Epitaph for Russell Means

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Epitaph for Russell Means

There will be considerable space in newsprint and on the 'Net devoted to the remarkable life of Russell Charles Means, the Oglala Sioux activist who passed away yesterday of esophageal cancer, three weeks shy of his 73rd birthday.

For my part, I will always remember Means for his film debut in Michal Mann's unlikely 1992 "The Last of the Mohicans" as the title character, "Chingachgook."

The movie itself has the most exciting, beautifully photo­graphed, beautifully scored final 8½ minute sequence of any film I can remember... and my cinematic memory is long; any who wish to see what so enthralls me still, it's collected on YouTube.

Missing from that clip is the final scene, and when I went looking for the entire ending, I found the European version, previously unknown to me, in which "Chingachgook" says goodbye to his son "Uncas," slain in the preceding sequence by the bellicose "Magua."

That's about as eloquent, and prescient, as it gets.

Russell Means in "The Last of the Mohicans" with Daniel Day Lewis and Madeline Stowe

Great spirit, maker of all life, another warrior goes to you.


1. Brad Berthold said...

I'd been having a discussion with a friend about Means'buse of alternative methods to cure his esophageal cancer. At one point recently, he declared himself cancer free. Not true, it turns out. Like Steve McQueen and countless others, in desperation it's easy to fall for unorthodox treatments which are too often in vain.

Be cautious.

Tricky stuff, Brad... it's entirely understandable for someone given a bleak prognosis by the medical establishment, to seek alternative, non-conventional therapies. I was very close to this exact situation in 1983 when my friend, photographer Dave Droisen, was disgnosed with an inoperable glioblastoma by a local neuro specialist, and had that confirmed by one of the top specialists in the world. He was given a year to live.

The literature was uniform in the opinion that such a diagnosis was "105% fatal." Not surprisingly, Dave, his sisters, Pat McGrady Jr. and I researched alternative therapies. The most promising one involved a clinic in Switzerland which had had some successes with those types of tumors by treating them with selenium and a technique of getting the element past the blood-brain barrier.

At the last moment, however, Dave, half out of his mind with analgesics, trusted to the head of neuro-surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, who having seen the very first MRIs of that sort of tumor (courtesy of Dr. Raymond Damadian), opined that he could "go in and get it all."

Seven hours into the procedure, he realized that he'd over-estimated his abilities, ordered Dave's skull "closed up," and acknowledged defeat. Eight weeks later Dave died in the hospital he was never able to leave.

Some quacks prey on the desperation of those with terminal disagnoses; others, knowing that the conventional methodologies do not work, attempt to pioneer "outside the box."

As I prefaced this, Brad, it's tricky stuff.

Nice to hear from you.

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