"If someone needed help, you called on the American Indian Movement and they showed up and caused all kind of ruckus and looked beautiful on a 20-minute clip on TV that night," DeMain said.
Means said he felt his most important accomplishment was the founding of the Republic of Lakotah and the "re-establishment of our freedom to be responsible" as a sovereign nation inside the borders of the United States. His efforts to have his proposed country recognized by the international community continued at the United Nations, he said, even as it was ignored by tribal governments closer to home, including his own Oglala Sioux Tribe.
But others may remember him for his former organization's connection to the killing of Annie Mae Aquash, whose death remains synonymous with AIM and its often violent clashes with federal agents in the 1970s.
Authorities believe three AIM members shot and killed Aquash on the Pine Ridge reservation on the orders of someone in AIM's leadership because they suspected she was an FBI informant. Two activists — Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham — were eventually convicted of murder. The third has never been charged.
Means blamed Vernon Bellecourt, another AIM leader, for ordering Aquash's killing. Bellecourt denied the allegations in a 2004 interview, four years before he died.
Also in 1975, murder charges were filed against Means and Dick Marshall, an AIM member, in the shooting death of Martin Montileaux at the Longbranch Saloon. Marshall served 24 years in prison. Means was acquitted.