|Nomadic SA Chick||
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Page Count: 592
Nonfiction Genre: Biography, Memoir, Social Issues, Culture, Politics, Native American, Historic
Dates Read: April 18-May 7, 2015
Russell Means is the most controversial Indian leader of our time. Where White Men Fear to Tread is the well-detailed, first-hand story of his life so far, in which he has done everything possible to dramatize and justify the Native American aim of self-determination, such as storming Mount Rushmore, seizing Plymouth Rock, running for President in 1988, and--most notoriously--leading a 71-day takeover of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1973. This visionary autobiography by one of our most magnetic personalities will fascinate, educate, and inspire. As Dee Brown has written, "A reading of Means's story is essential for any clear understanding of American Indians during the last half of the twentieth century."
No book has angered me as much as Where White Men Fear to Tread. While I understand the frustration the Means must have felt, especially when looking at the horrid way his ancestors have been treated by the US Government, and the persistent racism that was still visible in the 1980s, but I do not see how he could use this to justify his atrocious behaviors.
Means was an egomaniac and hypocrite who believed in equality for Native Americans. He wanted people to join his movements, and be apart of them. However, he harbored a lot of anger towards white people who supported and helped him. He wanted to end discrimination of native people, and hated when people used racial slurs towards him or other natives, yet freely used racial slurs against everyone else when he felt they were not supporting him or his organizations enough. He also demanded support from other Native American organizations, yet would not support all of them in return. The best evidence of this is when he was approached to help support a movement to bring attention to domestic violence on the reservations. Means, an admitted wife beater, refused to support them.
The point in the book where I realized that there was absolutely no redeeming quality in Means, is when he was on trial in Minnesota for leading the Wounded Knee takeover. As he and several of his fiends were preparing to go hear his verdict, they decided to sneak guns into the courtroom and shoot the judge, prosecutors, and jurors, if he received a guilty verdict.
In the book, Means says he is tired of being arrested. Tired of spending his time in courts and defending himself. Yet he constantly and continued to act in ways that brought him this negative attention. He had no qualms in beating officers, shooting them, setting government buildings on fire, and participating in drunken barroom brawls. He continued to state it was because the police officers were discrimination against him. While I believe that this is partially true, Means was also a thug who put himself in situations that required his encounters with the law.
Means as a human being is not a very likable guy either. He's an alcoholic, who abuses his wives (he had multiple marriages) and abandons his families (when the children are very young), is barely involved in his children's lives after he leaves their mothers, and a racist with violent tendencies, as well as a drug and alcohol problem (that he admits to). Means solution to bring equality and end racism/discrimination for Native Americans is to meet hate with hate, hostility with hostility, and violence with violence, all the while expecting the world to change and bend to his whims. He speaks of wanting peace for himself and his fellow natives, yet he will not do anything to encourage and develop the peace he desires.
I give this a 0 out of 5 stars.