Tribute to Russel Means – His Speech 1980 Black Hill Gathering
Posted on October 22, 2012 by Akashma Online News
By Russell Means True American (1939-2012)
Oglala Sioux borne in captivity in Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
The following speech was given by Russell Means in July 1980, before several thousand people who had assembled from all over the world for the Black Hills International Survival Gathering, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is Russell Means’ most famous speech.
For America to Live, Europe Must Die!
The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of “legitimate” thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.
So what you read here is not what I’ve written. It’s what I’ve said and someone else has written down. I will allow this because it seems that the only way to communicate with the white world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don’t really care whether my words reach whites or not. They have already demonstrated through their history that they cannot hear, cannot see; they can only read (of course, there are exceptions, but the exceptions only prove the rule). I’m more concerned with American Indian people, students and others, who have begun to be absorbed into the white world through universities and other institutions. But even then it’s a marginal sort of concern. It’s very possible to grow into a red face with a white mind; and if that’s a person’s individual choice, so be it, but I have no use for them. This is part of the process of cultural genocide being waged by Europeans against American Indian peoples’ today. My concern is with those American Indians who choose to resist this genocide, but who may be confused as to how to proceed.
You notice I use the term American Indian rather than Native American or Native indigenous people or Amerindian when referring to my people. There has been some controversy about such terms, and frankly, at this point. I find it absurd. Primarily it seems that American Indian is being rejected as European in origin-which is true. But all the above terms are European in origin; the only non-European way is to speak of Lakota-or, more precisely, of Oglala, Brule, etc.-and of the Dineh, the Miccousukee, and all the rest of the several hundred correct tribal names.
There is also some confusion about the word Indian, a mistaken belief that it refers somehow to the country, India. When Columbus washed up on the beach in the Caribbean, he was not looking for a country called India. Europeans were calling that country Hindustan in 1492. Look it up on the old maps. Columbus called the tribal people he met “Indio,” from the Italian in dio, meaning “in God.”
It takes a strong effort on the part of each American Indian not to become Europeanized. The strength for this effort can only come from the traditional ways, the traditional values that our elders retain. It must come from the hoop, the four directions, the relations: it cannot come from the pages of a book or a thousand books. No European can ever teach a Lakota to be Lakota, a Hopi to be Hopi. A master’s degree in “Indian Studies” or in “education” or in anything else cannot make a person into a human being or provide knowledge into traditional ways. It can only make you into a mental European, an outsider.
I should be clear about something here, because there seems to be some confusion about it. When I speak of Europeans or mental Europeans, I’m not allowing for false distinctions. I’m not saying that on the one hand there are the by-products of a few thousand years of genocidal, reactionary. European intellectual development which is bad; and on the other hand there is some new revolutionary intellectual development which is good. I’m referring here to the so-called theories of Marxism and anarchism and “leftism” in general. I don’t believe these theories can be separated from the rest of the of the European intellectual tradition. It’s really just the same old song.
The process began much earlier. Newton, for example, “revolutionized” physics and the so-called natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these “thinkers” took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into code, an abstraction. They picked up where Christianity ended: they “secularized” Christian religion, as the “scholars” like to say- and in doing so they made Europe more able and ready to act as an expansionist culture. Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer!
This is what has come to be termed “efficiency” in the European mind. Whatever is mechanical is perfect; whatever seems to work at the moment- that is, proves the mechanical model to be the right one- is considered correct, even when it is clearly untrue. This is why “truth” changes so fast in the European mind; the answers which result from such a process are only stopgaps, only temporary, and must be continuously discarded in favor of new stopgaps which support the mechanical models and keep them (the models) alive.
Hegel and Marx were heirs to the thinking of Newton, Descartes, Locke and Smith. Hegel finished the process of secularizing theology- and that is put in his own terms- he secularized the religious thinking through which Europe understood the universe. Then Marx put Hegel’s philosophy in terms of “materialism,” which is to say that Marx despiritualized Hegel’s work altogether. Again, this is in Marx’ own terms. And this is now seen as the future revolutionary potential of Europe. Europeans may see this as revolutionary, but American Indians see it simply as still more of that same old European conflict between being and gaining. The intellectual roots of a new Marxist form of European imperialism lie in Marx’- and his followers’- links to the tradition of Newton, Hegel and the others.
Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain. Material gain is an indicator of false status among traditional people, while it is “proof that the system works” to Europeans. Clearly, there are two completely opposing views at issue here, and Marxism is very far over to the other side from the American Indian view. But let’s look at a major implication of this; it is not merely an intellectual debate.
The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person. And who seems most expert at dehumanizing other people? And why? Soldiers who have seen a lot of combat learn to do this to the enemy before going back into combat. Murderers do it before going out to commit murder. Nazi SS guards did it to concentration camp inmates. Cops do it. Corporation leaders do it to the workers they send into uranium mines and steel mills. Politicians do it to everyone in sight. And what the process has in common for each group doing the dehumanizing is that it makes it all right to kill and otherwise destroy other people. One of the Christian commandments says, “Thou shalt not kill,” at least not humans, so the trick is to mentally convert the victims into nonhumans. Then you can proclaim violation of your own commandment as a virtue.
In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental process works so that it becomes virtuous to destroy the planet. Terms like progress and development are used as cover words here, the way victory and freedom are to justify butchery in the dehumanization process. For example, a real-estate speculator may refer to “developing” a parcel of ground by opening a gravel quarry; development here means total, permanent destruction, with the earth itself removed. But European logic has gained a few tons of gravel with which more land can be “developed” through the construction of road beds. Ultimately, the whole universe is open- in the European view- to this sort of insanity.
