Communist Party Publication Profiles Former Libertarian Party Presidential Hopeful Russell Means

Russell Means

From People’s World, newspaper of the Communist Party:

This date in 1939 marks the birth of Russell Charles Means, Oglala Lakota activist for the rights of Native American people, political activist, and film and television actor. He became a prominent member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) after joining the organization in 1968, and helped organize notable events that attracted national and international media coverage.

Means was active in international issues of indigenous peoples, including working with groups in Central and South America, and with the United Nations for recognition of their rights. He was active in politics at his native Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and at the state and national level.

Beginning an acting career in 1992, he appeared in numerous films, and released his own music CDs. He published his autobiography Where White Men Fear to Tread in 1995.

Means was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, and was given the name Wanbli Ohitika by his mother, which means “Brave Eagle” in the Lakota language.In 1942, the Means family resettled in the San Francisco Bay Area, seeking to escape the poverty and problems of the reservation. His father worked at a shipyard. Means grew up there, graduating in 1958 from San Leandro High School. He attended college, but did not graduate. His autobiographyrecounts a harsh childhood with an alcoholic father. Means himself fell into years of “truancy, crime and drugs” before finding purpose in the American Indian Movement in Minneapolis. By the end of his 20s he had lived in several Indian reservations throughout the U.S.

In 1968, Means joined the American Indian Movement (AIM), rising to become a prominent leader. In 1970, he was appointed AIM’s first national director, and the organization began a period of increasing protests and activism.

Means participated in the 1969 Alcatraz occupation, and on Thanksgiving Day 1970, he and other AIM activists staged their first protest in Boston: They seized the Mayflower II, a replica ship of the Mayflower, to protest the Puritans’ and later U.S. mistreatment of Native Americans. In 1971 Means was one of the leaders of AIM’s takeover of Mount Rushmore, a federal monumentwithin the Black Hills, an area sacred to the Lakota.In November 1972, he participated in AIM’s occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C., to protest abuses. Many records were taken or destroyed, and more than $2 million in damages was done to the building.

In 1973, Dennis Banks and Carter Camp led AIM’s occupation of Wounded Knee, which became the group’s best-known action.Means appeared as a spokesman and prominent leader. The armed standoff of more than 300 Lakota and AIM activists with the FBI and state law enforcement lasted for 71 days.

Means turned to the United Nations to establish the offices of the International Indian Treaty Council in 1977. At Pine Ridge he helped organize community institutions such as a radio station and health clinic.

In the 1980s, AIM divided into competing factions. Differences emerged regarding support for the indigenous peoples in Nicaragua. Means announced his support for the Miskito group MISURASATA, which was allied with the Contras. He traveled to the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua in 1985 and 1986 on fact-finding tours, and believed that the Miskito as a people were being targeted for elimination. Other members of AIM supported the Sandinistas of the national government, although they had forced removal of thousands of Miskito from their traditional territory. At that time, the “Grand Governing Council” of AIM, based in Minnesota, asked Means to cease representing himself as a leader of the movement, while other chapters of AIM continued to support Means.

Means often supported libertarian political causes, and ran for vice president alongside Larry Flynt. In 1987, Means ran for the presidential nomination under the Libertarian Party, losing to Congressman Ron Paul. In 2004 and 2008, Means supported independent Ralph Nader.In January 2012, he announced his endorsement of Ron Paul in his bid for President.

In 2007, Means and 80 other protesters were arrested in Denver during a Columbus Day parade, which they stated was a “celebration of genocide.”

A notable film career

Beginning in 1992, Means appeared as an actor in numerous films and television movies, first in The Last of the Mohicans. He appeared as Arrowhead in the TV movie The Pathfinder,in Natural Born Killers, as Jim Thorpe in Windrunner: A Spirited Journey, as Sitting Bull in Buffalo Girls, and had a cameo in the miniseries Into the West.

He was a voice actor in Disney’s third highest-selling feature film Pocahontas and its sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, playing the title character’s father, Chief Powhatan. Means was a guest actor in the 1997 Duckman episode “Role With It,” in which Duckman takes his family on an educational trip to a “genuine Indian reservation” – which turns out to be a casino.Means appeared as Billy Twofeathers in Thomas & the Magic Railroad. He starred in Pathfinder, a 2007 movie about Vikings battling Native Americans in the New World, and co-starred in Rez Bomb, the first feature filmed on his native Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

His musical CDs have been recognized by the Native American Music Awards with a Hall of Fame award. In addition, his paintings have been shown at various galleries around the world.Andy Warhol painted 18 individual portraits of Russell Means in his 1976 American Indian Series.Means is the focus of the 2014 documentary Conspiracy To Be Free by director Colter Johnson.

