"For America to Live, Europe Must Die"
By Russell Means
The following speech was given by Russell Means in July 1980,
before several thousand people who had assembled from all over
the world for the Black Hills International Survival Gathering,
in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is Russell Means' most
11/01/08 "ICH" -- -- The only possible opening for a statement
of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself
epitomizes the European concept of "legitimate" thinking; what
is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My
culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I
ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world's ways
of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing
of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.
So what you read here is not what I've written. It's what I've
said and someone else has written down. I will allow this
because it seems that the only way to communicate with the white
world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don't really
care whether my words reach whites or not. They have already
demonstrated through their history that they cannot hear, cannot
see; they can only read (of course, there are exceptions, but
the exceptions only prove the rule). I'm more concerned with
American Indian people, students and others, who have begun to
be absorbed into the white world through universities and other
institutions. But even then it's a marginal sort of concern.
It's very possible to grow into a red face with a white mind;
and if that's a person's individual choice, so be it, but I have
no use for them. This is part of the process of cultural
genocide being waged by Europeans against American Indian
peoples' today. My concern is with those American Indians who
choose to resist this genocide, but who may be confused as to
how to proceed.
(You notice I use the term American Indian rather than Native
American or Native indigenous people or Amerindian when
referring to my people. There has been some controversy about
such terms, and frankly, at this point. I find it absurd.
Primarily it seems that American Indian is being rejected as
European in origin-which is true. But all the above terms are
European in origin; the only non-European way is to speak of
Lakota-or, more precisely, of Oglala, Brule, etc.-and of the
Dineh, the Miccousukee, and all the rest of the several hundred
correct tribal names.
(There is also some confusion about the word Indian, a mistaken
belief that it refers somehow to the country, India. When
Columbus washed up on the beach in the Caribbean, he was not
looking for a country called India. Europeans were calling that
country Hindustan in 1492. Look it up on the old maps. Columbus
called the tribal people he met "Indio," from the Italian in dio,
meaning "in God.")
It takes a strong effort on the part of each American Indian not
to become Europeanized.
The strength for this effort can only come from the traditional
ways, the traditional values that our elders retain. It must
come from the hoop, the four directions, the relations: it
cannot come from the pages of a book or a thousand books. No
European can ever teach a Lakota to be Lakota, a Hopi to be
Hopi. A master's degree in "Indian Studies" or in "education" or
in anything else cannot make a person into a human being or
provide knowledge into traditional ways. It can only make you
into a mental European, an outsider.
I should be clear about something here, because there seems to
be some confusion about it. When I speak of Europeans or mental
Europeans, I'm not allowing for false distinctions. I'm not
saying that on the one hand there are the by-products of a few
thousand years of genocidal, reactionary. European intellectual
development which is bad; and on the other hand there is some
new revolutionary intellectual development which is good. I'm
referring here to the so-called theories of Marxism and
anarchism and "leftism" in general. I don't believe these
theories can be separated from the rest of the of the European
intellectual tradition. It's really just the same old song.
The process began much earlier. Newton, for example,
"revolutionized" physics and the so-called natural sciences by
reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical
equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke
did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each
one of these "thinkers" took a piece of the spirituality of
human existence and converted it into code, an abstraction. They
picked up where Christianity ended: they "secularized" Christian
religion, as the "scholars" like to say- and in doing so they
made Europe more able and ready to act as an expansionist
culture. Each of these intellectual revolutions served to
abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the
wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and
replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer!
This is what has come to be termed "efficiency" in the European
mind. Whatever is mechanical is perfect; whatever seems to work
at the moment- that is, proves the mechanical model to be the
right one- is considered correct, even when it is clearly
untrue. This is why "truth" changes so fast in the European
mind; the answers which result from such a process are only
stopgaps, only temporary, and must be continuously discarded in
favor of new stopgaps which support the mechanical models and
keep them (the models) alive.
Hegel and Marx were heirs to the thinking of Newton, Descartes,
Locke and Smith. Hegel finished the process of secularizing
theology- and that is put in his own terms- he secularized the
religious thinking through which Europe understood the universe.
Then Marx put Hegel's philosophy in terms of "materialism,"
which is to say that Marx despiritualized Hegel's work
altogether. Again, this is in Marx' own terms. And this is now
seen as the future revolutionary potential of Europe. Europeans
may see this as revolutionary, but American Indians see it
simply as still more of that same old European conflict between
being and gaining. The intellectual roots of a new Marxist form
of European imperialism lie in Marx'- and his followers'- links
to the tradition of Newton, Hegel and the others.
Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act.
Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the
best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and
is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain.
Material gain is an indicator of false status among traditional
people, while it is "proof that the system works" to Europeans.
Clearly, there are two completely opposing views at issue here,
and Marxism is very far over to the other side from the American
Indian view. But let's look at a major implication of this; it
is not merely an intellectual debate.
The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the
universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into
dehumanizing another person. And who seems most expert at
dehumanizing other people? And why? Soldiers who have seen a lot
of combat learn to do this to the enemy before going back into
combat. Murderers do it before going out to commit murder. Nazi
SS guards did it to concentration camp inmates. Cops do it.
Corporation leaders do it to the workers they send into uranium
mines and steel mills. Politicians do it to everyone in sight.
And what the process has in common for each group doing the
dehumanizing is that it makes it all right to kill and otherwise
destroy other people. One of the Christian commandments says,
"Thou shalt not kill," at least not humans, so the trick is to
mentally convert the victims into nonhumans. Then you can
proclaim violation of your own commandment as a virtue.
In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental
process works so that it becomes virtuous to destroy the planet.
Terms like progress and development are used as cover words
here, the way victory and freedom are to justify butchery in the
dehumanization process. For example, a real-estate speculator
may refer to "developing" a parcel of ground by opening a gravel
quarry; development here means total, permanent destruction,
with the earth itself removed. But European logic has gained a
few tons of gravel with which more land can be "developed"
through the construction of road beds. Ultimately, the whole
universe is open- in the European view- to this sort of
Most important here, perhaps, is the fact that Europeans feel no
sense of loss in all this. After all, their philosophers have
despiritualized reality, so there is no satisfaction (for them)
to be gained in simply observing the wonder of a mountain or a
lake or a people in being. No, satisfaction is measured in terms
of gaining material. So the mountain becomes gravel, and the
lake becomes coolant for a factory, and the people are rounded
up for processing through the indoctrination mills Europeans
like to call schools.
But each new piece of that "progress" ups the ante out in the
real world. Take fuel for the industrial machine as an example.
Little more than two centuries ago, nearly everyone used wood- a
replenishable, natural item- as fuel for the very human needs of
cooking and staying warm. Along came the Industrial Revolution
and coal became the dominant fuel, as production became the
social imperative for Europe. Pollution began to become a
problem in the cities, and the earth was ripped open to provide
coal whereas wood had always simply been gathered or harvested
at no great expense to the environment. Later, oil became the
major fuel, as the technology of production was perfected
through a series of scientific "revolutions." Pollution
increased dramatically, and nobody yet knows what the
environmental costs of pumping all that oil out of the ground
will really be in the long run. Now there's an "energy crisis,"
and uranium is becoming the dominant fuel.
Capitalists, at least, can be relied upon to develop uranium as
fuel only at the rate which they can show a good profit. That's
there ethic, and maybe they will buy some time. Marxists, on the
other hand, can be relied upon to develop uranium fuel as
rapidly as possible simply because it's the most "efficient"
production fuel available. That's their ethic, and I fail to see
where it's preferable. Like I said, Marxism is right smack in
the middle of European tradition. It's the same old song.
There's a rule of thumb which can be applied here. You cannot
judge the real nature of a European revolutionary doctrine on
the basis of the changes it proposes to make within the European
power structure and society. You can only judge it by the
effects it will have on non-European peoples. This is because
every revolution in European history has served to reinforce
Europe's tendencies and abilities to export destruction to other
peoples, other cultures and the environment itself. I defy
anyone to point out an example where this is not true.
So now we, as American Indian people, are asked to believe that
a "new" European revolutionary doctrine such as Marxism will
reverse the negative effects of European history on us. European
power relations are to be adjusted once again, and that's
supposed to make things better for all of us. But what does this
Right now, today, we who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation are
living in what white society has designated a " National
Sacrifice Area." What this means is that we have a lot of
uranium deposits here, and white culture (not us) needs this
uranium as energy production material. The cheapest, most
efficient way for industry to extract and deal with the
processing of this uranium is to dump the waste by-products
right here at the digging sites. Right here where we live. This
waste is radioactive and will make the entire region
uninhabitable forever. This is considered by the industry, and
by the white society that created this industry, to be an
"acceptable" price to pay for energy resource development. Along
the way they also plan to drain the water table under this part
of South Dakota as part of the industrial process, so the region
becomes doubly uninhabitable. The same sort of thing is
happening down in the land of the Navajo and Hopi, up in the
land of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow, and elsewhere. Thirty
percent of the coal in the West and half of the uranium deposits
in the United States have been found to lie under reservation
land, so there is no way this can be called a minor issue.
