Thursday, March 9, 2017

Russell Means: a Native American legend walks on

Russell Means 1939-2012
Russell Means  was an activist, a musician, an actor, politician and a writer and  led protests that called attention to the nation’s history of injustices against Native Americans. Russell – named  Wanbli Ohitika by his mother, which means "Brave Eagle" in the Lakota language-- was born in Porcupine, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. His mother was a Yankton Dakota from Greenwood, South Dakota, and his father was an Oglala Lakota.

Russell was active outside of the United States helping other indigenous peoples in Central and South America, and worked with the United Nations for their rights. In 1992 he appeared on numerous television series and in several films, including The Last of the Mohicans, and released his own music CD. He published his autobiography: “Where White Men Fear to Tread” in 1995. Russell walked on in 2012, less than a month before his 73rd birthday.

When Russell walked on ABC News said he "spent a lifetime as a modern American Indian warrior, railed against broken treaties, fought for the return of stolen land and even took up arms against the federal government, called national attention to the plight of impoverished tribes and often lamented the waning of Indian culture."   The New York Times said Russell " was as well-known a Native American as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse."

Being famous didn’t prevent him from being mistreated like many other Native Americans.  While at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in south-central South Dakota, he developed severe vertigo – he couldn’t walk straight. Doctors at the reservation clinic thought he was drunk. They refused to examine him for several days. Then they said he had a concussion probably due to a fight in a saloon. A visiting specialist later found that the reservation doctors missed the real diagnosis: a common ear infection. This stereotyping and neglectful behavior cost Russell the hearing in one ear.

The ashes of Russell Means were sprinkled throughout the sacred Black Hills, SD. Ruth Hopkins writing in the Indian Country Media Network (2014) about the Black hills: “To say that the Black Hills hold special significance for the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation) is an understatement. They’re not only our traditional homelands, where our ancestors once lived, they’re sacred. The Black Hills (K?e Sapa) are the birthplace of our Nation, where we rose from Mother Earth’s womb. Our legends took place there. The Black Hills itself is a terrestrial mirror of the heavens above and thus forms the basis of our ancient star maps and Lakota astronomy. The entirety of K?e Sapa is a sacred site. Our rituals observe the natural cycles of the planet and our Universe. There are ceremonies that we must conduct at specific locations within the Black Hills. These ancient ceremonies benefit the whole of humanity. No, we aren’t talking about dirt protected by ‘No Trespassing’ signs. K?e Sapa is holy ground. It is where we are meant to pray.”

Listening to Russell Means talk about his people ( can only put some humanity in our hearts – it should go viral; share it with everyone you know.