John Trudell died yesterday. He was 69, my husband’s age. John is one of those select people that I always wanted to meet. He had little formal education but he was a brilliantly complex thinker and vibrant communicator. He was also a visionary. While he participated in the AIM (American Indian Movement) protests at Alcatraz Island and Wounded knee South Dakota, he saw much further to the importance of recognizing the rights of indigenous people for the benefit of all people and even for the future of the world. He was aware that losing awareness of being indigenous was losing one’s human identity as a child of mother earth. Here we are almost at the end of 2015. I guess it wasn’t in his contract to go further into this 21st Century. He delivered his message in print and with his earthy sonorous voice and he lived and suffered this message. It was his job, the one he was born to do.
I identified with him as a freethinker and visionary but wished I had his courage and public presence. He had little formal education because he was born a child of the world and there were no schools teaching those skills. His philosophy and worldview confirmed my own hard-lived beliefs. There is no doubt that he was the most eloquent of native activists, but he also saw beyond his own people and recognized that the Red Road empowered him to live good medicine for everyone. He saw the real plight of his people and he saw beyond it to the faltering essence of being a human in the modern world.
John Trudell lost his mother at an early age and his wife and children to a house fire that may not have been an accident since at the time he was bearing down hard and effectively for native rights. There was always controlled fire in his words and I suspect he knew that he was planting seeds but the harvest would be a long time in coming.
John Trudell deserves a rest. I hope there is someone worthy to take up his work and carry it forward. I am so thankful that he stayed with us as long as he did. He was a very passionate man. You heard it in his message and you heard it in the fiery delivery of his speeches and poems, but it always aimed precisely like a laser beam. Despite the personal struggles and losses, he didn’t succumb to hateful reactive words. He knew that the big picture always loomed behind his words.
I always felt some fragility about his earthly presence. There are certain people that you just know are hanging to this dimension by a fragile cord. I’m not accusing him of any death wish. Far from it, but he was cloaked in the essence of someone far ahead of his time who may only be hanging out here for a particular reason and when the message was delivered might fade into another dimension.