John Trudell (1946- ) is a Native American (Santee Sioux) activist and spoken-word poet. His FBI file, at over 17,000 pages, was once among the biggest.
He took part in the Occupation of Alcatraz (1969-1971), becoming the voice of Radio Free Alcatraz.
From 1973 to 1979, he was Chairman of the American Indian Movement (AIM). It was modelled in part on the Black Panthers – and was taken down in much the same way, through the FBI’s Cointelpro operation.
On February 11th 1979, he burned the US flag on the steps of the FBI building. That night, his pregnant wife, his three little children and his mother-in-law, back in Nevada, were burned to death in a house fire.
He fled to Canada, seeking political asylum. He turned to poetry, seeking to deal with his grief.
In the 1980s, as a spoken-word poet, he recorded three albums with Kiowa guitarist Jesse Ed Davis. Bob Dylan said that “AKA Graffiti Man” (1986) was the best album of the year.
Trudell’s picture of US history: After the battle for the land, came the battle for the spirit of the People. Some defended themselves by becoming drunks instead of giving into the spiritual disease that Columbus and the other Europeans had brought with them.
Those who had the disease called themselves Christians. Those who did not were called heathens. The Europeans themselves had once lived in tribes as free people, but then, thousands of years ago, came the disease.
The Christian disease is based on guilt, sin and blame, on male authority and violence, on lies, on taking more than you need. It is not based on respect, love, harmony or peace. Christians see the Earth not as their Mother, but as something to rape.
The Earth in time will recover from the disease, whether it does it through holes in the ozone in the sky or through other means. It is just a matter of time.
His generation, like the generation of Crazy Horse, did the best they could. But they acted out of emotion, not true understanding.
“We’re not Indians and we’re not Native Americans. We’re older than both concepts. We’re the People, we’re the Human Beings.”
“The great lie is that it is civilization. It’s not civilized. It has been literally the most bloodthirsty, brutalizing system ever imposed upon this planet. That is not civilization. That’s the great lie, is that it represents civilization.”
We love you and we are angry
At the invaders who trash you
And violate our universe with
Their mechanical uncleanliness.
We pray for you, for us, and for the
Invader who just can´t comprehend
Respect, love, or the balance of life.
We do not join the invading madness.
From the way they act,
It speaks of spirit sadness.
Machine, money, progress is the
Cause of our common abuse.”
“Protect your spirit, because you are in the place where spirits get eaten.”
– Abagond, 2015.
Update (December 9th): John Trudell died of cancer on December 8th, just three days after I wrote this post. Rest in peace.
- Welcome to Native American Heritage Month 2015
- John Trudell
- The Occupation of Alcatraz
- Black Power
- The Sioux today
- Magical Progress