We are resisting being turned into National Sacrifice Area. We
are resisting being turned into a national sacrifice people. The
costs of this industrial process are not acceptable to us. It is
genocide to dig uranium here and drain the water table- no more,
Now let's suppose that in our resistance to extermination we
begin to seek allies (we have). Let's suppose further that we
were to take revolutionary Marxism at it's word: that it intends
nothing less than the complete overthrow of the European
capitalists order which has presented this threat to our very
existence. This would seem to be a natural alliance for American
Indian people to enter into. After all, as the Marxists say, it
is the capitalists who set us up to be a national sacrifice.
This is true as far as it goes.
But, as I've tried to point out, this "truth" is very deceptive.
Revolutionary Marxism is committed to even further perpetuation
and perfection of the very industrial process which is
destroying us all. It offers only to " redistribute" the
results- the money, maybe- of this industrialization to a wider
section of the population. It offers to take wealth from the
capitalists and pass it around; but in order to do so, Marxism
must maintain the industrial system. Once again, the power
relations within European society will have to be altered, but
once again the effects upon American Indian peoples here and
non-Europeans elsewhere will remain the same. This is much the
same as when power was redistributed from the church to private
business during the so-called bourgeois revolution. European
society changed a bit, at least superficially, but its conduct
toward non-Europeans continued as before. You can see what the
American Revolution of 1776 did for American Indians. It's the
same old song.
Revolutionary Marxism, like industrial society in other forms,
seeks to "rationalize" all people in relation to industry-
maximum industry, maximum production. It is a doctrine that
despises the American Indian spiritual tradition, our cultures,
our lifeways. Marx himself called us "precapitalists" and
"primitive." Precapitalist simply means that, in his view, we
would eventually discover capitalism and become capitalists; we
have always been economically retarded in Marxist term. The only
manner in which American Indian people could participate in a
Marxist revolution would be to join the industrial system, to
become factory workers, or "proletarians," as Marx called them.
The man was very clear about the fact that his revolution could
only occur through the struggle of the proletariat, that the
existence of a massive industrial system is a precondition of a
successful Marxist society.
I think there's a problem with language here. Christians,
capitalists, Marxists. All of them have been revolutionary in
their own minds, but none of them really means revolution. What
they really mean is continuation. They do what they do in order
that European culture can continue to exist and develop
according to its needs.
So, in order for us to really join forces with Marxism, we
American Indians would have to accept the national sacrifice of
our homeland; we would have to commit cultural suicide and
become industrialized and Europeanized.
At this point, I've got to stop and ask myself whether I'm being
too harsh. Marxism has something of a history. Does this history
bear out my observations? I look to the process of
industrialization in the Soviet Union since 1920 and I see that
these Marxists have done what it took the English Industrial
Revolution 300 years to do; and the Marxists did it in 60 years.
I see that the territory of the USSR used to contain a number of
tribal peoples and that they have been crushed to make way for
the factories. The Soviets refer to this as " the National
Question." The question of whether the tribal peoples had the
right to exist as peoples; and they decided the tribal peoples
were an acceptable sacrifice to the industrial needs. I look to
China and I see the same thing. I look to Vietnam and I see
Marxists imposing an industrial order and rooting out the
indigenous tribal mountain people.
I hear the leading Soviet scientist saying that when uranium is
exhausted, then alternatives will be found. I see the Vietnamese
taking over a nuclear power plant abandoned by the U.S.
military. Have they dismantled and destroyed it? No, they are
using it. I see China exploding nuclear bombs, developing
uranium reactors, and preparing a space program in order to
colonize and exploit the planets the same as the Europeans
colonized and exploited this hemisphere. It's the same old song,
but maybe with a faster tempo this time.
The statement of the Soviet scientist is very interesting. Does
he know what this alternative energy source will be? No, he
simply has faith. Science will find a way. I hear revolutionary
Marxists saying that the destruction of the environment,
pollution, and radiation will all be controlled. And I see them
act upon their words. Do they know how these things will be
controlled? No, they simply have faith. Science will find a way.
Industrialization is fine and necessary. How do they know this?
Faith. Science will find a way. Faith of this sort has always
been known in Europe as religion. Science has become the new
European religion for both capitalists and Marxists; they are
truly inseparable; they are part and parcel of the same culture.
So, in both theory and practice, Marxism demands that
non-European peoples give up their values, their traditions,
their cultural existence altogether. We will all be
industrialized science addicts in a Marxist society.
