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Know the West

Indian activist may lead cowboys



The Sagebrush Rebellion got a charismatic new general in early August: American Indian activist, actor and author Russell Means kicked off his campaign for governor of New Mexico with a visit to rural Catron County. "It's time for the cowboys and Indians to get together," he said.

Means, the Libertarian Party candidate, was a leader of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s. But during his Catron County appearance, he found eager listeners among the Stetson-wearing crowd at the Coalition of Counties annual meeting. "We're in a fight for survival," he said, calling rural ranchers and farmers "the new Indians of this country ... no longer needed on the land."

The 62-year-old Means, who has Oglala and Lakota Sioux heritage, argued for privatization of public lands, protection of individual rights and a halt to "the genocide of rural families."

Means hopes to unite the state's third parties behind him. But his 1975 felony conviction for "rioting to obstruct justice" in a South Dakota courtroom (he refused to stand up for the judge) could prove troublesome. While New Mexico allows Means to vote, he cannot hold office unless pardoned by South Dakota's governor. Libertarians may challenge this in court, arguing that New Mexico's state Constitution only requires a governor to be at least 35 and a resident for five years.

If Means is allowed to run, he will not face two-term Republican Gov. Gary Johnson, who is term-limited. Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley and State Rep. John Sanchez have announced they are running as Republicans; former State Rep. Gary King and former U.N. ambassador and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson are the early Democratic candidates.

Copyright © 2001 HCN and Janis Marston