Dennis Banks Visits an Ailing Russell Means
September 6, 2011
SAN JOSE, NEW MEXICO - In its glory days, the American Indian Movement served as a major catalyst for the resurgence for American Indians throughout the United States.
During the 1970s, Dennis Banks, Ojibwa, and Russell Means, Lakota, emerged as two of the American Indian Movement's most recognizable leaders. Some could argue they have been the most visible and vocal American Indian leaders during the past half-century.
Together they fought for American Indian rights. Both men led the American Indian Movement's 71-day siege at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Both men were indicted and put on trial and were tried together in St. Paul, Minnesota in a trial that lasted some eight months. Both men were freed when the Federal Judge Fred Nichol dismissed charges against them and accused the US Department of Justice and the FBI with misconduct because of their tactics used in their attempt to prosecute both men.
Over the ensuing decades, both men have remained fighters for American Indian rights.
Both men were together again in New Mexico last week Thursday, as Means is in the fight for his life. In July he was diagnosed with esophagus cancer and elected not have surgery which would have required removal of a major portion of his tongue.
Banks flew to Albuquerque and traveled to visit to see Means at his rural home near San Jose, New Mexico.
"He is a fighter. He is in the battle with cancer and seeking alternative healing,"
Banks told the Native News Network Friday evening.
"He is still very strong - strong-minded, and robust as ever,"
"We both talked about establishing a health agenda. We both have had serious health issues,"
Means is relying on American Indian spiritual healers to assist him with his treatment.
Accompanying Banks on the visit was Paul Collins and his wife, Carol. Paul Collins is an internationally-acclaimed artist who met both men at Wounded Knee in 1973. At the time, Collins was there painting a series of portraits, which resulted in "Other Voices- A Native American Tableau."
After many years as an American Indian activist, Means became a Hollywood actor. Since 1992, he has appeared in "The Last of the Mohicans," "The Pathfinder," "Natural Born Killers," "Windrunner: A Spirited Journey," "Thomas and the Magic Railroad." His served as the voice of Chief Pawhatan in "Pocahontas" in the hit 1995 Disney movie.
Also, during 1995, Means released his autobiography, "Where White Men Fear to Tread," co-written with Marvin J. Wolf.
On Saturday, Banks was back home in Minnesota and will try to go back to spend some extended time with Means.