Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
KYLE, SOUTH DAKOTA It was raining on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as carloads of American Indians drove from Porcupine to the small hamlet of Kyle to honor Russell Means, Lakotah, who walked on early Monday morning.
Russell Means Honor Procession
A slow-moving caravan followed those on horseback, who accompanied the remains of Russell Means' remains to Kyle for an honoring service in his honor: A single rider-less horse carried an urn that contained his ashes.
The reservation already so rich in history was the site of honoring Wednesday of one of the past century's renowned American Indian leaders.
One reader of the Native News Network commented this week online:
“Many Americans are not educated to know Native Activists. One like Russell Means is to Indians and Native Americans as Martin Luther King is to Black Americans.”
Those who gathered to honor Russell Means came from near and far. They came to honor the man, the father, the brother, the uncle, the warrior, the actor and the statesman because Means was all of the above.
The service was held in the gymnasium of the Little Wound High School. One wall of the gymnasium contains the name of its sports team "Mustangs" painted huge letters on it. In the gymnasium was a large white teepee adorned with an American Indian Movement flag and a large multi-colored quilt that was distinctively Lakota in design. Speakers addressed the crowd from a podium adorned with another quilt.
Those who gathered to honor Russell Means came from near and far.
In the teepee, the urn that contained his ashes was placed during the service.
“The first thing about freedom is:
You are free to be responsible,”
read Means's words in the caption on the honoring program distributed to attendees.
The service to honor the iconic Russell Means brought together American Indian Movement warriors of the 1970s. Dennis Banks, Ojibwe, wearing a black hat artistically trimmed with Indian beadwork, and Clyde Bellecourt, Ojibwe, aided by a walking stick, were there.
Collectively, the three of them Russell Means, Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt were known as the Big Three of the American Indian Movement. They were brothers in the fight against injustices against American Indians everywhere.
Banks spoke about the legacy of Means and reflected on being on trial with Means for leading the 1973 takeover of Wounded Knee. They were indicted and were tried together in federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“We used to laugh about it in court. We each faced 250 years and each a life sentence. He said to me, 'You do the 250 years and I will do the life sentence.' He said it is the US government that should be on trial, not us. In the end when Judge Nichols declared a mistrial, he said the government should have been on trial,”
Bellecourt affectionately referred to Means as his brother.
“Our brother is gone, but his spirit will be with us forever,”
“I have been on the front lines with him many times and he never backed down.”
Both American Indian Movement leaders spoke of the responsibility to keep working hard on behalf of American Indians to this and future generations.
“I am telling you today we are still at war. we have never surrendered. we are at war against the alcohol, drugs. A war against diabetes,”
declared Bellecourt in a rhythm of a fervent preacher.
“The Movement is burning in your hearts. you have the responsibility to carry this great revolution forward. We all must unite. The Creator will take care of the rest.”
Leonard Peltier, who is considered a political prisoner by many, sent a messenger to read a statement which spoke of his devotion to Means from his prison cell in Florida.
Hundreds of mourners flowed in and out of the gymnasium during the course of the 12 hours designated to honor Means.
At the conclusion of the honoring service, members of Means' family went into the teepee to pay their final respects to him.
posted October 25, 2012 7:00 am edt