Most important here, perhaps, is the fact that Europeans feel no sense of loss in all this. After all, their philosophers have despiritualized reality, so there is no satisfaction (for them) to be gained in simply observing the wonder of a mountain or a lake or a people in being. No, satisfaction is measured in terms of gaining material. So the mountain becomes gravel, and the lake becomes coolant for a factory, and the people are rounded up for processing through the indoctrination mills Europeans like to call schools.
Genocidal Results of the Failed American Indian Policies of the United States Government:
Lakotah People is not dead, was not exterminated as the European would wanted to, we survived the iron fest of the gun of the European soldier, we survived and still fighting for our rights for our land, for our heritage, our identity.
But each new piece of that “progress” ups the ante out in the real world. Take fuel for the industrial machine as an example. Little more than two centuries ago, nearly everyone used wood- a replenishable, natural item- as fuel for the very human needs of cooking and staying warm. Along came the Industrial Revolution and coal became the dominant fuel, as production became the social imperative for Europe. Pollution began to become a problem in the cities, and the earth was ripped open to provide coal whereas wood had always simply been gathered or harvested at no great expense to the environment. Later, oil became the major fuel, as the technology of production was perfected through a series of scientific “revolutions.” Pollution increased dramatically, and nobody yet knows what the environmental costs of pumping all that oil out of the ground will really be in the long run. Now there’s an “energy crisis,” and uranium is becoming the dominant fuel.
Capitalists, at least, can be relied upon to develop uranium as fuel only at the rate which they can show a good profit. That’s there ethic, and maybe they will buy some time. Marxists, on the other hand, can be relied upon to develop uranium fuel as rapidly as possible simply because it’s the most “efficient” production fuel available. That’s their ethic, and I fail to see where it’s preferable. Like I said, Marxism is right smack in the middle of European tradition. It’s the same old song.
1. The United States outlawed our religion, our spirituality. Outlawed it. Out people were sent to prison if they caught practicing our ways.
2. They rounded up our children, all of our children, for over 80 years and forced them into government and religious boarding schools. These utilized corporal punishment and mental and physical torture. They worked to erradicate our language and our songs. To forcefully teach us that our parents and grandparents were nothing more than stupid, savage pagans. That education goes on today. Colonialism of the Lakotah
There’s a rule of thumb which can be applied here. You cannot judge the real nature of a European revolutionary doctrine on the basis of the changes it proposes to make within the European power structure and society. You can only judge it by the effects it will have on non-European peoples. This is because every revolution in European history has served to reinforce Europe’s tendencies and abilities to export destruction to other peoples, other cultures and the environment itself. I defy anyone to point out an example where this is not true.
So now we, as American Indian people, are asked to believe that a “new” European revolutionary doctrine such as Marxism will reverse the negative effects of European history on us. European power relations are to be adjusted once again, and that’s supposed to make things better for all of us. But what does this really mean?
Right now, today, we who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation are living in what white society has designated a ” National Sacrifice Area.” What this means is that we have a lot of uranium deposits here, and white culture (not us) needs this uranium as energy production material. The cheapest, most efficient way for industry to extract and deal with the processing of this uranium is to dump the waste by-products right here at the digging sites. Right here where we live. This waste is radioactive and will make the entire region uninhabitable forever. This is considered by the industry, and by the white society that created this industry, to be an “acceptable” price to pay for energy resource development. Along the way they also plan to drain the water table under this part of South Dakota as part of the industrial process, so the region becomes doubly uninhabitable. The same sort of thing is happening down in the land of the Navajo and Hopi, up in the land of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow, and elsewhere. Thirty percent of the coal in the West and half of the uranium deposits in the United States have been found to lie under reservation land, so there is no way this can be called a minor issue.
We are resisting being turned into National Sacrifice Area. We are resisting being turned into a national sacrifice people. The costs of this industrial process are not acceptable to us. It is genocide to dig uranium here and drain the water table- no more, no less.
Now let’s suppose that in our resistance to extermination we begin to seek allies (we have). Let’s suppose further that we were to take revolutionary Marxism at it’s word: that it intends nothing less than the complete overthrow of the European capitalists order which has presented this threat to our very existence. This would seem to be a natural alliance for American Indian people to enter into. After all, as the Marxists say, it is the capitalists who set us up to be a national sacrifice. This is true as far as it goes.
But, as I’ve tried to point out, this “truth” is very deceptive. Revolutionary Marxism is committed to even further perpetuation and perfection of the very industrial process which is destroying us all. It offers only to ” redistribute” the results- the money, maybe- of this industrialization to a wider section of the population. It offers to take wealth from the capitalists and pass it around; but in order to do so, Marxism must maintain the industrial system. Once again, the power relations within European society will have to be altered, but once again the effects upon American Indian peoples here and non-Europeans elsewhere will remain the same. This is much the same as when power was redistributed from the church to private business during the so-called bourgeois revolution. European society changed a bit, at least superficially, but its conduct toward non-Europeans continued as before. You can see what the American Revolution of 1776 did for American Indians. It’s the same old song.
Revolutionary Marxism, like industrial society in other forms, seeks to “rationalize” all people in relation to industry- maximum industry, maximum production. It is a doctrine that despises the American Indian spiritual tradition, our cultures, our lifeways. Marx himself called us “precapitalists” and “primitive.” Precapitalist simply means that, in his view, we would eventually discover capitalism and become capitalists; we have always been economically retarded in Marxist term. The only manner in which American Indian people could participate in a Marxist revolution would be to join the industrial system, to become factory workers, or “proletarians,” as Marx called them. The man was very clear about the fact that his revolution could only occur through the struggle of the proletariat, that the existence of a massive industrial system is a precondition of a successful Marxist society.
