Many actors are involved with politics in one way or another, but few fought with such conviction as Russell Means, who passed away earlier today. The cause of death is believed to be complications from esophageal cancer. Means was a political activist decades before he became an actor. While Means may be recognized more for appearances in films such as The Last of the Mohicans and Thomas and the Magic Railroad than for his political career, but his dedication toward the advancement of American Indian rights will be what he is remembered for.
Means was an important figure in the American Indian Movement dating back to the 1970s. Over the course of his forty year involvement as an American Indian activist, the Oglala Sioux native staged dozens of protests and traveled all across the world raising awareness for American Indian Rights. Means also ran for President of the United States in 1988, though he lost the nomination of the Libertarian Party to future Republican candidate Ron Paul.
Means made his acting debut in the Oscar winning film The Last of the Mohicans. He played Chingachgook, the adopted father of Hawkeye, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. Means was responsible for many of the film’s most memorable scenes including his final confrontation against Magua. Means would go on to have a diverse film career ranging from many genres. His other films include Natural Born Killers, Pathfinder, and Disney’s Pocahontas. Means broke important ground in becoming one of the first American Indians to receive prominent billing in major American blockbusters.
Means is survived by his wife Pearl Means and his ten children through five different marriages. America has lost a great actor, activist, and trailblazer. On behalf of The Rock at Boston College, I extend our condolences to the friends and family of Russell Means.