Russell Means Challenging 150 years of Broken Treaties

I want to emphasize, we do not represent the collaborators, the Vichy Indians and those tribal governments set up by the United States of America to ensure our poverty, to ensure the theft of our land and resources,” former Libertarian Party presidential hopeful Russell Means recently said.

Reason’s Jesse Walker points out that nearly everyone in the western world (at least those with Internet hookups) now knows who Ron Paul is. What Russell Means, Paul’s opponent in the 1988 race for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, is currently up to seems interesting, as well.

Means, now 68 years of age, has been a leading American Indian (Means dislikes the term Native American) freedom activist. He is credited with roles in the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island, the takeover of Mount Rushmore, the takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Washington, DC office, and the occupation of Wounded Knee.

He’s also had other American Indian roles, such as playing chief Chingachgook in Last of the Mohicans. His voice was used in Pocahontas, and he had roles in movies like Natural Born Killers and Into the West.

Recently, he’s been leading a movement to return Sioux lands to their native (and legal, as he would claim) inhabitants. Here’s how the AFP describes the movement:

The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.

“We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us,” long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.

The Argus Leader reports:

Headed by leaders of the American Indian Movement, including activist, actor and Porcupine resident Russell Means, the group dropped in on the State Department and the embassies of Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile and South Africa this week seeking recognition for their effort to form a free and independent Lakota nation. The group plans to visit more embassies in the coming months.

The new nation is needed because Indians have been “dismissed” by the United States and are tired of living under a colonial apartheid system, Means said during a news conference held at Plymouth Congregational Church in northeast Washington. He was accompanied by a bodyguard and three other Lakota activists - Gary Rowland, Duane Martin and Phyllis Young, all of South Dakota.

The story becomes increasingly interesting:

Members of the new nation would not pay any taxes, and leaders would be informally chosen by community elders, Means said. Non-Indians could continue to live in the new nation’s territory, which would consist of the western parts of North and South Dakota and Nebraska and eastern parts of Wyoming and Montana. The new government would issue its own passports and drivers licenses, Means said.

“Our withdrawal (from the treaties) is fully thought out,” Means said, referring to peace treaties the Lakota people signed with the government in 1851 and 1868. “We were mandated by our elders in 1974 to do two things. First, to establish relationships with the international community… and the second mandate, of course, was to reestablish our independence.”

Bolivian Ambassador Gustavo Guzman, who attended the press conference out of solidarity, said he takes the Lakotas’ declaration of independence seriously.

“We are here because the demands of indigenous people of America are our demands,” Guzman said. “We have sent all the documents they presented to the embassy to our ministry of foreign affairs in Bolivia and they’ll analyze everything.”

While the “official” Lakota tribes have not broken away, it is important to note that Means was once deprived of a tribal leadership role in a case involving voting fraud. While Means lost the election, a court upheld that vote fraud had occurred and ordered a new election. According to Wikipedia, that election was never conducted and the court never enforced its own decision. The organization Means currently represents is called the Lakota Freedom Delegation.

UPDATE: The Rapid City Journal reports the following additional information:

A group represents the Lakota Sioux Indian representatives from various reservations and states said Wednesday that it is declaring sovereign nation status and withdrawing from all treaties with the U.S. government. [...]

If the U.S. government does not immediately enter into diplomatic negotiations, the group said in a news release, liens will be filed on real-estate transactions across the region—an action it says could cloud title issues over thousands of square miles of land and property.

“In order to stop the continuous taking of our resources - people, land, water and children- we have no choice but to claim our own destiny,” said Phyllis Young, a former Indigenous representative to the United Nations and representative from Standing Rock.

26 Responses to “Russell Means Challenging 150 years of Broken Treaties”

  1. Fred C. Says:

    Evo Morales will be under intense pressure from elements in his party to give them full recognition. This is bigger than anyone suspects.

  2. Stephen Gordon Says:

    I agree. This may indeed be bigger than folks now suspect.

  3. SovereignMN Says:

    It’s going to be interesting to see how this thing plays out.

    One thing I didn’t know until today is that a group of Lokota Indians has “re-acquired” the southern portion of the Badlands National Park a few years ago. They have basically gone in and squatted on the land they claim as theirs and they have yet to be removed.

