Tag Archives: Russell Means

Chief Oliver Red Cloud’s Passing & the Passing of too many other Participants in my Documentary A Thunder-Being Nation

Oliver Red Cloud has just walked on at the grand old age of 93. He is the latest participant in my feature documentary A Thunder-Being Nation about Pine Ridge Indian Reservation who has passed on since I started filming it back in 1999. Thankfully many were a good age like Russell Loud Hawk (mid 80’s), Claudia Iron Hawk (80), Johnson Holy Rock (mid 90’s) but one thing that is striking about visiting a cemetery on Pine Ridge is that you see on grave stones in the past so many people dying in old age like this but more recently many more dying in middle age with very little in between.

Of our participants the delightful Harvey White Woman only lived to 44. Others around the project made it to mid 50’s. In fact the only person in the documentary so far that has passed on of an age between mid 50’s and 80’s was my dear friend Russell Means who we very sadly lost last year at 72 after an extraordinary fight with cancer.

Nothing shows to me the decline in the quality of life on Pine Ridge in the last few decades than the fact that so many people now are struggling to survive beyond middle age. Some of the reasons for this are explored in A Thunder-Being Nation. I am very honored and proud to have been able to document so many of their stories in the documentary while they walked among us. In the 10 hours of extra features of the Ultimate Edition DVD there are full interviews of many of these people who had passed on. It’s there as a constant resource for those of you who want to find out more.

Our DVD’s are available at amazon or www.inyoentertainment.com where you can save 15% using the coupon code Blog15 to save 15% or Blog20 to save 20% when spending $60 or more. The closer we get to recovering our costs on our films the quicker we can start looking to invest more in other projects in Indian Country although it’s an uphill battle finding an audience (as discussed in my previous post).

It can also be watched on demand here

Trailer

In depth promo about the doc

Excerpt of the work in progress on housing.

An early promo for the project

Russell Means talks about women/matriarchy (video clip)

Taken from the 48 minute long exclusive interview only available on the special edition of the DVD of the movie Rez Bomb set on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation starring Tamara Feldman, Trent Ford, Russell Means, Chris Robinson, Tokala Clifford, Moses Brings Plenty, Arlette Loud Hawk

Our DVD’s are available at amazon or www.inyoentertainment.com where you can save 15% using the coupon code Blog15 to save 15% or Blog20 to save 20% when spending $60 or more. The closer we get to recovering our costs on our films the quicker we can start looking to invest more in other projects in Indian Country although it’s an uphill battle finding an audience (as discussed in my previous post).

Here’s an article I wrote about my friend Russell Means’s passing

If Martin Luther King had instigated a civil rights action that resulted in a 71 day siege with the US government Marshalls and agents employing armoured personnel carriers, airforce jets and up to 500,000 bullets fired would it not be at the forefront of the history of US Civil Rights? American Indian Movement leader Russell Means who died aged 72 recently instigated such a civil rights action in 1973 that resulted in the Wounded Knee Occupation. Sadly contemporary American Indian history is ignored. Perhaps Russell would be a more famous figure if he died for his cause like Malcolm X and Dr. King? Russell survived numerous attempts on his life as he was not an easy man to kill. I once had him point out his bullet wounds, stab wounds and shrapnel wounds. But then again American Indian Movement activists were routinely murdered and it never made a headline. How ironic that there is not even racial equality when looking at the actions of civil rights activists.

I first met Russell thirteen years ago. I’m a film director from Scotland and was documenting the repatriation of a sacred Ghost Shirt from a Scottish museum to Wounded Knee. Due to twists of fate within three hours of hitting Pine Ridge Indian Reservation I was at his home and he asked me to film three days of political meetings. Wow. Going in he was a hero of mine, Now, today as I grieve his loss he is a very dear friend. Twice I was by his side during unsuccessful Tribal Presidential Election Campaigns. He starred in a movie, Rez Bomb I made on his reservation and also featured in a feature documentary A Thunder-Being Nation about Pine Ridge that I made over 13 years. I once helped bail him out of jail, the next day he sat with me and watched my soccer team Manchester United end Arsenal’s Invincibles undefeated run. For three years I had the honor of being Fire Keeper at his families Sun Dance ceremony. I have never met such a force of nature.

Other than his activism he is known for his movie career, which started at the top in a lead role opposite Daniel Day Lewis in the epic Last of the Mohicans. In 1984 for a time he was Larry Flynt’s running mate for US President. Four years later Ron Paul defeated him to be the Libertarian Party’s Presidential Candidate. But it will be for his leadership of the American Indian Movement through it’s heyday and turbulent times in the 70’s that he will be best remembered for.

Like many of us he was complex and yet simple. From the simplicity came his strength: Seeing the injustice perpetrated against indigenous peoples, he fought for their freedom. He devoted his life to that. His knowledge was remarkable and unwaveringly tied to his world view. He had a temper. He was passionate. He was very very funny. His fight against cancer was monumental. It should have killed him long before it did if Western Medicine’s diagnosis was to be believed. But as strong as he was throughout this it was matched every step of the way by his remarkable wife Pearl. With all the lessons Russell learnt throughout his life his final lesson that was revealed as a result of the cancer I feel was the most powerful. That was the absolute love, commitment and devotion Pearl committed to him. That blew his mind.

