Warrior Russell Means to be honored Wednesday
Russell Means, warrior for the people, to be honored Wednesday
By Brenda Norrell
Photo Russell Means by Daniel Luna, Longest Walk 1978
The tribal flag at the Oglala Lakota Nation office is flying at half mast today, Tuesday, in honor of Russell Means, whose life of resistance has inspired a generation of Indigenous rights warriors.
The life of Russell Means, a warrior for the people, will be celebrated on Wednesday, Oct. 24, in Kyle, South Dakota, on Pine Ridge. Means' piercing words and clarity of style on American Indian rights, placed him at the forefront of the struggle of the American Indian Movement that spans four decades.
Means passed to the Spirit World on Monday with the Morning Star at 4:44 am, at home in Porcupine, South Dakota, on Pine Ridge, surrounded by his wife Pearl, family and friends.
From tackling the BIA superintendent on the Navajo Nation during a citizen’s arrest, to leading the Columbus Day protests in Denver, to demanding that the Lewis and Clark Expedition leave South Dakota, to the formation of the Lakotah Republic in his homeland, Means was a symbol of the bold fearlessness of the American Indian Movement.
Whether he was facing off with BIA officials in Washington, or confronting them on the Stronghold in the Badlands where Lakotas fled after the Massacre of Wounded Knee, Means symbolized the AIM stance of never backing down.
Means fight for human rights extended beyond the Occupation of Wounded Knee and the US borders, to solidarity with Palestine. Although Means was hospitalized with cancer and unable to speak at the recent Russell Tribunal on Palestine in New York, his stance was clear.
Means said what is happening now to Palestinians is what happened to American Indians. "Every policy now the Palestinians are enduring was practiced on the American Indian," Means said in an interview.
"What the American Indian Movement says is that the American Indians are the Palestinians of the United States, and the Palestinians are the American Indians of Europe.”
When Bolivian President Evo Morales took the lead in climate talks, the protection of Mother Earth, and recognizing the Rights of Nature, Means said, "This is what tribal councils should be doing."
During his lifetime of fighting for justice, Means demanded that the US honor treaties and return stolen lands. He said the only people who get ahead are those who sell out to the colonial system. He said the United States does not want to be reminded of the smallpox blankets, theft, colonialism and mistreatment of the American Indian. Further, he said most Americans do not realize that the financial collapse of this country is only beginning. Americans cannot continue the lifestyles of consumers when there is no money.
Means said Indian lands have become open air concentration camps. "If you chose to stay on the reservation, you are guaranteed to be poor, unless you are part of the colonial apparatus set up by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, set up the United States," he said.
On Indian lands, everyone fights to be part of the tribal governments because that is where the money is. Everyone fights to be part of the colonial system. "The only way you can be part of the colonial system is to obey."
"Our grandmother the Mother Earth is tired of the human race. "
Glenn Morris, who was at Means' side during protests in Denver, said the upcoming gatherings will honor Means, who inspired Indigenous around the world.
"In recognition of one of the primary, visionary leaders in beginning the contemporary work of international indigenous peoples' liberation, of which we are all beneficiaries. Without Russell, it is doubtful that many of us who do this work would have had the honor of continuing to defend our peoples in this way. Indigenous leaders, ranging from Rigoberta Menchu Tum, to Subcomandante Marcos to Evo Morales, have said that their work was inspired and motivated by the words, actions and example of Russell Means. May we all remember the historic contributions of Russell Means to the freedom and self-determination of all indigenous peoples, everywhere."
Leonard Peltier released this statement:
I wish I was there to talk with you in person and share with you the sorrow that I feel with the passing of Russell Means, my brother, my friend, and inspiration on many levels. Russell Means will always be an icon whenever the American Indian Movement is spoken of and whenever people talk about the changes that took place, the changes that are taking place now for Indian people.
One thing about Russell I always remembered, and I think someone else once said it, you may have loved him, or you may have disliked him, but you couldn't ignore him. I'll always remember when an elder said one time, I was at a ceremony and I asked what this half shaped moon circle on the ground meant, and he said it was a symbol of the circle of life, the never ending of the circle of life, and I said there is only half a circle, and he said the other half was unseen, it is the spirit world. For Indian people it never ends, we don't have a linear existence, so I know I will see Russell again, and I take comfort in that thought. For men like Russell Means don't come along in a lifetime very often. He was truly an inspiration for all of us younger guys at the time. He had good words to say, he was eloquent when he spoke them, and he spoke English as clearly and precisely and as articulate as any one I have ever heard speak. And he knew what he was talking about. And I know all of you out there, as well as myself, will always remember our friend, our brother and fellow activist, and how he stood with us to recapture the freedoms we've lost, and protect the ones that we still have, and bring about a better future for our people, and all people of this Mother Earth, who's nature is in peril.
I really don't know what else to say about our brother Russell, other than to Russell himself, "We'll see you again my brother Russell, in some other time and in some other place, we will always be your friend, and we will always look forward to seeing your face. Mitakuye Oyasin."
In the spirit of Crazy Horse, and Russell Means.
I'll close for now. Leonard Peltier
The family of Russell Means invited others to celebrate his life:
The family of Russell Means invites you to join us in “Honoring the Life of Russell Means." The honoring will highlight his life, leadership and the eternal fire that he re-ignited throughout Indian Country.
October 24, 2012, begins at 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. MST, at Little Wound High School Gymnasium in Kyle, South Dakota USA, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Russell Means, a self-described “Oglala Lakota Patriot and Freedom Fighter," began his journey to the spirit world at 4:44 am, with the Morning Star, at his home and ranch in Porcupine.
This Honoring will be the first of four opportunities for the people to honor his life. The next three Honorings are tentatively scheduled as follows: 2nd Honoring at Wounded Knee’73 Occupation Memorial (Feb 2013); 3rd Honoring at Wind Cave State Park, SD (June 2013); 4th Honoring on Russell’s birthday (Nov 10, 2013) at location to be determined.
There will be a designated media area at the Honoring on Wednesday at Little Wound School. Press credentials required.
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