Prisoner of conscience Leonard Peltier issued a statement, saying in part:
"I wish I was there to talk with you in person and share with you the sorrow that I feel with the passing of Russell Means, my brother, my friend, and inspiration on many levels."
"Russell Means will always be an icon whenever the American Indian Movement is spoken of and whenever people talk about the changes that took place, the changes that are taking place now for Indian people."
"We'll see you again my brother Russell, in some other time and in some other place, we will always be your friend, and we will always look forward to seeing your face. Mitakuye Oyasin (All Are Related from a traditional Lakota Sioux prayer)."
Russell Means.com said he "lived a life like few others in this century"" He disliked being called a Native American. "The one thing I've always maintained is that I'm an American Indian."
"Everyone who's born in the Western Hemisphere is a Native American. We are all Native Americans."
He also said he put "American" before ethnicity. "I'm not a hyphenated African-American or Irish-American or Jewish-American or Mexican-American."
Means was born on November 10, 1939 in Wanblee, SD, on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation. With Dennis Banks and Leonard Peltier, he participated in the 1973 Wounded Knee siege and tragedy.
For 71 days, they and other AIM activists held off hundreds off FBI thugs, federal marshals, National Guard troops, and complicit Indian vigilantes. They were called "GOONS (Guardians of Our Oglala Nation)." They sold out for whatever benefits they got in return.
On February 27, Oglala Sioux activists reclaimed Wounded Knee. They wanted their 1868 treaty rights honored.
It stated that "(t)he government of the United States desires peace, and its honor is hereby pledged to keep it." It also reaffirmed all Indian rights granted under the 1851 Treaty.
From 1778 - 1871, Washington negotiated 372 treaties. All were systematically spurned.
At Wounded Knee, AIM represented over 75 Indian Nations. For nearly two and a half months, they held on. They were free. It wasn't easy. Washington cut off electricity. Food and other essential deliveries were blocked.
Activists were shot and killed. When it ended, hundreds of arrests followed. An FBI/Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) reign of terror began. It lasted three years.
Roving death squads murdered at least 342 AIM members and supporters. Hundreds more were harassed and beaten. Many more were arrested. Their crime was wanting to live free on their own land.