The prominent Native American activist Russell Means passed away on Monday. In 2008 he met with RT to talk about the Native Americans withdrawal from the US, their fight for recognition and his unhappiness with US citizenship.
At the end of 2007, a large group of Native Americans from South Dakota declared the independence of the Lakotah Republic from the United States, and renounced their US citizenship.
Following the incident RT’s Nadezhda Kevorkova met Russell Means, who told her about his struggle for independence.
RT: Russell, you are no longer a U.S. citizen, are you?
Russell Means: I am not. I am a Lakotah citizen, and I really regret about those who are hesitant to terminate their U.S. citizenship.
RT: In Russia many people dream of getting US citizenship, and they consider it stupid if anyone could’ve stayed in the U.S. under any pretext but failed to do so. What do you make of that?
RM: The United States is a fake country that has no culture. It’s easy to manipulate such a country, and to channel its people. The U.S. has a façade shown to the rest of the world, but few know of its reverse side as thoroughly as Indians do. The picture people see is not the reality of today’s United States. Even the President who’s in office today wasn’t really elected, like back in the year 2000. Young people certainly strive to get here to achieve their dreams. But really anyone coming only has one reason: they want to become rich and successful, and they want to get their opportunities [to succeed]. Once you talk to them you realize they don’t even dream of anything beyond money-making. This was the reason Europeans came here. This is the principle of the American life. The world is sick and tired of American prosperity. The world is waking up.
RT: You have declared the Republic of Lakotah’s independent from the United States. What has the response been like?
RM: The world has shown a great response that’s been growing by the day. Thanks to the internet, we see how keen people are about our freedom. A large number of people support us, and welcome us. People are vividly interested in our independence. The world understands us; while the US government doesn’t.
RT: Who’s been supporting you?
RM: People don’t merely support us; thousands of people demonstrate their willingness to come to the Republic of Lakotah. Unlike the unfortunate refugees fleeing to the U.S., those willing to join us are highly qualified professionals – doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, scientists, various profile engineers, computer specialists, farmers. When people employ their minds they understand the meaning, and value, and the true meaning of freedom. We’re excited about anyone. If Americans want to join us we welcome them as well. The Lakota are a free people in their free country. The global situation has never been more favorable for us.
Chief Oliver, descendant of the legendary Chief Red Cloud, a supporter of Russell Means (Photo by Nadezhda Kevorkova)
RT: There’s a notion that Native Americans are now running casinos in their reservations, and making huge profits from them.
RM: Casinos are legalized robbery. Only weak-minded and weak-spirited would want to spend their time playing in them. There won’t be any casinos in the Republic of Lakotah. We don’t want people to be robbed under a pretext that this kind of business is profitable for a tribe.
RT: What kind of difficulties do you expect to face, such as traveling outside the U.S. without a passport?
RM: A passport is required to be able to return to your home country. You only need an ID within the country; and the same applies to Europe. People will need their Lakotah passports to travel the world; this is something we’ve been working on now. As for me, I don’t expect any problems leaving the country; but they may want stop me from getting back in, that’s a possibility. It would be interesting if an American-born wouldn’t be allowed to return to his homeland. According to a UN convention, all groups of nationalities have the right to their own passports. So we are operating within international law.
RT: What is the meaning of freedom that Lakotah represents?
RM: Today the world lives by 17th-century values. That’s when the idea emerged that interests of an individual were protected by representative democracy. Few understand that a national government isn’t the most balanced kind of representation.
The strongest kind of representation is an association of communities where each community is a group of free citizens that guarantees their protection. The United States was intended as such a union of communities but they are no longer that way. They became an old-fashioned system of hierarchal governance.
The Republic of Lakotah will be designed on a communities principle based on consensus between them. Each community will have their own judges, law enforcement teams, and electoral councils. A community governed by its people doesn’t need police.
The patriarchal governance system is based on fear that produces various phobias. Men fear women, and women gain so much power that their identity gets modified. Refugees storm the state borders, and states protect their borders, maintain armies of prisoners, and practice torture and execution. The entire society is saturated with fear that’s been stirred up artificially. A patriarchal state believes in negative only, and expects negative only from its people. It was generated together with the market; and it made people its slaves.
A union of free communities is based on the principle of freedom rather than fear. A lot of people worldwide do realize it; this is why the Republic of Lakotah has so many supporters. If racists want to join us they are welcome to come here and live in a racist community. Freedom implies an opportunity to be an idiot and to live in a community of the likes.
RT: Native Indians aren’t represented in the U.S. Senate, or Congress, or the Supreme Court, are they?
