Date of Birth : Nov 10th 1939
Contemporary America’s best-known and prolific activists for the rights of American Indians. Means has also pursued careers in politics, acting, and music.
In 1968, his life turned around when he joined the American Indian Movement and quickly became one its most prominent leaders. In 1969, Means was part of a group of Native Americans that occupied Alcatraz Island for a period of 19 months. He was appointed the group’s first national director in 1970. Later that year, Means was one of the leaders of AIM’s takeover of Mount Rushmore. In 1972, he participated in AIM’s takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Washington, DC, and in 1973 he led AIM’s occupation of Wounded Knee, which became the group’s most celebrated action.
In 1974, Means first ran for the presidency of his native Oglala Sioux tribe against the incumbent Dick Wilson. Although the official vote count showed Wilson winning by two hundred votes, Means charged that this was due to pervasive vote fraud and intimidation by Wilson’s agents. An investigation by a federal court agreed with Means and ordered a new election. However, Wilson’s government refused to carry this out, and the court declined to enforce the ruling.
Between 1974 and 1976, as AIM disintegrated from internal conflicts and the efforts of COINTELPRO, Means stood trial 12 times for a variety of charges. The most serious of these was a 1975 trial for the murder of Martin Montileaux, for which Means was acquitted. In 1979 he served one year of a four-year sentence on charges stemming from a riot at a courthouse in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Means was paroled in 1980 and fully pardoned in 2002. His troubles with the law have continued, however; on August 23, 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that under the Indian Civil Rights Act, the Navajo Nation has criminal jurisdiction over Means for an assault he allegedly committed on Navajo land, even though he is not a member.