Russell Means is captivating figure of the modern civil rights period in the United States. In our December 28th First Person Radio program, Laura Waterman Wittstock and Miguel Vargas discuss his life. Means, an honorary Ph.D, is writing two books on Lakota philosophy and culture/language. He is battling esophageal cancer and cancer of the lungs but he has chosen traditional Indian medicine and alternative treatment as his approaches toward a cure.
Russell Means by the Decades:
Becomes a national media spokesman for the fledgling American Indian Movement by confronting costumed Pilgrims during a Thanksgiving re-enactment in Plymouth, Mass.
Organizes a protest rally in Gordon, Neb., over the death of Raymond Yellow Thunder, which resulted in manslaughter indictments against two men.
Is arrested along with 80 other people in the 1973 Custer County Courthouse riot, eventually serving one month in jail for his role in it.
Organizes the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation with Dennis Banks and Leonard Peltier, a 10-week siege which made AIM a household word in America. A judge dismisses federal charges against him during a lengthy trial.
Is acquitted of murder charges in the 1975 death of a man in a barroom brawl.
Loses a close election for the presidency of the Oglala Sioux Tribe to Dick Wilson.
Joins a U.S.-backed indigenous tribe in Nicaragua in its war against the communist Sandinista government, causing Means to quip, “I fought the capitalists and I fought the communists.”
Launches a successful acting career with his role in “The Last of the Mohicans,” eventually appearing in at least 32 movies and television shows, including Disney’s “Pocohontas” and Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers,” as well as “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Publishes his autobiography, “Where White Men Fear to Tread.”
Releases two albums of original music.
Ran unsuccessfully for president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, losing to Theresa Two Bulls.
Launched the Republic of Lakotah, an attempt to reassert the original land claims of the sovereign Sioux Nation by withdrawing from the 1851 and 1868 treaties with the United States.