  4. Texan Says:

    Hmmm… the Lakota aren’t the only ones whose relationship with the U.S. is defined by a treaty.


  5. Rainmaker Says:

    Custer’s last stand part two? Lakota going to make fools of the government again?

    Since he’s not the official council, looks like blowing smoke in the wind.

  6. Robert Milnes Says:

    I posted my tentative proposals on Native American issues on my campaign website a long time ago. I look forward to assisting them.

  7. Devious David Says:

    ... This could get interesting. Especially in light of the Presidential race, if Dr. Paul gets the nomination.

  8. Robert Milnes Says:

    I have a better chance of getting the LP nomination than Ron Paul has of getting the gop nomination.

  9. Fred C. Says:


  10. Ed Stamm Says:

    So, if I understand correctly, Means and his group claim to be the “traditional” Lakota leaders, as opposed to the recognized tribal leaders. The article said a follow-up election was never held after allegations of voting fraud. When is the next election? Is this free pre-election campaigning? Will there be election observers next time?

  11. frieda Says:

    Way to go I will not give up my America. For those that think this is good for them, hang a right and keep on going.

  12. frieda Says:

    Way to go I will not give up my America. For those that think this is good for them, hang a right and keep on going.See ya!

  13. Drake Says:

    We in Canada gave our Inuit population half of the NW Territories not long ago. The least the U.S. gov’t can do for treatment much worse to their “Indian” populations is to start given them their land and sovereignty back. We’re my bow and arrow!

  14. Omar Zaid, M.D. Says:

    To All Concerned With The New Imperialism,


    As an American ex-pat (living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) and convert to Islam, I support this historic turn of events. Indeed, those of us who recognize the Autonomy of our Creator, The Great Spirit, stand in solidarity with the Lakota People.

    We are but a breath of life, a momentary breeze on the face of this beloved planet. So let that breath be enobled by the intention and deeds of our brothers and sisters, the Lakota. And let it be said we did not stand in silence and breathe this breath as cowards, fearful to do anything other than pray in solitude.

    Mr. Means confronts Goliath and reminds him he is naught but a mortal heathen, a breath become foul and rancid with the blood of innocence. May Allah increase the right hand and arm of the Lakota, and may those whose new breath awaits the final hour, look on and be proud once more of this people so long asleep, so long waiting a man of strength and vision, a man unable to fear his own breath because he knows the Giver of all breath.

    Wasalaam alaikum,

    Omar Zaid bin Abdullah, as’Siddiq, M.D.
    Research Fellow, ISTAC, K.L. Malaysia

  15. DonnaK Says:

    This is yet another of Mr Means attempts at a claim to fame. Those of us who have lived in the region for years know him for what he is, an actor looking for a new stage. I just hope he doesnt get anyone killed this time. Honestly, the government HAS screwed up in the past, but so has Russ and his buddies.
    However if they dont want to be citizens anymore, GREAT! Stop taking US tax dollars, give back all technology, every single thing on their reservation that came from America, dont go sneaking in to the US for work, and dont ask us for help when your children are nekid and starving because you people cant live with out the welfare checks you get from the “evil” America!

  16. Pipukwes Says:

    Donnak wrote: “Stop taking US tax dollars, give back all technology, every single thing on their reservation that came from America, dont go sneaking in to the US for work, and dont ask us for help when your children are nekid and starving because you people cant live with out the welfare checks you get from the “evil” America!:”

    It is obvious he has never been or spent any time living on a reservation. As for hand the US giving Indians anything is a joke..
    I say If the Lkota can get what was stolen from them for the greed of the white man all the more power to them. It may help the rest of us get back was stolen by lies and decite by Americas supposedly founding fathers.

  17. Madonna Says:


    Comments posted here do not seem to acknowledge a number of pertinent facts concerning the posture assumed by Lakota dissident Russell Means and three followers:

    1. They as individuals or under the name of the Lakota Freedom Delegation do not officially represent the Lakota Nation and have no power to make any decision concerning the observance or non-observance of the terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty between the US and the Lakota Nation for the reasons explained below.

