Los Angeles playwright remembers activist and actor Russell Means

Russell Means

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Writer and activist Russell Means arrives at the premiere screening of Turner Classic Movies "Brando" at the Egyptian Theater in 2007 in Los Angeles. Means, 72, died of cancer Monday at his South Dakota ranch.

American Indian Movement activist and actor Russell Means has died at 72. He passed away from throat cancer Monday morning at his ranch in South Dakota.

Means, an Oglala Sioux, helped lead the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee. He also appeared in “The Last of the Mohicans” and other movies. He dipped into the Los Angeles theater scene, as well, playing a tribal leader in Culture Clash’s “Palestine, New Mexico,” at the Mark Taper Forum in December 2009.

Culture Clash co-founder Richard Montoya said Means was open-minded and eager to perform on stage.

“At the end of the day, one of the most authentic things about ‘Palestine, New Mexico’ was the performance of Russell Means. We were very lucky to have him,” Montoya said.

Montoya said Means spent his show breaks taking walks around Bunker Hill. He describes him as a “gentle giant" who would always show up to set early, looking sharp.

“You’re sitting at the table not just with an actor, but you’re sitting there with a man that represents so much, that never pretended to be a perfect man,” Montoya said. “He was a flawed man like many men, but Russell did more work than most people. Russell carried more people on his shoulders than most people do."

Montoya said Means was planning to play a Native American elder in his upcoming movie “Water & Power,” but was too ill to make the shoot when it filmed last year in LA.

“Looks like now I’ll have to dedicate the film to the living memory of a great man, Russell Means,” Montoya said. “It’s a sad day to reflect, to think about Russell and all that he brought. He mixed art and politics in such an elegant and sometimes brutal way.”

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