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Russell Means

Russell Charles Means (November 10, 1939 — October 22, 2012) was an Oglala Lakota actor and activist. He was the first national director of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in which role he became prominent during 1973 standoff with the U.S. government at Wounded Knee. In 1987, he joined the U.S. Libertarian party and announced his candidacy for the party's presidential nomination. (He lost the nomination to Congressman Ron Paul, though evidently there were no hard feelings about this, as Means would later endorse Paul's candidacy in 2012.) He had championed the rights of indigenous peoples in other countries as well as the United States. In a televised speech to the 2000 Libertarian Party National Convention, Means said that he preferred the label "Indian" to the more politically correct "Native American." "Everyone who is born in America is a native American," he said.

Starting in 1992, Means 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 in a cameo role 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 and the Magic Railroad.

Means starred in Pathfinder (2007), a movie about Vikings battling Native Americans in the New World. Means co-starred in Rez Bomb from director Steven Lewis Simpson, the first feature filmed on his native Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He starred with Tamara Feldman, 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 was a member of the Oglala Tribe of the Lakota Nation, and an activist for the rights of all Indigenous American people.
  • Badass Boast:
    Russell: 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.
    Russell: 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.
  • Badass Bookworm: Had traveled to quite a few places and was very knowledgeable in history not only of the United States but the world.
  • Badass Creed:
    Russell: 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.
    • Russell believed Columbus is mistakenly attributed as having thought he found Indianote , because he wrote he'd found a place with "una gente indios." Russell connected the word indios not only with "indigenous" but with "en Dios" — in God, or as God made them. Columbus did not really write "una gente indios". He did say that the people believed in heaven, and did not worship idols. More to the point, Russell emphasized that the treaties and legal papers between Indians and Anglos all say "Indians," and this is crucial to prevent loopholes as the people take legal actions to get their land back.
  • Badass 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.
  • 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 occasion for assault.
  • Determinator: He survived nine assassination attempts.
    • 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 beaten "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.
    Russell: 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", and he has certainly lived up to that name.
  • Renaissance Man: He was a philosopher, writer, and poet.