Russell Means, American Indian Activist And 'The Last Of The Mohicans' Star, Dies At 72
Russell Means, the Oglala/Lakoto Sioux Indian who was a vocal activist for American Indian rights in the 1970s and 80s and is also known for his role as Chingachgook in 1992's iconic The Last of the Mohicans, directed by Michael Mann and also starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe, died on Monday at his Porcupine, S.D., ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at the age of 72.
20th Century Fox Film Corp.
Means' death was a result of his battle with esophageal cancer, said his legal representative, Glenn Morris, according to the New York Times. After being diagnosed in 2011, Means opted for alternative herbal remedies instead of mainstream medical treatment.
Means famously fashioned himself after Indian ancestors who resisted westward expansion during the frontier days, and he rose to fame as the leader of the American Indian Movement in 1970 when he and a group of protesters occupied the Mayflower II replica Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth, Mass.
Just a few years later in 1973, Means led a 71-day standoff with federal agents at Wounded Knee, S.D., the location of the last major battle of the American Indian wars, where approximately 350 Lakota Indians were massacred in 1890. In the standoff, two American Indians were killed and a federal agent was paralyzed. Though Means and co-organizer, Dennis Banks, were arrested and brought up on charges, the case was dismissed in a climate of increasing Native American sympathies.
Means had unrelated scrapes with the law after that, including spending a year in jail and suffering a stab wound after a 1974 riot in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was shot twice at separate times, delivered countless speeches and addresses and even ran for president of the Libertarian Party in 1987, losing the nomination to Ron Paul.
While the highlight of Means' acting career came with The Last of the Mohicans, he also appeared in 1994's Natural Born Killers, as the voice of Powhatan in 1995's animated film, Pocahontas, and in television series Nash Bridges, Touched by an Angel, Walker Texas Ranger and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
"He’s an iconic person. He’s lived through so much," said Mohicans director Mann, reports the Wall Street Journal. "What this guy stood for, the courage he had, and who they took on, in the 60, 70s and 80s …. Russell was fighting that battle every day of his life."
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