Russell Means, seen here with Dennis Banks (and William Kunstler in the background) at a press conference regarding the Patricia Hearst kidnapping at the San Francisco Airport Hilton on February 19, 1974, from the Bancroft Library’s Fang Family San Francisco Examiner photograph archive negative files.
Born on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, Russell Means moved with his family to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was three, in 1942. Banks graduated from San Leandro High School, and after stints in college and working on Indian reservations around the United States, he went on to become a leader in the American Indian Movement.
A Oglala Sioux, Means fought for the rights of indigenous people around the world, urging President Reagan to support the Miskito people in Nicaragua during the rise of the Sandinista government, and staging occupations at Mount Rushmore and the site of the Battle of Wounded Knee to raise awareness of Indian treaties and claims to land that the U.S. government neglected.
Means was a charismatic and divisive public figure, running for the Libertarian nomination in the 1987 presidential election, and appearing in dozens of films, including a starring role in The Last of the Mohicans. Means died of cancer at his home on the Pine Ridge Reservation on October 22nd.