RM: They aren’t, and they haven’t been throughout all these centuries. We intend making the U.S. government liable for the genocide of ethnic Indians. We’re now preparing paperwork to start a case at the International Court in The Hague. We are convinced that many countries will support our cause.
RT: Many journalists paint a picture of your program as a return to wigwams, fires and ritual dances, is it not true?
RM: Some would probably find this picture quite attractive, but this isn’t a possibility. We have to proceed from the reality. By returning our culture we mean using all the opportunities. I’ve traveled to Europe many times, and I’ve learned of various approaches to preserving the national culture. Back in the Soviet times, I visited Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, and East Germany – everywhere except Russia and the Arctic region. So I can make comparisons between places. The United States doesn’t even have opportunities for culture; it is only focused on money and on those forms of culture that yield money. Any art that sells is the kind of art that generates profit. It’s a terrible fodder turned into a machine for generating profit.
What we see now is the world being Americanized, the profitability principle, expanded. It’s caught up even with Russia which is however trying to resist it. We don’t want to see any further Americanization, but are no revisionists either – we aren’t calling people to going back to the Stone Age, to isolation, to an ethnographic museum type of life. Or to perform paid rituals, a kind of a spiritual prostitution that’s been involving Indians under the pretext that this is our way to preserve our identity by publicly performing our sacred dances.
So they say, if you don’t like Columbus, and progress, and democracy, you should give up using electricity, and computers, and phones. This is exactly what we will do immediately, as soon as those strangers and immigrants get on their boats and go back to their countries.
One of Russell Means’ achievements: A school for Native American children in Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota (Photo by Nadezhda Kevorkova)
RT:What do you have to offer instead of the pragmatic American system?
RM: We have a special group that’s developing a whole new system, from creating alternative energy sources to our own banks that won’t be robbing our citizens. You have no idea just how positive people are about Indians. This is something I felt quite strongly in my travels – they were positive about me just because I was an ethnic Indian rather than an American. With this kind of trust credit, we will overcome all our difficulties, together with our allies.
The governments will have to recognize us and give us sovereignty. Their laws say it’s our land. If they refuse to do so, we will file a suit to the Supreme Court. They will have to make that decision – you know they keep talking about the supremacy of law. Now it will backfire. So far they’ve been trying to ignore us, with the American press marginalizing us. But now, with the advent of the internet, these tricks have stopped working. The best idea for them would be to sit down and negotiate. Otherwise our next step would be going to the International Court in The Hague and demanding that genocide against American Indians be recognized. And we hope that as a founder of this court, Russia will support us.
Gandhi once said: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then condemn you, then you win.
RT:Vladimir Putin also holds Gandhi in high esteem. He says that after Gandhi died, there is no one to talk to.You have something to build upon.
RM: Putin was talking of the double-standard democracy in America. The US supports the sovereignty of all peoples, save for those who live in the US. So we are certain Russia will back us. There’s more on this. China’s resources are now worth around 40% of what the US has. Few people at all know that China has promised Bush a market collapse if the US attacks Iran. So there is a variety of tools for peoples to support one another.
RT:What if special services assassinate you?
RM: We the Indians are not afraid of death.And I haven’t been, either. Thirty-four years ago at Wounded Knee we defeated a whole army of special services. We will defeat it now, too.
You know the best thing about the Republic of Lakotah people? For centuries they slaughtered us, sacrificed us, fenced us into reservations, and stole our land, our air, our water. But we survived! We have things to offer. By contrast, they have nothing to offer. So they pretend we are non-existent.
RT:What are your arguments against the US government?
RM: According to the US data, when Europeans came here, there were around 12 million Indians across 48 states. By the early 20th century, only 250,000 Native Americans survived. About 70% of Indians are refugees in their own country; they have been displaced from their own land. The US carried out an unparalleled genocide: they killed 99.6% Indians.
The US takes pride in its commitment to law and democracy. But throughout the years, there has been no respite in wars. There are only two countries in the world that keep breaching international law non-stop: the US and Israel. The US goes as far as neglecting its own constitution, which says that we are all free and can declare independence any time.
Right now the Republic of Lakotah is a five-state area. Six more have already supported us and would like to join us, too.
RT: Do you want to stick to peaceful means? And if it doesn’t work out, will you take up arms?
RM: Never. This is inefficient. If you want to fight your way to freedom, you are no different from your enemies. You can’t protect your independence by throwing swords into the scale. Look at the Soviet experience: it was a failure.
Russell Means poses for a portrait at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, October 28, 2011 (Reuters / Joshua Lott)
RT: I was shown the houses of drug dealers in the reservation. What should one do about them?
