unofficial self-protective unit,” more likely than not a reference to Dick Wilson’s Guardians of the Oglala Nation. This is worthwhile for two points: one the connections between Wilson’s GOONs and the BIA; and it adds further backing to Peter Matthiesson’s discussion from In The Spirit of Crazy Horse of where Wilson got the funding for the GOONs from, as the person interviewed primarily worked for the highway department of the BIA.

Material was withheld in the files due to:

  • personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; (b6)
  • material could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy (b7c)
  • could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of record or information compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation, or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source, (b7d)
  • would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law (b7e)
Jared L. Eberle
Jared L. Eberle
Historian of Modern Indigenous Activism

I an adjunct instructor at Oklahoma State University and my research focuses on American Indian activism after the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.

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