Russell Means was born an Oglala/Lakota Sioux Indian. He was the first national director of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in which role he became prominent during 1973 standoff with the US government at Wounded Knee. In 1987, he joined the US Libertarian party and announced his candidacy for the party's presidential nomination. (He lost the nomination to Congressman Ron Paul, and would later endorse his candidacy in 2012.) He has championed the rights of indigenous peoples in other countries as well as the US. In a televised speech to the 2000 Libertarian Party National Convention, Means said that he prefers the label "Indian" to the more politically correct "Native American." "Everyone who is born in America is a native American, " he said.
Since 1992, Means has appeared as an actor in numerous films and TV movies: first as the chief Chingachgook in The Last of the Mohicans
. He appeared as Arrowhead in the made-for-TV movie The Pathfinder
, his second appearance in a movie adapted from a novel by James Fenimore Cooper. He appeared as a shaman in Natural Born Killers
, as Jim Thorpe in Windrunner: A Spirited Journey, as Sitting Bull in Buffalo Girls, and had a cameo in the miniseries Into The West
He was a voice actor in the animated film Pocahontas
and its sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World
, playing the title character's father, Chief Powhatan. Means appeared as Billy Twofeathers in Thomas & the Magic Railroad.
Means starred in Pathfinder
, a 2007 movie about Vikings' battling Native Americans in the New World. Recently Means co-starred in Rez Bomb
from director Steven Lewis Simpson, the first feature filmed on his native Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He stars with Tamara Feldman and Trent Ford and Chris Robinson.
He also appears as a character in the Access Adventure Game Under A Killing Moon
. In 2004 Means made a guest appearance on the HBO program Curb Your Enthusiasm
. Means played Wandering Bear, an American Indian with skills in landscaping and herbal medicine.
In 1976, Andy Warhol
made a portrait of Means as part of his "American Indian Series" of portraits. The portrait can be viewed as part of the collection of the Dayton (Ohio) Art Institute, among other institutions.
Tropes associated with Russell Means:
- Ambadassador: He is an Oglala Sioux activist for the rights of Native American people.
- Bad Ass: And how?!
- Bad Ass Boast:
"All European tradition, Marxism included, has conspired to defy the natural order of all things. Mother Earth has been abused, the powers have been abused, and this cannot go on forever. No theory can alter that simple fact. Mother Earth will retaliate, the whole environment will retaliate, and the abusers will be eliminated. Things come full circle, back to where they started. That's revolution."
- This gem after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer: He claimed not to have it anymore.
"Iíve told people after I die, Iím coming back as lightning. When it zaps the White House, theyíll know itís me."
- Sadly he passed away October 22, 2012, due to his deteriorated health.
- Bad Ass Bookworm: Has traveled to quite a few places and is very knowledgeable in history not only of the United States but the world.
- Bad Ass Creed:
"The one thing I've always maintained is that I'm an American Indian. I'm not politically correct. Everyone who's born in the Western Hemisphere is a Native American. We are all Native Americans."
- Bad Ass Grandpa
- Bad Ass Teacher: This man used to be a ballroom dance instructor.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: When diagnosed with esophageal cancer doctors told Means the cancer was too advanced for surgery. But even if surgery had been an option, he would not have chosen it, since it meant removing his tongue and losing the ability to speak. See Fate Worse than Death below...
- Beware the Nice Ones: Very well spoken, extremely educated as well as very willing to share his culture with those who show an interest. He's also been charged on more than one occassion for assault.
- Cultured Bad Ass: See Bad Ass Bookworm
- Determinator: Has survived nine assasination attempts. He is still around.
- He was diagnosed on August 2011 with esophageal cancer and was given six months to live. On December 5 of the same year, Means stated that he "beat cancer," that he had beat "the death penalty."
- Unfortunately he was mistaken, and died on October 22, 2012.
- Fate Worse than Death: He would not have had surgery for his esophageal cancer if it would have been an option. He viewed the prospect of not having the ability to voice his opinion to be this.
"There are some things worse than death."
- Jack-of-All-Trades: Activist, politician, actor, writer, and poet.
- Previous occupations include assistant golf pro, ballroom dance instructor, computer programmer, systems management director, and accountant.
- Meaningful Name: He was baptized Oyate Wacinyapin, which means "works for the people" in the Lakota language.
- Prophetic Names: Russell's commitment to uplift the plight of his people escalated when he served as director of Cleveland's American Indian Center. He later joined the American Indian Movement (AIM), where he rose to become a prominent leader. His Lakota name, Oyate Wacinyapin means "works for the people", a name he has certainly lived up to.
- Renaissance Man: He is a philosopher, writer, and poet.