Monday, October 22, 2012

Russell Means, American Hero

Russell Means has died.  Means was leader of the American Indian Movement, fought against the federal government at Wounded Knee SD, and almost became the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party.  He was a very unusual and interesting man.

I saw Means speak twice, both times at Montana State University.  The first time, in the 1970s as a representative of AIM, and the second time in the late 1980s as a conference speaker.  The first time I saw him he was with several other AIM members.  When they entered, there was very much the sensation that a band of warriors was in the room.  I don't remember much of  what he said, just that they were deadly serious and saw themselves as directly confronting the federal government.  The second time I heard him he was in the running for the LP; the conference was not an LP event, but Means did give an explicit endorsement of libertarian principles.  He was relaxed and quite jocular.

He was not a typical classical liberal, and I probably would have disagreed with him on a number of issues.  But I greatly admire his willingness to fight for freedom and for his principles.  Here's something he said:

"In 1974 I heard John Maw, a Seneca leader of the Iroquois Confederacy, say 'if you want to be sovereign, act sovereign.' That is all you have to do. If you want to be sovereign, act sovereign. Be an example. Freedom works. Create free institutions. When you are in a war, every front is necessary."

"Think tanks are necessary, election campaigns for the President on down are necessary; everything in fighting for freedom is necessary, because we are surrounded. But most importantly, we have to create our own freedom institutions."

We soon may all be in need of Russell Means' courage and willingness to fight.

Brian Doherty of Reason has a nice survey and tribute (it's the source of the above quote).

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