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Native Sun News: Russell Means goes back to his 'normal' life

The following story was written and reported by Jesse Abernathy, Native Sun News Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Russell Means, 72, claims to be completely devoid of cancer – three months after his initial pronouncement to that effect. The perennially enigmatic Indian country icon continues his mission to improve the lives of the next generation of Oglala Lakota on his homeland of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO . –– Russell Means says he is still cancer-free and will forever be unaffected by the dread disease.

Means, who is Oglala Lakota, was diagnosed last summer with what was then referred to as “terminal” esophageal cancer. In December, the actor and former American Indian Movement activist claimed victory over his affliction partially by way of “Indian prayer and Indian medicine.”

“The cancer’s gone – I don’t have to worry about that,” Means said from his wife Pearl’s familial home in Santa Fe.

“I beat it, it’s gone,” he said firmly.

As was the case in December, Means’ voice is still clear and robust – a noticeable difference from the height of his throat cancer last August, when his tones were audibly weak.

“None of my doctors believe in the term ‘remission,’” said Means. “Either you got cancer or you don’t – period.”

Means concurs with his physicians in ascribing no validity to the cancer-related state of remission, which is an all-too-common polarity of metastasizing, or actively spreading, cancer cells.

“Remission means there’s cancer hanging around – to me, that’s what it means – and I totally reject that basis. The reason the medical profession uses that word is because they know their radiation, chemo and their meds weaken the immune system to the degree that it invites all kinds of disease. But specifically, it invites cancer to come back, so that’s why they say ‘remission.’ They know, because of how they treat cancer, it weakens you and makes you even more susceptible to disease. That’s why they say after the third treatment of chemo and radiation, you’re a dead person – that’s the reality of cancer.”

Means said he does not have to worry about remission because he is cured.

“Since I chose the alternative route, my immune system is top-notch," he said.

Rather than undergo standard medical procedures such as radiation treatment or chemotherapy to fight his cancer, Means opted for a combination of what might be considered more traditional Lakota methods involving natural remedies, medicine men and voluminous, worldwide prayer.

Though Means said he remains unafflicted by cancer, he recently endured a bout of pneumonia that only briefly set him back.

“But that seems to be going around,” he said. “Unluckily, among AIM leaders – Dennis Banks just got over pneumonia; Glenn Morris, out of Denver, he just got over pneumonia … so I don’t know what happened. It seems strange.”

“I’m 73 winters old, so I just got to accept old age. What I did after my cancer, I was feeling top-notch, very optimistic (so) I went back to walking three miles a day and (lifting) weights way before I should have.”

Means said fully recuperating following his cancer ordeal would have been best for his health. “I went back to what I consider a normal life. I just went back too soon, and it set the stage for pneumonia.”

A fully operational school for the children of the Pine Ridge Reservation at his ranch near Porcupine is still in the works, according to Means. The project, referred to as the T.R.E.A.T.Y. Total Immersion School, is centered around Lakota culture and language and remains one of his most lasting visions.

Means is also in the process of creating an economic development plan for the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“I have now gotten rock-solid investors for a wind farm,” said Means. The plan is contingent upon approval from the appropriate federal agencies, however, “I’ve got the investors, it’s a done deal,” he said.

The wind farm will be a funding source for the school now for a guaranteed period of 10 years, Means said.

“It looks like either late this year or early next year, I’ll be able to implement the T.R.E.A.T.Y. school.”

This year marks a biennial election year for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, but Means currently has no political aspirations. Means previously ran for chairmanship of the tribe – unsuccessfully – a total of four times, with his last attempt coming in 2008.

At that time, Means announced stipulations regarding his presidential bid, saying he would only run with a cohesive, partisan group of tribal council candidates. His conditions, however, were largely ignored “and that’s why I lost,” he said.

“I will not run (for president) unless I have an entire slate – in other words, a political party on Pine Ridge – that will buy into my platform and run for council, every seat on the council, from every district. If that ever happens, I’ll run again. But I am not going to any longer waste my time on a dysfunctional system.”

(Contact Jesse Abernathy at

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