Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
and wife Pearl
San Jose, New Mexico - Recently the Native News Network interviewed Russell Means, Lakota, by telephone to get an update on his health and to discuss other topics. It was last July when he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus by doctors at the UCLA Medical Center.
One option he had was to have part of his tongue removed. He quickly rejected that option, electing instead to rely on alternative medicine. For several months, Means went extensive tomotherapy, an intensity modulated radiation treatment, at the Sunridge Medical Wellness Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. He also relied on Native healing methodologies that included drinking herbal teas.
Means gained international fame as one of the most prominent American Indian Movement leaders during the 1970s. Since then, he has worked for American Indian rights and human rights throughout Indian Country and in other spots around the world.
In the early 1990s, Means became a Hollywood actor. Since 1992, he has appeared in "The Last of the Mohicans," "The Pathfinder," "Natural Born Killers," "Windrunner: A Spirited Journey," "Thomas and the Magic Railroad." His served as the voice of Chief Pawhatan in "Pocahontas" in the hit 1995 Disney movie.
Means was in great spirits during the telephone interview.
Russell, I am hearing good reports that you are doing better. Tell us how you are doing?
Russell Means: I am doing fine. My doctor told me,
"Mr. Means, you will not die of cancer."
I am cancer-free. There is no trace of cancer in my body. And, I do appreciate all of the prayers from around the world.
I am back home now. In November I lost my brother, Ted to a heart attack. So I went to South Dakota to bury him. He was seven years younger. It makes it hard when you have to bury a younger brother, but I am doing okay.
Six years ago, we buried another brother, Dace, who was the first general manager of the KILI radio station on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Now I am back home working on writing a book. I am so pleased to be back home after eight months of being away from home. Actually, I have two books I am working on right now.
Tell me about the books.
Russell Means: The first one is named "If You've Forgotten the Name of the Clouds, You've Lost Your Way." It is basically done, but needs some editing. The book is an introduction into American Indian thought and philosophy. I favor selling it online. It will be about 80 pages and have some of my drawings of clouds over the northern plains.
The second book is named "Indian Killers." When I was growing up back in the 1940s - when I was a boy - it was politically correct to use the term "Indian killers." These Indian killers were American heroes.
I am talking about people such as: Davy Crockett, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Cortes and even Columbus. I am going to flesh them out - twelve Indian killers. I am going to talk about not only what they did, but also about their policies - of why they killed Indians.
It is a different approach. It will not only be a history book, but I am going to write it so that it is entertaining. I have oil paintings of all twelve so people can find out what they really were about in history.
I think there is a large audience for books like these. Bayard Johnson, who is Ojibwa and Cherokee, is co-authoring both books with me.
What is your reaction to death of former South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow?
Russell Means: I was actually saddened when I heard the news. You know, Bill Janklow was one of the first people to call me last year when it was announced I had cancer. He told me he would pull strings to get me into the Mayo Clinic for treatment.
Of course, I was not interested in going there, but it means a lot to me that he called me. This was before he was diagnosed with cancer. Now he is gone from it.
It killed him.
The Leonard Peltier Walk for Human Rights was launched on Alcatraz Island on December 18. Do you support it? Will you walk with the long walkers?
Russell Means: I could not be there in December, but I am very much in support of the walk. With everything going on, I just heard about it. I guess you could say I have been out of the loop.
I will be happy to walk with them when they get close to where I am. I have always supported Leonard.
I support Leonard's release.
updated 4:23 pm est; posted January 31, 2012 11:57 am est
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