Rhonda LeValdo in Native Currents. Discussion »
PORCUPINE, SOUTH DAKOTA Russell Means was called the "most famous American Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse" by the Los Angeles Times. He helped lead the American Indian Movement with the occupation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973 to protest the government's treatment of native nations.
1939 - 2012
The coverage of the 71-day standoff with Federal Bureau Investigators propelled the leaders into the national spotlight. Unfortunately, the killing of a young woman named Anna Mae Aquash deterred the mission of AIM. Means blamed another AIM member Vernon Bellecourt of her killing in which those allegations were denied. Eventually two AIM members, Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham were convicted of the killing.
As Means became an outspoken advocate of American Indian issues, he ran for Vice President in 1984 with Larry Flynt for the Republican nomination. Means also ran for President on the Libertarian ticket in 1988. Means in addition had two campaigns for Tribal President of the Oglala Lakota nation, both of which he lost.
Many non-natives recognize Means through his acting work which began in 1992 when appeared in "The Last of the Mohicans" as Chingachgook. He also was in "Natural Born Killers", and "Pocahontas".
Means latest work was establishing the Republic of the Lakotah, land in South Dakota that he established with others to become a free and independent sovereign country.
In 2011, Means went public about his inoperable throat cancer where he said he was forgoing mainstream medical treatments for traditional American Indian medicine and other alternative treatments. In January 2012, Means declared he had beaten cancer and was told that he was in remission. But, by August 2012 Means was again told he had new cancer spots.
According to a statement released by the family:
“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."”
Means wrote an autobiography called "Where White Men Fear to Tread" in it he stated,
“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.”
Rhonda LeValdo, Acoma Pueblo, is a faculty member at Haskell Indian Nations University, teaching Media Communications. She is also the president of the Native American Journalists Association.
posted October 24, 2012 6:50 am edt