Just this last Monday, Native American activist Russell Means died at the age of 76. I didn’t know much about him but looked him up when I came across his name in the news. It seems this man was a blessing to humanity.
Russel began as a wanderer in life, moving from one reservation to another and at one phase dabbling in drugs and crime. He made four attempts to attend university but quit each time, only to later receive his doctorate in philosophy and pen his autobiography “Where White Men Fear to Tread”. When he met an activist from within the Lakota protest movement in the 60’s, the occasion sparked his own activism in the American Indian Movement (AIM).
Russell spoke out for the rights of indigenous societies and the diminishing rights of United States citizens. He spoke at length about his observation that Americans are apathetically watching their civil rights go out the window, drawing parallels between what happened to Native Americans historically and what is happening to Americans today. He also acted in Native American films The Last of the Mohicans (great musical score btw), Pocahontas, and Black Cloud.
It matters to me that he stood up for what he believed was right despite the dangers of making very politically controversial statements in the U.S. He stood up for all of us. After watching a tribute video, I looked out the rainy window of the cafe I was in and thought about all the warriors before him that demanded we live consciously; who risked imprisonment and even death to get those of us sleeping at the wheel to stand up for ourselves (side note: I had a dream last night that I was driving a boat but fell asleep and ended up in another country I’d never heard of…the boat drove itself…hmmm).
Not that it makes any difference, but my great-grandmother was Crow Indian, and until now I never paid much attention to my heritage. I will admit, against my partner’s advice, that I might have tapped my own Native American last night: I thought about the history of these people and bawled my eyes out in a public bathroom stall. This was no minor boo-hooing, but the kind of crying that leaves your eyes all puffy the next morning. I don’t know why it happened, and granted I am known to get emotional now and again. I guess I felt shame for not being a warrior like him, but I also noticed a sense of impending power. I dare say a sliver of his soul jumped into mine. I hope so. That would be awesome.
I thank Russell Means for his devotion to humanity, and that goes for all the men and women who devote their lives to helping us re-member who we really are (and what we are not). Russell did what I will not yet find the strength to do.
God bless this man!