I think there’s a problem with language here. Christians, capitalists, Marxists. All of them have been revolutionary in their own minds, but none of them really means revolution. What they really mean is continuation. They do what they do in order that European culture can continue to exist and develop according to its needs.
So, in order for us to really join forces with Marxism, we American Indians would have to accept the national sacrifice of our homeland; we would have to commit cultural suicide and become industrialized and Europeanized.At this point, I’ve got to stop and ask myself whether I’m being too harsh. Marxism has something of a history. Does this history bear out my observations? I look to the process of industrialization in the Soviet Union since 1920 and I see that these Marxists have done what it took the English Industrial Revolution 300 years to do; and the Marxists did it in 60 years. I see that the territory of the USSR used to contain a number of tribal peoples and that they have been crushed to make way for the factories. The Soviets refer to this as ” the National Question.” The question of whether the tribal peoples had the right to exist as peoples; and they decided the tribal peoples were an acceptable sacrifice to the industrial needs. I look to China and I see the same thing. I look to Vietnam and I see Marxists imposing an industrial order and rooting out the indigenous tribal mountain people.
I hear the leading Soviet scientist saying that when uranium is exhausted, then alternatives will be found. I see the Vietnamese taking over a nuclear power plant abandoned by the U.S. military. Have they dismantled and destroyed it? No, they are using it. I see China exploding nuclear bombs, developing uranium reactors, and preparing a space program in order to colonize and exploit the planets the same as the Europeans colonized and exploited this hemisphere. It’s the same old song, but maybe with a faster tempo this time.
The statement of the Soviet scientist is very interesting. Does he know what this alternative energy source will be? No, he simply has faith. Science will find a way. I hear revolutionary Marxists saying that the destruction of the environment, pollution, and radiation will all be controlled. And I see them act upon their words. Do they know how these things will be controlled? No, they simply have faith. Science will find a way. Industrialization is fine and necessary. How do they know this? Faith. Science will find a way. Faith of this sort has always been known in Europe as religion. Science has become the new European religion for both capitalists and Marxists; they are truly inseparable; they are part and parcel of the same culture. So, in both theory and practice, Marxism demands that non-European peoples give up their values, their traditions, their cultural existence altogether. We will all be industrialized science addicts in a Marxist society.
I do not believe that capitalism itself is really responsible for the situation in which American Indians have been declared a national sacrifice. No, it is the European tradition ; European culture itself is responsible. Marxism is just the latest continuation of this tradition, not a solution to it. To ally with Marxism is to ally with the very same forces that declare us an acceptable cost.
There is another way. There is the traditional Lakota way and the ways of the American Indian peoples. It is the way that knows that humans do not have the right to degrade Mother Earth, that there are forces beyond anything the European mind has conceived, that humans must be in harmony with all relations or the relations will eventually eliminate the disharmony. A lopsided emphasis on humans by humans-the Europeans’arrogance of acting as though they were beyond the nature of all related things-can only result in a total disharmony and a readjustment which cuts arrogant humans down to size, gives them a taste of that reality beyond their grasp or control and restores the harmony. There is a need for a revolutionary theory to bring this about; it’s beyond human control. The nature peoples of this planet know this and so they do not theorize about it. Theory is an abstract; our knowledge is real.
Distilled to its basic terms, European faith-including the new faith in science-equals a belief that man is God. Europe has always sought a Messiah, whether that be the man Jesus Christ or the man Karl Marx or the man Albert Einstein. American Indians know this to be totally absurd. Humans are the weakest of all creatures, so weak that other creatures are willing to give up their flesh that we may live. Humans are able to survive only through the exercise of rationality since they lack the abilities of other creatures to gain food through the use of fang and claw.
But rationality is a curse since it can cause humans to forget the natural order of things in ways other creatures do not. A wolf never forgets his or her place in the natural order. American Indians can. Europeans almost always do. We pray our thanks to the deer, our relations, for allowing us their flesh to eat; Europeans simply take the flesh for granted and consider the deer inferior. After all, Europeans consider themselves godlike in their rationalism and science. God is the Supreme Being; all else must be inferior.
All European tradition, Marxism included, has conspired to defy the natural order of all things. Mother Earth has been abused, the powers have been abused, and this cannot go on forever. No theory can alter that simple fact. Mother Earth will retaliate, the whole environment will retaliate, and the abusers will be eliminated. Things come full circle, back to where they started. That’s revolution. And that’s a prophecy of my people, of the Hopi people and of other correct peoples.
American Indians have been trying to explain this to Europeans for centuries. But, as I said earlier, Europeans have proven themselves unable to hear. The natural order will win out, and the offenders will die out, the way deer die when they offend the harmony by over-populating a given region. It’s only a matter of time until what Europeans call “a major catastrophe of global proportions” will occur. It is the role of American Indian peoples, the role of all natural beings, to survive. A part of our survival is to resist. We resist not to overthrow a government or to take political power, but because it is natural to resist extermination, to survive. We don’t want power over white institutions; we want white institutions to disappear. That’s revolution.
American Indians are still in touch with these realities-the prophecies, the traditions of our ancestors. We learn from the elders, from nature, from the powers. And when the catastrophe is over, we American Indian peoples will still be here to inhabit the hemisphere. I don’t care if it’s only a handful living high in the Andes. American Indian people will survive; harmony will be reestablished. That’s revolution.
