Archives: His 2001 talk in support of the U’wa of Columbia
When John Trudell died on December 8, 2015, many were at a loss how to explain in a few words what he meant to them: Santee Sioux poet, philosopher, musician and warrior came to mind and the commercial media added his roles in films and the films made about him.
TUC: Trudell grew up on and around the Santee Sioux reservation near Omaha, Nebraska. In 1969 he participated in the Indians of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz Island . From 1973 to 1979, he served as national chairman of A.I.M., the American Indian Movement. The government response to A.I.M. was swift Trudell said, “They waged war against us. They hunted us down. They killed, jailed, and destroyed us, by any means necessary.”
One of AIM’s greatest accomplishments on Trudell’s watch was drawing attention to the US government policy of Tribal Termination and the eventual rollback of Termination and the Restoration of tribal rights and some Native lands. AIM walked The Longest Walk from California to DC and occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters building. While there, AIM activists discovered secret plans to terminate even more tribes and went public.
Of course government agencies and the FBI became dedicated to ending the nascent Native American movement. To this day it remains unclear who inside AIM was used by the FBI and what the effects of the FBI’s defamation campaigns against certain members of AIM were. John Trudell personally became a target of the FBI. In their amazing 17,000-page FBI dossier on him, the reported that they feared his verbal skill the most. “Articulate” appears repeatedly.
In 1979 that war by the FBI took a terrible personal toll on John Trudell. On February 11, he led a march to the FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. Approximately 12 hours later, in the early morning hours, a fire “of suspicious origin” burned down Trudell’s home on the Shoshone Paiute reservation in Nevada, killing his wife Tina, their three children, and Tina’s mother. Devastated by the loss of his family, Trudell withdrew from the world; “writing words” became his way “to keep some sanity” and continue to survive. Trudell returned as musician, poet, and highly sought-after public speaker.
This program you will hear the first half hour of a talk he gave in March 2001 in San Francisco. The hall was filled to capacity. Trudell took the stage with a thin folder of his poems under his arm. He began with a disclaimer of sorts, leading into a free association of thoughts about Earth and Sun, ancient wisdom, and modern intelligence, and what it means to be a human being.