Russell Means passed today from esophageal cancer, at the age of 72. He died at his ranch located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where he was born in 1939. Means was a fierce advocate of American Indian rights and led dozens of protests and uprisings throughout his life ranging from seizing the Mayflower II in Plymouth, Mass on Thanksgiving day in 1970 (protesting discriminatory treatment of American Indians), to orchestrating a 1971 prayer vigil atop the Mount Rushmore monument in South Dakota (dramatizing Lakota claims to the Black Hills), to organizing cross-country caravans in 1972 to Washington, D.C. (protesting a century of broken treaties by the U.S. government), to leading a boycott of Cleveland Indian games in the 1990s (protesting the use of Chief Wahoo as a racist, caricatured mascot/logo).
Russell Means is most recognized for two well known portrayals, though very divergent: First, he led a 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, the site of the 1890 massacre of more than 350 Lakota men, women and children, often referred to as the last major conflict of the American Indian wars, where protestors demanded strict adherence by the federal government to all Indian treaties. Second, he starred as Chingachgook in Michael Mann's 1992 epic "The Last of the Mohicans" alongside Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe.
Means used his notoriety to advocate on behalf of equality on behalf of American Indians until his untimely death.