January 2016

Remembering John Trudell, a great leader

By Art Goodtimes

AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT … Perhaps no Native-American figure has influenced me more than the activist, poet, songwriter and visionary John Trudell. He passed away last month after five decades of working to empower the dispossessed and envision a future free of racism, violence and injustice … “John’s words were only one of his many gifts to this earth. His actions and activism were also an inspiration,” said Mike Mease, director of the Buffalo Field Campaign in Montana. “John paid for his actions with the loss of his wife, three children, and motherin- law. Rather than silencing him, this only made him stronger” … Born in 1946 in Omaha, Neb., Trudell grew up on his father’s Santee Sioux reservation. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, serving on a destroyer off the Vietnamese coast, and studying communications at San Bernardino Valley College, he turned to activism. In 1969 he joined other Native American militants in occupying Alcatraz Island, the former federal prison, and called for its return to native peoples, while broadcasting from Radio Free Alcatraz … Having been myself radicalized as a Vista volunteer on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, I was deeply moved by the action, and wrote a poem supporting the takeover that was published in the local alternative newspaper, the Good Times (formerly the San Francisco Express Times). Although the number of protesters eventually dwindled and the last of them were removed by federal agents after 19 months, the action mobilized a resurgence of Native American pride and a growing pan-Indian push for sovereignty and for Anglo recognition of the genocidal wars on indigenous peoples waged in the settlement of this continent … Inspired by Trudell and Richard Oakes, a Mohawk activist killed shortly after the Alcatraz action, I attended a pipe ceremony for the first Longest Walk (1978), brought food to the marchers in Nevada, and marched with them into Utah. AIMorganized, The Longest Walk brought demands to D.C. for mitigation of the effects of climate change and calls for environmental sustainability plans, protection of sacred sites, and the renewal of improvements to Native American sovereignty and health... He served as national chairman of the American Indian Movement during much of the 1970s, his tenure beginning after the 71- day standoff at Wounded Knee, South Dakota … In 1979, Trudell burned a U.S. flag on the steps of the FBI building in Washington, saying the flag had been desecrated by the government’s behavior toward American Indians and other minorities and that burning was the appropriate way to dispose of a desecrated flag. The next day his home on the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada burned to the ground. The fire killed his pregnant wife and fellow activist, Tina Manning, as well as their three children and Manning’s mother. BIA police called the fire “accidental,” but Trudell maintained that it was arson, and an attempt to silence him. But, in spite of his personal pain, he never stopped struggling for the movement… I got to hear him speak at the AIM-sponsored Survival Gathering in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1980. His speech there, one of the great ones in American history, emphasized that Power resided with the People, not with governments or guns. He acknowledged that American Indians were victims of physical genocide, but stated that Anglos had also been victims of spiritual genocide, while Native Americans had preserved much of their spirituality in spite of all the forces arrayed against them … It wasn’t completely surprising then that he participated in one of the spiritually-oriented Steps to Awareness Festivals in Telluride back in the 1990s. Unfortunately, I never found anyone who recorded his speech here – I myself was out of town and missed it … In some of his last words, Trudell said expressions of concern and love for him have been “like a fire to my heart,” according to family friend Cree Miller. “Thank you all for that fire” … For more on John Trudell, visit upbearcreek. blogspot.com



Christmas Eve
buy one”
she said

But Doug fir
nailed to a wooden cross

& Jesus Mary & Joseph
began to weep

WEEKLY QUOTA … “We must go beyond the arrogance of human rights. We must go beyond the ignorance of civil rights. We must step into the reality of natural rights because all of the natural world has a right to existence and we are only a small part of it. There can be no trade off.” – John Trudell

INNER TRUMP … No use denying it. As Americans, we all carry a bit of Donald around with us. Crypto-racist language. Mean sound bites. Impossibly simple fiats … Truth is, we are all embedded in the United States of America, the First World’s leading nation – which has assumed neo-colonial guard duty for the Free World’s Market Empire. At least that’s been the vision, since the ‘50s, of the DullesBrothers/Eisenhower/ Nixon/Reagan/Bush/Wall Street Journal wing of what many of us have taken to calling our nation’s “deep politics.” This is the same group of powerful men representing the 1 percent who, post-WWII, created the CIA, a Cold War strategy of mutual assured destruction with Russia, had Mossedegh, Arbenz and (it would appear) both Kennedys killed, and has been overturning as much of FDR’s legacy as possible and preventing any quasi-socialist proposals for money to be spent on society’s middle and lower classes … Look, we all need to move to the middle to get things done … Let certain pols make fools of themselves. It’s a free country, as my daddy used to say. But neither side of the political divide is going to close the gap by throwing rocks from the other cliff-face.

MORE QUIVIRA … Scott Black is on a mission. He wants to save the Monarch butterfly. As a professional ecologist and head of the Xerces Society, he’s really worried about this imperiled species, as well as the rapid decline in bees, as he told those assembled in Albuquerque for the Quivira Coalition annual meeting … The numbers are very disturbing. Where once there were millions of migrating monarchs, even just a few years ago, their current numbers are crashing. And he thinks farmers and ranchers and counties like ours can help … While native flowers of all types are important nectar sources for all bees and butterflies, and getting more plantings of native plants is an important factor in trying to preserve these insect species so beneficial to humans, it’s milkweed that’s the critical plant for monarchs (Asclepias spp.). But farmers and ranchers don’t like milkweed, since several species can be toxic to cows and sheep. And it’s especially dangerous in hay. But out in the field, Scott says that it is unpalatable and poisonings are rare, and usually only when animals are concentrated where there is little other feed … Which is why he’s a big fan of turning state and county roadsides into areas for growing native plants and milkweed. A graduate of Colorado State University and a 2011 honored alumnus, he’s interested in coming to Colorado to talk about how counties might join in the national initiative to save the Monarch.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES … One of those ugly CDOT electronic billboards on Dallas Divide must have had a malfunction the other day. It read: “Wildlife Migration. Drive With Cars” … I love the new hand-lettered sign at the beauty parlor coming into Norwood. It reads: “Bangs are the Moustache of the Forehead.”

Art Goodtimes is a poet, an author, and a five-term county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.