Life of Russell Means to be honored in Denver

The life of one of Native America’s greatest heroes, Lakota warrior Russell Means, will be celebrated this week with a days’ long tribute in Denver, Colorado. On Nov. 7-10, Russell’s family, friends and supporters will host “Mitakuye Oyasin (we are all related) – Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Russell Means,” with a series of programs and panels to honor the huge contributions he made to both the Indian and non-Indian world.

The commemoration is being organized by the Denver-based Russell Means Honoring Committee. The celebration will honor the life of Russell Means as a political, cultural and visionary American Indian leader. Russell was a Oglala Lakota warrior for the people, a momentous leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and a founder of the Republic of Lakotah. He has been described as “the most famous American Indian of the 20th century.” Acclaimed Standing Rock Sioux author and scholar Vine Deloria, Jr. has said of Means, “We should cherish this man as one of our greatest people.”                                                     Russell made his journey to the spirit world on Oct. 22, 2012, at his home in Porcupine, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Aside from his vast impact on the political scene, Means was an author, a spiritual leader of the Sun Dance, a gifted artist, a world known actor and a talented musician. He could be said to be truly an American Indian “Renaissance figure.”

But his passion, of course, was politics and fighting for the rights of Native American people. Russell will be forever honored for his tireless, fearless and frontline advocacy of the American Indian struggle for liberation and political, social and economic equality. He was an Indigenous revolutionary. 

The events during the commemoration will include :

1) An all-day political symposium at the University of Colorado in downtown Denver that will discuss the effect of Russell’s life and works;

2) A public honoring of Russell and rally featuring guest speakers;

3) A gala fundraising dinner with special guest entertainment to help establish the Russell Means Library on the Pine Ridge Reservation to continue his work of educating the public on the treaty rights of Indigenous people; 

4) A film exhibition of the movies in which Russell acted. This program will include panels of fellow actors, directors and academic and cultural speakers;    

5) An art exhibition featuring some of Russell’s most prominent paintings and etchings. This will also include a signing by Russell’s wife, Pearl, of his last book, “If You’ve Forgotten the Names of the Clouds, You’ve Lost Your Way.”

The committee anticipates that official representatives of various tribes and tribal members will be in attendance as well as international and national figures who will participate in the panels, give speeches or provide artistic presentations.

Many hope that this commemoration can also provide a jumping off point to continue the struggle that Russell so fearlessly fought. He left us too soon.

Photo: Family and friends of Russell Means sing as they ride horses down the Big Foot Trail during the honoring service procession for Means in Kyle, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. on Oct. 24, 2012. Means passed away at his home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He was 72. Aaron Rosenblatt /Rapid City Journal/AP




Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Okla.