"Russell Means" by Andy Warhol. Photo: Thomas Hawk
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Native Sun News Today Review: Book looks into heritage of activist Russell Means

Book questions whether Means was Oglala

Author asserts that he was French/Dakota
Review by James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

RAPID CITY— It is never defined, exactly, the relationship between American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Russell Means, and Hélène E. Hagan, Moroccan born author and anthropologist, in Hagan’s 2017 book from Xlibris Press, Russell C. Means: The European Ancestry of a Militant Indian (1939-2012).

The book is full of blurred edges and nebulous connections, but on two things Hagan is very clear—Russell Means was mostly Wasicu, and he has not one drop of Oglala blood.

Large print and soft cover, the book looks hastily slapped together, as if notes jotted down over the course of decades were spliced together hurriedly, overlapping willy-nilly, much of it filler to flesh out what is really a short essay on the eye-opening ancestry of Means.

No doubt Hagan knew Means, they were intellectually intimate, and most likely every other kind of intimate, and she retains an affection, a fascination, for a complicated man, obligingly cast as a heroic, romantic warrior battling an evil Goliath for justice.

The public still buys that heroic image, but as the pages flow by, it is clear Hagan has snapped from that reverie, perhaps by one too many hard-hearted interactions with Means, perhaps by the death of a man that must have a been a larger-than-life focus for her passions for many decades.

So, she started digging, painstakingly scouring every available record, to not only find out who the people of Means actually were, and where they came from, but to find the counter evidence proving brazenly false, self-serving assertions by Means about his ancestry, assertions easily disproven by even perfunctory perusal of available records.

This book resonates in that regard because people do not generally bother to look deeper than the cover story, particularly when the person is Russell Means, an iconic figure people have all heard of, but few of the general public actually know. This mystery, this assumed understanding, is exacerbated by the unique way mainstream experts misread even the most mundane aspects of Lakota reality, or as Tim Giago once said to a Wasicu journalist who asked him to forgive his ignorance, “No, I won’t forgive your ignorance.”

There are places on this planet, where you or I would be lucky to last ten minutes before we were arrested and shot dead. Journalists go into these places, and they not only survive, they come out with stories no others could cover, interviews of despicable men with the blood of millions on their hands, and they return to these deadly places, and do the same thing all over again.

Sometimes these journalists focus on domestic injustice, and when they do, they go to an Indian reservation, like Pine Ridge, the home reservation of Means, and then they inexplicably believe the first crazy thing the craziest Lakota blurts out as truth, and report it as such.

For half a century Means benefited from that gullibility. He was able to cast himself as a genuine Lakota warrior, but as it turns out, Hagan has the research to indicate he was not what he claimed.

Means claimed his mother’s maiden name of Feather, was an abbreviation of Feather Necklace, a Lakota family he claimed as relatives, but it turns out they are wholly unrelated. He claimed that Means is the abbreviation of “Mean To His Horses,” but it turns out it is a European surname, and that his father was “essentially a white man who inherited land and Oglala citizenship through allotment policies of the United States.”

Hagan asserts that Means was really “a mixed blood French Indian from the Yankton reservation, in fact of French and Santee Sioux descent.”


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Book questions whether Means was Oglala
James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com

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