I do not believe that capitalism itself is really responsible
for the situation in which American Indians have been declared a
national sacrifice. No, it is the European tradition ; European
culture itself is responsible. Marxism is just the latest
continuation of this tradition, not a solution to it. To ally
with Marxism is to ally with the very same forces that declare
us an acceptable cost.
There is another way. There is the traditional Lakota way and
the ways of the American Indian peoples. It is the way that
knows that humans do not have the right to degrade Mother Earth,
that there are forces beyond anything the European mind has
conceived, that humans must be in harmony with all relations or
the relations will eventually eliminate the disharmony. A
lopsided emphasis on humans by humans-the Europeans' arrogance
of acting as though they were beyond the nature of all related
things-can only result in a total disharmony and a readjustment
which cuts arrogant humans down to size, gives them a taste of
that reality beyond their grasp or control and restores the
harmony. There is a need for a revolutionary theory to bring
this about; it's beyond human control. The nature peoples of
this planet know this and so they do not theorize about it.
Theory is an abstract; our knowledge is real.
Distilled to its basic terms, European faith-including the new
faith in science-equals a belief that man is God. Europe has
always sought a Messiah, whether that be the man Jesus Christ or
the man Karl Marx or the man Albert Einstein. American Indians
know this to be totally absurd. Humans are the weakest of all
creatures, so weak that other creatures are willing to give up
their flesh that we may live. Humans are able to survive only
through the exercise of rationality since they lack the
abilities of other creatures to gain food through the use of
fang and claw.
But rationality is a curse since it can cause humans to forget
the natural order of things in ways other creatures do not. A
wolf never forgets his or her place in the natural order.
American Indians can. Europeans almost always do. We pray our
thanks to the deer, our relations, for allowing us their flesh
to eat; Europeans simply take the flesh for granted and consider
the deer inferior. After all, Europeans consider themselves
godlike in their rationalism and science. God is the Supreme
Being; all else must be inferior.
All European tradition, Marxism included, has conspired to defy
the natural order of all things. Mother Earth has been abused,
the powers have been abused, and this cannot go on forever. No
theory can alter that simple fact. Mother Earth will retaliate,
the whole environment will retaliate, and the abusers will be
eliminated. Things come full circle, back to where they started.
That's revolution. And that's a prophecy of my people, of the
Hopi people and of other correct peoples.
American Indians have been trying to explain this to Europeans
for centuries. But, as I said earlier, Europeans have proven
themselves unable to hear. The natural order will win out, and
the offenders will die out, the way deer die when they offend
the harmony by over-populating a given region. It's only a
matter of time until what Europeans call "a major catastrophe of
global proportions" will occur. It is the role of American
Indian peoples, the role of all natural beings, to survive. A
part of our survival is to resist. We resist not to overthrow a
government or to take political power, but because it is natural
to resist extermination, to survive. We don't want power over
white institutions; we want white institutions to disappear.
American Indians are still in touch with these realities-the
prophecies, the traditions of our ancestors. We learn from the
elders, from nature, from the powers. And when the catastrophe
is over, we American Indian peoples will still be here to
inhabit the hemisphere. I don't care if it's only a handful
living high in the Andes. American Indian people will survive;
harmony will be reestablished. That's revolution.
At this point, perhaps I should be very clear about another
matter, one which should already be clear as a result of what
I've said. But confusion breeds easily these days, so I want to
hammer home this point. When I use the term European, I'm not
referring to a skin color or a particular genetic structure.
What I'm referring to is a mind-set, a worldview that is a
product of the development of European culture. People are not
genetically encoded to hold this outlook; they are acculturated
to hold it. The same is true for American Indians or for the
members of any culture.
It is possible for an American Indian to share European values,
a European worldview. We have a term for these people; we call
them "apples"-red on the outside (genetics) and white on the
inside (their values). Other groups have similar terms: Blacks
have their "oreos"; Hispanos have "Coconuts" and so on. And, as
I said before, there are exceptions to the white norm: people
who are white on the outside, but not white inside. I'm not sure
what term should be applied to them other than "human beings."
What I'm putting out here is not a racial proposition but a
cultural proposition. Those who ultimately advocate and defend
the realities of European culture and its industrialism are my
enemies. Those who resist it, who struggle against it, are my
allies, the allies of American Indian people. And I don't give a
damn what their skin color happens to be. Caucasian is the white
term for the white race: European is an outlook I oppose.
The Vietnamese Communists are not exactly what you might
consider genetic Caucasians, but they are now functioning as
mental Europeans. The same holds true for Chinese Communists,
for Japanese capitalists or Bantu Catholics or Peter "MacDollar"
down at the Navajo Reservation or Dickie Wilson up here at Pine
Ridge. There is no racism involved in this, just an
acknowledgment of the mind and spirit that make up culture.
