John Trudell: Descendant Now Ancestor

John Trudell (1946–2015) was a Native American author, poet, actor, musician and political activist. His father was Santee Lakota and his mother’s tribal roots were in Mexico. Trudell devoted much of his life to fighting for Native American rights, a fight that began in 1969 when he joined the Indians of All Tribes Occupation of Alcatraz. Trudell was the group’s spokesman who brought the plight of Native Americans across the country to mainstream America. What followed was a life of activism, great personal loss, and unapologetic creativity manifested from years of struggle. Trudell delivered many speeches throughout his life centered around what it means to be a human being. His message, his philosophy, his poetry and his perspective remain timeless.  

The 2005 documentary film Trudell chronicles the life and works of John Trudell. Robert Redford, Sam Shepard, Val Kilmer and Kris Kristofferson, among others, discuss working with Trudell on various film projects and reflect on the friendships formed during that time. Trudell worked with Shepard and Kilmer on the 1992 film Thunderheart, a film loosely based on events relating to the Wounded Knee incident in 1973. The 1992 documentary film Incident at Oglala, produced by Robert Redford, examined the 1973 incident at Wounded Knee and included interviews with various Native Americans including John Trudell. Trudell also appeared in the following must see movies, Powwow Highway, Smoke Signals, and Dreamkeeper.