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Monday, 22 October 2012

Rest Well Russell Means

Oglala Sioux activist Russel Means has died at the age of 72.

Means was born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, a community located in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, to Theodora Feather and Harold "Hank" Means. Means participated—together with his father—in the 1964 Alcatraz occupation. In 1968 at age 29, Means joined the American Indian Movement (AIM), where he rose to become a prominent leader.In 1970, Means was appointed AIM's first national director, and the organization began a period of increasing protests and activism.

On Thanksgiving Day 1970, Means and other AIM activists staged their first protest in Boston: they seized the Mayflower II, a replica ship of the Mayflower, to protest the Puritans' and United States' mistreatment of Native Americans. Later that year, Means was one of the leaders of AIM's takeover of Mount Rushmore, a federal monument.

In 1972, he participated in AIM's occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. Many confidential records were taken or destroyed, and more than $2 million in damages was done to the building. In 1973, Dennis Banks and Charles Camp led AIM's occupation of Wounded Knee, which became the group's most well-known action. Means appeared as a spokesman and prominent leader as well. The armed standoff of more than 300 Lakota and AIM activists with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and state law enforcement lasted for 71 days. A visiting Cherokee from North Carolina and an Oglala Lakota activist from Pine Ridge Reservation were killed in April 1973.

In August 2011, Means was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He told the Associated Press that he was rejecting "mainstream medical treatments in favor of traditional American Indian remedies and alternative treatments away from his home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation".In late September, Means reported that through tomotherapy, the tumor had diminished greatly.Later he said that his tumor was "95% gone." On December 5, Means stated that he "beat cancer," that he beat "the death penalty."However, his health continued to decline and he died on October 22, 2012, less than a month before his 73rd birthday.

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