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Native American activist led '73 uprising

Russell Means, seen in this 1995 file photo, who gained international notoriety as one of the leaders of the 71-day armed occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973 and continued to be an outspoken champion of American Indian rights after launching a career as an actor in films and television in the 1990s, has died, October 22, 2012. He was 72. (Kirk McCoy/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
Russell Means, seen in this 1995 file photo, who gained international notoriety as one of the leaders of the 71-day armed occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973 and continued to be an outspoken champion of American Indian rights after launching a career as an actor in films and television in the 1990s, has died, October 22, 2012. He was 72. (Kirk McCoy/Los Angeles Times/MCT) MCT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Russell Means spent a lifetime as a modern Native American warrior. He railed against broken treaties, fought for the return of stolen land and even took up arms against the federal government.

A onetime leader of the American Indian Movement, or AIM, he called national attention to the plight of impoverished tribes and often lamented the waning of Indian culture. After leaving the movement in the 1980s, the handsome, braided activist was still a cultural presence, appearing in several movies, including 1992's The Last of the Mohicans.

Mr. Means, who died Monday from throat cancer at age 72, helped lead the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee — a bloody confrontation that raised America's awareness about the struggles of Indians and gave rise to a wider protest movement that lasted for the rest of the decade.

Mr. Means and AIM co-founder Dennis Banks were charged in 1974 for their role in the Wounded Knee uprising in which hundreds of protesters occupied the town on the site of the 1890 Indian massacre. Protesters and federal authorities were locked in a standoff for 71 days and frequently exchanged gunfire. Before it was over, two tribal members were killed and a federal agent seriously wounded.

After a trial that lasted several months, a judge threw out the charges on grounds of government misconduct.

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