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a conversation with russell means

Russell MeansRussell Means was born into the Lakota Nation on 10 November 1939 at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In the late 1960s, while the world's attention was focused on the war in Vietnam and the slayings of civil rights leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, American Indians' rights and their callous treatment at the hands of the United States remained as ever – out of sight, out of mind. Along with fellow members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), as the first National Director of AIM in 1970, Russell Means set out to change all that. He first became an activist in the late 1960s, when he and many other American Indians occupied Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, to bring attention to the government's broken promises to, and treaties with, American Indians. Most importantly, in 1973, Means led AIM members and Lakota – including Elders – in occupying Wounded Knee, attempting to take back the land that was promised the Oglala Sioux in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. As a result, the FBI and South Dakota National Guard lay siege for 71 days to the church building which was the center of AIM resistance. From that point on, the federal authorities hounded Means and fellow AIM members. Spending over a year in prison, Means remained committed to the credo of Nez Perce Chief Joseph: "Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself – and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty."

Running for the Libertarian Party Presidential nomination in 1988, Means brought many new concerns and members to the struggling party. Never a strict doctrinaire on the left nor the right side of the fence, Means points out corporate abuse and corruption that makes many right-wingers cringe. On the other hand, Means' work in Nicaragua in the late 1980s exposed the vicious torture, abuse and displacement of the Miskito Indians at the hands of the communist Sandinistas that so many American leftists made out to be "benevolent dictators." For Means, the main issue is freedom.

Since 1990, Russell Means brought attention to American Indian issues through his new career as a critically-acclaimed actor in such motion pictures as The Last of the Mohicans, Pocahontas and Natural Born Killers. In 1995, St. Martin's Press published his best selling autobiography, Where White Men Fear to Tread.

Russell Means currently works with the Colorado chapter of AIM. There is much unfinished work in the arena of American Indians' rights, and any visitors to Means' website, Treaty Productions, can witness for themselves that the situation for American Indians has gotten worse: Reservations are still used as dumping grounds for radioactive waste, Dineh (Navajo) land is still exploited by strip mining with recompensation well-below the market rate, BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) schools are dilapidated firetraps, and one out of every four American Indian children are taken from their parents and placed in foster care or adopted outright.

But Russell Means describes a better, possible future he and his wife Pearl are building on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Porcupine, South Dakota: The Lakota Total Immersion School. Through "total immersion" in the Lakota way of life, children will be instilled with the pride and confidence to face any challenges in their future as Lakotas. As he is fond of saying: "The Indians are dying from too much sympathy; What they want is respect."

Russell Means is a revolutionary who personifies Emiliano Zapata's credo "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. "Both the scar tissue which covers his body and the re-awakened consciousness to the rights of American Indians are testaments to this.

This conversation took place in March, 2000, between Russell Means and journalist and photographer Robert L. Jones at Means' Santa Fe home.

Jones: I'd like to begin with moral education. I've discussed some with Pearl [Means, Russell's wife] that you two are starting a new school based on the "Total Immersion" system that you've learned about from the Maoris in New Zealand. Will it be like the school you had at Yellow Thunder Camp?

Means: No. At Yellow Thunder Camp, it was our equivalent of what a Christian school or independent school is, but it was still a school: Peers, peer-pressure, peer-education. No, this is total immersion in the way which we teach historically from the time of our creation?

Jones: By "we," you mean the Lakota?

Means: The Lakota people, yes: Our teaching methods and our subjects and the way we look at the world. So, this is what we're teaching. The self-esteem it engenders is not only fantastic, you cement who we really are in the foundations of those children. They can then go on and be anything – they can become atomic scientists – but they will still be Lakota, they will always be. So that's in essence what we are establishing is who we are, and our value system. A matriarchal value-system that we believe is superior.

Jones: Do you find that American public schools try to homogenize students into the greater culture too much?

Means: Oh, it's proven fact, in college test scores, in SATs. Listen: A controllable people is what they need. A school system – a government school system – is in place to turn out dumb people; they're more easily controllable by centralized power than independent thinkers are. They don't want you thinking independently in this country. If you think independently, you're a danger. And, if you're well-organized they'll go after you.

Jones: So, what's the solution? It would take at least a century to begin to reverse what's been done to the American Indians in the United States and in Canada. But, I think that the total immersion school can begin to undo that. Especially if it was instituted in every American Indian nation.

