American Indian Activist Russell Means Dies at 72
Russell Means, the man often credited as the most famous American Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, lost his battle with esophageal cancer this morning at the age of 72. Means, an Oglala Sioux, will be remembered for bringing awareness to the injustices of indigenous peoples across the nation and guerrilla-tactic protests that often resulted in his arrest.
Born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, Means became the first National Director of the American Indian Movement in 1970. He attracted national attention when he directed a band of Indian protesters as they seized the Mayflower II ship replica in a confrontation with costumed “Pilgrims” on Thanksgiving day.
Over the next 30 years, Means would garner national attention as he orchestrated prayer vigils at Mount Rushmore to stake claims of the Black Hills land for the Lakota people, participated in The Trail of Broken Treaties, and led a weeklong occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in protest of treaties made to indigenous peoples broken by the national government.