In Marxist terms I suppose I'm a "cultural nationalist." I work
first with my people, the traditional Lakota people, because we
hold a common worldview and share an immediate struggle. Beyond
this, I work with other traditional American Indian peoples,
again because of a certain commonality in worldview and form of
struggle. Beyond that, I work with anyone who has experienced
the colonial oppression of Europe and who resists its cultural
and industrial totality. Obviously, this includes genetic
Caucasians who struggle to resist the dominant norms of European
culture. The Irish and the Basques come immediately to mind, but
there are many others.
I work primarily with my own people, with my own community.
Other people who hold non-European perspectives should do the
same. I believe in the slogan, "Trust your brother's vision,"
although I'd like to add sisters into the bargain. I trust the
community and the culturally based vision of all the races that
naturally resist industrialization and human extinction.
Clearly, individual whites can share in this, given only that
they have reached the awareness that continuation of the
industrial imperatives of Europe is not a vision, but species
suicide. White is one of the sacred colors of the Lakota
people-red, yellow, white and black. The four directions. The
four seasons. The four periods of life and aging. The four races
of humanity. Mix red, yellow, white and black together and you
get brown, the color of the fifth race. This is a natural
ordering of things. It therefore seems natural to me to work
with all races, each with its own special meaning, identity and
But there is a peculiar behavior among most Caucasians. As soon
as I become critical of Europe and its impact on other cultures,
they become defensive. They begin to defend themselves. But I'm
not attacking them personally; I'm attacking Europe. In
personalizing my observations on Europe they are personalizing
European culture, identifying themselves with it. By defending
themselves in this context, they are ultimately defending the
death culture. This is a confusion which must be overcome, and
it must be overcome in a hurry. None of us has energy to waste
in such false struggles.
Caucasians have a more positive vision to offer humanity than
European culture. I believe this. But in order to attain this
vision it is necessary for Caucasians to step outside European
culture-alongside the rest of humanity-to see Europe for what it
is and what it does.
To cling to capitalism and Marxism and all other "isms" is
simply to remain within European culture. There is no avoiding
this basic fact. As a fact, this constitutes a choice.
Understand that the choice is based on culture, not race.
Understand that to choose European culture and industrialism is
to choose to be my enemy. And understand that the choice is
yours, not mine.
This leads me back to address those American Indians who are
drifting through the universities, the city slums, and other
European institutions. If you are there to resist the oppressor
in accordance with your traditional ways, so be it. I don't know
how you manage to combine the two, but perhaps you will succeed.
But retain your sense of reality. Beware of coming to believe
the white world now offers solutions to the problems it
confronts us with. Beware, too, of allowing the words of native
people to be twisted to the advantages of our enemies. Europe
invented the practice of turning words around on themselves. You
need only look to the treaties between American Indian peoples
and various European governments to know that this is true. Draw
your strength from who you are.
A culture which regularly confuses revolt with resistance, has
nothing helpful to teach you and nothing to offer you as a way
of life. Europeans have long since lost all touch with reality,
if ever they were in touch with who you are as American Indians.
So, I suppose to conclude this, I should state clearly that
leading anyone toward Marxism is the last thing on my mind.
Marxism is as alien to my culture as capitalism and Christianity
are. In fact, I can say I don't think I'm trying to lead anyone
toward anything. To some extent I tried to be a "leader," in the
sense that the white media like to use that term, when the
American Indian Movement was a young organization. This was a
result of a confusion I no longer have. You cannot be everything
to everyone. I do not propose to be used in such a fashion by my
enemies. I am not a leader. I am an Oglala Lakota patriot. That
is all I want and all I need to be. And I am very comfortable
with who I am.
Russell Means, born an Oglala/Lakota in 1939, on the Pine Ridge
Indian Reservation near the Black Hills. As a young man,
Russell's life was full of ups and downs. In the late 60s he
became focused and put his energy into fighting for Indian
rights with The American Indian Movement. He became the first
national director of AIM.
Click on "comments" below to read or post comments
Be succinct, constructive and
relevant to the story.
We encourage engaging, diverse
and meaningful commentary. Do not include
personal information such as names, addresses,
phone numbers and emails. Comments falling
outside our guidelines – those including
personal attacks and profanity – are not
See our complete
use this link to notify us if you have concerns
about a comment.
We’ll promptly review and remove any
Send Page To a Friend
with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational
purposes. Information Clearing House has no
affiliation whatsoever with the originator of
this article nor is Information ClearingHouse
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)