John Trudell, an American Indian poet, actor, spoken word artist, and political activist well-known for his involvement with the radical Red Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, died on Tuesday. After a battle with cancer, Trudell died in Santa Clara County, located in Northern California, at the age of 69.
John Trudell’s estate released the following statement on his death:
John Trudell passed away today, December 8, 2015, at his home, surrounded by his family and friends. He entered this dimensional reality on February 15, 1946, and now he has left this dimensional reality. He is survived by his children and grandchildren.
John Trudell’s family asked people to celebrate love and life in honor of John, and to pray and celebrate in their own communities. One of Trudell’s last statements was of appreciation. “I appreciate all of your expressions of concern, and I appreciate all of your expressions of love. It has been like a fire to my heart,” he said. “Thank you all for that fire. But please don’t worry about me.”
Many Americans are unfamiliar with the work of John Trudell and the American Indian Movement (AIM). U.S. history books rarely acknowledge the role of Natives in American history — especially the history of their resistance to colonization in the last 50 years. We should not rely on the oppressors to inform and educate us about the true history of this nation, especially when it comes to the history of Native activism. It is up to us to tell each other’s stories.
Trudell was born in Omaha, Nebraska on February 15, 1946 near the Santee Sioux Reservation. John’s father was Santee Sioux. After serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war, Trudell became active with the American Indian Movement and civil rights battles for Native communities.
John Trudell was a part of the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay by the United Indians of All Tribes. From November 1969 to June 1971, the group occupied the island, calling for the federal government to respect treaty rights and turn the former federal prison over to Native Americans. Trudell hosted a radio broadcast from the island called “Radio Free Alcatraz.”
After the occupation concluded, Trudell went on to serve as national chairman of AIM from 1973 to 1979. Trudell also participated in the nationally organized cross-country caravan, Trail of Broken Treaties, just one week before Election Day in 1972. The caravan ended with the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C.
In 1979, Trudell and other AIM activists went to Washington D.C. to protest the federal government. The activists burned an American flag on the steps of the office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. At nearly the same time, John Trudell’s pregnant wife, Tina Manning, their three children, and her mother were killed in a mysterious fire at her parents’ home on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Nevada. Trudell and other activists have long suspected government involvement, but the cause of the fire was never officially determined.
“When I got sent up for sixty days, that time in Fargo, I was approached by another inmate, a guy I didn’t know, and he started talking about my public statements. You can’t go around talking that shit, he says, you better get out of the country. You don’t know these crazy bastards [the FBI] – they could kill your wife and children,” John Trudell would later remember.
Shortly after the incident, John Trudell began to make a transition from leading direct action to a focusing on writing poetry and music. “They’re called poems, but in reality they’re lines given to me to hang on to,” Trudell said in the 2005 documentary Trudell. He released more than a dozen albums of spoken word poetry and music. Trudell would also act in several movies, including 1992’s Thunderheart and 1998’s Smoke Signals. Most recently, Trudell and singer Willie Nelson co-founded Hempstead Project Heart, which promotes the legalization of hemp cultivation for industrial uses.
John Trudell on the power of hemp:
During his time as an activist, Trudell amassed a reported 17,000 page file from the FBI. Alternet reported:
An excerpt from his file, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in 1986, reads:
“Trudell is an intelligent individual and eloquent speaker who has the ability to stimulate people into action. Trudell is a known hardliner who openly advocates and encourages the use of violence [i.e., armed self-defense] although he himself never becomes involved in the fighting …Trudell has the ability to meet with a group of pacifists and in a short time have them yelling and screaming ‘right-on!’ In short, he is an extremely effective agitator.“
Speaking to Phoenix New Times about his file, John Trudell said, “What my FBI file reflects to me is their absurdity. Seventeen thousand pages is a lot of trees to assassinate to spy on someone.”
I have been following John Trudell’s work for the last couple of years and had been communicating with his manager for almost a year in an attempt to schedule an interview with this prolific man. Unfortunately, we were never able to connect. If I had had the opportunity to tell him directly, I would have let him know that his work and the work of Native and indigenous activists of the last 50 years will not be forgotten. More than that, I would let him know that his work has inspired me and many others not to forget the battles and struggles of Natives over the last 500 years.
I highly recommend listening to any of his speeches on YouTube. I promise you will be inspired and moved by this powerful being’s words. I leave you with a quote from one of Trudell’s talks, where he reminds us of our innate power within and that we cannot fight the oppressors on their terms. We must build the next stage of freedom and evolution if we are to have a future.
I remember in the 60’s and the 70’s I heard all this stuff about Power to the People, and I never understood because everyone was talking about Power to the People and they were talking about demonstrating, they were talking about VOTE, They were talking about DEALING ON THE TERMS OF THE OPPRESSOR.