At this point, perhaps I should be very clear about another matter, one which should already be clear as a result of what I’ve said. But confusion breeds easily these days, so I want to hammer home this point. When I use the term European, I’m not referring to a skin color or a particular genetic structure. What I’m referring to is a mind-set, a worldview that is a product of the development of European culture. People are not genetically encoded to hold this outlook; they are acculturated to hold it. The same is true for American Indians or for the members of any culture.
It is possible for an American Indian to share European values, a European worldview. We have a term for these people; we call them “apples”-red on the outside (genetics) and white on the inside (their values). Other groups have similar terms: Blacks have their “oreos”; Hispanos have “Coconuts” and so on. And, as I said before, there are exceptions to the white norm: people who are white on the outside, but not white inside. I’m not sure what term should be applied to them other than “human beings.”
What I’m putting out here is not a racial proposition but a cultural proposition. Those who ultimately advocate and defend the realities of European culture and its industrialism are my enemies. Those who resist it, who struggle against it, are my allies, the allies of American Indian people. And I don’t give a damn what their skin color happens to be. Caucasian is the white term for the white race: European is an outlook I oppose.
The Vietnamese Communists are not exactly what you might consider genetic Caucasians, but they are now functioning as mental Europeans. The same holds true for Chinese Communists, for Japanese capitalists or Bantu Catholics or Peter “MacDollar” down at the Navajo Reservation or Dickie Wilson up here at Pine Ridge. There is no racism involved in this, just an acknowledgment of the mind and spirit that make up culture.
In Marxist terms I suppose I’m a “cultural nationalist.” I work first with my people, the traditional Lakota people, because we hold a common worldview and share an immediate struggle. Beyond this, I work with other traditional American Indian peoples, again because of a certain commonality in worldview and form of struggle. Beyond that, I work with anyone who has experienced the colonial oppression of Europe and who resists its cultural and industrial totality. Obviously, this includes genetic Caucasians who struggle to resist the dominant norms of European culture. The Irish and the Basques come immediately to mind, but there are many others.
I work primarily with my own people, with my own community. Other people who hold non-European perspectives should do the same. I believe in the slogan, “Trust your brother’s vision,” although I’d like to add sisters into the bargain. I trust the community and the culturally based vision of all the races that naturally resist industrialization and human extinction. Clearly, individual whites can share in this, given only that they have reached the awareness that continuation of the industrial imperatives of Europe is not a vision, but species suicide. White is one of the sacred colors of the Lakota people-red, yellow, white and black. The four directions. The four seasons. The four periods of life and aging. The four races of humanity. Mix red, yellow, white and black together and you get brown, the color of the fifth race. This is a natural ordering of things. It therefore seems natural to me to work with all races, each with its own special meaning, identity and message.
But there is a peculiar behavior among most Caucasians. As soon as I become critical of Europe and its impact on other cultures, they become defensive. They begin to defend themselves. But I’m not attacking them personally; I’m attacking Europe. In personalizing my observations on Europe they are personalizing European culture, identifying themselves with it. By defending themselves in this context, they are ultimately defending the death culture. This is a confusion which must be overcome, and it must be overcome in a hurry. None of us has energy to waste in such false struggles.
Caucasians have a more positive vision to offer humanity than European culture. I believe this. But in order to attain this vision it is necessary for Caucasians to step outside European culture-alongside the rest of humanity-to see Europe for what it is and what it does.
To cling to capitalism and Marxism and all other “isms” is simply to remain within European culture. There is no avoiding this basic fact. As a fact, this constitutes a choice. Understand that the choice is based on culture, not race. Understand that to choose European culture and industrialism is to choose to be my enemy. And understand that the choice is yours, not mine.
This leads me back to address those American Indians who are drifting through the universities, the city slums, and other European institutions. If you are there to resist the oppressor in accordance with your traditional ways, so be it. I don’t know how you manage to combine the two, but perhaps you will succeed. But retain your sense of reality. Beware of coming to believe the white world now offers solutions to the problems it confronts us with. Beware, too, of allowing the words of native people to be twisted to the advantages of our enemies. Europe invented the practice of turning words around on themselves. You need only look to the treaties between American Indian peoples and various European governments to know that this is true. Draw your strength from who you are.
A culture which regularly confuses revolt with resistance, has nothing helpful to teach you and nothing to offer you as a way of life. Europeans have long since lost all touch with reality, if ever they were in touch with who you are as American Indians.
So, I suppose to conclude this, I should state clearly that leading anyone toward Marxism is the last thing on my mind. Marxism is as alien to my culture as capitalism and Christianity are. In fact, I can say I don’t think I’m trying to lead anyone toward anything. To some extent I tried to be a “leader,” in the sense that the white media like to use that term, when the American Indian Movement was a young organization. This was a result of a confusion I no longer have. You cannot be everything to everyone. I do not propose to be used in such a fashion by my enemies. I am not a leader. I am an Oglala Lakota patriot. That is all I want and all I need to be. And I am very comfortable with who I am.
Here, in a piece that was originally presented as a lecture at Navajo Community College in Fall, 1995, Russell Means discusses freedom and responsibility in our present-day world. He talks about the true nature of education, and why we must think critically about the educational and government structures that constrain us.
Free to be Responsible
Hello, my relatives. I am an ally. I come from Yellow Thunder Village in our very sacred holy land, the Black Hills.
