Hunk with Hair, Beau with Braids and all-around Colby Hero Russell Means died Monday at the age of 72. Born on Pine Ridge in South Dakota, one of the nation's most deprived Indian reservations, Means spent his life defending the sovereign rights of Indian people. In 1964, at the age of 27, Means began a life of activism by joining several members of the American Indian Movement in occupying Alcatraz Island. By 1970 he became AIM's first national director. On Thanksgiving Day in 1970, Means and a group of activist seized a replica of the Pilgrim's mythic vessel, the Mayflower, in Boston Harbor. Later that year, Means lead an occupation of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and then the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office in Washington, DC.
During the 1974 occupation of Wounded Knee by AIM activists which eventually lead to the deaths of an Oglala and Cherokee protester, Means served as the organization's chief spokesman. He also worked with the United Nations to establish offices of the International Indian Treaty Council in 1977. In 1987, Means ran for President of the United States under the Libertarian Party ticket, coming in second place and losing the nomination to Congressman Ron Paul. In 2004 and 2008, Means supported Green Party candidate Ralph Nader for president. In 2004, Means lost a second bid to assume the Presidency of the Oglala Sioux Nation to Cecilia Fire Thunder, the first woman elected to the Oglala Presidency. In 2007, Means, along with other Oglala activists, attempted to void all previous treaties with the United States government in hopes of founding the Republic of Lakotah, (a land-locked territory ostensibly including large portions of South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana)-- a sovereign and independent state.
Means also starred in several Hollywood movies including Natural Born Killers and The Last of the Mohicans, and served as the voice of Chief Powhatan in Disney's Pocahontas. He is survived by ten children. Andy Warhol also painted 18 versions of Means for his American Indian portrait series in 1976.