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Actor and Activist Russell Means Dies at 72 on Pine Ridge

Russell Means died this morning on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota he was 72 years old.

Means starred in a number of Hollywood films including the “Last of the Mohicans.”  But he was also a member of the American Indian Movement and a champion of indigenous rights.

Means was an AIM leader during the 1973 armed occupation of the town of Wounded Knee. The event captured the national spotlight, putting issues in Indian Country from sovereignty to land rights in front of  the mainstream.  Means saw the event as instrumental in sparking other indigenous uprisings across the western hemisphere.

“It was Wounded Knee that sparked all of this happening.  My whole purpose is to leave a legacy for the younger people and in fact some of that legacy is paying off already,” said Means.  "Without Wounded Knee 1973 there would be no Rigoberta Menchú who won the Nobel Peace Prize and there would be no Evo Morales President of Bolivia,” added Means.

Means maintained commitment to activism throughout his Hollywood career.  In 2007 he declared independence from the United States and the formation of a new nation called the Republic of Lakotah. 

Here is a statement e-mailed from his family.

“Hello our relatives. 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, at his home and ranch in Porcupine. There will be four opportunities for the people to honor his life to be announced at a later date. Thank you for your prayers and continued support. We love you. 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.’”

Means died surrounded by his family, at his ranch  on the Pine Ridge Reservation after a battle with cancer.