    2. There is a body of Lakota representatives who are duly appointed by elders and traditional people of the Nation to deal with such matters. They meet regularly. They discuss the matter of the Black Hills, the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, etc.. in the Lakota language that Russell Means, educated for the most part in California “white” schools, neither understand or speak fluently or correctly enough to be accepted in or contribute to those meetings on an ongoing basis.

    3. Russell Means has made a big deal about his being an “Oglala lakota Patriot” and tried to run for office several times on Pine Ridge reservation, each time being rejected by the Oglala people. The reason is evident to the Oglala people but not to outsiders: Russell Means is a Rosebud person, and not an Oglala. Both of his brothers live on Rosebud reservation, and for good cause. Bill, Ted and Russell Means are the sons of a Rosebud woman and a certain Hank Means who was the son of a full blood Crow woman and a white military man. None of the ancestry of the Means links them to any group of the Oglala people. (see genealogy - OLC Archives)

    4. Russell Means has made it quite clear a number of times in the past twenty years that he no longer belongs to AIM. He is not an AIM leader.

    5. Russell Means was charged once with the responsibilities of defending the provisions of the Fort Laramie Treaty, in 1974, by the coalition of Lakota elders, and thus the International Indian Treaty Council was created whose mission is to defend the Rights of the Lakota nation as stipulated in the provisions of th Fort Laramie Treaty. Russell was specifically charged with a certain task which he solemnly accepted. He voluntarily discharged or delegated his duties to his brother Bill.

    Though Bill Means was appointed Executive Director of the International Treaty Council that took its case to the United Nations, Russell Means has consistently over the years affirmed the fact that he was chosen as the champion of the elders to uphold the Treaty Rights of the Lakota, and that he only delegated administrative responsibilities to his brother. However, over the years, political disagreement, particularly over the question of the Nicaragua alliances, created a gulf between the two brothers. Bill Means is still on the board of IITC, but the present executive director of IITC is a California woman who has no profound feeling or close connection to the Lakota people and their original decision regarding the formation of IITC or the mission of IITC.

    In unilaterally declaring the 1868 Treaty null and void, Russell Means reneged on his promise made to his elders in 1974 to defend the Lakota Rights under that Treaty, and essentially betrayed his word to the entire Lakota Nation.

  18. Larry Breazeale,Msgt.(ret.)USAFR Says:

    I think Russell Means is BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDD News. I do not trust him one bit. He is just another two-bit left winger trying to throw his weight around. Don’t forget this is this the same militant-left winger that was active in the A.I.M. movement (American Indian Movement) in the 70’s,
    with Dennis Banks , that had their ‘goon squads’ intimitating and threatening many other Native American tribes that did not buy their left-wing bill of goods. This is the same Russel Means that danced on the graves of U.S. 7th Cavalry troops buried at the Little BigHorn Battlefield,
    in complete “disrespect” to the fallen, on BOTH sides.In my opinion, Russell
    Means is a “legend in his own mind”. -Larry Breazeale, Msgt. (ret.) USAFR,

  19. Allen Hacker's Consulting Firm Says:

    Larry, is that the movement in that Val Kilmer film??

  20. Sky Whitewolf Says:

    Larry Breazeale,Msgt.(ret.)USAFR wrote:
    “Don’t forget this is this the same militant-left winger that was active in the A.I.M. movement (American Indian Movement) in the 70’s,
    with Dennis Banks , that had their ‘goon squads’ intimidating and threatening many other Native American tribes that did not buy their left-wing bill of goods.”
    Just so we are clear, the “G.O.O.N. (Guardians Of the Oglala Nation) Squad” was started by Tribal Chairman, Richard “Dick” Wilson. NOT by the American Indian Movement I believe he was appointed and assumed the tribal chairman position in 1972. As far as I know and have read, the reservation police are hired by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs), most of which were mix-bloods.
    I personally have some serious questions and many doubts about the integrity of Russell Means and his true motives. I am not here to defend nor condemn him. Just to find the truth. So, I have come to learn that it is necessary to READ and do my research before I assume anything. Especially when it comes to prove a point about someone or something.
    Larry, please do your research about the GOON Squad, Look up Tribal Chairman Richard Wilson…...AND if you are REALLY looking for some fun reading, Look up “Anna Mae Aquash” and anything else similar to her situation. This will give a new light on ones perspective of the whole situation that happened on the reservations. I will be looking forward to reading about his supposed disrespect on the Little Bighorn Battlefield and see what his intent was that day.
    No disrespect, just the facts.