Means: That's exactly what is needed.

Jones: It would be a great alternative to the public schools. You've said in your writings that society is becoming more violent. All you have to do is look at the rash of these bizarre school-shootings recently.

Means: There was a study done, and it was cited in a nationally-syndicated article – I wish I had cut it out now – but the researcher had found that in all of these school shootings, every one of those kids had been on Ritalin, or Prozac, or Luvox at one time in their school history; these drugs were prescribed to them. He condemned the pharmaceutical corporations and psychologists for pushing these drugs on the schools. An energetic kid.....you know, he's an individual. So they dope him up to conform to the rest of the class!

Jones: I went to school in the 60s and 70s, and even then things weren't as violent. But, we were allowed to fight – well, not really, but you had to read between the lines. I had this teacher in sixth grade, Mr. Studevant, who was a black man from South Philadelphia. One day, I got into a fight in his class, and he became very stern, and made us break it up. He told us: "There's no fighting in school. You are to behave civilized while in school. If you want to fight, do it like gentleman, after school and off-campus." I respected him for that, because the lesson he taught was self-control; there's a time and place for everything. Today, a young man gets into a fight and it's the end of the world! He gets dragged into conflict-management sessions, gets counseled and psychoanalyzed, put on Ritalin, when he should just be blowing off steam.

Means: When I went to junior-high and high-school, they gave you the option of being suspended or putting on boxing gloves. So, we'd put the gloves on. And we might come out of it hating each other, but sometimes you'd come out of it being friends.

Jones: It lets out the violence. That's something I think all the ivory-tower types and the educators haven't figured out, because they've always led sheltered lives: You need positive outlets for male aggression. But all around a young boy today, he's getting these dangerous messages that aggression is the enemy; it must be avoided at all costs. That's what's behind this movement of replacing football with soccer. That's also why, incidentally, the United States' men's team will never win a World Cup: They're playing soccer because their mothers put them in it when they're young boys, because they're afraid their sons will get hurt if they play football. For the Europeans and South and Central Americans, soccer is played much more aggressively; To them, it's not some alternative to day-care. So, American boys are taught at a very young age not to be too rough, not to get hurt. But, male aggression is still there; it hasn't gone away. It's like a pressure cooker, and society thinks that by putting a lid on it, it'll go away. And then they're surprised when it boils over and explodes in their faces with something like the Columbine shootings. These kids could've been wrestling or playing football – something aggressive, but constructive – but instead, they're building an arsenal. And all these eggheads are acting so surprised when they explode, because with their "good intentions," things like that are never supposed to happen.

Means: It's the political correctness.

Jones: I'll be visiting the school in the fall [of 2000] when it opens. I enjoyed your biography. I learned more about the history of American Indians from your book, Where White Men Fear to Tread, than I ever did in any school, including college. What do you learn? "The wonderful Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, they needed the Indians for one tough winter, then they didn't need them anymore." So, we don't hear anything more about the American Indians, except "oh yeah, later on they killed Custer."

Means: (Laughs) That's my people.

Jones: In the society we have today, I've been reading and hearing and even saying myself a lot lately that society's become more effeminized. To me, I don't think that's necessarily the whole picture; I see both men and women becoming more passive, in the sense that nobody wants to take a stand for anything, people are afraid to speak their minds. What is your opinion on that?

Means: Well, there's two things that I see with society, and that is: Centralized power is after the bottom line, and they create think tanks to find out the best and easiest way to get that bottom line. This country has so successfully colonized the American people into becoming consumers, that they no longer need industry here. So, therefore, you have global economics in order to feed the consumer needs. Now, in terms of gender, I believe that the females are becoming male.

Jones: You really think that?

Means: I know that. I mean, all you have to do is look at the Olympics. All you have to do is look at the sports. Women in this society, in order to be what they consider as emancipated, they have to become facsimile men. They have pro basketball, they have pro boxing now, they have pro wrestling, pro ice-hockey, and all the violent sports of the male; In other words, the female has to become a male.

Jones: You know, I used to think that, but I have been in the military on-and-off for 17 years, and I see the women in the military getting soft; I can't see most of them even holding a candle to what women in the military used to be. There was a friend of my family who was an Army nurse, a WAC in World War II, and she was tough-as-nails.

