55 Facts About Russell Means


Russell Charles Means was an Oglala Lakota activist for the rights of Native Americans, libertarian political activist, actor, musician and writer.


Russell Means became a prominent member of the American Indian Movement after joining the organization in 1968 and helped organize notable events that attracted national and international media coverage.


Russell Means was active in politics at his native Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and at the state and national level.


Russell Means published his autobiography Where White Men Fear to Tread in 1995.


Russell Means was born on November 10,1939 in Porcupine, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, to Theodora Louise Feather and Walter "Hank" Russell Means.


Russell Means's mother was a Yankton Dakota from Greenwood, South Dakota and his father, an Oglala Lakota.


In 1942, the Russell Means family resettled in the San Francisco Bay Area, seeking to escape the poverty and problems of the reservation.

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Russell Means grew up in the Bay Area, graduating in 1958 from San Leandro High School in San Leandro, California.


Russell Means attended four colleges but did not graduate from any of them.


Russell Means's father died in 1967 and, in his twenties, Means lived in several Indian reservations throughout the United States while searching for work.


In 1968, Russell Means joined the American Indian Movement, where he rose to become a prominent leader.


In 1970, Russell Means was appointed AIM's first national director, and the organization began a period of increasing protests and activism.


Russell Means had been there once before, to occupy it for 24 hours under the lead of his father, Walter "Hank" Means, and a few other Lakota men in March 1964.


In 1971 Russell Means was one of the leaders of AIM's takeover of Mount Rushmore, a federal monument.


In 1974, Russell Means resigned from AIM to run for the presidency of his native Oglala Sioux Tribe against the incumbent Richard Wilson.


Russell Means worked with Jimmie Durham, who established the offices of the International Indian Treaty Council to work with the United Nations in 1977.


Russell Means supported the Miskito group MISURASATA, which was allied with the Contras.


Russell Means traveled to Nicaragua in 1985 and 1986 on fact-finding tours.


Russell Means came to believe that the Miskito as a people were being targeted for elimination.


On January 8,1988, Russell Means held a press conference to announce his retirement from AIM, saying it had achieved its goals.


That January, the "AIM Grand Governing Council", headed by the Bellecourt brothers, released a press release noting this was the sixth resignation by Russell Means since 1974, and asking the press to "never again report either that he is a founder of the American Indian Movement, or [that] he is a leader of the American Indian Movement".


Russell Means said that Clyde Bellecourt, a founder of AIM, had ensured that it was carried out at the Pine Ridge Reservation.


Russell Means said that an AIM tribunal had banned the Bellecourt brothers but tried to keep the reason for the dissension internal to protect AIM.


Since the late 1970s, Russell Means often supported libertarian political causes, in contrast with several other AIM leaders.


In 1987, Russell Means ran for nomination of President of the United States under the Libertarian Party, and attracted considerable support within the party, finishing 2nd at the 1987 Libertarian National Convention.

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In 2001, Russell Means began an independent candidacy for Governor of New Mexico.


Russell Means's campaign failed to satisfy procedural requirements and he was not selected for the ballot.


Russell Means said that he preferred "American Indian", arguing that it derives not from explorers' confusion of the people with those of India, but from the Italian expression in Dio, meaning "in God".


In 2007, Russell Means and 80 other protesters were arrested in Denver during a parade for Columbus Day which they stated was a "celebration of genocide".


Russell Means announced the withdrawal by a small group of Lakota people.


Russell Means said that his group does not "represent collaborators, the Vichy Indians and those tribal governments set up by the United States of America".


In October 2009, Russell Means was critical of Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and has been critical when Al Gore and Henry Kissinger received theirs as well.


In January 2012, Russell Means announced his endorsement of Republican Ron Paul in his bid for president.


From 1992 to 2012, Russell Means appeared as an actor in numerous films and television movies, first as the chief Chingachgook in The Last of the Mohicans.


Russell Means appeared as Arrowhead in the made-for-TV movie The Pathfinder, his second appearance in a movie adapted from a novel by James Fenimore Cooper.


Russell Means appeared in Natural Born Killers, as Jim Thorpe in Windrunner, as Sitting Bull in Buffalo Girls, and had a cameo in the miniseries Into the West.


Russell Means was a voice actor in Disney's third highest-selling feature film Pocahontas and its sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, playing the title character's father, Chief Powhatan.


Russell Means starred in Pathfinder, a 2007 movie about Vikings battling Native Americans in the New World.


Russell Means co-starred in Rez Bomb from director Steven Lewis Simpson, the first feature he acted in on his native Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.


Russell Means appeared alongside Tamara Feldman, Trent Ford, and Chris Robinson.


Russell Means was a prominent contributor to Steven Lewis Simpson's feature documentary about Pine Ridge Indian Reservations, A Thunder-Being Nation.


In 2004, Russell Means made a guest appearance on the HBO program Curb Your Enthusiasm.


Russell Means played Wandering Bear, an American Indian with skills in landscaping and herbal medicine.


In 1995, Means published an autobiography, Where White Men Fear to Tread, written with Marvin J Wolf.


Russell Means recounted his own family's problems: his alcoholic father, and his own "fall into truancy, crime and drugs" before he discovered the American Indian Movement.

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Russell Means recorded a CD entitled Electric Warrior with Sound of America Records, in 1993.


Russell Means was an avid painter, with showings at various galleries around the country and the world.


Russell Means appeared as a character in the adventure video game Under a Killing Moon, by Access Software, in 1994.


Russell Means is the focus of the 2014 documentary Conspiracy To Be Free by director Colter Johnson.


Russell Means was married five times; the first four marriages ended in divorce.


Russell Means was married to his fifth wife, Pearl Means, until his death.


Russell Means had a total of ten children: seven biological children and three adopted children, who were "adopted in the Lakota way", including Tatanka Means who is an actor.


Russell Means 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".


Russell Means was cremated and his ashes were sprinkled throughout the Black Hills.


On December 29,1997, Russell Means was arrested for assault and battery of his 56-year-old father-in-law Leon Grant, a member of the Dine Nation.