Take a look back at his extraordinary life through these images.
John Trudell, an American Indian poet, actor, spoken word artist, and political activist walked on December 8 at the age of 69.
He passed away at his home surrounded by family and friends. Some of his last words were: “I don’t want to tell people how to remember me. I want people to remember me as they remember me.”
Trudell was born in Omaha, Nebraska on February 15, 1946, as the son of a Santee Dakota father and a Mexican mother. He grew up in small towns near the Santee Sioux Reservation in northern Nebraska near the southeast corner of South Dakota. He was educated in local schools and also in Santee Dakota culture.
About six months after the deaths of his family, John Trudell started writing poetry. He described his work, “They're called poems, but in reality they're lines given to me to hang on to.”
John Trudell is seen here on the steps leading to the prison atop Alcatraz on December 1, 1969. (AP Images)
Trudell created a career as an actor, performing in roles in Thunderheart (1992), On Deadly Ground (1995) and Smoke Signals (1998) (as the Radio speaker Randy Peone on K-REZ radio). He was an adviser to the production of Incident at Oglala, directed by Michael Apted and produced by Robert Redford.
John Trudell on Alcatraz Island off San Francisco on December 1, 1969. (AP Images)
November 18, 1970. (AP Images)
John Trudell looks over the San Francisco Bay
John Trudell starred alongside Val Kilmer in Thunderheart in 1992.
John Trudell was one of many American Indian Movement members featured in “Incident at Oglala,” which was released in 1992.
(Courtesy Trudell Family)
“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. Thank you all for that fire. But please don't worry about me…” (Courtesy Trudell Family)
“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.” (Courtesy Trudell Family)