Russell Means American Indian activist

Russell Means belonging to the Oglala Lakota Indian tribe was born on November 10, 1939 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. When Means was growing up he was constantly moving around, mostly in the Bay Area. As he grew up and was nearing towards his middle years in high school, he got involved with a bad crowd, from there he started to both sell and do drugs. Years later after being introduced to how badly many American Indian tribes are being treated, his work in activism would gain momentum. He became heavily associated with the American Indian Movement and would then peruse careers in the arts. While pursuing his acting career he still stayed in touch with his roots and continued to support a deep level of knowledge and activism. He is often deemed as a catalyst fro change because his ability to understand and impact the people around him.

The American Indian Movement (AIM)

While participating in and establishing the Cleveland American Indian Center, Russell Means would start to work with the American Indian Movement founded by Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt. The American Indian Movement had been established in order to provide support for American Indians and fight back against unjust behavior by politicians and the government. Alongside Russell Means, AIM would fight back against the lack of respect for American Indians by the government in a physical way which was reflected off of the black panther party.

(watch 7:15 - 8:20)

Alcatraz Occupation

The group Indians of all Tribes would claim the land known previously as the Alcatraz U.S. Penitentiary, which has shut down in 1963 since by the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) all unreserved federal land is American Indian Land. The statement given by Indians of all Tribes to the press included a statement discusses payment for the land “We, the native Americans, reclaim the land known as Alcatraz Island in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.... We will purchase said Alcatraz for twenty-four dollars in glass beads and red cloth.... Our offer of 1.24 per acre is greater than the 47 cents per acre the white men are now paying the California Indians for their land.”

Though this act was not directly instated by AIM or Russell Means, it was a key aspect of how Means would come to be involved in American Indian activism. Means attended the occupation when he was growing up and it would then lead him to be courageous and stand up for rights of American Indians across the U.S..

The Trail of Broken Treaties

In order to get government officials to notice AIM they would need to force confrontation in order to expose the government's wrong doing. This was done by AIM in 1972, they gathered in caravans with more than 100 Indians to travel to Washington DC to demand that the US government honor its Indian treaties. They then waited for hours with no bureaucrats agreeing to work with them. This would lead to the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Building.

Russell Means encouraged the ban of caravans to travel to Washington DC in hopes of proving not only a point to the U.S. government but also to the American Indians with AIM. This alone proved Means' level of commitment and determination for his fellow people.

(watch from 4:12-4.32)

Bureau of Indian Affairs Building Occupation

After no negotiation took place with the Trail of Broken Treaties The BIA building was taken over by AIM and other activities. The building was then destroyed partially and historical artifacts were repossessed by activists, since they were originally taken from Indian land over centuries. The BIA building held a surplus a important documents Indian related and non-Indian related, they decided to fake out the police by burning random documents and taking documents involving the BIA and Indians, which they could use later on to prove the governments wrong doing.

All of the AIM leaders were very proud of being able to accomplish the occupation of the BIA building, but when the looting and destruction began to occur, they tried to calm it down and establish sense in people. Through this compromise was able to be made through Means who encouraged people to put there destruction elsewhere, thus burning random BIA papers to fool to bureaucrats.

Wounded Knee 1973

In 1973 Wounded Knee in South Dakota took place once again on the same land that the fist Wounded Knee took place. The goal of this occupation is based around protesting Richard Wilson as the president of the Oglala Sioux tribal council. American Indians were constantly being harassed by Wilson and the Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOON squad). With Wilson's GOON squad hunting people down, fear of law enforcement became a huge threat. After the reign of terror The Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization made an official request to bring AIM in to fight against Wilson; this resulted in a 71 day siege on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Though this was recorded from 1999-2011 the data can still be applied to the time period in which Russell Means was fighting. American Indians especially in the time of Wilson GOON squad had to fear law enforcement more than ever.

Means directly showed his level of leadership through this siege considering that he was one of the main leaders of the movement. While this was happening Means worked with the people around him to keep people safe as well as ways to prove that they were willing and able to communicate with the government.

Yellow Thunder Camp

Near Victoria Creek Canyon, South Dakota, in 1972, Russell Means and other AIM activists established a camp on federal land in efforts to reclaim the Black Hills for the Lakota American Indians. In the beginning stages they did not have a permit to stay on the land but Means had urged the Forest Service to let them remain since the Forest Service was violating the American Indian Freedom of Religion Act of 1978. At this camp many American Indians were able to see the role of their people on a society but unfortunately they also experienced racism and judgement. This camp holds only proud people who can overcome anything. In 2017 this camp is still active and inspiring American Indians everywhere to overcome judgment and the government funded genocide of American Indians.

Russell Means a catalyst for the American Indian Movement, provided help and pride to hundreds of American Indians across the United States. By showing his true self at all times Means' transparency allowed for trust to be established and spread. We also see Means' confidence leading to what would lead to great accomplishments on the part of the American Indian Movement.

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