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Russell Means
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Native American Icon
    (November 10, 1939-October 22, 2012)
    Born in Wanblee, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota
    Oglala Sioux
    Joined the American Indian Movement (AIM)
    Appointed first national director of AIM (1970)
    Participated in AIM occupying Mount Rushmore (1970), the headquarters of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (1972) and Wounded Knee (1973)
    After the Wounded Knee incident, was charged with assault against government officials, larceny and conspiracy
    Charges were dismissed by a judge on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct (1974)
    Appeared in the movies 'Last of the Mohicans' (1992), 'Natural Born Killers' (1994), 'Buffalo Girls' (1995), 'Pocahontas' (voice only, 1995), 'Thomas & the Magic Railroad' (2000) and 'Pathfinder' (2007)
    Recorded the album 'Electric Warrior' (1993)
    Wrote the autobiography 'Where White Men Fear to Tread' (1995)
    He attended four colleges without graduating.
    He said he spent several years of 'truancy, crime and drugs' before joining AIM and finding a purpose.
    Between 1974 and 1988, he announced his resignation from AIM six different times.
    He ran unsuccessfully for the Libertarian presidential nomination, the governorship of New Mexico, and twice for the presidency of the Oglala Sioux tribe.
    He announced that the Sioux were withdrawing from all treaties with the US and establishing a sovereign nation (2007), which might have carried more weight if he had an actual position in the tribal governments.
    He was married five times and divorced four times.
    He was arrested for assault and battery against his father-in-law (1997).
    A critic said, 'I think he could have accomplished ten times what he did eventually accomplish, which was to bring focus on Native American issues, if had followed the path of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi instead of turning to violence and guns.'
    His father was an alcoholic.
    He lost the hearing in one ear from an infection when doctors at a reservation clinic assumed his severe vertigo was a result of inebriation.
    He survived being shot three times and being stabbed.
    He traveled to Nicaragua to support Miskito Indians who were being forcibly relocated by the Sandinista government (1985-86).
    His opinion on the American Indian vs. Native American name debate: 'Anyone born in the Western Hemisphere is a native American.'
    He was described the New York Times as 'strapping and ruggedly handsome.'
    The Los Angeles Times called him and fellow AIM leader Dennis Banks 'the most famous American Indians since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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