PIERRE, S.D., Jan. 3 (UPI) — Outgoing Gov. Bill Janklow and American Indian activist Russell Means go way back.
The politician and the former American Indian Movement firebrand first met in 1967 when Janklow was a legal aid lawyer on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation during Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty.
Means rose to national prominence as co-leader of the 71-day occupation of the village of Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1973 when AIM members took over the site of a 1890s massacre of more than 200 Sioux by the U.S. Cavalry.
They’ve had their ups and downs since, but Janklow met with Means at the Capitol Monday to talk about a 1975 felon conviction and handed him a pardon.
Means served one year in the Sioux Falls penitentiary for riot to obstruct justice in the Minnehaha County Courthouse 27 years ago, a law that was repealed in the 1970s.
“It wasn’t a tough decision. I sat down and talked to him. He wasn’t guilty,” said Janklow, who was elected the state’s lone representative in the U.S. House, told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Janklow said he was considering other pardons before he leaves office on Jan. 7.
Means, 63, pleaded guilty to the incident — the only crime he was ever convicted of.
“I refused to stand up for Judge Joe Bottum,” Means told the newspaper. “There is no crime for not standing up for a judge, but it is a polite show of respect. So he sent in the riot police to deal with us and we beat up the riot police. I did my time, 1 year, 3 days, 22 1/2 hours in the Sioux Falls penitentiary.”
Means’ civil rights were restored in 1996 but he accepted the pardon, which seals the criminal records and expunges the conviction.
Means said he respected Janklow for bucking the advice of some and signing the pardon.
“He told me, ‘Russell, you don’t have to convince me,’ and he handed me the pardon. I found out an old friend turned out to be a true friend.”
Means was born on the Pine Ridge reservation, became an activist for Native American causes, acted in the movies, wrote an autobiography, ran for U.S. president and lost an election for Oglala Sioux tribal president in November after he was ruled ineligible to run for governor in New Mexico.