PORCUPINE, SD -
Although he was internationally known, American Indian activist Russell Means came back to his home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation before passing away shortly before 5 a.m. Monday.
Means wore many hats in his lifetime, including actor and author. But on Pine Ridge, he is remembered by many as a relentless advocate for Native American rights.
"They wanted to demonstrate their disrespect for the dual system of justice for Indian people and non-Indian people in the state of South Dakota," Means said after a 1974 riot at the Minnehaha County Courthouse in Sioux Falls.
"He made a lot of people turn heads whenever he would go and fight for people, not with fists but verbally, and point out things that were wrong," Porcupine resident Paul John Iron Cloud said.
Means rose to prominence in the American Indian Movement in the late 1960s and became a household name when the group occupied the village of Wounded Knee in 1973.
"They had the occupation of Wounded Knee. That's when all the things started, right there," Iron Cloud said.
Rodney Two Eagles lives in Porcupine and was one who picked up a gun and joined Means during the 71-day occupation.
"Our men are becoming fatigued. However, they're good men, all Vietnam veterans," Means said at Wounded Knee.
"It was like a comfort. Everybody looked up to him, even the elderly and the youngers," Two Eagles said.
With the news of Means' death, people on the reservation hope the impact he made carries on into the future.
"I think where he left off is going to carry on from there and I hope it does. All the Lakotas around here are going to miss him," Two Eagles said.
"It's going to be hard to fill his shoes, very hard," Iron Cloud said.
A statement from Russell Means' family indicates that there will be multiple services to remember Means. No dates have been announced at this time.
Russell Means was 72-years-old.
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