Means: Well, that's because they were allowed to be women. Women are tougher than men. That's biologically and genetically true; They need to be, for bearing children. Women can tolerate more pain than men – this is proven. The only place where they are deficient is physical strength, upper-body, arm and shoulder strength, lifting strength. But, my point, is that for them to be emancipated, they have to dress like men. Go to Wall Street, go to New York City , and you see all the women: First of all, they're all wearing tennis shoes, they've got to walk to work. And suits, men's suits. I mean, you have to dress like a man to be successful in the United States of America and the world. You have to have sports coats, ties – you don't necessarily have to wear pants. The point is: You have to dress like a man, you have to act like a man. So, if you see a successful business woman, there's two reasons a successful businesswoman has taken on a more vicious attitude towards her job and her competitors, and if she's really successful, she's incorporating – unbeknownst to herself – her woman power in order to get ahead. But, that's a whole other area that you can open up. Right now, I see this as becoming a unisex, all male society. I see women – physically, I think it's genetic punishment – that are losing their hips; that's for child bearing and child rearing, that's what hips are for. The wider the hips, the easier child rearing they have. They no longer rear children, or have very many children. They're losing their hips! You know, I was in prison, and I know what a good-looking boy looks like, and that's what women look like – young boys. And everybody in prison would just love these women. That's one thing, and they're losing their nipples; They have male nipples now, and it's pathetic. And it's because the dominant society is so violence-oriented, and male-prone, male- dominated. That's on the gender side. Now, on the economic side – of course, centralized power is needed to feed the consumers. You also have centralized government more now than ever before. States' rights are almost non-existent. We have federal judges, the Supreme Court making law with their decisions, Congress is letting them do it, and the governors are acquiescing if the federal government will give them more money.

Jones: The federal government is taking funds from the people in the states, holding it, and then ransoming-off the people's freedom for that money.

Means: Right. Exactly.

Jones: The reason I think we have such a passive culture is because people are raised to believe, taught that what success is, is to go into the corporate world and into the business office, and that's what makes you a man, or a woman. But, the belief is: "That's what success is - coming out on top in the corporate culture."

Means: Meaning, centralized power. And the only reason they climb that corporate ladder is to consume. It's basically consumerism that's what's feeding this lemming-like march towards centralized power.

Jones: I see American culture as preferring prosperity to liberty. Liberty is not becoming something hated, but I read magazines, watch television – and it's almost become irrelevant. "Prosperity" is becoming a code word for security. People want that – they don't want to have to rely on themselves or even provide for that security which they value so much.

Means: That's true, and I think it goes to the colonized mind, in which the attention-span is that of a gnat for the average American. The federal elections prove that. If you're lucky, people will have a three-year memory. But it seems like they'll fall for the same sloganeering of the one-party system that America has been spoon-fed with. People who vote nowadays actually believe they're participating in a two-party system, when it's really the perfect one-party system.

Jones: But, you know, in American history, up until the Civil War when a party had outlived its usefulness – whether it be the Jeffersonian-Republlicans, or Whigs or Know- Nothings – a new party would come and displace the party the people saw as no longer representing them. You would get fresh blood. But, the outcome of the Civil War ended that.

Means: That was in slower times and less-prosperous times. You know, what the American male equates with happiness is pleasing one or more of the senses: Taste, smell, eyesight, hearing, touch. You please one or more of those, and they think that's happiness. So, Americans have not only been divorced from the reality of happiness; they've been divorced from the reality of the clock. In fact, they're slaves to the clock; they don't have any time in their lives for anything other than prosperity. Prosperity means numbing your senses to everything around you except pleasure, and that feeds consumerism. I found this out when I managed a resort in 1990. And I realised all I had to do at that resort was make sure I please one or more of the senses and people would be happy, I'd be doing a booming business. It was an amazing revelation to me, it was a personal revelation. I didn't read it anywhere. That's what I've come to realize: That's all that America cares about, is pleasing one or more of the senses, because that's what they think happiness is.

Jones: Do you think that's a big reason why character traits such as duty, honor and loyalty have become passe? Laughed at, even?

Means: Actually, the demise of spirituality in America – say what you want to about Christians or any other faith – the one thing that spirituality does imbed in a person's psyche a certain amount of discipline. With the waning of spirituality in America has gone responsibility. Personal responsibility and discipline. There's no discipline! Absolutely, no discipline. You know, they don't even teach you anymore to say "thank you" or "excuse me." You go into any supermarket, and it's like driving on the freeway, you've got to have your shopping-cart [makes motion pushing cart aggressively down aisle] and people bolt into your path! And people pretend you don't exist and they just crash right into you. You go into a department store anywhere in America now, and the words "pardon me," "after you, sir," "after you, ma'am," and "excuse me" don't exist. Helping old ladies across the street is a dead issue. Boy Scouts don't do that any more.