I’m going to talk about freedom today. Freedom. You all know what that means, don’t you? No, you don’t. If you knew what it meant, you wouldn’t be here. If you knew what it meant you would be out on the land being free, instead of colonizing your mind. If you knew what freedom really meant then you would have no fear. This is a fear-based society. You fear the police. Do you slow down when you see the highway patrolman? Of course you do. A fear based society is usually a male-driven society. You come from a matrilineal way of life, as I do.
Freedom means you are never in a hurry. Think about that the next time you have to get to class. You are never in a hurry, and never is a long time. Freedom means you are free to be responsible. No one has any rules or regulations for you to follow because you are a responsible individual: responsible for your own behavior, responsible for your generations, responsible for your Mother the Earth, responsible for every living being, and responsible for the universe. That’s what freedom means. Those are the things that I have found out in my life about freedom, because I’ve lived it. I’ve been free.
At Wounded Knee in 1973, we were surrounded by the armed might of the United States of America, the most militarily powerful country in the world, but we were free. For seventy-one days we walked in freedom, without a white man’s rules or regulations. We had no rules or regulations.
Laws are made for lawless people. This is a nation of laws, and lawless people, and that’s why the white man lies to you all the time. That’s why this is a society of liars, and they pass more laws every year and build more jails. You can always tell how civilized the reservation is becoming by the amount of jails. The older Dine remember when there were no jails on this reservation. You’re civilized now, a part of this great country of freedom and democracy: pick up a gun, let me train you to be a murderer of human beings. Then let me train you to be proud to be a trained murderer of human beings, and to fight for this piece of cloth. That’s what I want you to do, and if you don’t do it, I’ll put you in jail because there are laws.
One of those laws knocked the hearing from my father’s ear when he was in boarding school. It was against the law to speak your own language, so they beat him, accidentally hit him on the head, and busted one ear drum. Every time my dad tried to speak Lakota, he would speak softly because it was against the law to speak your language. You were beaten and terrorized if you spoke Lakota. Some old people on this reservation and on my reservation have arthritis in their knees because they had to kneel on marbles, or pebbles, or rocks, for hours, because they violated the law.
You live in the greatest country in the world. That’s what they keep telling you. If a man doesn’t stand up to salute the flag, make him leave this country. He’s not respecting your piece of cloth. Now, if a white man walked into this room and told you that it’s now a new law to stand up for the shirt that Russell Means is wearing today, would you do it? You see how ridiculous that is: a piece of cloth is a piece of cloth. It’s used to clean your car, wipe your hands. This shirt I’m wearing will eventually probably wash my car or my pickup.
Freedom. You are free to be responsible. If you are a responsible person, then you need no laws. If you are a responsible person, you’re proud of who you are. I know there might be Navajos in this room, but I don’t know if there are any Dine. The reason I say that is because of freedom. I’ve fought for freedom, the freedom of my people according to the law. It was the only law my ancestors ever made, and they made it in agreement with the white man. It’s called a treaty, and it’s backed by Article VI of the United States Constitution.
The Constitution comes from us, from our way of life. The Greeks didn’t have it. John Locke didn’t have it. No society on earth had it. We had it. Individual liberty through representative government. Rousseau didn’t have it. None of the European philosophers, or the Mediterranean philosophers, or the Far Eastern philosophers, had that concept, only us. Freedom for the individual through representative government. Our government is a clan system run by the women. The women tell their children: you are free to be responsible as long as you understand the universe because the universe is your tabernacle. If you don’t understand the universe, then you don’t know who you are, and if you don’t know who you are, then how can you be free to be responsible? You’re going to need laws to function. You need time schedules. Freedom is worth fighting for, freedom is worth risking your life for, and freedom is worth going to jail for.
When I was a young man I grew up in an America that was talking about freedom. They weren’t talking about political correctness. We didn’t call ourselves Native Americans because the government told us to. People of all colors, all the sacred colors of the human race, were talking about freedom in the sixties and seventies. We were talking about freedom, and we were doing something about it – everybody in this country. You don’t hear the word freedom any more. You hear about civil rights. My ancestors never talked about civil rights. What ‘s a civil right? It’s according to the laws, that’s a civil right.
Freedom. What is it? It’s also survival. You corner any free animal, not a domesticated one that the white man brought over; but you corner one of our relatives, and they will fight by any means necessary for survival. They’re free. Wounded Knee ’73 was an expression of freedom.
In a matrilineal society, when I married, my last name would change, not my wife’s. Indigenous people the world over, specifically in the western hemisphere, never gave a new-born child the name of someone else, because that would not respect that someone else, and because you want that child, who just came into this earth, to have their own personality and individuality, their own freedom. It’s respecting the individual. This country was based on the clan system. The United States of America doesn’t have founding fathers. That’s an insult to our ancestors. This country, the United States of America, has founding mothers, and they were primitive ones at that. The Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy used to be called at that time the Five Nations. The men didn’t have the right to vote. It was the women who picked the leaders and removed them if necessary. It continues today among those people. That’s the basis of this country. If the white man was really telling the truth, he would talk about the founding mothers. But women had no rights when this country was founded, black people were counted as three-fifths of a human being, and we weren’t considered human beings.
Self-respect, freedom. Are you Dine? Or are you educated Navajos? That’s what your educated tribal council calls you. They’re ashamed of their language, ashamed of their ancestors, ashamed of their beauty. Do you know why they proclaim: we do not want to be called Dine; we want to be called Navajo? Because it costs too much to change the letterheads. What an insult. You should have had an insurrection right there. A coup d’etat. If you had any dignity you would have thrown them all out of office, and run them off the reservation. Tell them to go live with the white man, like the Navajos.
