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Russell Means: Native American activist and Hollywood actor

Russell Means was one of the leaders of the Native American armed occupation of the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, a 71-day siege in 1973. Russell Means also starred in "The Last of the Mohicans" and was guest star in the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Russell Means, who led the American Indian Movement, (AIM) shown here in 1989 testifyinng before the US Senate in Washington. Means, also appeared in several Hollywood films, died early Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 at his ranch in Porcupine, S.D.

(AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander, File)

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Russell Means, a former American Indian Movement activist who helped lead a 1973 uprising against the U.S. government and appeared in several Hollywood films, has died. He was 72.

Means died early Monday at his ranch in South Dakota, Oglala Sioux Tribe spokeswoman Donna Salomon said.

Means led AIM's armed occupation of the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, a 71-day siege that included several gun battles with federal officers. AIM was founded in the late 1960s to protest the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans and demand the government honor its treaties with Indian tribes.

Means denied the group ever promoted violence.

"You people who want to continue to put AIM in this certain pocket of illegality, I can't stand you people," Means said during an April gathering commemorating the uprising's anniversary. "I wish I was a little bit healthier and a little bit younger, because I wouldn't just talk."

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Means told the AP in 2011 that before AIM, there had been no advocate on a national or international scale for American Indians and that Native Americans were ashamed of their heritage.

"No one except Hollywood stars and very rich Texans wore Indian jewelry," Means said. "That's all changed." The movement eventually faded away as Native Americans became self-aware and self-determined, Means said.

He was often embroiled in controversy, partly because of AIM's alleged involvement in a 1975 killing. But Means was also known for his role in the movie "The Last of the Mohicans" and his unsuccessful run for the Libertarian nomination for president in 1988.

Paul DeMain, publisher of Indian Country Today, there plenty of Indian activists existed before AIM, but the group became the "radical media gorilla."


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