Jones: I've witnessed the same thing. When I was vacationing in Cape Cod last summer, I held the door open for a woman who was going in to a convenience store. She gave me the coldest look and exclaimed "I don't need to have the door held open for me!" And I know why she said that, because of women's lib and all. But, I'm thinking: "Are you so insecure as a woman that you can't appreciate common, human, decency?" Look, I would have done same for a man, and I do; it's just common courtesy. We think we're so civilized, but we're losing the glue that holds civilization together, which is manners, courtesy.

Means: Go into airports, go into any place that deals with the public, that hires young people a lot..... You know, it used to be men because men – it's been proven psychologically – can deal with the public better than anyone. Companies used to hire mature men. I used to go to J.C. Penney's, and there'd be nothing but mature men. You go to the airport and all the ticket agents – with feminism, they're replacing everything with women. Now, they've gone to the young people, because they can pay them cheaper. And even then, no manners and they could care less and the computer's the only thing that counts. "If it's not on the computer, then it ain't right." You're wrong as a consumer and as a customer. Remember the slogan "the customer's always right"? That's no longer true; Corporate America no longer cares about the consumer, because they know that the consumer is replaceable. They just try another marketing gimmick – they're not afraid of losing customers.

Jones: Today, with all the family farms going out of business, ADM [Archer- Daniels- Midland, an agricultural conglomerate] doesn't even need customers, because they can get so much money from the federal government. So, ADM can drive farmers out of business, take a loss, and it doesn't even matter.

Russell Means on the set of Last of the Mohicans. Photo copyright Scott MeansMeans: Back in the late 1970s, early 80s, Ted Turner bought MGM and its film library, and went into horrendous debt for that. He was in a very precarious situation. He was just starting CNN and carrying a hell of a debt load. And, he was being interviewed – it was 1981, because that's when Reagan was inaugurated, and Turner has the same philosophy – and he said "a man's wealth should be measured by the amount of debt he carries." What?!? [slaps forehead, laughs] I heard that, and that's what America believes! Go into Barnes and Noble or any of the chain stores, and they carry a huge amount of debt, just to be in business, and they can drive out the mom and pops.... Since I joined the Libertarian Party back in 1987, I've tried to get in my speeches at universities and colleges – wherever I speak, or write and interview – I try to get people to realise: I point to rural America. You know, the settlers aren't needed anymore, the ones who displaced the Indians. See, the Indians weren't needed, we were in the way of commerce and progress. Well, now the family farmer, the family rancher, they're in the way of progress and commerce. They're no longer needed! The settler is no longer needed in America. And I tried to tell everyone in the 80s, and the 90s, and now in the new millennium, that everything that America is doing to the world and to the American people was first bred and born on an Indian reservation, and then exported. They perfect their colonial tactics on the American Indians, on the reservations, export it to the world and they've brought it home to roost on the American people. Like I say, the new Indians of rural America are the family farmer and family rancher. They're in the way, and so they're going to be gone...... and then the corporations will take over.

Jones: Does that get very far with other Libertarians? Because – look – a lot of the Harry Browne and Ron Paul type of Libertarians will come back and say "well, that's the free market."

Means: Ahh....and you're right. And no, it isn't the free market, it's right-wing socialism –

Jones: – it's fascism –

Means: – Socialism..... fascism/right-wing socialism. But, you know a right-wing socialist and a left-wing socialist will start on a curve and they'll meet. Eventually, there's no difference between the two, so I call it socialism. There's no "free market"; there might be "free enterprise." For whom? You know, I've read John Locke and Adam Smith, and nowhere in there does it say, "well, the free market and capitalism is for 'only the strong shall survive.'" That's not what they say; they don't say that anywhere in their writings. They do not say "as soon as you start a business, please eliminate all the other businesses."

Jones: In his Second Treatise, Locke basically says: "This is your property, you must hold on to it, you create society to protect your property," and he never mentioned the size of the property. It could be just you and your wife, and your house and however much land– an acre and-a-half? – you have around it.

