Category: Native American

Russell Means

I first saw Russell Means in the movie named The Last of the Mohicans, he played Chingachgook. Chingachgook was the last Mohican chief. His son was killed by a Huron. Therefore he outlived his son and was known as last Mohican. I must say that the aura of the movie itself was remarkable and so were those people who played those characters. His appearance kind of made me think more about Native Americans. The movie itself was my second introductory movie into Native American culture after “The Legends of the falls”.  Internet or more importantly Google came as a big help in finding more about him. It was reported that his life was dedicated to the Native American people’s plight.  He was a member of American Indian Movement (AIM) and played an active role in civil rights campaign.


As per the website which seems to be anti- Russell Means

In 1972, Means and his AIM cohorts occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington. They ransacked its headquarters causing $3 million in damages but were given $66,000 by federal officials when they were forced out. The federal Office of Economic Opportunity awarded AIM $400,000, and funds were given to the group by the World Council of Churches and other “religious” groups. In 1973, Means and his AIM cronies led hundreds of other recruits in a takeover of the village of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. They occupied the area for more than two months and were eventually forced out after a small war was waged in which several Indians were killed and a federal official was severely wounded.

To be noted:  nearly 80 years earlier, Wounded Knee was the site of an 1890 massacre of scores of Lakota men, women and children by U.S. cavalry troops in what was the final major clash of the American Indian wars.Russell Means was there to protest against that massacre.

I also read different side of him in many articles which call him a spiritual leader for his people and someone who gave Native Americans their PRIDE back. He was born into Oglala Sioux (or Lakota as he was known internationally) community on November 10, 1939 Wanblee, South Dakota, U.S. Undoubtedly anyone who fights a system which criminalizes their community and more importantly takes away their land, will also be branded criminal as they are “trouble” creators.

On September 25, 1973, Means spelled out his and AIM’s revolutionary plan during an AIM rally at the University of Minnesota. Appearing with professed communist Angela Davis at his side, he announced that his goal included separating from the United States and building a new nation within our country’s borders. He stated:

If I become president of the Oglala Sioux tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, we will take the first steps to eradicate the United States of America’s influence from our land. The methods, of course, depend on the cooperation of various countries that we are already in the process of talking to; various countries who will recognize our sovereignty and deal with us as international partners.

If their cooperation is assured, then when I become president [of the new country], I will abolish that office. I will abolish the Tribal Council, the Tribal Constitution, and the Indian Reorganization Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Public Health Service, the white ranchers and farmers of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Then we will sit down in diplomatic negotiation with the United States of America to settle up for the western half of South Dakota.

The website goes onto say that Mr. Russell Means never “apologized” for his actions against the country. Wow.

Going by what he did back then was quite revolutionary, I as an Indian (South Asian) was certainly not aware of the plights of Native Americans or as Mr. Russell Means liked to call his fellow people “American-Indians”. The world usually sees what the American media tells us to see and more importantly things which Hollywood wants us to see.   Mr. Russell Means might be radical (violent too for that matter) to some but his actions were to raise awareness about his people that was HIS greater massage.

His fellow Native American friends remember him more generously:

He’s a leader of all tribes—a spiritual leader—and a warrior. He was not originally a warrior, but all the injustice that happened to the American Indians and Canadian Indians—the system made him into a warrior just like Crazy Horse, Sundance Chief Leonard Crow Dog, AIM’s spiritual leader, told Indian Country Today.

Those of  us who grew in 1990s and watched Disney’s Pocahontas (1995) and its sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998). These were the major introductory anime films in native american culture for kids of the decade and those to come. Here too he played a major part, giving voice for the part of  Pocahonta’s father, Chief Powhatan.

He died on October 22, 2012, aged 72 at Porcupine, South Dakota, United States. His death was due to esophageal cancer. Many Americans will remember him as a man who was able to polarize their world on Native American issue and I would remember him as the man who was instrumental in introducing the real Native American culture to me, through his movies, speeches and writings.

Alright, so in continuation with the last post of mine about native americans in movies, I wanted to add some points. I forgot to mention that there are indeed some great movies which are based on native americans. They are beautifully pictured and were in an era from 1990-1996. Some followed few years after but it was these 6 years that set the tone for classic native american movies.

This includes one anime movie which girls in particular love and the latest of all was the biggest grosser in the world till date (which didn’t get the Oscar for the obvious political reasons). The names are pocahontas and Avatar.

