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Activist, actor Russell Means dies

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Russell Means was an activist and an actor.

The 72-year-old American Indian activist died on Monday in Porcupine, S.D.

Means kept busy with his Hollywood career even as he battled cancer.

Before his acting career, Means was an activist who helped lead the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee and reveled in stirring up attention.

Means, a Wanblee native who grew up in the San Francisco area, announced in August 2011 that he had developed inoperable throat cancer.

He told The Associated Press he was forgoing mainstream medical treatments in favor of traditional American Indian remedies and alternative treatments away from his home on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

His most recent film, “Tiger Eyes,” premiered at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival on Sunday, Oct. 21 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.

“We are sending our prayers to Russel Means Family who passed this morning. A great activist, actor, friend of the festival and our family. We love you Russell may you rest in peace,” as posted on the SFIFF official Facebook site.

Means played Mr. Ortiz in the movie, which is based off of the 1981 Judy Blume book. His son, Tatanka, starred in the film.

On Means’ website, his family posted, “Hello our relatives. Our dad and husband, now walks among our ancestors. He began his journey to the spirit world at 4:44 am, with the Morning Star, at his home and ranch in Porcupine. There will be four opportunities for the people to honor his life to be announced at a later date. Thank you for your prayers and continued support. We love you. As our dad and husband would always say, ‘May the Great Mystery continue to guide and protect the paths of you and your loved ones.’ ”

Blume’s son, Lawrence, directed the film and the duo spent a month casting the film in New Mexico and Los Angeles.

“To find our Wolf (Tatanka Means) and Mr. Ortiz (Russell Means), what a thrill for this mother/son team to work with that father/son team,” Blume said.

The Means duo also are credited in “Winnetou: The Beginning,” set for a 2013 release. Russell Means got his start with the blockbuster “The Last of the Mohicans” playing Daniel Day Lewis’ adopted father. He also performed in TV shows such as “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Nash Bridges” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”