Means: Ted Turner, by the way, buys up all this property around here because he wants to kill some buffalo out there, and we're the only ones out here to protect our property. And it doesn't work. Society does not benefit. What happens as a result is consumerism, less morals – as we've been talking about – and less generosity. Because, you can no longer afford to be generous, because you're debt-ridden. So, the "tithing to the poor," so to speak, stops and society becomes unbalanced. Look at America........now, I'm older than you, and when I grew up in America in the 40s and 50s, the only place they had beggars was in India....and China......those are the only places that you heard about having beggars, okay? You saw it in the newsreel, in the movie theaters.

Jones: There wasn't a homeless problem, maybe just a couple drunken bums on skid row.....

Means: They were bums. There was no such thing called as "homeless." You were either a bum and you were thrown in jail for being a bum. Then, they changed the vagrant laws...... But my point is: When I was growing up in America, there was no such thing as "homeless," there were no beggars in America, there were no people on the street, begging and sleeping in parks. But, it is what America has become, and that is symptomatic of the lack of generosity and the society has a lack of generosity because it doesn't have any morals and economically they're bankrupt and they're in debt, so they can't afford to be generous.

Jones: In a way, it's happened during the same time we've become more of a socialist nation. We think, "oh, why should we have to help out that homeless shelter? Or the Salvation Army, or whomever? Because – after all – the 'government' is taking care of people." That relieves us of our moral responsibility and it relieves the poor people who become homeless of their dignity and their responsibility. And, everyone loses out except one entity: The state, the omnipotent state.

Means: I find that Libertarians and right-wing conservatives, in fact everyone getting into politics are concerned about government and they say nothing about how centralized power is the actually the culprit, be it either corporate or government. Centralized power does not feed into the free market; it controls it. Witness the energy: This country has had a very, very, very mild winter, so what do the energy companies do? Because heating oil and natural gas and petroleum products weren't going sky-high to heat your homes? They raise the prices at the gas pumps to summer levels. Now, they've gone beyond that........Now, I'm a student of economics; I like to watch what's going on in the world, but when I see the price of oil go up to $30.00 a barrel – fine, that's market prices. However, it immediately hits the gas pumps. Uh-uh! That's not the way the market works, it hits the gas pumps on down the time-line, it's not instantaneous.

Jones: Yeah, there's oil in storage –

Means: – Right. There's inventory, and just because the Arabs jacked it up to $30.00 a barrel doesn't mean all of the sudden you go from 89 cents a gallon to $1.53. And then keep it there.

Jones: Politics: I'm a registered Libertarian. You and I both know that the party's membership has not been growing by leaps and bounds....

Means: So they get frustrated. But, it's the party of principle –

Jones: – Oh, I'm not saying we should abandon our principles. What I'm getting at is: Do you think that the Libertarian Party has been stressing some principles over others? Say, market capitalism has been stressed over civil liberties? The reason I became a Libertarian Party member is because I believe in upholding civil liberties: The rights of the people to free speech, to keep and bear arms against the government ramming your door in at four in the morning on some trumped- up charge....you know, Fourth Amendment violations.

Means: You know, it's one of the reasons I left the Libertarian Party, because it's headed by a bunch of people involved in arithmetic. About the dullest subject, I'm not talking about mathematics; I'm talking about arithmetic...........that's basic, elementary. And, you're right, you can call it "the market," but they're dull. They don't change their message. If they believe so much in the free market, how come they don't know anything about marketing? It's always puzzled me. I go to Libertarian convention after Libertarian convention, and it's the same rhetoric I heard when I joined in '87, which is thirteen years ago. It's amazing that....you know, "how to become a Libertarian" and the dull market issues. But, there's the constant hammering at government, but they just mouth the words about individual liberty. And that's why I'm a Libertarian, because I believe in individual liberty in economics, in human rights and every other way, to breathe free air. I know that in Libertarianism, we would have a better environment, because if you had unlimited liability included, you would be able to sue those that are fouling up your air, your water or your land. But, you can't do that now because of government protection, which is there because of corporate special interests.

Jones: As with the MTBE added to gasoline: I've known about that for seven years, from when I lived in New York, and there were stories in the newspapers, on TV and radio – and, you know, New York's not a small media market, it's the market – and you'd hear about some old lady in Jersey passing out from the fumes of this MTBE, people's water was getting contaminated, but because the EPA mandated that it was necessary for the clean air, nothing could be done for almost a decade until the shit hit the fan with that "60 Minutes" piece a few months ago. So, a couple of days ago, President Clinton finally says "well, maybe it's time we take it out of the gasoline."

