Saturday, January 16, 2016

233.5 - RIP: John Trudell

RIP: John Trudell

And we have one more, and even though we are doing this in 2016 I still regard it as a 2015 RIP because he died last year. It's someone who when I heard he had died, I recalled the name but quickly learned I didn't know the whole story.

Name was John Trudell, and he died of cancer on December 8.

John Trudell was an activist for Native American rights, a spokesperson for AIM, the American Indian Movement, for most of the 1970s. He was also an actor, a musician, and a poet.

He first came into the public eye in 1969 during the occupation of Alcatraz Island by a group of Native Americans. He arrived on the island about a week after the occupation started and used his background in broadcasting to set up and run a radio station called Radio Free Alcatrz from the island. He remained the voice of the occupation until it ended in 1971.

After that, he became involved with AIM and was its national chair from 1973 to 1979, during which time he was regarded by the powers that be as such a threat that the FBI compiled a dossier on him that ran to over 17,000 pages.

His life changed on February 12, 1979, when a suspicious fire ripped through the home of his wife's parents on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Nevada. His wife, their three children, and his mother-in-law were all killed. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, the BIA, police investigation said it was an accident but another investigation said that was improbable and Trudell was convinced it was intended to silence him and his equally-activist wife Tina Manning.

After that, and in the wake of a meeting with Jackson Browne, Trudell turned to music and poetry to tell the stories he felt needed to be told. Over the course of 10 albums, the last of which came out in 2015, he refined a style of spoken-word poetry over a combination of rock and roll and traditional Native music.

In the 1990s he took up acting, with his best-known role likely that of activist Jimmy Looks Twice in 1992's "Thunderheart."

More recently, in 2012 he co-founded with Willie Nelson the Hempstead Project Heart, intended to raise awareness of the benefits of legalizing industrial hemp. He also became involved with the Native American programs of the Seva Foundation, which is dedicated to the elimination of preventable blindness across the world.

I think the quote in picture is a good summation: "No matter what they ever do to us, we must always act for the love of our people and the earth. We must not react out of hatred against those who have no sense."

Worthy words from someone worthy of note.

RIP, John Trudell.

Sources cited in links:

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