If you’re in need of a reading recommendation for the summer, you’ve come to the right place! Check out our latest staff selection. Happy reading!
Where White Men Fear to Tread (1995) is the autobiography of Russell Means (1939–2021), a Native American activist who was a leader of the American Indian Movement. Means, an Oglala Lakota, lived a controversial life, and he portrays with candor both his lifelong activism and personal struggles and shortcomings.
The narrative details his many experiences, including occupations of Alcatraz Island and Plymouth Rock, and—perhaps most famously—the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, which resulted in injuries and deaths to both tribal members and federal agents. Means acted in several blockbuster movies, recorded music, painted, and protested Native American human rights violations. He spent most of his life working to bring attention to the plight of Native Americans while treating his own family very poorly.
In many ways, Means’ abysmal personal life illustrates how the barbaric third-world poverty of the reservation can break family and human relationships. In detailing his battles with alcoholism, spousal abuse, and the corruption and poverty of the tribal reservation, his biography provides a valuable portrait of the widespread issues faced by Native Americans.
Reviewed by Gail Walters, Born-Digital Curatorial and Processing Assistant.