Means: That's corporate money that gets in there that protects their own pollution. That's what I'm saying: Centralized power helps no-one. And the peculiar thing about this is that it's a lesson of history.

Jones: Most people don't learn lessons of history. You said it yourself, and I agree: "The American people have the attention spans of gnats." Right? We can't even learn from last week. John McCain was the media darling last week, now he's "what's his name?" How can we learn from history, when history is not even taught in our schools, when kids can graduate without knowing how to read?

Means: I knew a lot of those Libertarians who supported my run for the presidency, and they were not the "suit and button-down" type. They were freewheeling individualists, unlike some of the present leadership in the Libertarian Party. However, people leave the Libertarian Party because they just want to go do their thing and live their lives as best as they can be free.

Jones: But the party needs them.

Russell Means, March 2000. Photo Copyright March 2000, Robert L. JonesMeans: The party needs them, and they need each other. I'm not saying that's the way to go; What I'm saying is that the Party won't let go. The old leadership from the 70s, who came from conservative Republicans, by-and-large – 80 per cent; 20 per cent came from liberal Democrats – that old-line leadership refuses to let go. Control again, you know? And the new people don't have the stomach to work. To build anything, you've got to work from the ground up. You can't work from the top-down, like the Libertarian Party. I've always said that the Libertarian Party is going about it bass-ackwards. They're playing house; they're pretending that they're like the big boys. They have a convention in a fancy hotel and they're always squeezing dollars, but they're going to pretend that they're rich. I went to a workshop in Boston at the Massachusetts Libertarian State Party convention and they had a lecture on gold. The guy who was giving the lecture on the value of gold and why it should be invested-in, and why hard metal should be behind money, was standing there and he looked just a little bit better-dressed than a homeless guy; his shoes needed polishing, his pants needed to be pressed – he'd been wearing his suit pants a couple days, they had the bulging knees – and almost frayed collar. You know, he dressed nice and clean, but there's the used look. And I thought: "Wait a minute: I'm going to put credence in this guy? I'm going to believe him about investing in gold and he looks like that?"! [Laughs] At least polish your damn shoes! You know, if you're well-organized they'll go after you. That's why the Libertarian Party is not a danger; they're not well organized. They're not a danger, because you get the Ron Pauls. As soon as some Libertarians see a chance to jump in with the big boys, they do it. For prestige.

Jones: Exactly: Ron Paul is a Republican now.

Means: He was a Republican to start with. He never was anything else but a Republican. Even when I ran against him. He's a damn Republican! He played politics as a Republican. You know, I never said anything bad about Ron Paul publicly, you know........but, he comes back and the only way he can become prestigious in his own community is to become Republican. He sells his alleged Libertarian principles down the drain. You can't be a part-time Libertarian, when it feels good, you know? You're either for freedom all the way or you're not. So, getting back to what Libertarians are all about: They're not well organized, so they pose no threat. Otherwise, we'd be facing humongous court costs because our leadership would be hounded. You know, I'm speaking at the National Convention this year. Well, I'm not for tearing anything down, though. I'm for building it.

Jones: I think the Libertarian Party needs to shift focus. You're right: We're not good marketers. I've been to a few meetings at the local level, and it seems to me that I've never met a bunch of single-issue voters like some of the more active Libertarians. I think we need to steer it back around to basic principles. All you need to do is read the newspapers: Reading every day about the massive attacks on our liberty – it's not written that way, but it doesn't take much to read between the lines – and some of these people sound like Steve Forbes: "How do we fix the tax code?" "How do we privatize Social Security"? I ask: What about the central issue of individual freedom?

Means: There is tremendous dissatisfaction in America concerning the political status-quo. The inability of the Libertarian Party to seize upon that dissatisfaction.......you get the Reform Party, which stands for nothing, except one word –

Jones: – Reform, which only means to make anew, to "re-form," to change. But, it could be a change for the worse. When I saw Perot, I was thinking "he's going to make the trains run on time like Mussolini over here, "you know?

