Russell Means, the charismatic and controversial Lakota Sioux activist for the rights of Native American people, died earlier today at his home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. During his lifetime, Means was a central figure in ~
- the 1964 occupation of Alcatraz Island
- the leadership of the American Indian Movement (AIM)
- the Thanksgiving day 1970 seizure of a replica of the Mayflower
- the 1972 occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Washington, DC
- the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, SD, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. AIM members and supporters were under armed seige by the FBI, federal marshals, and the military for 71 days, as they protested conditions on the reservation and the violent tactics of tribal president Dick Wilson.
- support for the rights of indigenous peoples around the world
Means was the target of assassination attempts on several occasions. His autobiography, Where White Men Fear To Tread, describes events in his formative years which led him to become an activist. He also appeared in a number of movies, including the 1992 film The Last of the Mohicans.
The NYTimes retrospective on Means noted that he "helped revive the warrior image of the American Indian". It should be noted that the warrior image included caring for his people, advocating for tribal tradition, and taking on his people's oppressor (the US government) without hesitation. Means was more flamboyant than his fellow AIM leader, the more introspective Dennis Banks. The two men provided a necessary balance during a time of adversity ~ a time which continues to this day for Native peoples.