Nanette Bradley Deetz in Native Currents. Discussion »
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA This past Sunday, Lenny Foster reflected on the life of Russell Means at the memorial service to honor the late American Indian Movement leader, who passed away on Monday, Oct. 22, after a battle with throat cancer at the age of 72.
(l to r) Wounded Knee O'Campo, "Jimbo" Simmons, Tony Gonzalez, Fred Short, Dennis Banks & Lenny Foster at Inter-tribal Friendship House
Lenny Foster has many memories of Russell Means
“I was one of his dog soldiers. I rode with Russell into battle that day at Wounded Knee on February 27, 1973. I considered Russell a leader, a brother, a comrade and a great friend,”
said Lenny Foster, program supervisor of the corrections project for the Navajo Nation.In his position as spiritual advisor to native men he has visited over 96 prisons and ministered to over 2,000 native incarcerated men, including Leonard Peltier, for the past 30 years. Foster conducts sweat lodges, pipe ceremonies and talking circles, as well as advocacy and works closely with prisoner's families.
“Russell Means was also a great athlete. I first met him on the basketball court, in spring of 1966, when he played for the Phoenix Chiefs and I played with the Gallup Clay Faultz Bruins. Then I saw him sun dance at Pine Ridge, South Dakota in 1970. There he danced with Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Pete Catches, Leonard Crow Dog and Leonard Peltier,”
(l to r) Tony Gonzalez, Dennis Banks, Fred Short & Lenny Foster with photo of Russell Means
“While I was a student at Colorado State Univ., I went down to Denver and joined up with AIM. Russell Means was very intelligent, talented and unique. He really did it all. He was a gift to all of us. My deepest condolences to his family and children,”
“Bill Means, the only surviving brother of Russell expressed it best when he said: 'He will be replaced by thousands. One person is not going to replace him, but through his work, through his family, he will be replaced 1,000 times over.'”
The memorial service was held at the Inter-tribal Friendship House in Oakland, California. Lakota Hardin, niece of Russell Means, organized the event with Tony Gonzalez, executive director of AIM-WEST.
William "Jimbo" Simmons served as emcee for the event. Besides Foster, guest speakers included Fred Short, AIM spiritual advisor; Luta Candelaria of the Rumsen band of the Ohlone Nation; and California Clappers also provided traditional songs.
All Nations Drum group provided special songs for the occasion, and an original guitar tribute was performed by Daniel G. Rodriguez. Dr. Jose Cuellar provided a lovely traditional flute performance.
A tribute video by Robert Kelly that encapsulated some of the achievements of Russell Means during his life was also shown.
Dennis Banks gave an emotionally moving and sometimes humorous account of his memories of Russell Means.
“Russell took the values of the Lakota, Anishinabe, Dine, everywhere and anywhere he went. He lived the traditional values of our people. To Russell, his best will be whatever you decide to do with your life,”
“If you can stand up and speak out when you are surrounded by injustice, cruelty, racism and still fight back, you will be following in the footsteps of Russell Means,”
Dennis Banks reminded us.
Nanette Bradley Deetz is of Dakota/Cherokee and German descent. She is a poet, writer, educator and sometimes musician whose poetry appears in several anthologies. The most current is "Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down," published by Scarlett Tanager Press; "Turtle Island to Abya Yala, A Love Anthology of Art and Poetry by Native American and Latina Women," Malinalli Press, and "Alameda Island Theme Poems, 2004,2005 & 2006. " She combines poetry and music in her band, Redbird Giving which performs at many Bay Area native and non-native venues. She is a correspondent for the Alameda Journal, Alameda Sun and Native News Network.
photo credit Charles Lopez, Sr;
posted December 12, 2012 8:40 am est