Activist Russell Means to Speak at Augustana April 27

The Center for Western Studies at Augustana College today announced that American Indian activist Russell Means, widely known for leading the 71-day armed takeover of Wounded Knee on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973, will discuss “Wounded Knee, Before, During and After,” at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 27, in Augustana’s Chapel of Reconciliation.

Means’ talk coincides with the Center for Western Studies’ Dakota Conference, a national conference on the Northern Plains. Now in its 44th year, the theme for the 2012 conference is “Wounded Knee 1973: Forty Years Later.”

  • Tickets for Means’ discussion are $10 each and will be available at the door before the event.
  • Tickets to Means’ discussion will be provided to registrants of the full Dakota Conference. Conference registration is $50 before April 16; $55 after April 16. Registration is available at

Called the most famous American Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse by the Los Angeles Times, Means first became a national spokesman for the fledgling American Indian Movement in the early 1970s by confronting costumed Pilgrims during a Thanksgiving re-enactment in Plymouth, Mass. Also in the early 1970s, he organized a protest rally in Gordon, Neb., over the death of Raymond Yellow Thunder, who died at the hands of four white men in 1972.

CWS Art Exhibit Features 'Interpretations of Wounded Knee'

Read more about “Interpretations of Wounded Knee 1973 and 1890,” an art exhibit commemorating the 40th anniversary of the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 now on display in the Madsen/Nelson/Elmen Galleries of the Center for Western Studies’ Fantle Building.

In 1973, Means organized the Wounded Knee occupation, a 10-week siege which made “AIM” a household word in America. In 1975, he was acquitted of murder charges in the death of a man in a barroom brawl.

In the 1990s, Means began a successful acting career with his role in “The Last of the Mohicans,” eventually appearing in at least 32 movies and television shows, including Disney’s “Pocahontas” and Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers,” as well as “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He also published his autobiography, “Where White Men Fear to Tread.”

In mid-2011, he announced his diagnosis of esophageal cancer. At the time, Means said the disease had spread to his tongue, lungs and lymph nodes and was too advanced for surgery.

According to a story in the Rapid City Journal, “even if surgery had been an option, he would not have chosen it, Means said, since it meant removing his tongue and losing the ability to speak.” In December 2011, Means announced he was cancer-free.

“Mr. Means’ ability to share first-hand details of the occupation, and his reflections 40 years later, will no doubt provide fascinating insight into one of the Northern Plains’ most significant historical events,” said Dr. Harry Thompson, executive director of the Center for Western Studies.

“As part of our balanced examination of the Wounded Knee 1973 occupation, we wanted to reach out to those who had first-hand knowledge of the incident and subsequent events. For example, former Governor William Janklow, who was assistant attorney general at the time, had indicated that he would attend if his health permitted.”

On December 29, 1890, Miniconjou Lakota chief Spotted Elk (Big Foot) and 300 of his followers were attacked on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek. Eighty-three years later, 200 Oglala Lakota seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee. In observance of the 40th anniversary of the occupation, the 2012 Dakota Conference will address questions related to Wounded Knee 1973, the 1890 massacre, as well as any and all aspects of Northern Plains American Indian history and culture.
Other speakers for the Dakota Conference, April 27-28, include:

  • Stew Magnuson, author of “The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder
  • Kevin McKiernan, NPR reporter, the last reporter inside Wounded Knee in 1973
  • Joe Trimbach, FBI agent in charge at Wounded Knee in 1973
  • Judge David Gienapp and attorney James McMahon, assistant U.S. attorneys prosecuting Wounded Knee cases
  • Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, American Indian scholar
  • Michael Her Many Horses, participant in Wounded Knee occupation