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The Thunder Before the Storm

The Thunder Before the Storm

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The Autobiography of Clyde Bellecourt

Author Clyde Bellecourt, As told to Jon Lurie

Minnesota Historical Society Press (September 15, 2018)

Iconic activist and AIM cofounder Clyde Bellecourt tells “the damn truth” about the American Indian Movement as he lived it.


The American Indian Movement burst onto the scene in the late 1960s as indigenous people across the country began to demand what is rightfully theirs. Clyde Bellecourt, whose Ojibwe name translates as “The Thunder Before the Storm,” is one of its cofounders and iconic leaders. This powerful autobiography provides an intimate narrative of his childhood on the White Earth Reservation, his long journey through the prison system, and his embodiment of “confrontation politics” in waging war against entrenched racism.

Bellecourt is up-front and unapologetic when discussing his battles with drug addiction, his clashes with other AIM leaders, his experiences on the Trail of Broken Treaties and at Wounded Knee, and the cases of Leonard Peltier and murdered AIM activist Anna Mae Aquash. This gritty, as-told-to memoir also uncovers the humanity behind Bellecourt’s militant image, revealing a sensitive spirit whose wounds motivated him to confront injustice and to help others gain a sense of pride by knowing their culture.

The Thunder Before the Storm offers an invaluable inside look at the birth of a national movement—the big personalities, the creativity, and the perseverance that were necessary to alter the course of Native and American history.

Also of interest: We Are Still Here: A Photographic History of the American Indian Movement

Author information

Clyde Bellecourt cofounded the American Indian Movement and has worked for Indian rights for decades. He lives in Minneapolis.

Jon Lurie, educator and journalist, has worked in the Minneapolis Native American community for many years. He is a staff writer for The Circle and has written for numerous other publications.

Reviews and news

In the media:

"Anishinaabe activist Bellecourt recounts to Lurie (Canoeing with Jose) his life as a founding member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in this riveting autobiography. . . . [H]is powerful and conversational narrative carries readers along with an immediacy and frankness that is enlightening, sometimes humorous, and never dull. Bellecourt helps non-Native readers confront uncomfortable truths, facts that make this entry particularly significant. VERDICT Highly recommended for U.S. history students and anyone wishing to learn more about the modern struggles of Native peoples in America."
Library Journal, Starred Review

Star Tribune

Star Tribune Books

Pioneer Press

Tribal College Journal

AM950 with Matt McNeil (11/18/16 at 27:53 mark)


Critical Mass Progress

AMPERS Interview

Advance Praise:

“As a young woman coming of age in 1977, I received guidance from Clyde and other leaders in the American Indian Movement, who saw a role for a young scholar like myself. His story of those courageous and challenging times honors both the hard work we did and those who made and continue to make history.”
Winona LaDuke, activist, environmentalist, economist, and writer

“Raw. Unapologetic. Transporting. . . . History without the bullshit. This book demonstrates that indigenous resistance in the face of government tyranny is a tradition that continues to this day.”
Simon Moya-Smith (Lakota and Chicano), culture editor at Indian Country Today


“This book is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. This is my story, the way I remember it. Other people remember it differently, and they can write their own books. I’m not pulling any punches; I’m just telling it like it is, and like it was before the American Indian Movement came along to help our people help themselves.”
Clyde Bellecourt

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 320 pages
  • 35 B&W Photos, Index
  • 6x9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681341248

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