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)

John Trudell is pictured here in May 1992. (AP Images) 

John Trudell speaks at the New Music Seminar at the Marriott Marquis in New York on June 18, 1992. Trudell’s Rykodisc album, “AKA Graffiti Man,” co-produced by Jackson Browne, has just been released to critical acclaim. (AP Images)

Poet and Native American activist John Trudell poses against a mural in Santa Monica, California on June 2, 1994. (AP Images)

A documentary on John’s life was released in 2005. Pictured are John Trudell and his family. 

John Trudell is seen here in a 2013 promotional image. (

This mural of John Trudell was created by Gregg Deal in May 2015. (Courtesy Gregg Deal)

Matika Wilbur captured this image of John Trudell for her Project 562. (Matika Wilbur/

Responses to "Remembering John Trudell in Pictures: Warrior for the People "

  1. Unknown says:

    RIP Brother

  2. bobbie says:

    You stirred my heart,and I danced to your a woman I felt honored when I listened to your lovely songs about woman spirit.Bobbie

  3. blu says:

    miss you

  4. Sabine Dannehl says:

    Thank you for being who you were, for opening our eyes and sharing information on what has happened in the 1970's in the US. We keep on fighting for the freedom of Leonard Peltier in Germany. We may only be a few Germans, but we hear, see, listen to and feel with you!
    Sabine and Joerg

  5. Unknown says:

    We sure need his words now

  6. Anonymous says:

    this is what I learned from John Trudell and my brothers and sisters of the wild tribes . No matter what happens always bring it back to love. Send your prayers out for others, not for yourself, and hope that they will pray for you in your time ever need. my connection to the earth always fills my heart with peace even though my eyes are filled with tears. Sometimes it is better to draw your line in the sand and sometimes it is better to retreat. To know the difference you have to think before you take action. You have to have patience because change does not happen overnight. Sometimes you have to fight the same battles over and over again. Tell your stories and the stories of the ones that you most admire to your children. Tell them so that they will remember them and tell them to their children. I never heard John Trudell say anything that I disagreed with. somehow he was plugged in to some sort of universal truth and it was like a beautiful song that I will never forget. I miss him more than I can say and I know that he is at peace and I see him always smiling in my mind’s eye.

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