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HALL OF FAMEon January 3, 2002
Most people have probably heard of Russell Means at some point. Means is the best known member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). AIM was the group that took over Wounded Knee in the early 1970's and engaged in numerous protests to try and bring attention to the plight of the Native American. This autobiography not only gives the reader a detailed description of the life of Russell Means, but insights into the philosophy of this revolutionary. While AIM has receded into the background quite a bit since its glory days, Means is still going strong. This book shows us why.
The book doesn't flinch from unpleasantness. We find out that Means' parents were abusive and that his father was an alcoholic. Russell himself became mixed up in drugs during his youth and quickly became sucked into the same alcoholic world that his father inhabited. Throughout his career as a member of AIM, Means drank constantly until he finally came to terms with this problem and discovered that his rage could be controlled. During the course of the book we see Russell being beaten up, shot, arrested numerous times, and imprisoned for his activities. This guy has seen it all, and the picture on the front of the book tells me that I would hate to be on this man's bad side. He's tough, but cares deeply for his people and what he believes in, a trait that is certainly noble and admirable.
What comes across most strongly in this book is how AIM helped Means find his spirituality. Before becoming conscious of his heritage, Means spent most of his time in bars drinking. Once he gained awareness of his heritage, Means took part in numerous rituals, such as the Sun Dance and crying for visions. The book goes into intricate detail in describing the importance of these rituals and how they are practiced. This spirituality helped Means to quit drinking and allowed him to begin taking care of his family (which is sprawling; he was married a lot and has many children). The element of spirituality in the book is important because for years many Indians were denied the right to practice their religious ceremonies by the federal government. Even now, according to Means, there is still opposition to some of the ceremonies.
The last several chapters of the book show why AIM became increasingly insignificant. Fractures within the group over spiritual matters escalated, and Means himself became wrapped up in trivial issues. Means associated himself with Larry Flynt, the Unification Church, and the Libertarian Party. All of these associations reflected poorly on what AIM tried to accomplish. The final straw seemed to be when Means defended the Indians in Nicaragua against the Communist Sandinista regime. The Indians there were being bombed and killed by the Communists, and Means spends a chapter or two showing how serious this was. American Leftists and other pro-Marxists vilified Means when he proved his case. These people just couldn't accept that Commies were killing indigenous people.
This is an excellent book that will make people think about their culture. I recommend this to anyone interested in Native American studies or political movements. Russell Means, whether you agree with his life or not, should be commended for standing up for what he believes in and never backing down. We should all be more like that.
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on May 4, 1999
This is a big, heavy book that carries a message equally substantial. For every textbook about Indians written by anthropologists there should be one that comes straight from Indian Country, written (told) by those whose experiences we do not hear about often enough. Credit goes to Russell Means here for telling a story that rings with authority, grit, and, finally, hope.
Yet it is not only a story: Means's many opinions about aspects of white society--and of his own--had me marking numerous pages for later reference. And his most famous speech, included in the book's appendix, is a razor-sharp indictment of the (European) worldview that has in many ways yet to earn a respectful place in this world. Ultimately this book is about just that: Respect. "Indians are dying of sympathy," Means says. "What we want is RESPECT."
WHERE WHITE MEN FEAR TO TREAD, though long, is never tedious, doesn't tip-toe, and continues to pull the reader along. This is an important book, and I hope its message--rough edges and all--makes an impact.
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on July 1, 2005
This book is very candid. The author describes himself and his actions without trying to win your praise. A bad son, a bad brother, a bad friend, a bad husband, a bad father. He does not try to hide his faults.

He is also very candid as to his thoughts and feelings towards politics, people, the white man, events and whatever else. He really opens up his heart and mind for the reader to plainly see in this book.

He does make some rather crazy claims (like the Aztecs weren't making human sacrifices but performing open heart surgery) about some things, but his eyewitness accounts of events he personally witness and participated in are consistent with reports of other eyewitnesses so there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of his stories about his adventures in Nicaragua or other events of his life he describes.

