Indian Country Today
The longtime opinion-editorial contributor to Indian Country Today, Steve Russell, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 74.
As a young Cherokee man, he grew up on the Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma.
One of Russell’s longtime claims about the ability to succeed against the odds was his own story. As a ninth grade high school dropout, Russell turned over a new leaf and became an attorney, recognized book author, a journal article writer and a strongly opinionated contributor..
Russell wrote five books through Dog Iron Press — World War ISIS: How to Kill a Death Cult and Avoid the End of Days; Ray Sixkiller’s Cherokee Nation: U.S. Election 2012;
American Indians Dream: A Movement of Our Own; Wicked Dew and a sixth book through the Carolina Academic Press titled, Ceremonies of Innocence: Essays from the Indian Wars in 2010.
He also wrote a series of reputable journal articles as well as eight works of poetry and fiction through various publishers.
As an attorney, Russell’s educational achievements were impressive, having graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas in 1972, eventually working to obtain a Master of Judicial Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1993. To obtain his master’s diploma, Russell submitted his thesis titled: “Ethnic Cleansing and Land Ownership: Why the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Does Not Protect Native American Graves in Texas.”
Russell wrote his own obituary
As Russell began to come to terms with his diagnosis of cancer, he continued to write in his personal blog at https://steverussell-9575.medium.com/ - His final posts “Dead Man Writing” addressed his readers with the fact he had gone into hospice and the struggles he felt in taking pain medication while dealing with cancer.
A writer to the end, Russell wrote his own obituary. Indian Country Today will post it here because we as an organization feel grateful to have had his words and thoughts over the years.
Stephen Wayne Russell, who died much too soon, should have the last word.
Russell’s obituary, in his own words
Russell, 74, died on September 26, 2021. He received his law degree and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975. He was admitted to practice law in the United States Supreme Court in 1979.
He took great pride in having quit school in the ninth grade but, in addition to his law degree, he was graduated from the University of Texas at Austin College of Education, magna cum laude, in 1972, and a Master of Judicial Studies from the University of Nevada at Reno in 1993. He was a veteran of the United States Air Force and an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
He was in private practice with Vivian Mahlab when he was appointed to the Austin Municipal Court in 1978, where he served until elected to the Travis County Court at Law, from which he retired in 1995. He served two terms as President of the Texas Indian Bar Association before it became the State Bar of Texas Native American Law Section.
He began a second career teaching criminal justice at the University of Texas at San Antonio and retired in 2010 as Associate Professor Emeritus from Indiana University at Bloomington. He finished six books, the last of which was his memoir, Lighting the Fire: A Cherokee Journey from Dropout to Professor.
Russell is survived by his wife, Tracy, sons Mykol and Paul, daughters Mary and Beth, four granddaughters and five grandsons.