Today I was sitting back taking a break during lunch and a thought shot through my head, “How’s Russell doing?”. So I went to his website to see what he’s been up to lately and I was sad to find out that he has been diagnosed with throat cancer. Before I go any further I suppose I should explain who Russell Means is and that would involve telling a little history.
I’ve always been, how should I say, filled with respect for the tribes of the American Indian, especially the Lakotah of the Great Plains. Stories of noble souls like Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and Black Elk, who had such respect for the land and every living thing that they shared the Earth with, filled me with such inspiration. Shared is the key word there. They didn’t feel that they owned this world but shared it equally with all life. They were in awe and truly grateful to be a part of this world. They didn’t want to be the masters of it, just part of the circle and to live on the Red Road. I thought to myself, “Here is a society that has got it right, to live in harmony with their world.”
As you know, the American Indian has come across an enemy that did not share their views and they came close to experiencing complete genocide. As a descendant of those who fought against them I feel a shame that I often have a hard time comprehending. Their near perfect assimilation into our culture is threatening their own culture, language and values. I wanted to do what I could to help preserve their way of life, I thought that maybe I could take these skills that I learned in video production to help make videos or a product or something to raise awareness. That’s when I came across Russell Means. You might know him from the movie, Last of the Mohicans… he was the last Mohican (He’s actually of the Lakotah Nation). But what he’s really known for is for being a voice and activist for American Indian rights. He was involved in the founding years of AIM (American Indian Movement). He played a part in the stand off against the FBI at Wounded Knee in 1973. He even ran for President in the 80′s.
Jessica and I were just getting started in our full time RVing lifestyle in 2009 when I got ahold of Russell. He was living in South Dakota with his wife and we talked about projects that he wanted to work on. So later when we got the rig set up, we left Florida to head to our first destination, South Dakota. We got our workamping gig set up in Hill City in the Black Hills, which is a spiritual place for the Lakotah, and I now understand why. Russell lived on the Rez which was a couple hours drive through the Badlands. When we got there and met Russell, I must say that I was a bit intimidated, he was a lot taller than I imagined and here I was, this short white guy standing in his living room, I felt sort of like an intruder. But he turned out to be a nice guy. We brought our camera gear with us and after everyone was introduced we got to work on making more episodes of the weekly commentary show where he gives his thoughts on current events from a American Indian’s point of view and updates on news from the Lakotah Nation.
After we were done shooting and talking about the style of the videos, David, a volunteer that helps Russell organize his school for teaching kids the Lakotah ways took us on a tour of Russell’s ranch. We walked part of the parameter helping him clear fallen trees off of the fence. After swinging that axe a few times, I quickly realized how out of shape I am. It certainly was a beautiful place though, no matter how out of breath I was.
We made several episodes of Russell’s show that summer, but only after a few visits we started having our transmission troubles and money troubles and making that long trip was starting to become impossible to do. I really wish that we could have done more work with Russell, after all that was one of the main reasons that we came to South Dakota. It was an honor and a great experience to do the little work that we did do.
And that brings us back to today. Just yesterday he posted a video telling everyone about his cancer, instead of operations and chemo that would severely impede his quality of life, he’s chosen to take a more natural ways to try to work through it. After seeing his video, he’s been on my mind all day. I’m sending all the good vibes that I can muster his way. Hopefully he’ll be able to beat it and have a quick recovery.
To check out his site go to www.russellmeansfreedom.com