The autobiography of Russell Means. I finished reading the book about this amazing man a couple of weeks ago. Up to then, the only thing I knew about Mr. Means was that he was in The Last of The Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis. He played the Indian father and the actual Last Mohican. I loved that flick and his performance was astounding. What I didn’t know about this gentlemen was that he was one of the founding members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), among many other great things.
I was too young to really know what AIM was about or had accomplished for their people. I do know this from reading this book, AIM was one of the most amazing and inspiring organizations to ever be labeled a terrorist group. The plight of the American Indian is well documented. Our government has never honored any of the treaties signed with the native people according to Mr. Means and AIM. Of course there will be plenty of people who would state the opposite, but who am I to argue this point.
What I’ve learned from reading this amazing book is that history is truly written by the victor. I know this is an old saying but how is it that I never heard the American Indian stories from such famed events as the Battle of Little Big Horn? Famously known as Custer’s Last Stand. Look up Custer’s last stand on-line. You will be hard pressed to find any article which doesn’t state only one side of the story.
Mr. Means referred to Custer as the most despicable, violent man to ever roam the west. I’m paraphrasing of course, but the idea is the same. What’s amazing about Custer’s Last Stand as I remembered it as a boy (American History Books) was that Custer and all of his men were outnumbered, surrounded, and killed by over 3000 Sioux Indians. There was not one US soldier who survived to tell the story but somehow we know exactly what happened and how our soldiers died fighting the horrible savages of the plains. And this is how it’s been taught in every school in America ever since. Interesting.
Believe or not, there were actual survivors of this battle, but they were all American Indians. Mr. Means explains that the stories he was told as a boy from the Elders who remembered the actual battle was quite different. He was told that the brave Sioux fighters destroyed this evil man for being a murderer of women and children. It was also told that Custer, in fear of retribution for all of his atrocities, committed suicide before being captured. And more importantly, the Sioux felt that he was so bad of a human being that they dared not touch his corpse. This was the final insult to a man who had caused so much pain and hardship. I truly felt a bit of shame as I was reading this portion of the book. I do understand that every one has a story from their own perspective. I can only go on what is real to me. And yes, I could believe the atrocities that were dealt to the Native American People. Many of them will never be known.
I guess the most egregious of the stories come from the aftermath, when all treaties had been signed and neglected by our government. Mr. Means discusses how his people were taught the true nature of the White Man. His parents were forced as little children to attend boarding school where they were made to leave the ways of old. And in most cases, siblings were separated at an early age to destroy the family unit. Until then, according to Mr. Means, his people were in tune with Grandmother earth. Compassion and understanding was a key way of life. Truly God’s people. These schools engaged in an aggressive discipline that over the years taught these same lessons from generation to generation. This was all in the name of God and religion.
How many bad things have happened in the name of Faith? Too many to tell, but I’m not here to discuss religion or my personal beliefs. I’m here to talk about how this man’s story effected my outlook on life. I can say that I’m a stronger person for having read a perspective such as Mr. Means. If anything, I can take stock in my own character to realize that I too have control over my own destiny. And the more I learn about the oppressed and the oppressor, the more I learn about myself. If you would like find this book simply go here. You can buy it and read for yourself. If you want to learn more about Russell Means and all of his activities, go to his website, www.russellmeans.com. I’ve posted a Video interview from Mr. Means below. I hope you enjoyed my view on this book.