It has not been a happy month for Native American activists. Recently we said goodbye to Robin Poor Bear, and this week, activist/author/musician/poet John Trudell left this earth. Trudell was the subject of the Independent Lens film from a few years back called simply Trudell, by Heather Rae.

One of his last messages, as per his family, was “I want people to remember me as they remember me,” and on his Facebook page a member of Trudell’s family posted this simple goodbye:

“My ride showed up.”

“Celebrate Love. Celebrate Life.”

John Trudell
February 15, 1946 – December 8, 2015

Trudell was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribes’ takeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz. During most of the ’70s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement, based in Minneapolis.

[Update] Here are thoughts e-mailed to us from Trudell filmmaker Heather Rae:

“John Trudell was one of the most influential figures of our century; he led the people not through might or charm but through his words.  He carried a most profound insight into what it means to be a human being. Many feel that John showed them a path of being, regardless of whether they had met him. It was through his words. He was an orator, a truth teller, and although he spoke through an indigenous paradigm, he was understood globally.”

An excellent remembrance of Trudell by Alex Jacobs on  Indian Country Today:

Trudell’s voice would be big, listened to and embraced. What he had to say was that good, it was that needed. Nowadays we must come up with descriptions TO define his voice and presence, words like empowering, authentic, intelligent, inspirational and necessary. He believed in the Spoken Word, that it had power. He didn’t think we should call our music and poetry “political or protest,” as those were labels from those in control. He called them cultural realities and artistic statements: “We are speaking our truth, bringing our energy. Music is its own energy, it’s good and positive in strengthening our communities.”

The trailer for the film gives you just a taste of why Trudell was so important and relevant to the Native American community.

John Trudell mural by artist Gregg Deal
John Trudell mural by artist Gregg Deal