  21. Stephen Gordon Says:

    Sky Whitewolf,

    I’ve two angles on this: I’m libertarian and have a strong Trail of Tears ancestry. I’d rather spend my time fighting for what’s right than over nuances in certain movements. I’m not a revolutionary; just a freedom sort of guy—but don’t want my kids to starve in the process.

    I don’t know all of the the nuances behind all of the Lakota side of things, but would like two things: truth and positive change.

    The comments on this article are really mixed, but you seem to be someone who might be able to provide some reasonable balance.

    I’d like facts on both (all) sides. I’d also like freedom, at (somewhat) any reasonable cost. Like you, just the facts, please.

    Interesting note: No one is challenging my title line.

  22. Hoksila Says:

    You seem to have quite a bit of hostility toward Russell Means that obscures the political and legal issues involved. Just to clarify, however. You write that there is some ethereal body of “traditional” elders to defend the Treaty. Well, where are they? No one is defending the Treay, especially you. BTW, Russell’s mother is from Yankton, not Rosebud.

  23. Dana Says:

    I have not seen any coverage about the response of the US Govt. If the Lakota (or a few individuals) are renouncing their citizenship, then I would expect swift government response to stop any government programs, Head Start programs, grants and cooperative agreements to organizations realted to the reservation, Health Services, Welfare checks, and other US benefits since the proper channel to receive any aid would be through foreign aid departments - no longer qualifying as US citizens or within US territory. And efforts should be made to ensure that none of these non-citizens are voting in the upcoming presidential election! If they want to start from scratch, I say let’s do it and be done with this albatros we have been stuck with for 150 years.

  24. Larry Breazeale,Msgt.(ret.)USAFR Says:

    To: Stephen Gordon & Sky Whitewolf,
    Hey guys, all I can recommend , concerning the left-wing militant Russell
    Means, (and even Dennis Banks for what it is worth…) is go to the NEW AMERICAN MAGAZINE website ……..and click on to their archives…with American Indian Movement…(AIM) or their individual names. Their documentation is right on target. Many years ago this magazine was called AMERICAN OPINION magazine. They carried a special alert page on the communist party USA influence in the AIM group, and others. During the 60’s or 70’s at Wounded Knee, in the Dakotas, there was a hostage takeover event and shoot-out, where some U.S.Marshals were killed by some AIM members, per this article.
    Professor & Indian Wars Historian Robert M. Utley, author of many books, most noted..”Cavaler In Buckskin” (Custer) and “The Lance & the Shield”,
    (Sitting Bull)...and other LittleBig Horn Historians & Historical Associations who are helping to preserve the monuments, and grave sites of the Custer Battlefield..have witnessed Russell Means dancing on the grave sites of the fallen soldiers there numerous times, during a so-called “Sundance”.
    BOTH 7th Cav soldiers and the Native Americans buried there on the LittleBig Horn Battlefield need to be respected by everyone. BOTH sides did their duty that day. BOTH need to be honored.

    -Larry Breazeale, Msgt. (ret.) USAFR,
    Vietnam/Desert Storm Veteran,
    Constitution Party…

  25. Stephen Gordon Says:


    I’m an 11 year Army veteran (Desert Storm, too - also saw the miracle of peaceful resolutions being in Germany when the Wall fell)—but I’m also of Cherokee (and Jewish) ancestry.

    I can understand both sides of these issues. Merely being a veteran doesn’t make it right - in my Army we didn’t torture, for example. I’ve had people spit in my face when hopping off a plane in Class As in DC, too.

    I’m trying to resolve both sides of these issues in my mind.

  26. Cat Thunder Says:

    I am a native american from British Columbia and I will be reading your futute info on this regarding how you handle the Government there compare how we handle it here in B.C. Canada.

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