Russell Means's Death Inspires Pine Ridge to Declare War on Cancer
On October 22, when Russell Means walked on after several months of battling inoperable throat cancer, Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele announced a new effort to declare war on cancer in Indian country. His grassroots initiative will start with the Oglala Sioux Tribe hosting a national conference on cancer prevention and treatments.
Yellow Bird Steele's campaign advocates leading a traditional lifestyle to help prevent cancer and encourages oncologists to embrace native healing to boost recovery chances.
“Although Russell was high profile, his death exemplifies the many, many cancer deaths that occur in Indian Country each year caused by the lack of education on cancer prevention, bad diets and good medical care, because many oncologists are trained to use only conventional modalities such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery as the solution instead of including alternative therapies such as diet, exercise, and spirituality,” Yellow Bird Steele said in a press release.
Means was a personal friend to Yellow Bird Steele, as well as a political opponent who promoted native rights and improved the lives of people throughout Indian country.
“It is with great sadness to learn about the death of Russell Means," Yellow Bird Steele said. "I am asking everyone to remember Russell for all of his positive accomplishments and the good things he did during his lifetime, which include:
- Helping instill pride of being Indian throughout Indian country;
- Helping to bring awareness to and changing public discourse on Native American political issues such as treaties;
- Becoming a role model for many Indian youth by becoming recording artists and a movie actor and showing that Indian people can succeed in the entertainment world; and
- Being patriotic to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and for being a strong advocate for Native Americans nationally.”
To spearhead efforts to combat cancer in Indian country, Yellow Bird Steele said will ask the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council to sponsor a national conference in Rapid City, South Dakota called “Declaring War on Cancer in Indian Country” later this year "with an emphasis on prevention and on alternative therapies to cancer treatment along with conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation.”
Earlier this year, President John Yellow Bird Steele declared June 26, 2012 as “Russell Means Day” by issuing a Presidential Proclamation entitled “Proclamation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe to Honor Russell Means for his Life-Long Accomplishments, Dedication and Patriotism to the Oglala Sioux Oyate and Oglala Sioux Tribe.”
“I would like to express my condolences to Russell Mean’s family. Their loss is also a loss to the many members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who looked up to him and respected him,” Yellow Bird Steele said.