I came to this reservation and I fell in love with a Dine; she’s also half Omaha. We were driving around, and she was telling me about the sacred mountains of the Dine land. I thought it was wonderful that she knew them. We drove up to this man, and I stopped the car all of a sudden. She said, “Why are you stopping the car?” And I said. “Wait, right over there. I just want to watch that free man.” He was a sheep rancher, that people demean by calling a sheepherder. He’s a stock owner, that’s what white men call themselves when they own stock. They call themselves ranchers if they have two peach trees. She says. “Why do you want to watch him?” And I said, “Because I want to watch the most successful individual entrepreneur in Indian county today. No one tells him when to get up in the morning, nor when to go to bed. No one tells him anything all day long. And look at all the sheep he has. He’s a very rich man. And the most important thing that he’s doing, is that he’s praying.” My wife, a Presbyterian, said, “What do you mean he’s praying?” And I said, “To the Lakota, to the Indian, when you listen, you’re praying. That’s a form of prayer, when you listen.” She said, “Oh,” and started to watch with me. And to this day, when I see a sheep rancher, I stop, or at least slow down, just to acknowledge, and say thank you.
I was in the Navajo Nation during a time of internal strife, an important time in the history of this nation. I went to a chapter meeting in Chinle. One of my in-laws translated for me. The chairman of the meeting was a Navajo who spoke the language well and wore two braids. He is known on the Pow-wow circuit as a “traditional dancer.” It was muddy outside, and a man, all muddy from working in his field, started to speak Dine. A traditional man, you could tell he’d been outdoors all his life. My translator was translating in one ear, and I was listening. This man started his talk, like my people did when they were traditional. He talked about the things he saw outside his hoogan. He talked about what the wind has to say, and the flowers. He talked about birds, when all of a sudden: Bang, Bang, Bang. And in Dine that “traditional dancer” said, “Five minutes, your time is up!” I thought, wait a minute! I’m on an Indian reservation. I’ve never seen or heard of that in my life. It tells you I’ve never been to a tribal council meeting.
We come from an oral society. I’ve never seen anyone interrupted in a meeting on a reservation when they were speaking, except one other time. Our own traditional people were speaking on the Black Hills Yellow Thunder Village issue, where I come from. We had repossessed 800 acres of land in our holy land from the U.S. Forest Service, because we said we have a right to pray. We lost that case in the Supreme Court. It was the last case before the peyote case that was lost. The U.S. Forest Service called a meeting, and they paid for our traditional people to come from all over Lakota land, and they came. We started the meeting.
In an oral society there are protocols that you have to understand and observe. If you’re an Indian, you know these things. In an oral society the old people get up and establish a format, an agenda, but it’s done orally, one person at a time. They seem to be talking about the same thing, and you must listen closely. That’s what an oral society requires, because Indian people always talk in a circle. You always end up where you began. You have to listen very carefully, so you don’t miss any of the spokes in the wheel that holds it together. The tradi-tional people all speak about the same thing in different ways, from their own experience, so that we can all have one mind and one body, before we begin the serious business. And they usually talk about having one mind, one body, one spirit, one heart. And you listen.
A young Lakota woman sat in the meeting while an old man with a bunch of dirt on him was talking. You could tell she was educated because she had nice jewelry, a nice hairdo, and the proper heels. She raised her hand, and of course no one acknowledged her; she wasn’t the Chairman. “Excuse me, excuse me, I’m sorry, but where is the agenda?” Everybody looked at her, and nobody said anything. So she said, “Well, if I’m not going to get an answer, there’s no sense in me attending this meeting.” And she stormed out. Educated. And we went on with our meeting.
Freedom. I picked up a hitchhiker outside of Chinle, and brought him here. He said, “Why are you coming to Tsaile?” And I said, “To give a speech.” He said, “What about?” I said, “Freedom, I’ll talk about freedom.” He sat for a while, and then he turned to me and said, “I don’t know what to say to you.” I said, “Well, I’m going to talk about what you just gave up.” He said, “What’s that?” And I answered, “Well, you gave up your freedom to ride in this damn vehicle.” I’m going 70 miles per hour. We talked about freedom. He had a lot to say.
He has three teenage daughters, and we talked about youth and the highway and about electricity and the fact that youth need their electricity now. And once you get electricity what’s the first thing you buy? A TV. What’s one of the first things the kids turn on? The TV. If it’s not that, they’ve got two things in their ears so they can’t hear anything. And you wonder why we’re having problems.
When you didn’t have TV guess what time kids went to bed? When it got dark, and they got up when it got light. Now, they go to bed late, and get up late. And they don’t want to work. Wonder why? Because you don’t have a garage, a swimming pool, or a jacuzzi – all the fine things the white man has, and teaches you to want, to consume, and be greedy. How many of you have been to Basha’s and seen all that greed? You go into a super-market and you get tons of food, tons of greed. We don’t need all that food. Think about it – it’s greed! Everything is greed. You turn on the TV, it’s all about greed. And you expect to be Dine?
No wonder your educated people who watch TV will vote for the word Navajo, and shame on you. I remember when my people only called themselves Sioux. Sioux was a French corruption of an Ojibway word meaning snake. Now they say Lakota. But the white man doesn’t want us to give away that word Sioux, so you hear him call us Lakota Sioux. I’m Lakota. I don’t put anything else behind it.
I said earlier that if you don’t know the universe then you don’t know who you are, and it’s true. My wife recently completed a book about the plants of the Dine in the Chinle area, which incudes this area. She runs a curriculum center – you should all visit it, just for a touch of your own pride, and shake the hand of Mike Mitchell, who started her on this journey. Actually she says it was me who started her on this journey, but not really, it’s our ancestors.