Means died on October 22, 2012, shortly before his 73rd birthday. His ashes were sprinkled throughout the Black Hills.

12 thoughts on “Communist Party Publication Profiles Former Libertarian Party Presidential Hopeful Russell Means

  1. Bondurant

    Shocked the communists wrote about Means but that’s a good write up. His book Where White Men Fear to Tread is a nice read.

  2. Jed Ziggler Post author

    Shocked me too, but I’m glad to see it. Now if only the Communists would stop endorsing Democrats and start running their own candidates against them.

  3. Jill Pyeatt

    I thought there’d be some tie-in with communism, but there isn’t. Yes , this is a good write-up and a good post, Jed.

  4. Wes Wagner

    I suspect that a large segment of the communist party are just liberal enough to also appreciate the struggles and injustice performed by our government against indigenous persons.

    How they make the leap from that to trusting and empowering government is beyond me.

  5. Thor

    Aren’t they just an arm of the Democrat Party? I mean, come on, their 2008 and 2012 presidential nominee was Barack Hussein Obama!

  6. wolfefan

    I may be wrong, but I don’t think they actually nominated anybody in 2008 and 2012. Their chair said a vote for Obama was the most pragmatic vote, but that doesn’t mean Obama was the Communist candidate or that the party endorsed him.

  7. Andy

    I was in Massachusetts for the first time in the fall of 2001 for to work on Carla Howell’s first End The State Income Tax ballot initiative petition drive. After it was over, I took a day to do some sight seeing.

    I walked around on the battlefield in Lexington where the Revolutionary War started, and I saw where Paul Revere made his famous run on that horse and shouted, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

    I drove by where the Boston Tea Party happened.

    I also rode the subway to Harvard University. When I got off the subway, I happened upon a Lyndon LaRouche supporter who had an outreach table set up near the subway exit/entrance. The LaRouche supporter had poster board set up that displayed a plan to build a bridge from Alaska to Siberia (as in an actual bridge that cars could drive across). I briefly talked to the LaRouche supporter, but I could not pin him down on any specific issue stances, or why they wanted to build a bridge from Alaska to Siberia.

    I walked around Harvard a little bit, and then I went across the street where there was a coffee shop that had people playing chess outside (it looked like a scene out of movie).

    I then walked past the coffee shop and I came upon a communist book store (keep in mind that this communist book store was across the street from Harvard). The window of the communist book store contained pictures of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Moa Zedong, I walked around inside the communist book store for a few minutes, and I was surprised when I spotted a copy of Russell Means’ book, “Where White Men Fear To Tread,” on one of the walls of the store. I thought it was kind of odd to have this book there, given that Russell Means was a self professed Libertarian.

    I thought about saying something to the guy behind the counter of the communist book store, but it was getting late and I had to get going, so I just left without saying anything.

  8. Andy Craig


    They last ran their own ticket with Gus Hall in 1984. Every four years since then, they’ve officially endorsed the Democratic nominees, from Dukakis to Obama. An endorsement rarely appreciated.

  9. Mark Axinn

    Gus Hall was a perennial candidate for them. He managed to get press coverage too.

    Communists are full of contradictions. For example, they own a large commercial building on West 23rd Street in Midtown-South section of Manhattan. I negotiated a ten-year lease of one floor on behalf of a client I represent (a music company) and the rent ain’t cheap.

    Those Commie landlords! 🙂

  10. paulie

    It seems to be a pattern with commies. As Gene Berkman pointed out on a prior thread:

    The Socialist Workers Party is an avowedly communist organization, aligned with Cuba and North Korea. They consider The Green Party to be pro-capitalist liberals, giving further evidence to Einstein’s concept of relativity. They also think the Peace & Freedom Party is not worth supporting for similar reasons.

    You would not want them in The Green Party anyway. They would be disruptive, and the entire organization might have 150 to 200 members. And people who know about them would not want to support an organization that they are part of.

    There are many other little Trotskyist organizations which regularly denounce SWP for its deviations, but they all buy the Trotsky books published by Pathfinder Press, so Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters continue to profit.

    During the height of the real estate bubble, SWP sold its New York City headquarters building for 20 million dollars, and relocated their book warehouse to Georgia. Georgia is a right-to-work state, so Pathfinder can hire non-union workers for its warehouse.

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