(Avatar is an Indian name meaning though some insecure Indians (Indians in south asia,near China) due their inferiority complex among white people choose to pronounce it “Awataur” which is how a British or an American pronounces it.when an Indian chooses to correct the fellow mispronouncing Indian,then they would use their “educated” speech,about how educated they are and that they come from a family of “educated” Indian people, in short they will still pronounce it “Awataur’. No wonder they still consider themselves inferior.)


The list of the movies which came and those I liked are as follows ( I have seen all of them and found each one worthy of a recommendation)

  • Legends of the fall (1994)
  • The last of the Mohicans (1992)
  • Dance with wolves (1990)
  • Geronimo (1993 )
  • pocahontas (1995)  ( This was based on life story of Pocahontas )
  • Smoke signals (1998)
  • Hidalgo (2004) ( This is a lovely movie of a man’s relationship with his horse)
  • Avatar (2009) ( The underlining political movie, banned by china, It was made more in terms of the European settlers removing the “barbarians” for the precious “resource” )
  • Apocalypto (2006) (Some say that it includes native americans also along with the Mexicans, a history when spanish expedition ships landed on american soil, therefore I included here)

I have been able to find a website that offers the best native american movies, though the biggest problem is downloading them. Many of these movies are unavailable in form of torrents so that does cause some problems.

The site is, It provides a good detailed insight of movies and TV show of the native american culture.

The site also offers some native american TV shows, again they are tough to be located on net as there is no torrent for them and are not seeded.

If you look in to web in order to understand about native americans, the closest of definition that you might get will be on Wikipedia (though some self appointed “educated” people will have issue with that too). The definition states and I quote :

Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as intact political communities. The terms used to refer to Native Americans are controversial; according to a 1995 US Census Bureau set of home interviews, most of the respondents with an expressed preference refer to themselves as American Indians or Indians

My introduction to native american culture began via Hollywood movies (irony as Hollywood was accused of stereotyping native americans, the winning speech given on Oscars when Marlon Brando won Oscar for Godfather was a proof of that).1990s was different however,I guess there was a whole range of  Native American movies which came in the 1990s. There were some traditional folk background music too which came along. I would however point to brad Pitt starer, The legends of the Fall. It was my first tryst with the native American culture.With the rise of internet and YouTube in particular one could see  much more amount of information flowing about their culture, this time it is the native americans who are telling about themselves. The whole propaganda of “civilized” people against them, seems to have given way to the truth.

Their folk songs specially are very beautiful and it is a shame how they were exploited by the “civilized” and “educated” world. Hollywood specially seems to have changed the phenomena of associating native Americans with a barbarian with no culture. The last samurai showed, Tom Cruise’s character of  Captain Nathan Algren living a life of guilt for killing innocent native Americans. The king of Japan also questions the captain about the fierce fighting nature of the native Americans, so does the commander of samurais (who was fighting against “modern” ideology of warfare)

I guess however , Twilight brought the culture to more notice in the present day generations ( though detractors might remain there too). Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) played the role of  a native American. The commercial success of the movie will certainly generate more interest in the international community about native Americans and their beautiful music.

The fine director of legends of the fall and the Last samurai, Edward Zwick has a sympathetic take on native history, thereby he reflects that it in his films too. (I for one love his movies). I guess the movie spirit on a stallion was also huge drawing point for me towards native American culture. Young children in particular were made aware of 19 century scenario. I think in reality, it comes down to is ridiculing the culture of people who might not match the dominating culture or civilization in terms of fire power or economic might. This reminds me of the magisterial approach of the British about India too, which was narrated in amartya sen’s The argumentative Indian.

However in the movie stallion, I enjoyed a couple of things very much,the wide fields and the spirit of stallion to never give up and in particular the song “here I am” by Brian Adams. (spelled it right I guess, mostly I end up writing brain than brian).The background in the anime film was I think of the fields of Oklahoma (It is just a guess, but it is a  possibility that background was of California) .

I think that Disney and other studios must take up projects like this and make more movies with the native american culture and music in the background. With so many TV shows ranking in high popularity, a TV show on native american culture may not be a bad idea too.

Apart from the music on YouTube, the Facebook pages of the native American community is also a good source of information and knowledge.

Though the irony is that not a single president of United States has being from native american ethnicity till date. May be in time to come there might come a day when a native american is president of United states.

Anyway, I have been searching about the native American music over the net with some success. I have found loads of good music and one hopes that the young people who are updating it never stop,since an INDIAN on the east side of the world will watching and waiting   !

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