Our power will come back to us, our sense of balance will come back to us when we go back to the natural way of protecting and honoring the Earth. If we have forgotten how to do it, and if we think it looks overwhelming and we can never accomplish it, then all we have to do – each of us as an individual can go out and find some spot on the Earth that we can relate to.
Feel that energy, feel that power. That’s where our safety will come from. The Earth will take care of us. We have to understand that the American Corporate State will not take care of us. They do not care about us. – John Trudell
A long time ago, in a proxy war far, far away, some YouTube videos (around 100 of them apparently) “proved” that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had unleashed a horrific chemical attack on its own people.
In a lengthy report subtly titled "Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013,” US officials laid out their reasoning for trusting the veracity of the clips, and while you can read the entire report here, the punchline is this: “We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos.”
That’s right, the US very nearly started World War 3 based on Washington’s assessment of the Syrian opposition’s video editing capabilities.
Fast forward to March when, almost two years after the first round of YouTube chemical attack videos nearly led to US strikes on Damascus, Washington still hadn’t managed to stir up enough public support for an invasion (which may have something to do with the fact that most Americans couldn’t even identify Syria on a map let alone tell you anything about its four-year old civil war) and lo and behold Reuters reported that “a group monitoring the Syrian civil war said government forces carried out a poison gas attack that killed six people in the northwest, and medics posted videos of children suffering what they said was suffocation."
That prompted the John Kerry to send the following message to the Syrian regime: “Assad must be held accountable for atrocious behavior [and] military pressure may be needed to oust [him]”
Well, five months later and the American public still doesn’t care about Syria or Assad (after all, there are more pressing issues to worry about, like Cecil), but one thing it does care about is ISIS which is why now, the West will try to tie Islamic State to chemical weapons and see if that’s effective at bolstering support for boots on the ground. Here’s CNN:
The U.S. is investigating what it believes are "credible" reports that ISIS fighters used mustard agent in an attack against Kurdish Peshmerga this week, causing several of them to fall ill, U.S. officials working in at least three separate parts of the Obama administration said Thursday.
All of them strongly emphasized more intelligence is being gathered on exactly what may have happened near the town of Makhmour in northern Iraq.
And here’s WSJ explaining that ISIS most likely obtained the mustard gas in Syria or maybe in Iraq where stockpiles belonging to Assad and Saddam Hussein, respectively, were supposed to have been destroyed but weren’t:
Islamic State militants likely used mustard agent against Kurdish forces in Iraq this week, senior U.S. officials said Thursday, in the first indication the militant group has obtained banned chemicals.
The officials said Islamic State could have obtained the mustard agent in Syria, whose government admitted to having large quantities in 2013 when it agreed to give up its chemical-weapons arsenal.
The possibility that Islamic State obtained the agent in Syria “makes the most sense,” said one senior U.S. official. It is also possible that Islamic State obtained the mustard agent in Iraq, officials said, possibly from old stockpiles that belonged to Saddam Hussein and weren’t destroyed.
U.S. intelligence agencies are still investigating the source and how it could have been delivered this week on the battlefield, officials said.
Islamic State has taken control of territory in Syria close to where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces stored chemical weapons, including mustard agent. The regime said in 2013 that all of its mustard stockpiles had been destroyed, either by Syrian forces themselves or by international inspectors.
Inspectors, however, have subsequently said they weren’t able to verify claims by the Syrian government that it had burned hundreds of tons of mustard agent in earthen pits. U.S. intelligence agencies now say they believe Damascus hid some caches of deadly chemicals from the West, possibly including mustard.
WSJ goes on the say that as of now, it's "unclear how much mustard Islamic State might have obtained," and the German ministry says we won't know for sure whether any mustard was spread until a team of German experts (who are "on their way to the scene") have had a chance to assess the situation. "What it was exactly we don’t know," a spokesman said.
But that's ok because the US does know courtesy of multiple "independent reports." And if that's not good enough for you, just ask Congressman Adam Schiff, a ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:
"Did ISIS find some mustard? We think they did. We think they have used it."
And John McCain agrees, as is clear from the following tweet, in which the Senator encourages you to read a completely unbiased WSJ Opinion piece called "Islamic State Gets Mustard Gas: Assad’s stockpiles weren’t destroyed, and the jihadists have them".
McCain - who, you're reminded, is the poster child for foreign policy failures in Syria and Ukraine - seems to have completely missed the irony in his retweeting an article in which the very first line reads: "foreign-policy failures have a way of compounding."
In any event, we suspect it won't be long before John Kerry tells the nation that it might be necessary to use further "military pressure" to hold ISIS accountable for their "atrocious behavior" which is now in direct contravention of another international warfare "norm". As for seeing "proof" that Islamic State did indeed "find and use some mustard," don't hold your breath (unless there's mustard gas around):
While there have been accounts posted in social media about the incident, the officials said they have independent information that strongly led them to assess there was a use of chemical weapons. The officials would not tell CNN what evidence led them to this belief.