My wife started studying the plants, along with other Dine, and consulted Mike Mitchell, and other medicine men and medicine women. They identified the plants indigenous to this area, and the Dine uses for them. They listed them in the Dine language, and sent the plants to the biology department of the University of New Mexico or the University of Arizona, requesting information on the white man’s use of these plants. They identified about 160 plants. In every case the Dine traditional use and white contemporary use coincided. However, in over sixty percent of the plants, the Dine used the plant for more reasons than the white man. What? Our biology and botany are superior to western culture?
We Lakota, one of our instructions is not to give out certain information. And we’re jumpy; those educated Sioux started giving this information out. And now the anthropologists, and other “ologists”, have grabbed it, and are trying to put in into a linear, mathematical equation, just like the white man. We have our own universe and interpretation, except our universe isn’t just a roadmap. We know that the universe re-energizes itself, every seven years. We know the power it gives us. We know that through the power of the universe, manifested through the womb, it purifies women naturally. Think about that! In the universe there is only one living being on the entire Grandmother Earth (that’s what the Lakota call it – Grandmother Earth) that is purified naturally every twenty-eight days, the same number of ribs in a buffalo. It is manifested through the universe, and they picked the human woman, to purify. No wonder we’re a matrilineal society. Men aren’t purified naturally. So if you understand this rhythm, then you begin to grasp who you are.
In the curriculum center at Chinle they’re doing the same thing with astronomy that they did with plants. They’re finding that Dine knowledge of the universe is superior to western science. They’re doing geology – the rock people. The rock people are among all indigenous societies. They know one another when they come upon one another. My grandfather was from the rock people, and some medicine men who work with my wife are rock people. Our geology is superior to western science.
Two years ago I went to visit the curriculum center. They were having a special event for all the teachers of the school. I don’t know how many teachers they have, more than my toes and fingers. They’re all white. Gloria introduced me to a Ph.D. in botany, a Ph.D. in astronomy, and another Ph.D. in geology. Three Ph.D.’s. I shook their hands, and then I looked over in the corner. Sitting in the corner in one of those little chairs was Mike Mitchell, unassuming and humble.
Coincidentally, the next school board meeting was at Tsaile. I went before the board, as a community member, and demanded a raise for Mike Mitchell. I told the school board that they had to pay him at least a minimum of $120,000 per school year, because that’s the very least those three Ph.D.’s are getting a year, about $45,000 each, and he’s worth more than those three guys. He’s never been to school, can’t speak English well, but he knows more than three Ph.D.’s.
Now that’s freedom. Mike Mitchell was making $8 an hour. I’m proud to say they did raise his salary. He now gets $10 an hour.
Think of the pride in your self image, if you had known when you were in kindergarten, that you, your people, and your ancestors are in fact superior in knowledge. Not wisdom, because the linear, mathematical Eurocentric male world view has no wisdom. If they did, you wouldn’t see steam shovels on this land. You wouldn’t see satellites; in fact, they might even allow you some freedoms. You now know that your knowledge is superior to western science. Not your tom-tom beating and your chanting. I’m not talking about those stereotypical images. I’m talking about knowledge and science. I’m not talking about culture. They always want us to go into culture, and it’s always an elective in a high school curriculum. It’s never a required subject.
You’re surrounded by freedom and you can’t see it. The people in the canyon come to me, and say, the Park Service is not letting us live. I was riding with my son in the canyon. His family has been riding in the canyon for generations, and the Park Ranger had the stupidity to stop us and ask if we had permission to go into the canyon. He went away sufficiently chastised, and respectful. I saw what the U.S. government did to the canyon, with the two weeds they put there, that are now overgrowing the canyon. Farmers from the canyon are complaining about those weeds.
I look at this reservation, and yes, I see a nation, a captive nation. One without pride. I’m sorry, I’m sad, because I see your nation the way my nation was twenty-five years ago. The old people are still alive, the ones with no education, who can’t speak English. Whitehair Begay just died, in Forest Lake. I knew him. We couldn’t talk together because he only spoke Dine. His medicine prayers died with him, he couldn’t pass on his knowledge. While he was here he held a Blessing Way and a protection ceremony for my son.
The Navajo Tribal Court is trying to give my son to a white man, and has threatened and tried to put my wife in jail. A Navajo woman, who all of her adult life, since she was a teenager, has been a gold mine for Dine children, and a proud example for this nation: from her trick riding at rodeos when she was a teenager, to her college years, Masters’ degree, and work with the curriculum center. Yet, because a white man points a finger at an Indian child on this reservation, who’s not even enrolled here, he’s enrolled on my reservation, these educated Navajos say he belongs to that white man. My son has long hair, because he knows it’s sacred, and he knows why long hair is sacred. He knows that it holds memory. He knows why Indian people have long hair, and he takes care of it.
You want to talk about freedom in the great country you live in, and the flag that you learn to fight for? Look at the individual jeweler entrepreneurs. They cannot sell their jewelry, and have to get permits to sell at the tourist stops along the canyon wall. And have you ever seen that jewelry they’re trying to sell? It compares with nothing you see at Thunderbird Lodge. You don’t want to lose those individual entrepreneurs, the only suc-cessful ones you have on this reservation, the only ones whom no one tells when to get up in the morning. The individual entrepreneurs that don’t have alarm clocks.
Look towards your children’s future. Almost everyone of you, if not all of you, if you’re Dine, intend to have children. Or you already have children or grandchildren. If you care about your eternity, then come to our reservation, and I’ll show you the way the educated people will take you. You have less than six years left at those two big mines here, and then it’s gone. You’re going to have to strip mine the disputed land, when the New Mexico and Gallup mines are finally depleted, because that’s where the remaining coal is very rich. But it too will go, in your lifetime, along with the water.
