American Indian activist Means says he has cancer

Russell Means, a former American Indian Movement activist who led the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee, says he has inoperable throat cancer.

The 71-year-old said doctors told him the cancer was too advanced for surgery, the Rapid City Journal reported. Means, who is also an actor known for his role in "The Last of the Mohicans," said he would not have chosen surgery anyway because it would have meant the removal of his tongue and his ability to speak.

Means is forgoing mainstream medical treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy, saying that being fed through a tube and being confined to a wheelchair by extreme fatigue are "unacceptable options."

"I'm not going to hang on to life under those conditions," he said. "No way am I going to hang on for that."

Means said he'll turn to alternative treatments and traditional American Indian remedies. Herbal teas and other plants with cancer-fighting properties have come to him from tribes in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the Ojibwe tribe in Minnesota, he said. He is also receiving cancer treatments approved in Europe and Canada but not in the United States at an alternative cancer center in Arizona.

He knows his prognosis isn't good, but said he is at peace with the possibility that he might die.

"I'm not going to argue with the Great Mystery," he said. "Lakota belief is that death is a change of worlds. And I believe like my dad believed. When it's my time to go, it's my time to go."

Means said he feels his most important accomplishment is the founding of the Republic of Lakotah and the "re-establishment of our freedom to be responsible" as a sovereign nation inside the borders of the United States.

His efforts to have his proposed country recognized by the international community continue at the United Nations, he said, even as it is ignored by tribal governments closer to home, including his own Oglala Sioux Tribe.

In 1975, murder charges were filed in state court against Means and Dick Marshall, an AIM member, in the shooting death of Martin Montileaux of Kyle at the Longbranch Saloon in Scenic. Marshall served 24 years in prison. Means was acquitted.

Means ran unsuccessfully for the Libertarian nomination for president in 1988.


Information from: The Rapid City Journal

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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