John McCain — everyone’s favorite possibly senile senator who Vladimir Putin thinks may have gone nuts in ‘Nam and who has had quite a difficult time shaking rumors about his past dealings with “brave” Syrian ‘freedom fights’ who may have gone on to become ISIS militants — is ‘back in the (former) USSR.’
Earlier this year, McCain expressed his disappointment in the glacial pace at which Washington is moving on the path to World War III, saying he is “ashamed” of the President, the country, and of himself, for not “doing more to help those people.” By “those people” McCain meant Ukrainians and by “more to help” he meant sending lethal aid to Kiev so the Ukrainian army can turn the on-again-off-again “conflict” with Russia into a proper war that self-respecting hawks can be proud of.
McCain is no stranger to Ukrainian politics. In 2013 he spoke to a crowd of protesters in the wake of then-President Viktor Yanukovich’s (who was once the victim of an attempted assassination-by-egg and who famously fled the country amid widespread protests last year) decision to lean Russian on trade, telling the crowd that “the free world is with you, America is with you, I am with.” It appears McCain is taking that pledge quite literally because as you can see from the following official release from the Ukrainian government, the Senator has been added to Poroshenko’s International Advisory Board.
Decree of President of Ukraine on May 13, 2015
REGULATIONS of the International Advisory Council reform International Advisory Board Reform (hereinafter - the Council) is a consultative body under the President of Ukraine, whose main task is to provide suggestions and recommendations for the implementation of reforms in Ukraine based on the best international practices.
International Advisory Board Reform
Miheil Saakashvili - President of Georgia in 2004-2007 and 2008 -2013 years, chairman (by consent)
Carl Bildt - Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Sweden in 1991 - 1994 years, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Sweden in 2006 - 2014 years (by consent)
Elmar Brok - Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (the agreement)
Mikulas Dzurinda - Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic in 1998 - 2006 years (by consent)
Andrius Kubilius - Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania in 1999 - 2000 and 2008 - 2012 years (by consent)
John McCain - United States Senator, Chairman of the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate of the United States (by consent)
Anders Aslund - Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics (United States), Professor (by consent)
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski - Member of the European Parliament (by consent).
Note that former Georgian President Miheil Saakashvili also made the list, which is notable because .. well, he’s an international fugitive. Here’s RT:
Saakashvili has been appointed as head of the new advisory group, says the statement on Ukraine’s presidential website…
Back in February Saakashvili was appointed as a non-staff adviser to Poroshenko. The ex-Georgian president, who was in power from 2004 to 2013, faces numerous charges at home, including embezzlement of over $5 million, corruption and brutality against protesters during demonstrations in 2007. Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office launched proceedings to indict Saakashvili and place him on the international most wanted list, but Kiev refused to hand over the fugitive president, despite an existing extradition agreement between Ukraine and Georgia.
Saakashvili is known for his strong anti-Russian stance, which garnered heavy US support. In August 2008 during his term in office Georgia launched an offensive against South Ossetia, killing dozens of civilians and Russian peacekeepers stationed in the republic. Georgia’s shelling of Tskhinval prompted Russia to conduct a military operation to fend off the offensive. Despite Saakashvili’s claims that the conflict was “Russian aggression,” the 2010 EU Independent Fact Finding Mission Report ruled that Tbilisi was responsible for the attack...
Following the new Kiev authorities’ attempt to suppress dissent in the east of the country and Crimea’s ascension into the Russian Federation, McCain became the main engine of lobbying for lethal arms supplies to Ukrainian forces to “defend themselves” and Europe from “Russian aggression.”
“The Ukrainian people don’t want US or Western troops to fight for them; they are simply asking for the right tools to defend themselves and their country,” he said late last month at a hearing on US security policy in Europe. “Russia’s invasion and dismemberment of Ukraine should remind everyone of the true nature of Putin’s ambitions and the fragility of peace in Europe.”
Yes, the "fragility of peace in Europe," which is of course made infinitely more fragile by the type of snap drills, troop buildups and NATO sabre rattling that the good senator so ardently supports. But as anxious as McCain may be to do his part to help the "poor" people of Ukraine by plunging them into a bloody civil war, he's still keen to express the proper deference to ethics, the law, and "that kind of stuff":
"I was asked to do it both by Ukraine and Saakashvili and I said I would be inclined to do it, but I said I needed to look at all the nuances of it, whether it's legal under our ethics and all that kind of stuff."
We're sure the makeup of this new "advisory council" will do wonders to promote peace in Eastern Europe. And as if on cue (via Bloomberg just hours ago):
Senate Armed Services Cmte approves bill on 22-4 vote, says Sen. Jack Reed, ranking Democrat on cmte.
Bill would preserve A-10 close-air combat plane; authorizes arms to Ukraine, McCain says.