The Powerful Words Of Dr. King
The Powerful Words Of Dr. King
By Wes & Anna Hessel
The Great Doctor
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stands as the paramount leader of the civil rights movement. There were many more alongside him, most notably the other members of the “Big Six”. They were James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and John Lewis. But Dr. King, or MLK, as many refer to him, was the most visible light and lightning rod.
He Still Speaks To Us
His words continue to speak volumes today, calling us to continue the fight for what is right. Most particularly right now is the need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. That is the legacy that should be made to honor both these men who worked staunchly for what they believed. Dr. King’s own family is calling for a hold on celebrating his day until these voting rights bills are made law. In the meantime, we hear the echoes of MLK’s quotable phrases and speeches.
A Look Back at AIM and Russell Means
EDITORIAL: A Look Back
AIM and “Modern Day Warrior” Russell Means
*November is Native American Heritage Month. It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the various cultures, art, religions, languages, music, and traditions of America’s Native peoples. It is also a good time to look back at the American Indian Movement (AIM) and its fearless warrior Russell Means.*
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States within the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is responsible for the administration and management of 55,700,000 acres of land held in trust by the United States for American Indians, Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives. Sadly the Bureau often seems to be working against the indigenous people of the United States. The actions of the Bureau and other federal departments are often operating in direct opposition to the people that they are supposed to be protecting.
Champion For Native American Rights
History may view AIM as a militant group, but AIM saw itself as a spiritual movement. AIM encouraged participation in age old religious ceremonies that had been outlawed by the federal government after the Wounded Knee Massacre (December 29, 1890). AIM members actively and publicly participated in Sun Dances, sweat lodges and other long hidden ceremonies, hoping to re-ignite the spirit and the culture of Native Americans by bringing the long outlawed practices out of the shadows. Russell Means was an early leader of the group. Above all he was a champion of Native American civil rights. Means drew public attention to the mistreatment of native people according to biographer Michael Ray, “with audacious and controversial actions that were equal parts protest and theater.”
From the 1970’s thru the early 2000’s Russell Means was the face of AIM. He was as famous as Sitting Bull. Means, was tall and ruggedly handsome with long traditional braids. He often seemed bigger than life. He had a forceful and charismatic personality. He was a Native American activist, actor, painter, politician, musician and writer. Means was born in 1939 on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. His Lakota name “Wanbli Ohitika” means “Brave Eagle.” His mother was a Yankton Dakota Sioux and his father an Oglala Lakota Sioux.
A Harsh Life
In 1942 his parents left the reservation, in an effort to escape the poverty and depression of the reservation. They settled in the San Francisco Bay Area where his father worked in the shipyards during WWII. In his 1995 autobiography Russell Means described living with his alcoholic father and abused mother. It was a harsh life. In his biography he describes how he fell into “years of truancy, crime and drugs”, before finding purpose and direction in the American Indian Movement.
1964 Alcatraz Occupation
In 1964 Russell and his father joined a protest occupation of Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, CA. The protest lasted a mere 24 hours. Native Americans were protesting against the U.S. government for its long history of treaty violations. He later remembered the 1964 Alcatraz event as the catalyst for a life time of activism for protecting the rights of Native Americans. Alcatraz was in AIM’s view a legitimate symbol of the federal government’s rejection of treaty agreements. A 1868 treaty provision guaranteed that Native people had the right to appropriate surplus federal land. Reclaiming “the abandoned Rock” became a rallying cry for Indians, many of whom viewed the island as a symbol of government indifference toward the treaties with our indigenous population.