Well, today I thought we might look at the poet, philosopher and performer who was — in his younger days — a political activist for his tribe. That man is John Trudell.
John Trudell’s life was so full and he accomplished so many things that I don’t believe I could really do his story justice with one simple blog. But I’ll try.
John Trudell was an Indian Activist who was the spokesperson for the Occupation of Alcatraz in the early 1970’s. One of the quotes from his first wife that I found so stunning was when he told his wife that they were going to the Alcatraz Occupation, she told him she was afraid she’d get cold feet. His response was, “Wear socks.”
He was also a part of the American Indian Movement, also in the 1970’s.
He tells the story of his father and how he and his father and mother came to be married. His father was Lakota and his mother was Mexican. John said in an interview that his father literally stole his mother and rode away with her on horseback. But they loved one another and the marriage worked.
John was briefly in the Navy, but it didn’t appear that this held great interest for him and he soon returned to the reservation. He met his second wife, Tina, in 1971 and in 1972 they became a couple. It was a troubling time to be on an Indian Reservation. There had been some shoot-outs and tensions were high on the Pine Ridge Reservation in So. Dakota. In February of 1979, John was engaged in protests in Washington DC. On the 11th of February, he burned an American Flag on the steps of the FBI building in protest of the injustices to the American Indian people. Within 12 hours after that event, his wife, Tina, and their three children and Tina’s mother were killed in a sudden fire in their home on her reservation in Death Valley. Tina was also pregnant at the time.
John said in interviews that he had to die, too, in order to get through each day after his family’s death. But he also said that Tina’s parting gift to him was the gift of her poetry. She was the poet in the family. He said in interview that it was she who encouraged him to write down his thoughts, and to write them down using poetry. It was her parting gift to him.
And so he did begin to write. His poems were often heart-felt and sometimes they were fiery and full of passion for life and for his people. He became involved in reading his poetry in public places, and on one occasion, he met Jessie Ed Davis, a Kiowa guitarist, who said that he could put John’s poems to music. And thus began the poetry from John Trudell’s heart and the many concerts that you can still see online.
John has influenced many Native American artists. I’ve only recently discovered John’s work, but I have found it profound. So I’m going to show you some quotes of his that I find inspirational.
You can still find his concerts and his talks and interviews on the internet. John became, or perhaps he always was, philosophical, and his wisdom was often sought after by many people of all different races. This last quote, off to the left here is probably my favorite of his quotes, if only because I find this very profound in today’s world, which has become more than a little strange.
I’ve said this to my closest friends, and I’ll tell you this today in this blog. Whatever else we as a people are involved in, I believe we are in a spiritual war against some dark forces. I admit that I’ve heard this saying over and over and over, but I never really understood it until recently. But I believe that this is what John was saying when he said “protect your spirit”: In this life, one has many choices, but if one chooses the path of violence, theft, and the stripping of another’s God-given rights and happiness, all in the attainment of some materialistic goal, one is looking at one’s eternity as though one were painting oneself into a corner — and, it seems to me that in doing those things which bring harm to another, one is not “protecting one’s spirit.” I guess he was saying that one has the choice spiritually…and maybe that’s what he means by “Protect your spirit….”
John Trudell died in 2015. He left behind him a legacy of beauty, of music and poetry. He also left behind him a philosophy that I believe enriches one’s soul.
Well, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed the blog. Often, I think of the American Indian Hero as having lived in the long ago past. But John Trudell was a modern hero. At least that is my opinion of him.
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.
Am offering a free download of the book, LAKOTA SURRENDER today in honor of John Trudell, a wonderful poet, philosopher and a Lakota Indian. This is a download from BookFunnel and will be up only for the next fews days. Grab it while you can: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/uq6ti9a1kw