Means: Yeah, he buys a party! He went out and bought the disaffected. But, look at the people who went to the Reform Party, that was nineteen per-cent of the electorate. And, the Libertarians don't get a piece of it. That's when I quit the party, because I was so disgusted. All those disaffected people should have gone to the Libertarian Party if we knew how to organize. You've got to stop what doesn't work, and nothing's working for the Libertarian Party. They get a lot of new members, but a lot of old members are going out the back door. They never get to a million people, except in 1980 when Ed Clark got a million votes, because he financed it.

Jones: I read on your website that you called Waco "the white man's Wounded Knee."

Means: Right.

Jones: Meaning of course, what happened to David Koresh and his followers, the Branch Davidians, at his church in Waco. Were you being literal, or symbolic, or both?

Means: Both. The massacre of my people at Wounded Knee was symbolic to us in that that was our last chance to be free. Koresh represented the same thing: The last chance to be free in America.....for people to be different. The fact that the government killed men, women and children with impunity.....the scariest part is that Waco's even more dangerous, a bigger warning light.....it's like the miner's canary. You see, Felix Cohen, a legal scholar back in the 1920s put together all of the spare Indian laws into one collection and called it Indian Law in the United States......He said "the American Indian is the miner's canary for liberty in this country."

Jones: What happened to you will happen to the rest of us.......

Means: Exactly. He was very prophetic. This was the last light that went out, when the government will attack white people, white women and children and babies, and massacre them and then lie about it, that is the worst sign. And that's when I knew that dissent in this country was officially dead. The government put its official stamp on it – I knew it was over back in the 70s and early 80s when the corporations figured out how to kill dissent in this country. But, when you have such a totalitarian society, and no-one knows about it! [laughs]

Jones: It's kind of like the movie The Matrix. What scared me most about Waco was that hardly any of the ACLU, civil-liberties types would call that for what it was. They'd make excuses by pointing out what a rotten guy Koresh was: "He was abusing children, he was weird, he was the wacko from Waco, he thought he was Jesus, he was a cult leader," and on and on. The only persons from the left, that I saw, who saw that for it was, were Gerry Spence and Camille Paglia. That was it. And all of the sudden, right-winger types – you know, the former "law-and-order" types who would have been for Bull Connors 40 years ago – all of the sudden, there's an outcry from them about civil liberties. And I'm wondering whether this is some "Twilight Zone" episode, or "what's going on in this country?" The left and the right like to point fingers at each other, as to who's more for freedom, but what they really mean is "freedom for themselves," as Nat Hentoff pointed out. What frightened me was that the people who were previously First Amendment hawks were now silent, dead silent. That's what woke me up. I was a soldier in the Army, and I swore an oath to defend the Constitution. Now I realise there's not much of it left.

Means: Name one amendment in the Bill of Rights left.

Jones: Not the Fourth, with racial profiling and total asset forfeiture for even having a marijuana joint. Not the Fifth, where if you win a criminal case, the government will come after you with a civil trial or you'll be sued into bankruptcy. Forget about the Second! The First, so long as you say what's approved of by the government. This whole political correctness thing in the universities and in business, where even if you don't go to jail for politically incorrect speech – which, to my knowledge, nobody has – you don't have to! In American society today, people censor themselves, and so the job is done. Like you said, "we have a totalitarian system, and nobody knows it. "We've been forced into conformity, censoring ourselves, to be approved-of by our own will, with our own acquiescence. To me, this is not a country worthy of calling itself a country of men; it's dishonorable and craven.

Means: Well, you know, the lack of parliamentary freedoms in this country has really exposed what I call the Demopublicans in being a totalitarian society, because it's mob rule here: Fifty per-cent, plus one.

Jones: The idea that the minority has rights is gone in America.

Russell Means at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo copyright 2000, Robert L. JonesMeans: It's gone! It's "Fifty per-cent plus one." It's mob rule in this country, and to accept the minority – whatever minority that is, that 49.9 per cent – you have to accept what you disagree with in this country. The mob rules, it's not even a democracy, it's not even a republic. It lost its republic status back in the 1840s when it gave the same rights to corporations that the individual has. You know, I've got a song on my CD called "There Ain't No Prison for Corporations."

Jones: If it does, it's got tennis courts, carpeting, a driving range......On to American Indian issues: Is the BIA still a destructive influence on the reservations?

Means: I went on the "Today Show," and I said "I want to talk about the sterilization of 42 per-cent of our woman. "The guy said "yeah, yeah. That's taken care of, that's over with now."

Jones: But nobody knows about it!

