Dennis Banks Comments on Russell Means, George McGovern & Presidential Election
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents.
PORCUPINE, SOUTH DAKOTA – Late Sunday afternoon Dennis Banks was traveling to be with Russell Means.
Dennis Banks Visiting Russell Means
Earlier this Past Year
Earlier this Past Year
Banks was in a reflective mood when contacted by the Native News Network to comment on Russell Means, whose family and close friends were gathering as Means fought for his life; George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic Party's presidential nominee who died at 90 early Sunday morning; and the upcoming presidential election that is now 15 days away.
He referred to Russell Means affectionately as "Russ." He spoke about the bond the two men developed as the result of being tried together for their involvement in the takeover of Wounded Knee in 1973.
On Russell Means
Russ has been my friend for 40 years. He and I were thrust together to face the federal charges against us after Wounded Knee. It was an attempt to destroy the American Indian Movement and break the back of Indian resistance. We were tried together in federal court. With all the indictments, we were facing 250 years of imprisonment and two life sentences. I think because of being tried together, we were drawn together. From then on we had a bond together that solidified. He has always been an articulate speaker and leader and even when we met, he was speaking for the Oglala people and I was speaking for the American Indian Movement.
Sometimes he has been controversial, but you know what?
One his best traits was he understood the relationship with press. Because of how good he was, the press always lifted Indians to the front pages of newspapers, instead of the back pages. Somehow he knew what the press needed to hear. He knew what to say. You know with Russ, he never held any punches or softened the blow. He proved to be on target with the issue important to American Indians. So, he was effective.
I think Russ has done more for Indian country than any president or US senator has ever done. I really believe Russell Means and Dennis Banks made the American Indian Movement what it was.
One thing I don't believe most people know is: McGovern probably became a senator because of the Indian vote in South Dakota. In his first election to the senate he won with less than 600 votes. He had his hand out to Indians. He needed their vote. Once elected, he never did anything for Indians, except he did work with Senator Ted Kennedy to improve Indian education. Other than that he did not do a whole.lot for us.
I met him when he flew onto the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during Wounded Knee. He came on a helicopter. He thought he was coming to save the hostages. The so called hostages never wanted to leave. We had not told them they could not leave, When McGovern came they informed him they did not want to leave - though they eventually left anyway. He was only there for about 45 minutes.
Once he got elected I think he fell into the Democratic Party's good ole boy club. Even in Washington, he did the same thing. He was a good ole boy.
One thing I remember is he always resisted giving any land back to Indians. He fiercely fought against it. In South Dakota, there are the Black Hills. He would never agree to give any part of it back to Indians.
His legacy among Indians is: There are some Native people who think he was very helpful. I know he was never on the American Indian Movement's side.
On the Presidential Election
I have only voted twice in my lifetime for president of the United States. In 1960, I voted for John Kennedy; then I voted for Barack Obama four years ago. I will vote for Barack Obama again this year.
Those who got us in the terrible mess we're in don't deserve to get back in. He will deliver in his next term. It takes time for a economic recovery. Republicans carved that failure we are in.
posted October 22, 2012 6:00 am edt