While visiting Russell Means the Activist turned Actor, I was allowed to ask many questions and it was a great honor. My views of Mr. Means has moved to a lack of understanding or ignorance, then to a full understanding and admiration for this Warrior. Of course he is an elder and is a walking history book. His knowledge of the past is very powerful and I believe one of the greatest American Indians to walk this earth.
I was able to meet and become friends with Russell over the past ten years. I was curious to understand the Man behind the "AIM Look". He could walk in a room and it would be full of emotions. He would litterally scare the life out of "White" Folk. The Book Where White Men Fear to Tread is a great book of knowledge and stories. He gave me a book and I asked him to write in the book to my dear friend, but he actually put, "To my Young Friend". Kola' is a very powerful word in Lakota and I appreciated the way Mr. Means considered me a friend. Once when I asked him about him and the others ransacking the Wounded Knee buildings, he told me it was the feds that tore things down. There is a cross in the back of the cemetary and I remember being told my Grandfather Gilbert Matthews put the cross back up with his friend. It still stands today and is a powerful memory to know my relatives have been a strong part of the history of Wounded Knee. I assumed the American Indian Movement tore down the cross but now I believe what Russell told me. Afterall you need witness to make sure you get the truth, he was the key person in the takeover at Wounded Knee. I did not develop a strong opinion on what was done at Wounded Knee but I realize now the Liberation of Wounded Knee has had a profound affect on the rest of American Indian life.
I have been a strong advocate of Russell Means in the past few years because, that is what friends do. Oh back to the "AIM Look", it has been a great way to impact the world. The look has been around and it has scared people and made its point throughout the world. Russell told me the 60s and 70s did not know what to do with "Angry" Indians. They took the world by storm and their War Cry was heard around the world. It must have been a magnificent time to be alive.
This reminds me of Tony Fast Horse who would become Robert Grey Eagle. Tony was studying at Tabor College a Christian College in Hilsboro, Kansas. Tony came home at some point and told me he got off the bus and ran right into a Rally in Gordon, Nebraska. Well it must caught his ear as he left Tabor College and joined the Movement. He went on to get his law degree and returned much later and stood before a group of teenagers at the Gospel Fellowship and proclaimed to be a Christian. Powerful words for a man who in his youth took up the cause of civil rights for Indians and became a lawyer and then returned to his roots of being a Christian. I am proud to know these men and it is a little ironic because Robert Grey Eagle planned to become a minister and serve the Gospel Fellowship in Pine Ridge. I am now the pastor of the church and have served almost two decades. Ah, to be alive in the aftermath of the civil rights movement is powerful because it is the old ones who can tell you great stories of what took place in the early seventies and before. These guys laid thier lives down so I could be free to have my faith. So everytime you pass a canupa(pipe) or pierce and seek visions along with purification ceremonies know these men were willing to lay down their lives for the People.
It was pretty cool one day when Russell came to the Higher Ground and was having a muffin and a Rattle Snake Brew coffee. We had great discussion at the coffee house, I was asking him a question about the past, he told me to read the book, my reply was I wanted him to share with me. I wanted to hear the stories first hand because it is more powerful listening to a friend relive his life. I could listen to him for hours and just like good friends that is what would happen. Time would stop and we would dream of a better world for the Lakota people.
I asked one question that I will always remember, I asked him why did AIM choose him. He told me in a very powerful manner, He said it was because he was intelligent, educated, and he spoke well. I believe he is all of those things still, but now he has the wisdom of an elder. I asked him when he was still in his sixties if he thought himself to be an elder. He still had the warrior spirit and I know he wanted to keep fighting but alas, he told me what he wanted for the future. He wanted for "US" the younger ones to continue the fight with what is rightfully our birthright, FREEDOM! Don't you just love Braveheart?