Means: They don't want to hear about it. Right now, I'm talking with "20/20," Chris Cuomo, who's been wanting to do a story on American Indian issues, exposing the corruption. And, the network did not want to do it. "Nobody's interested in it." But, everybody's interested! You hear about American Indians, they all perk up. You can't get it done! Now, he wants to do a story on forced adoption, the fostering-out of one out of four American Indian children.

Jones: That's still going on? That's what happened under dictators like Hitler, or Kim Il Sung or Ceaucescu: Take them away from their natural parents, and bring them up as orphans, where their only loyalty is to those in power.

Means: There was an act of Congress passed in the 1970s to prevent that, but the Mormons are able to get around it.

Jones: Why? Why Mormons?

Means: Money.

Jones: Last year, President Clinton went out to the Pine Ridge reservation. Now, it's a year later: Has anything really changed, or was it just a photo-op?

Means: Of course it's a photo-op; A lame duck President always talks about Indian issues. The only one who didn't do it was Reagan. In fact, Reagan, when he was involved in talks with Gorbachev, he was telling Gorbachev about how now the Russian people can be now free like Americans. And Gorbachev asked Reagan about the American Indian problem, and Reagan told him "oh, they've been taken care of!"

Jones: I know you'd get rid of the BIA, but would you get rid of the reservation system (without moving American Indians off reservation land)?

Means: The Libertarian Party had a party platform that all claims by Indian people would be settled for existing government surplus land, and that would be the end of it; then they'd be on their own. We'd exist as sovereign nations, as protectorates of the United States government, but economically they'd be on their own. And, I pushed for that. And so all claims, all treaty violations would be taken care of, and there'd be no other recourse except in courts of law. Some would fail, some would succeed.

Jones: A good first step would be to give back all the National Forests and Parks.

Means: But......nothing's going to change for the Indian people, because the government has us exactly where they want us.

Jones: Passive.

Means: No, not passive; They have us impotent. They government has made us impotent. We have no recourse; The Constitution of the United States has never applied to Indians on their reservations – period. So we have no rights in this country. We have rights as American citizens if we leave the reservation, but while we live on the reservation we have zero rights. So we have no place to go except the government! And Congress has the ultimate authority. Now, how would you like it if a committee of 535 looked after you, looked after your welfare? And, yet, you need a majority to decide on any one issue. The administration holds the power of life and death over you. The Secretary of the Interior is our god. Period. We'll never get rid of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The only way it'll happen is if the American people rise up and say "Hey:having a bureau of any kind of ethnic affairs is repugnant, it's anti-democratic, it is communistic." This is the only place where communism is successfully practiced in the world. Communism is alive and well on Indian reservations run by the United States government.

Jones: What needs to be done is the BIA needs to be made totally irrelevant – I mean, it's already irrelevant – but it needs to die a death at the hands of self-sufficient Indian nations.

Means: There were two men, and Peter MacDonald, who is Dinehand was leader of the Navajo for twenty years and Richard Real Bird, of the Crow, who were well on their way towards getting their nations economically independent.

Pearl & Russell MeansJones: I remember that: The government had them put in prison –

Means: – Exactly –

Jones: – under trumped-up charges –

Means:Exactly. Charges that no government official, except an Indian, would ever go to prison for. How they nailed Peter MacDonald was a rental car his son rented that he signed for. He was a lawyer, a practicing attorney, but he spent thirteen years in prison.

Jones: Meanwhile, you have Hillary Clinton flying around, misappropriating Air Force One, campaigning for Senate. I'd like to end this interview with your thoughts on the future: In your book, you write that you agree with William Shirer that we are slowly moving towards a fascist state. Do you think it can be turned around?

Means: No. No, because the history of patriarchy flies in the face of it. I do not believe that power gives up anything without a struggle, like Frederick Douglass said. Never has, never will. The only chance is the Libertarian Party. A party of principle. Not a facsimile of the Demopublicans, which you symbolize when you're releasing the goddamn balloons at the convention hall, you know? That's such pure bullshit; it's sickening, it makes me want to throw up.

Jones: It looks like a low-budget dress-rehearsal for the Republican or Democrat conventions!

Means: But, that's why I joined the Libertarian Party, to become a revolutionary. I believe in returning back to where you began, which is individual liberty. They're trying to get back to individual liberty and you can't do it by emulating the Democrats and Republicans. That's what I see the Libertarian Party as, as the revolutionary party.

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