Former American Indian Movement activist dies at 72 - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Former American Indian Movement activist dies at 72

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Former American Indian Movement activist and actor Russell Means died early Monday morning at his home in Porcupine, South Dakota which is on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

His family issued this statement Monday, "our dad and husband, now walks among our ancestors. He began his journey to the spirit world at 4:44 am, with the Morning Star. As our dad and husband would always say, may the great mystery continue to guide and protect the paths of you and your loved ones."

"Russell was an incredibly dynamic person and he didn't walk into a room without drawing all the attention," Elizabeth Castle said.

It's that charisma that University of South Dakota assistant professor of Native Studies Elizabeth Castle talks a lot about in our interview Monday. She works with the women in Russell Means' family.

The former American Indian Movement activist helped instill pride among Native Americans in Indian country. The movement was founded in the late 1960's to protest the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans and demand the government honor its treaties with Indian tribes.

Means helped led the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee, a bloody confrontation that raised America's awareness about the struggles of Indians.

He railed against broken treaties, fought for the return of stolen land and even took up arms against the federal government.

"He rocked the boat and he stood up and put himself absolutely and completely on the line, his life on the line and change doesn't come easy. Change comes with sacrifice. I'm sure it impacted his family but it also changed the politics and the social relations in Indian county forever," Castle said.

And he was someone many drew to -- or didn't.

"Russell Means is someone people loved to loved or loved to hate," Castle said.

No matter your feeling on him, his death is devastating to many.

"It's losing a generation. It's losing a storyteller, a secret keeper. He was all of those things. He was a change agent," Castle said.

Means was battling throat cancer. He was 72-years-old. He appeared in Hollywood films, including "The Last of the Mohicans"and voiced Chief Powhatan in "Pocahontas."

Castle says he also listened to the women in his family because he said they brought life into the world and should be respected.

Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday at the Little Wound school in Kyle, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. His ashes will be scattered in the Black Hills on Thursday.


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