RM: The communities will sort it out by themselves. There are two legal drugs in the US: alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol kills 75% of the population, while tobacco kills 24%, and the remaining 1% dies of illegal drugs. One day the six of us decided to block alcohol traffic to the reservation and formed a barrier on the border with Nebraska. But then came the police. They arrested us and let the dealers get away scot- free.
RT: But it was the Indians who introduced tobacco to the world, wasn’t it?
RM: Indians smoke a pipe with unadulterated tobacco as part of a ceremony, while the US produces cigarettes for daily consumption without any ritual meaning but with a lot of lethal chemical drugs.
RT: Do you smoke?
RM: I do smoke a pipe, but no cigarettes. Anyway, I don’t inhale the smoke – just like Bill Clinton.
RT:Americans killed all the buffalo.Now the buffalo are back and white people eat their meat in restaurants. Have they turned your basic meal into fast food?
RM: Americans crossbred the bison bull with domestic cattle. What they eat is the meat of this hybrid. They also add beef to buffalo meat. You can only taste buffalo meat at a dancing ceremony in our state and in Wyoming.
RT:Thanks to you, South Dakota no longer celebrates Columbus Day. Instead, it observes Native American Day. Now what about Thanksgiving? What is the true background? There are conflicting accounts that come from Europeans: that it is a celebration of the first harvest, or that Indians brought gifts and saved the settlers…
RM: This is all a lie. Native Americans have repeatedly saved the settlers, but there are no holidays to mark this. The true story is that the pilgrims massacred Indians, so the governor of Massachusetts issued a message to thank God for that and called on the other states to follow suit. Later on they tried to give the holiday a more peaceful meaning, but there’s no changing the past.
RT: Now what do Indians do on Thanksgiving Day?
RM: They eat turkey. Many of them don’t know a thing about it. They are a colonized people with a changed mentality and memory. Schools don’t teach them anything. Most of them don’t even know a thing about me. They believe I’m just a cinema star. Maybe the 1890 massacre rings some bell. But they are fully unaware of our 1973 victory at Wounded Knee. And that was a true triumph of Native Americans over the US government.
A sacred Native American mountain in South Dakota, which was destroyed to create a privately owned museum about the great indigenous Chiefs (Photo by Nadezhda Kevorkova)
RT: Could you please share some statistics on how American Indians live today?
RM: They are struggling. The life span is getting lower by the year. Men hardly live longer than 44 years, and few women are older than 47. This is worse than in the poorest African countries. The unemployment rate is about 73%. The only fluent speakers of the Lakota language are at least 65 years old, and they are few and far between. Here’s why I built a school at my ranch, where all the subjects there are taught in Lakota only.
Every fourth baby dies. Pharmaceutical companies take the healthiest kids away from their families, send them to orphanages and test drugs on them, including psychotic ones. To make matters worse, people kidnap children from reservations and sell them for organ removal or psychiatric experiments. A few cases have been started against these kidnappers. Beating and corporal punishment is rampant in schools. For kids from the reservations school embodies violence.
Scores of reservation dwellers are infected with tuberculosis, polio, and other diseases which have been defeated in the US. There are many more instances of hypertension and diabetes in reservations than in the areas populated by white Americans.
The reason for that is this particular free fodder that generations of our people have been fed. This free food contains nothing but carbs, while two thirds of our people cannot afford buying proper food. No other place in the United States has such death and disease rates as we do. Our water is intoxicated by uranium mines located in the Reservation. People living near uranium deposits suffer from cancer and all the associated diseases; women suffer miscarriages, and deliver unhealthy babies. Poor living conditions, uranium-intoxicated water and bad nutrition are the three reasons that have been killing off my people. We tried going all kinds of other ways such as rebellions, protests, marches, addresses, and strikes, but nothing got changed. The Republic of Lakotah was declared in the name of rescuing our people that the U.S. government didn’t care about. We began to die out, but we don’t want to anymore.
Most of tribal unions aren’t doing anything but cooperate with the colonial regime. They are like the Vichy Government under Hitler – merely making an impression of self-governance in the reservations. But they are even worse than the occupants. They are now spreading rumors that we hadn’t consulted with our people and chiefs. This isn’t true. We did consult with those who are respected by people rather than the authorities. We reached an agreement with a hundred out of over 500 tribes, and with 480 families of several hundred people each. There are those in our tribes who we call miniature oligarchs, the caricature millionaires who made money on troubles of their people by selling alcohol and TVs. They also want to keep the current state of things otherwise they would lose their platform for developing their business. This mockery of life had ended on 17th December 2007. We are free. The Indian ‘Vichy’ wanted to keep their power over the Indian souls; but the Republic of Lakotah put an end to it.
Vietnam War veteran Harry Roland, the director of the Wounded Knee Museum (Photo by Nadezhda Kevorkova)