John Trudell, Native American Activist, Poet, And Musician, Passes at 69
December 9, 2015 at 11:54 AM (PT)
JOHN TRUDELL, the poet, actor, musician, and spokesman for NATIVE AMERICAN protesters during their 1969 occupation of ALCATRAZ IALDN and later headed the AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT, passed away TODAY (12/9) of cancer at his home in SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA at 69.
"JOHN TRUDELL and his family ask for people to celebrate love and celebrate life. He asked that people pray and celebrate in their own way in their own communities," said CREE MILLER, a trustee for his estate, in a statement.
TRUDELL, born in OMAHA and son of a SANTEE Sioux, became involved in Native American activism after a stint in the U.S. NAVY, serving in a destroyer off the Vietnamese coast. In 1969, he joined Native Americans who had occupied ALCATRAZ ISLAND to demand that the former federal prison should be given to Native Americans under treaty rights; TRUDELL, who studied radio and broadcasting in college, became spokesman for the group, UNITED INDIANS OF ALL TRIBES, and ran a radio broadcast, RADIO FREE ALCATRAZ, from the island. He went on to serve as national chairman of the activist American Indian Movement from 1973 to 1979.
In 1979, while TRUDELL was demonstrating in WASHINGTON, D.C., his pregnant second wife, TINA MANNING, three children, and mother-in-law were killed in a suspicious fire at her parents' home on the DUCK VALLEY INDIAN RESERVATION in NEVADA. The cause of the fire was never determined. TRUDELL later had a relationship with MARCHELINA BERTRAND, the mother of actress ANGELINA JOLIE, before her 2007 death from cancer; She was an executive producer of a 2005 documentary about him called "TRUDELL."
A prolific poet, TRUDELL combined spoken word performances and music on more than a dozen albums, including one released earlier this year. His fans included KRIS KRISTOFFERSON, who paid tribute to TRUDELL with the 1995 song "Johnny Lobo," a tune he still frequently performs live. TRUDELL, whose musical career was spurred by a meeting with JACKSON BROWNE in 1979 -- including his classic 1986 cassette-only album with the purposely misspelled title, "AKA Grafitti Man" (featuring fellow NATIVE AMERICAN guitarist JESSE ED DAVIS, who played for the likes of BOB DYLAN, FRANK ZAPPA and GEORGE HARRISON) -- also once memorably performed live at L.A.'s PALOMINO with HARRISON and JOHN FOGERTY in the '80s. He recorded both solo and with his band BAD DOG.
As an actor, TRUDELL appeared in several movies, including 1992's "THUNDERHEART" and 1998's "Smoke Signals." And as an activist, he co-founded the hemp advocacy project HEMPSTEAD PROJECT HEART with WILLIE NELSON in 2012.