He's not a very likeable man. One doesn't know whether to feel sorry for him or to dislike him. For certain, one does feel sorry for anyone who ever crossed his path: his wives, his children, his friends...
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on October 17, 1999
Russell Means tells it like it was (and still is) for the average "Injun Joe".
Rush Limbaugh really ought to read the section on Columbus Day (before shooting his mouth off again about us Indians being "Colum-bashers").
This is one book every Christian missionary should read, as it gives abundant insight as to why their efforts to evangelize us "heathen savages" have failed miserably.
It is impossible and impractical to return America to its original inhabitants, but with what little we have left, the Indian shall live again.
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on October 5, 2000
Russell Means has written a most fascinating account of his life. It was hard for me to relate to in a lot of instances, being a white woman who does not know her heritage. I was struck through out the book by Mr. Means "connectedness" to his people and to the land. I was in emotional awe of these feelings. At times, I had to remind myself not to take some of his feelings toward whites personally, but to remind myself of where he comes from and that his statements are the truth he has lived with.
This book was a great read. Mr Means life has certainly been full. He has had hard times and has learned from them. He has had good times and learned from them too. Above all else, I came away with a totally different perspective of the Russell Means I had read about in other books and in the media. He is a human, just like the rest of us.
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on December 23, 2005
A very interesting book. I find it strange how one can reinvent, not just himself, but a whole family. Means is a name that has roots in Scotland and migrated to Ireland. My Great Geat Grandfather Austin Means was not Indian. Russell lived with my Grandfather and Father for a short period of time as is mentioned in his book (although the names were not accurate).

I have found this book to be revisionist in the history of his family and his involvement in AIM. I respect his spiritual vision but his memory (or his honesty) is very flawed. If you read this book, you need to understand that he speaks to his own idea of the events as they happened. Not neccissarily for his people or for his family.
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on February 23, 2015
The only way to learn the true history of this Country is to start with its roots. For America, this means learning the actual (and continuing) treatment of the First Nations People by the "white invaders." Reading the actual experiences written by American Indian authors is the only way; the rest is propaganda fed to us as schoolchildren and reinforced by Hollywood. Want to know why our Country is in the shape it's in today? Follow the beginning threads which began in 1492 and hang on up to the present. The Europeans brought their culture with them which included ownership of land rather than a sense of the sanctity of place. It changed everything, and continues to, both domestically and absolutely with foreign policies. It's all about the money and started with ol' Chris! What a legacy! This IS an autobiography so these comments include all the other books written by Native Americans; it's difficult to exclude the background, tho' the way our history is traditionally portrayed, it is clear that the truth has never been told.
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on September 12, 1999
Mr Means has been on a journey most of us white bread types would not attempt even if we had to. His auto biography is candid, sincere and an inspiration!!! Like or dislike his politics, his mistakes or triumphs -- this is a man that is a Human being to the bone and lives and learns as we all do. Fortunately or unfortunately , being an "Indian" human being has colored his world and showed him the worst side of humanity, but also shown him the best we humans have to offer. This is a man I admire and respect greatly. He is a good man that loves this earth and his people -- a true patriot for his people. (And in my mind a patriot for the human race) Hoka Hey!! Russell!!! (a must read for any one that 'thinks' they 'know' what the American Indian faces in this society. As Vine Deloria implied, in "Custer Died for Your Sins" ...."we who think we 'Understand" Indians...by a trip through Arizona, watching a documentary or having known one or read a BOOK 'about them!" For some of us that is what fires our couriosity and admiration, but Mr. Means tells you the reality of being an American Indian in the United states of america during his life time. Again Russell--Hoka hey--
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on April 29, 2015
For anyone who believes in a cause this book is for you. It tells the story of Russell Means, his hardships, his triumphs and his challenges with the government and the promises he negotiated to be kept. It is a very large book 400+ pages. But not a boring read.
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on July 25, 2005
I found the autobiography of Russell Means an awe astonishing point of view that we all could learn from. Even if every person took one thing from the book and embraced it into their life and then passed it onto future generations. I, myself took so much from it and will ever be grateful to Russell for telling the story of AIM and of the Lakota Nation. Being a American Indian raised by a white family and then reading this book has made me even more proud to be Dine' and I can take so many of the values taught and teach them to my children. I greatly admire and respect Russell for his struggle, his love and his pride. It truly inspires and empowers me!!!
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