“Until you know a woman, you’ll never know Life.”
Russell Means was a brilliant, brave, funny, powerful, and sometimes controversial figure of the American Indian community and their fight against colonization’s genocide and slavery. He was controversial because he, like any of us, was human and made mistakes and learned many big and small lessons throughout his life. This post focuses on the GOOD, valuable teachings from Russell that we are lucky to have access to, such as this video where he discusses women and matriarchy. I love this convo for its truthful power and the “DUH!” humor he throws in from time to time:
Women who call themselves feminists and who dismiss, distort, or otherwise disrespect Indigenous cultures, including disrespecting Native men, have a lot to learn and unlearn. Extra ignorant is when they do their disrespecting while living on stolen Native land. If these women are feminists, they subscribe to a kind of feminism I want no part of. These types of colonized female mentalities are extremely out of balance and some are the mental/emotional/spiritual equivalent of violent serial killing and raping men. They need to sit down and do some learning about Indigenous worldviews. What they forget/deny/just don’t know is that 1) gynarchies (female governance) were the norm among many tribal cultures long before feminism was a thing (more on this here); and 2) we can be extremely violent with our words without ever raising a hand or even our voice, and some women, including “feminists” are experts at this. BUT enough about the sickness and nastiness of colonized women (which many of us non-Indigenous women sadly have varying degrees of, due to the cultures and families we were raised in, and which is our personal responsibility to undo), back to the late and great Russell!
Some Russell Means philosophy:
The Universe which controls all life, has a female and male balance that is prevalent throughout our Sacred Grandmother, the Earth.
This balance has to be acknowledged and become the determining factor in all of one’s decisions, be they spiritual, social, healthful, educational or economical.
Once the balance has become an integral part of one’s life, all planning, research, direct action and follow-up becomes a matter of course. The goals that were targeted become a reality on a consistent basis. Good things happen to good People; remember time is on your side.
Russell Means did many important and amazing political, educational, creative and fun things throughout his 74 years of life. He was a fierce, lifelong activist and warrior by virtue of who he was. He was also a member of the American Indian Movement in its early years, including surviving the second “modern day” US-led war against Native people at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973 (though the war has been raging on Turtle Island/the Americas since 1492). Russell also appeared in in several big films and TV shows and made some great music.
Russell also founded the brilliant T.R.E.A.T.Y. Total Immersion School system on Turtle Island as an “alternative” to the mind-mining, spirit-eating “education”
provided inflicted on us and many Native people by colonists in the dominant colonist culture. Boi do I wish I went to this school as a kid, and who knows, maybe one day as an adult I’ll go and learn all the important stuff these kids are learning. A good way to understand Decolonizing the colonist patriarchal education system and learn meaningful, valuable things is to hear Russell explain it:
There’s so much more to learn from this great man, this post is just a snippet. I think it’s fitting to end this written blog post with Russell’s philosophy about the written word, taken from a speech he made in 1980 that is said to be his most famous one, called For America to Live, Europe Must Die! (the entire revolutionary speech is here) as it is pretty lengthy and wholly awesome and eye/mind/heart and spirit-opening & growing stuff):
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.
[I]t 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).
For all those written-word worshipers out there, remember this Russell truth-bullet when it comes to academic “experts” regarding anything to do with Indigenous people or their cultures:
“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.”
Thank you Russell Means for all you did for your People, and the rest of us occupying your People’s land, who have so much to learn from you and our own Indigenous roots that were colonized out of us for so long. Your legacy and teachings will live forever and may they be shared, learned and used widely to help create a good, healthy and balanced world for All.