John Trudell

I discovered John Trudell when he performed the song "Bombs Over Baghdad" during the first Gulf War. There are a number of wonderful segments that are interviews with John Trudell on YouTube. There is also a documentary on him that is very powerful and moving. If you told Trudell that you considered him a prophet or maybe a better word would be Shaman. He would deny every bit of it. I truly believe he had very strong medicine for the people. The entire collection of the world benefited from his existence. He was considered dangerous by the people in charge too. I would venture to say right up there with Malcolm X, or Martin Luther King dangerous. John Trudell is one of my teachers, I wish that I could have met him and was able to call him my friend. What an amazing human being.

Trudell was born in the mid-forties in Nebraska. He probably lived on or near the nearby Sioux Reservation. His father was Santi Sioux, His mother was from a Mexican tribe in the south. She passed away when John Trudell was quite young. He watched his father struggle to feed and clothe all of his family. It was his first exposure to racism against indigenous Americans. His father struggled to get decent work, and wages because of who he was. 

Trudell would serve in the military for one term. At the time he thought that was what you were supposed to do. But once in, reality hit him very hard. Being an Indigenous American and experiencing racism up close and personal growing up. He witnessed the same thing toward other minorities service along side of him. as well as racism toward the people our nation was fighting.

After getting out of the military he went through a time period of trial by fire. He recognized and saw his disillusionment with the American Dream. He decided that America was not serving many of its people. It was mostly a nation where wealthy white men did very well.

He would rise to notoriety when in the organization the Indians Of All Tribes which occupied Alcatraz Island in 1969. Their goal was to have a location free and sovereign from the United States. He was becoming the man he is today. An activist who needed to cry out into the industrial wilderness.

The American Indian Movement was born out of that struggle on Alcatraz. It would eventually be tamped down and out. But John Trudell would remain in a leadership position until 1979. He was in Washington DC and had burned an American Flag because he felt that it was in distress. Many people in this nation were not being treated well. Because of racial hatred, and the many injustices that followed racism in the United States.

Immediately after the Flag Burning incident his Wife, Mother In Law, and three children died in a fire in his home on the reservation. John Trudell believed that it was an insidious retaliation against him for the incident in DC. His family had transitioned and he did not do well with this. He became reclusive and discovered poetry as an outlet.

John Trudell took his painful past and turned it into powerful words. His poetry could be very hard at times. Speaking about the horrible things that he had witnessed growing up and living with as an adult.

His friend Jesse Ed Davis would discover him. Jesse Ed Davis was rubbing shoulders and playing as a backup musician for many great artists. After hearing John Trudell speak, He approached him and told him he could put music to his words. They teamed up and traveled the world on tours. Trudell impressed great artists like Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, and Jackson Brown.

One thing that Trudell said was "There is no Heaven, There is no Hell, Only the Spirit World." That stuck with me and resonated. He was a brilliant bright shining star. Another teaching of his was about the Drunken Indian. He believed that the drunken Indian had to happen. Because the Native Americans were told that they could no longer be who they were. That they must live as the White Man does. Instead, they took the third option. Which was to not be Native, nor white. But just drunk and numbing their pain. John Trudell said that the drunken Indian had to happen in order for the modern activists to rise up and stand for what needed to be done. This helped me to process my own mother's alcoholism. I am grateful for that.

Sadly this beautiful man died in 2015 due to the late stages of terminal cancer.

I believe in my heart that this man was a prophet, a medicine man, a shaman, an activist, and a light bearer all rolled up in one magnificent outstanding human who never let up. But just kept on going and doing what was right in his eyes. I am pretty sure that when he died the ancestors met him and said "well done."

I encourage you to watch the documentary film and any other videos to get a full concept of what this bright shining star was really about.



Further Reading

John Trudell - Biography

John Trudell - Wiki

Video Links

Documentary - Trudell YouTube

Song - Bombs Over Baghdad YouTube

Commentary: John Trudell - Drunken Indians

His website for further details:

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Document Created September 14, 2019