Interview with Russell Means (May 28, 2009)
Russell Means has lived a life like few others in this century. He was born into a society and guided by way of life that gently denies the self in order to promote the survival and betterment of family and community. His culture is driven by tradition, which at once links the past to the present.
The L.A. Times has called him the most famous American Indian since Sitting Bull. His indomitable sense of pride and leadership has become embedded in our national character. His path has also taken him to Hollywood, thus enabling him to use different means to communicate his vital truths. Through the power of media, his vision is to create peaceful and positive images celebrating the magic and mystery of his American Indian heritage. In contemplating the fundamental issues about the world in which we live, he is committed to educating all people about our most crucial battle-the preservation on the earth.
Over thirty years ago, reflecting the consciousness of the sixties, he captured national attention when he led the 71-day armed takeover on the sacred grounds of Wounded Knee, a tiny hamlet in the heart of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. As the first National Director of the American Indian Movement, Means led “The Longest Walk” in 1978 to protest a new tide of anti-Indian legislation including the forced sterilization of Indian women. Following the walk, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution saying that national policy was to protect the rights of Indians, “to believe, express and exercise their traditional religions, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.”
Russell has consulted with various Indigenous cultures of the Western Hemisphere including; Nicaragua, Hawaii, Guam and Ecuador. In 1985, he participated in the first Peace Conference held between the Indians and the Sandinista’s of Nicaragua held in Bogota, Columbia. In 1986, he negotiated with the White House, on behalf of the Indian Peoples of Nicaragua who were in an armed struggle against the Sandinista.
Russell negotiated with the White House in 1972, after the BIA take over.
In 1973, he negotiated with Assistant U.S. Attorney General, Kent Frizzell the Lakota’s 10 points that included congressional hearings into the status of the Fort Laramie Treaties, and investigation of the wholesale violations of Oglala civil rights. In 1986, Russell testified before the Senate Select Committee of Indian Affairs on the issues of Tribal Government corruption.