Our relationship was based on three fundamentals; we enjoyed exercising each others brains, we could laugh together for hours and we loved each other. Not many people have the honour and joy of befriending one of the most extraordinary individuals of our age. Russell truly was that. I am eternally grateful for knowing Russell and his impact on my life has been seismic. Our last time together was a two day road-trip eight weeks before his passing. I can’t imagine this world without him.

When we weren’t together we communicated via email through Pearl. One day he rang, which he never did. It was to tease me because my Manchester United were kicked out of the Carling Cup by relative minnows. That summed Russell up to me.

The morning of his death he appeared to me in the most beautiful of dreams and as I awoke I knew he was gone but that all was spectacularly well with him. That he was soaring. He told me once that he was going to come back to earth as lightening and strike the White House. Knowing Russell, I wouldn’t bet against it. They better invest in a bigger lightening rod.

Russell Means requests your help with his cancer treatment

My dear friend Russell Means is undergoing the challenge of cancer and is looking for help as he is undergoing treatment using a cure that is common in Germany but not supported by the corporate health system in the US and he’s going broke covering the costs. America is the only place in the developed world where you can routinely go bankrupt just from becoming ill.

My blog on going to Russell Means’s Sundance this week

It’s a funny thing to say that Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota with its abject poverty, 80-85% unemployment, a life expectancy in the mid 40’s for men is actually probably my favourite place on earth and when I’m there I spend most of my time laughing my head off with the wonderful group of friends that I’ve gotten to know from all aspects of life on the reservation. But this is how it is for me. There is no denying that I’ve built a special connection with the reservation in the eleven years I’ve been going there on a regular basis after the repatriation of a Ghost Shirt from the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow first brought me there.

So I am heading back for three weeks and this time it is for a very special reason. Back in 1998 when I started to learn about Pine Ridge it had a lot to do with reading the remarkable autobiography of legendary American Indian Movement leader Russell Means. When I say legendary and many of you scratch your head in wonder of why you do not know the name is that racism is alive and well in the USA and you can see that most evidently in the reporting of current events and recent history. Russell instigated bigger civil rights actions than Malcolm X ever did. Some equalled the scale of activities of Martin Luther King and often exceeded the Black Civil Rights movement in terms of the violence thrown back at them by the US Government. Most famous is the Wounded Knee Occupation over 71 days in 1973 when members of AIM occupied the small village of Wounded Knee while residents still lived there and the Government with armoured personnel carrier and fighter planes flying overhead fired up to half a million bullets in on the activists. Amazingly only two AIM supporters were killed.

In the aftermath of 1974-76 Pine Ridge (where Wounded Knee is located) had a comparable rate of political murder and disappearance as Chile did under Pinochet. Of course this is not taught in Schools, the only thing that is remembered about the occupation today is that Marlon Brando turned down the Oscar for the Godfather in solidarity with AIM and began forging a close personal friendship with Russell. Amazingly I started to get to know Russell in 1999 and now we are very good friends and I am arriving to join him and others for his Sundance in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the most sacred of land for his people the Oglala Lakota. I dreamed about being at a Sundance in 1999 with Russell, their culture places great significance on dreams and it is truly a great honour to be invited by this great man to an event that was banned for many years by the US Government and thus for a non-Indian to be invited is a great gesture of trust and honour.

The Sundance starts on the 8th with the ceremonial Tree Day where the grounds are formally set for the dance and it finishes on the 13th with a feast and give away. Traditionally the leaders of the tribe had the least as it was considered a great honour to give away their goods. Something the Christian European settlers could never understand and tried to force the suppression of and enforce the ownership of land and property. But today give aways are still practised by the traditionals, horses, bison, etc. The final act of the Sundance is the host to give away to the participants. In spite of all the hardships people face purely to survive on the reservation to see such generosity still practised by some is a beautiful sight.

I am a bit in the dark over what to expect at the Sundance. We shall all be camping together for the time where Bison (often described as Buffalo on the Great Plains) roam freely. During the ceremony some of the men will pierce their flesh and have a sinew tied from their flesh to a Bison skull and then they’ll drag it around dancing till the flesh is torn free. Other similar offerings are made. For me I see a lot of Cultural Tourist from Europe with an idealised view of the traditional Lakota way of life for whom going to a Sundance would be their wet-dream. For me it is very different. For me my connection with the Lakota is not cultural but purely human and direct in an indescribably way but it’s a very clear thing that I and my Lakota friends feel. For me attending the Sundance is a great honour being bestowed by a great man upon me. But excitement I feel is spending a week in the wilderness disconnected from the insanity that has become modern life with all the fictions that we worry ourselves over. For me to shut my brain down from the fog of how many emails have come in since I last logged on and concern about a political situation in some far flung land. Just to commune with those around us and to get in tune with the natural world. The great beauty of the traditional Lakota is that they understand the different about what is real and what is an assumed reality. Of course the only downside is that I miss the kick off of the World Cup, but life is full of sacrifices :).

What amazes me most is that thing most glorious in life, how things you could not have imagine arise into reality. Twelve years ago Russell Means became a hero of mine when I read his book in my home in Scotland. Now I am sharing another chapter in our friendship together. How magical life can be. Oh and by the way, Marlon Brando and I have something in common, we’ve both helped bail Russell Means out of jail. Pity it wasn’t his looks or his talent very cool all the same.

Somehow I feel that this experience is going to lead to a shift in my evolution. Stay posted to find out.