Come to my reservation, and see that no youth ride horses anymore. Only the breeds, only the rich Indians with jobs can afford to rodeo now. When I grew up everybody could rodeo, if you had the guts to climb on, or no guts, and were foolish enough to climb on a bucking horse, a bull, or a steer. Now you can’t afford to rodeo, or be a Pow-wow Indian. You’re lucky if you can afford to pay to see the Pow-wow.
I don’t go to Pow-wows on this reservation, because I’m not a Pow-wow Indian. I understand my culture. You know what I want to hear when I live down here. I want to hear the songs that the traditional people sing. I was driving north from Burnside Junction, when I saw about fifty cars stopped. I thought it was an accident, so I passed them all. Then I saw the riders on horseback with the staff. I’ve seen that a lot of times on this reserva-tion, and I always stop and give a prayer of thanks. This time it was big, it was huge. A hundred riders, carrying that staff, and everyone was stopped on both sides of the highway. One hundred riders. I wanted to know about it, I wanted to follow them, but I couldn’t, because I’m not from this reservation. Traditional dancers, when they gather, speak about important matters concerning the nation.
In my culture we have people who dress half-man, half-woman. Winkte, we call them in our language, but gay people are dressing up as women in our dances, and that’s not the way. If I ever go to a Pow-wow here and I see them dancing, I’m going to grab the microphone, and tell them: that’s not the way. If you are Winkte, that is an honorable term, and you are a special human being. And among my nation and all Plains people, we consider you a teacher of our children, and are proud of what and who you are. If you’re going to sing my songs, and do my dances, then ask us. Quit butchering my songs, my dances, and the things that I am proud to wear. It means nothing now. Our beadwork means nothing. My grandmother wrote a book about our beadwork. You can read it if you want to steal my songs and my dances.
So, you see, you don’t know the universe if you’re a Pow-wow Indian. Otherwise, you would have respect, because you would know who you are, and you would know yourselves. And Whitehair Begay, and all his brethren and sisters, would not die saddened.
It’s not your language that tells you who you are, it’s your songs. We are the most musical people on earth. We have a song for everything. Think of one thing, and we have a song for it. That’s why we don’t need psy-chologists, marriage counselors, treatment centers, jails, locks, and keys. Know your heritage! That’s your her-itage! You come from a people with no locks and keys. You had so much respect for your women, that you lis-tened to them and followed their advice, and you didn’t have war.
And I don’t care what the white man says – he says the Dine, like the Lakota, were nomads. I live by the canyon. I see people when they go from their winter home to their summer home, and return. That’s what the Lakota did, but it took a little longer in those days. We didn’t have RV’s and refrigeration, and had to stop, dry some meat, pick some fruit, and slowly reached our summer home. When a white man has a winter home and a summer home, he’s not called a nomad. He’s called rich. Think about it – he’s a rich man.
You cannot beat our heritage; you cannot beat what our ancestors had to teach us and tell us. That’s why they made a treaty, because they thought of you, all of you. And they allowed the white man to have peace. Think about this, you can write it down on your own paper in your own language, so you can understand it. We can remember, because we have long hair, and we remembered.
Learn your songs, and understand that our way of life has all the answers, all of them, and if it doesn’t, then sing a song. That’s what freedom is. Now maybe you can understand why it’s worth dying for, and why I was thrown in jail, and why I can tell you that I haven’t paid income tax for twenty-one years, until I had to last year. I had no more excuses. I was a movie star. They knew I made money. But I have my own driver’s license.
You see, I agree with the white man. I agree with the Congress, I agree with the Executive Branch, and I agree with the Supreme Court – that they’re all liars. They’ve admitted that they’re nothing but liars, and I admit that, yes you are, and you lied about our treaty, and you lie about your Constitution. Therefore, I advocate that, under international law, constitutional law, our law, and anybody else’s law, we revert back to our legal status before we signed the treaty.
And guess what that legal status is? Free! We are free people. When one nation unilaterally admits they vio-lated an international covenant, then that covenant no longer has legal force in a court of law, and you become a free people. That’s your avenue, and you think that’s unusual? Lithuania did it. Lithuania is responsible for utilizing this very concept and beginning the demise of the Soviet Union. They walked away from the Soviet Union, because the Soviet Union admitted they violated their treaty. Half the people living in Lithuania were Russians. So there is international and legal precedent and knowledge of this. Freedom: freedom to be responsible, to never be in a hurry, and freedom from fear. Remember the freedom from fear, and return to the clan sys-tem. There isn’t a responsible mother from any society, any culture, anywhere in the world, in the history of the human race, that wants to see their son go to war. And if their son is forced to go to war, those mothers have empathy for the mothers of their son’s enemies. That’s profound.
Learn your wisdom – the missing link. In the Euro-centric, linear, mathematical way of thinking, they only teach limited knowledge, not wisdom. Vine DeLoria finally recognized this in his last book, after all these years, and he has a Ph.D., and a GGD, and a whole English alphabet behind his name. His nickname among the Lakota is alphabet soup. Doctor of Divinity degree, D.D.D.; doctor, lawyer, M.A., M.S., B.A., B.S. bullshit; M.S. is more shit; Ph.D. does not equal wisdom.
Wisdom, that’s what our culture and our heritage is all about.
Russell Means The True American Man
Following it is an excerpt from a documentary where Russell Means speaks about Matriarchy Societies