KYLE, South Dakota (Reuters) - More than 1,000 people turned out on Wednesday to pay respects to American Indian activist Russell Means in a 12-hour service in South Dakota featuring a tribute in his native Lakota, delivered against the backdrop of the harsh prairie land where he was born.
Means died at his home in South Dakota on Monday, after spending decades fighting for American Indian rights, starting with protests against college and professional sports teams’ use of Indian images as mascots.
He later become the leader of the American Indian Movement and a Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. president. Means, who was 72, had been battling advanced esophageal cancer.
Bill Means said on Wednesday that his older brother’s combative nature and unwillingness to accept any form of racial discrimination was ingrained at an early age.
“Our mother had faced discrimination throughout her life, and she was a not a woman to compromise - particularly when it came to discrimination,” he said during the service. “Russell saw that and become much the same way.”
The ceremony was expected to last 12 hours, beginning with a funeral procession led by 21 horses through a stretch of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Sioux in South Dakota, where Means was born.
“I will remember him as an honest man,” said his son, Scott Means. “What he gave you was the truth, always the truth. You always knew where he stood.”
As an activist, Means took part in an occupation of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington in 1972 and led the 72-day standoff with federal authorities at Wounded Knee on Pine Ridge in 1973.
He also dabbled in acting, appearing in films “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Natural Born Killers.”
Editing by Paul Thomasch and Philip Barbara