Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory
An honoring for John Trudell was held at InterTribal Friendship House in Oakland, California on December 13.

InterTribal Friendship House Honors John Trudell [10 Images]

Nanette Deetz

John Trudell, Wapaha Uha Mani (Walks with the Staff), beloved Santee Dakota poet, musician, actor, activist for peace and justice, creative yet critical thinker, and generous man of the people, passed peacefully at his home in Northern California on December 8, 2015. Trudell spoke for so many tribal people when we had no voice, and at a time in history when the long knives of greed, lies, and injustice almost crushed us as distinct human, and tribal people.

Although we mourn this tremendous loss, many of his closest friends came together on December 13 to honor and celebrate his life at InterTribal Friendship House in Oakland, California. It was there that he would visit with his close friend and ally, the late Bill Wahpepah, among many others. It is also where much of the organizing for the Occupation of Alcatraz Island took place. Many of those in attendance were with Trudell on Alcatraz during the occupation, and had words of honor and praise for his life.

All Nations Northern Drum Group, led by Michael Bellanger opened the evening with an honor song, and Richard Moves Camp, Oglala Lakota Spiritual Advisor, led a Comforting Ceremony (wo kigna) and offered the opening prayer. Lakota Harden (Minnecoujou Lakota/Ihaktuwan Dakota/Hochunk), co-producer of KPFA’s Bay Native Circle, introduced each speaker.

All Nations Northern Drum performed at the honoring. (Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory)

“I've been on many stages with John Trudell. When I was young I said to myself, I want to be just like John Trudell and Richard Moves Camp,” said Fred Short (Ojibway), AIM activist and spiritual elder. “John kept the resistance going because he stood up against the racism, the many problems that are still with us today. John was at so many of the occupations. Richard Moves Camp has been here all week, helping John’s family, being with the people, talking with the people. I thank the women here tonight, helping out the people in this way.”

Pictured, from left, are Fred Short, Richard Moves Camp, who is offering Prayers, Redhouse, and Peter Bratt at the honoring for John Trudell. (Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory)

Paul Haible, executive director of Peace Development Fund, said: “I first met John in 1980, while organizing the MUSE anti-nuclear concerts. John was writing poetry up until the end. He was clear about our connection to the earth. His main hope is that the people and the movement continue, even after his generation moves on. The years he spent in Los Angeles with Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and others gave him music for his poetry, gave him another direction. He gave us permission to be ourselves. He was unapologetic, and he changed the conversation for so many younger artists and thinkers.”

Paul Haible speaks about John Trudell at the honoring held at InterTribal Friendship House. (Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory)

Johnella LaRose (Ute/ Shoshone/Bannock), one of the primary organizers for this Honoring event remembered John and his family. “When John burned the U.S. flag in D.C., the next day they burned his house down, and we lost Tina, her mother, and the kids. We used to go to all the Sun Dances and that’s where I first met Tina and his children. Everyone went together to Duck Valley… John’s poetry always moved me. I always remember his words, ‘we did our best, we did our worst, in our struggle to be free.’”

Johnella LaRose remembering John Trudell at the honoring. (Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory)

Eloy Martinez was one of the original 92 people who occupied Alcatraz Island. He remembered how tense the atmosphere was in 1969. “I want to give thanks to those original 14 students led by Richard Oakes because they really put their lives on the line. Most of them had their scholarships revoked. When John Trudell began that radio station on the island, and started speaking, his words still resonate.”

Dianne Williams (Koyukon Athabascan), social worker and Bay Area community activist, brought sage from her garden, bought food for the community feast, and helped prepare the meals. “It seems we have done this so many times throughout the years, for our friends, family and our leaders. I am just so blessed to be able to support our tribal community once again.”

Lakota Harden, Dianne Williams, and Johnella LaRose invite attendees to the give away at the John Trudell honoring in Oakland. (Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory)

Moves Camp led the final prayer: “We have lost a brother, an indigenous person. We lost a great ambassador for our people. Our relatives said long ago that one day this sacred hoop will be broken, but in time it will heal. We will come back together, when the people learn to pray together... We know that during the 1800s and 1900s our people faced the hardest times, yet many hung on to the old traditions. Now, we are healing and mending. In 1969, AIM was born. Many young warriors came to the aid of women and children. During the 1970s some lost their lives, or faced prison so that we could come together and heal. Today, young children are being born, young men are becoming leaders. Many of our leaders are dying; they are going home. The Oyate (family circle) mourns. Remember, that as we move along in this world, the ultimate guide is Creator.”

The prayer for John Trudell was led by Richard Moves Camp. (Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory)

“No matter what they ever do to us, we must always act for the love of our people and the earth. We must not react out of hatred for those who have no sense.” John Trudell once said.

Trudell and his family request that people pray and celebrate in their own way. There will be many honoring events planned throughout Indian country.

Lakota Harden and Dianne Williams present Richard Moves Camp with a blanket at the honoring for John Trudell. (Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory)

Pictured, from left, are Lakota Harden, Richard Moves Camp, and Peter Bratt at the honoring. (Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory)

Community members at the give away table at the honoring. (Courtesy Patricia Montes Gregory)

Nanette Deetz (Dakota/Tsalagi/German) is a published poet, journalist, special education tutor, and musician. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Theater Arts/Dance from UCLA, and has appeared in the original film version of “Carrie” (director Brian dePalma) and danced in the film “1941,” among numerous theater projects.

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