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Published on Monday, October 22, 2012 by Common Dreams

Activist, Actor Russell Means Dead at 72

- Common Dreams staff

Activist and actor Russell Means died on Monday in Porcupine, S.D. at the age of 72.

[Image: russellmeans_rip_0.jpg]

The Oglala Sioux was an early leader in the American Indian Movement (AIM) and had been battling throat cancer for years.

In 1973 Means was one of the leaders of a 71-day uprising at Wounded Knee in South Dakota between Lakota and FBI and law enforcement agents.

Means also acted in a number of movies including the role of chief Chingachgook in The Last of the Mohicans.

Means' wife and children released this statement on his passing:
Our dad and husband, now walks among our ancestors. He began his journey to the spirit world at 4:44 am, with the Morning Star, at his home and ranch in Porcupine. There will be four opportunities for the people to honor his life to be announced at a later date. Thank you for your prayers and continued support. We love you. As our dad and husband would always say, "May the Great Mystery continue to guide and protect the paths of you and your loved ones."
God rest his noble soul.
I posted this in another thread a couple of years ago.The link below no longer works.

Russell Means

I am not a leader. I am an Oglala Lakota patriot.
That is all I want and all I need to be.
And I am very comfortable with who I am.

-Russell Means, "For America to Live, Europe Must Die"

Russell Means is a prominent and controversial Indian Rights Activist. He was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1939 to an Oglala father and a Yankton mother. In 1942 the Means family moved to California to find work. Means grew up and attended school there, where he was often faced with racism. As he grew older he learned to use intimidation to escape bullying and began to drink heavily and use and sell drugs. After dropping out of high school for a while and being suspended many times, he graduated in 1958 and moved to Los Angeles where he worked various odd jobs.

Means got involved with activism when his father invited him to join the first American Indian occupation of the abandoned federal prison on Alcatraz Island. According to a stipulation in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, Indians have the right to reclaim abandoned federal land. The activists sought to claim Alcatraz as an oasis for Indians of every nation. Though the occupation was unsuccessful, it stirred up a new feeling of Indian pride in Means and other activists.

After Means relocated to Cleveland, Ohio he established the American Indian Center, a nonprofit organization that created community-building and cultural programs for American Indians who had relocated to the Cleveland area. Programs included a legal aid service, scholarship program, tutoring, job training, and an alternative schools for kindergarteners. Means also created a reverse relocation program to help people move back to the reservation, which he considered his most successful program.

Over the next few years Means became familiar with the American Indian Movement (AIM), an organization founded in the late 1960s to protect Indians from police harassment. He eventually established a chapter in Cleveland called CLAIM. He rose quickly as a leader because of his outspoken nature and his ability to speak in a straightforward, yet eloquent, manner. Means engaged in many protests with AIM including the occupation of the Black Hills in 1970 and 1971 to protest the seizure of sacred land.

Activism on the Reservation

In 1972 Raymond Yellowtail, a Lakota man from Pine Ridge, was murdered in a small town outside of the reservation. His white killers were convicted of manslaughter, but got off on bail. Pine Ridge residents were enraged at the incident, which wasn�t the first of its kind. Yellowtail�s parents called on AIM, who demonstrated so fervently that the incident made national coverage. Officials finally responded to the complaints and agreed to review the case.

This victory in Gordon, NE put Means and AIM on the map, but the issue was far from resolved. Means convened a �Red Ribbon Grand Jury� on Pine Ridge to allow reservation Indians to vent their frustration about life on the res. They took their complaints to the road with the Trail of Broken Treaties, a caravan of Indians from across the United States that arrived at Washington, D.C. on November 1, days before the presidential election. The protesters occupied the BIA, reclaiming it as the Native American Embassy, and compiled a list of 20 demands to the U.S. government. After seven days of occupation and discussion between AIM leaders and the Nixon administration, Nixon agreed to respond to the 20 points and the protesters left the BIA building, albeit with records that they vowed to make copies of before returning.

Back at Pine Ridge, Dick Wilson, the tribal chairman, banned all AIM activity. In 1974 BIA police arrested Means while he was giving a speech and removed him to Rosebud reservation. Means challenged Wilson for the chairmanship in the 1974 election, but lost. Meanwhile, conditions were deteriorating on the reservation as residents sank deeper into poverty. Tribal members tried to impeach Wilson four times, but the tribal council refused to complete the process.

The Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization, AIM, and tribal elders were fed up with matters and decided to seize the hamlet of Wounded Knee to draw attention to their plight and force federal officials to reply to their demands. On February 27, 1972 they began the occupation that lasted for 71 days. Though the occupation of Wounded Knee attracted a lot of media coverage and increased awareness of Indian issues among the general public, the government refused to consider the activist's demands. Finally, they struck a deal: If some of the activists, including Means and Leonard Crow Dog, allowed themselves to be arrested the federal government would fly them to Washington for negotiations. Unfortunately, negotiations quickly broke down because both sides refused to budge. Barred from returning to Wounded Knee, Means went on a speaking tour around the United States to garner support for the activists. Still, the occupation ended with no demands met.

Post-Wounded Knee

AIM members faced numerous charges, many of them frivolous, that kept them fighting legal battles and drained their financial resources. Means eventually served a prison term. AIM soon disintegrated due to these difficulties and disagreements among the leadership. Means had resigned several times over the years because of differences with other AIM members.

Despite the end of AIM, Means continues to be an activist through the present day. In 1978 he organized a demonstration in Washington known as The Longest Walk to protest pending legislation that would weaken treaty rights. The bills did not pass. He traveled to Nicaragua and Colombia in the 1980s as part of his work with the International Indian Treaty Council. In December, 2007 he led a group of Lakota activists to Washington DC to withdraw from all treaties with the United States and establish the Republic of the Lakotah as an independent country.

Lakota people have a variety of reactions to Means' Lakota Freedom Movement, from gratitude to mistrust. So far it has not had an impact on life on the reservations. However, the Republic is in the process of developing a cultural immersion school on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Means has also become active in Hollywood. He played lead roles in "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Natural Born Killers" and as the voice of Pocahontas' father in the Disney film. He has written protest music, created websites, and founded various initiatives for economic development and cultural education on reservations.

Russell Means remains a controversial figure among the Lakota. Some have criticized his militant methods and radical tactics. He proudly states that his mission through all of these efforts has been eliminating racism against Native people.