- Editor’s Commentary
This issue is a tribute to Russell Means. Narratives by Pearl Denetclaw Daniel-Means, his widow; Manuel F. Pino; W. Patrick Kincaid; Elizabeth Cook-Lynn; and Bayard Johnson provide personal accounts of him and his achievements. It also provides an interview he did for Wicazo Sa Review and a review of Means’s coauthored book If You’ve Forgotten the Names of the Clouds, You’ve Lost Your Way: An Introduction to American Indian Thought and Philosophy (2012). Additionally, this issue includes a scholarly article by Donna L. Akers about the master narrative and treaties and a coauthored study by Puneet Chawla Sahota and Sarah Kastelic about suicide prevention programs.
Means entered the spirit world on October 22, 2012, at his Pine Ridge Reservation ranch at the age of seventy-two, several years after he was diagnosed with cancer. Born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1939, he became one of the most noted and controversial Indians in recent times because of his willingness to address Indian concerns, make waves, defy convention, and propose solutions rooted in Indian traditions. As a multifaceted individual, he was a father, husband, grandfather, mentor, author, artist, philosopher, orator, actor, organizer, and activist, among other things. Above all, he will be remembered as a Lakotah patriot who stood up bravely for the Sioux oyate (people) and American Indians. His brutally frank speeches educated, and often offended, Indians and non-Indians alike regarding Indian struggles for [End Page 5] sovereignty, land restoration, religious freedom, treaty rights, dignity, respect, human rights, and economic independence.
Along with other American Indian Movement activists, he became a public enemy of the white American state because of the role he played in the formulation of a militant response derived from Indian cultures, traditions, and necessities against the might of U.S. hegemony. As such, he helped awaken the consciousness of Indians from all walks of life about the pitfalls of our complacency under colonial domination and the urgency for us to resist assimilation in favor of traditional values, beliefs, knowledge, languages, and worldviews. In this sense, he was indeed an indefatigable political activist for “decolonization” even before the term gained widespread acceptance in Indian circles during the early 2000s. His influence will be felt for years to come.
He inspired others to become engaged in struggles at the local, national, and international levels against the forces of oppression. His influence has encouraged new generations of American Indian studies scholars to step beyond the bounds of conventional academic thinking and articulate discursive challenges to non-Indian hegemony over the study of Indians. These intellectuals are applying Indigenous research methodologies and paradigms that privilege oral history, Indigenous knowledge and values, and community-based research. In doing so, they are enriching a growing body of new literature with studies about a variety of topics including resistance, liberation, and decolonization strategies; Indigenous thought; literary criticism; and Indian histories.1
The interview expresses Means’s views on an array of issues related to his activism, ideology, and life’s work. W. Patrick Kincaid, an Arizona State University law student, graciously and enthusiastically accepted my spur-of-the-moment offer for him to interview Means. Kincaid drafted a few questions as Means completed his talk to an audience at Mesa Community College. Although fatigued from having spoken for close to an hour and a half and from the effects of his illness, in his responses Means captured his perspectives regarding issues ranging from nation building to his international activities. Tamara Lee, an American Indian studies student at ASU, transcribed the interview.
With Kincaid’s assistance, I’ve edited the transcription to remove repetitiveness and clarify ambiguities while keeping his tone, meaning, and emphasis intact. I also consulted Bill Means, his brother; Manuel F. Pino; Means’s autobiography;2 and online sources to verify facts and acquire additional information. Endnotes have been included whenever necessary to help readers gain a clearer understanding of his sometimes confusing words and sentences.
The narratives and interview in this issue should remind us about an important aspect of Means’s legacy: that Indian nations, communities, and peoples must remain vigilant and focus our energies on countering...