Russell Means: Native American activist and Hollywood actor
Russell Means was one of the leaders of the Native American armed occupation of the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, a 71-day siege in 1973. Russell Means also starred in "The Last of the Mohicans" and was guest star in the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Russell Means, a former American Indian Movement activist who helped lead a 1973 uprising against the U.S. government and appeared in several Hollywood films, has died. He was 72.Skip to next paragraph
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Means led AIM's armed occupation of the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, a 71-day siege that included several gun battles with federal officers. AIM was founded in the late 1960s to protest the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans and demand the government honor its treaties with Indian tribes.
Means denied the group ever promoted violence.
"You people who want to continue to put AIM in this certain pocket of illegality, I can't stand you people," Means said during an April gathering commemorating the uprising's anniversary. "I wish I was a little bit healthier and a little bit younger, because I wouldn't just talk."
Means told the AP in 2011 that before AIM, there had been no advocate on a national or international scale for American Indians and that Native Americans were ashamed of their heritage.
"No one except Hollywood stars and very rich Texans wore Indian jewelry," Means said. "That's all changed." The movement eventually faded away as Native Americans became self-aware and self-determined, Means said.
He was often embroiled in controversy, partly because of AIM's alleged involvement in a 1975 killing. But Means was also known for his role in the movie "The Last of the Mohicans" and his unsuccessful run for the Libertarian nomination for president in 1988.
Paul DeMain, publisher of Indian Country Today, there plenty of Indian activists existed before AIM, but the group became the "radical media gorilla."
"If someone needed help, you called on the American Indian Movement and they showed up and caused all kind of ruckus and looked beautiful on a 20-minute clip on TV that night," DeMain said.
Means said he felt his most important accomplishment was the founding of the Republic of Lakotah and the "re-establishment of our freedom to be responsible" as a sovereign nation inside the borders of the United States. His efforts to have his proposed country recognized by the international community continued at the United Nations, he said, even as it was ignored by tribal governments closer to home, including his own Oglala Sioux Tribe.
But others may remember him for his former organization's connection to the killing of Annie Mae Aquash, whose death remains synonymous with AIM and its often violent clashes with federal agents in the 1970s.