Category Archives: Music et al

Native American Activist John Trudell

Native American Activist John Trudell

Remembering, recognizing, and appreciating

John Trudell

Native American Activist John Trudell

February 15, 1946 — December 8, 2015

I recently watched the documentary RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World. It is about the mostly unknown but impressive role of Native Americans in popular music history. (movie site).

While watching this worthwhile film, I kept thinking, well there’s another person I should include a piece about at my site.

And as a self-described music buff, I am embarrassed to say that several of the musicians featured I hardly knew. (Not to pop my bubble completely, though, I was happy that I did have records of a few.)

John Trudell was one of those featured whom I’d not known.

Native American Activist John Trudell

Early life

Trudell was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up on and around the nearby Santee Sioux reservation. His father was a Santee, his mother’s tribal roots were in Mexico.. She died when he was 6.

He left high school and, as Native Americans had done since the first European wars on Native American land, Trudell volunteered to join the US military. He served in the US Navy from 1963 to 1967.

While there ,  as Native Americans in the military had experienced since those colonial times, he saw the dominant white society’s bias against minorities like Blacks, women, and, of course, Native Americans.

Native American Activist John Trudell

Alcatraz Island

Native American Activist John Trudell
Hopi men from Oraibi, Arizona sent to Alcatraz, 1895. Photograph by Isaiah W. Taber. (Credit Mennonite Library and Archives Bethel College, North Newton, KS)

The island and its use as a prison was a symbol of the US government’s deliberate and ongoing exclusion of Native Americans from becoming self realized within the dominant white society.

As far back as  1895, the government had imprisoned Hopi leaders there for their refusal to send their children to white schools to become culturally white and have their Hopi culture eradicated.

On March 8, 1964 a group of Sioux demonstrators affiliated with a San Francisco organization known as Indians of All Tribes (IAT) occupied Alcatraz Island for four hours.

Native American Activist John Trudell

Out of the Navy

After the military, he became an activist and joined the Indians of All Tribes Occupation of Alcatraz Island (ACT).

September 29, 1969, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a plan to turn the Federal prison site of Alcatraz Island into a monument to the US space program. 

10 days later, on October 9,  the American Indian Center in San Francisco burned down. It had been a meeting place that served 30,000 Indian people with social programs. The loss of the center focuses Indian attention on taking over Alcatraz for use as a new facility. 

After an overnight takeover of Alcatraz on November 9 a permanent takeover occurred on November 20. Seventy-nine Native-Americans seized control. The Indians of All Tribes claimed that the island belonged to Native Americans under the 1868 Treaty of Ft. Laramie, which provided for the return of all abandoned federal property to Native-Americans.

Native American Activist John Trudell

Radio Free Alcatraz

John Trudell ran a radio station called Radio Free Alcatraz from the occupation.

The occupation lasted until June 11, 1970. Although the occupation itself did not reach its goal of returning the island to the Native Americans, the successful occupation did help foster Native American activism which John Trudell would be a part of for the rest of his life.

Native American Activist John Trudell

A life of activism

As a part of the American Indian Movement (AIM) he joined the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties event when, the week before election day, caravans pulled into Washington, D.C., to present federal policymakers with solutions to the myriad problems in Native America. Within 24 hours, the group took over took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building and held it for six days.

He was part of the 1973 Liberation/Occupation of Wounded Knee village by AIM as well as becoming the national spokesperson for AIM, a position that he held until 1979.

On February 12,  1979 a fire burned down his home on the Shoshone Palute reservation in Nevada. The fire killed his wife Tina, three children, and Tina’s mother.  The fire was ruled an accident.

Native American Activist John Trudell

Spoken wordNative American Activist John Trudell

In his grief, Trudell began writing and publishing poetry. It became his greatest strength and, to the US government, a threat.

The FBI investigated him.  From Newtopian magazine:  “there is a quote from an FBI memo that says as much about our dysfunctional government as it does about John Trudell: “He is extremely eloquent…therefore extremely dangerous.” John is a great poet, not just because of his eloquence, not only because of his personal history (much of the tragedy of which the FBI caused), but because of the depth of his philosophy and consciousness.”

Trailer to a the Trudell documentary:

Native American Activist John Trudell


Native American Activist John Trudell

Kiowa guitarist Jesse Ed Davis  contacted Trudell and offered to put his poetry to music. They recorded three albums: AKA Graffiti Man was released in 1986,  followed by But This Isn’t El Salvador and Heart Jump Bouquet, both in 1987.

Bob Dylan said that “AKA GRAFITTI MAN [was] the best album of 1986. Only people like Lou Reed and John Doe can dream about doing work like this.”

He continued to release albums even after the untimely death of Davis in  1988 (AllMusic discography).

He continued to release poetry and as a spokesman of the American Indian.

Native American Activist John Trudell

In 2008,  Fulcrum Publishing released Lines from a Mined Mind: The Words of John Trudella collection of 25 years of poetry, lyrics and essays.

His site has a 12 minute video history about him. It’s a great summary.

Native American Activist John Trudell


The Indian Country media site reportedJohn Trudell, noted activist, poet and Native thinker, walked on December 8, 2015,  after a lengthy bout with cancer. His family included some of his last messages to Indian country in a press release. Among them: “I want people to remember me as they remember me.”

Native American Activist John Trudell


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August Peace Love Art Activism

August Peace Love Art Activism


Dred Scott

August Peace Love Art Activism

In August 1842: the Army discharged Dr Emerson–Scott’s owner– and Emerson returned to St. Louis. He later moved to Iowa, a free territory, but left the Scott family in St. Louis where Dred and Harriet Scott were hired out to various people. (see Dred Scott for expanded story)

US Labor History

In August 1881: Atlanta’s municipal authorities took direct action and arrested strikers and fined members who were making house visits, but the actions have little effect and the strikers win their demands.  (APWU article)  (Labor History, see September 5, 1882; BH, see January 22, 1883)


In August 1938: the Alabama Pardon Board declined to pardon Haywood Patterson and Ozie Powell. (see Scottsboro for expanded story)

Emmett Till

In August 1955:  Emmett Till’s great uncle Moses Wright traveled from Mississippi to Chicago to visit family. At the end of his stay, Wright planned to take Till’s cousin, Wheeler Parker, back to Mississippi with him to visit relatives. Emmett learned of these plans he begged his mother to let him go along. Initially, Mamie Till said no. She wanted to take a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska and attempted to lure Till to join her with the promise of open-road driving lessons. But Till desperately wanted to spend time with his cousins in Mississippi and she gave her permission. (BH, see Aug 13; see Till for expanded story)

Muhammad Ali

In August 1960: after winning a spot on the US Olympic team, 18-year-old Cassius Clay nearly refused participate because of his fear of flying. Joe Martin’s son told the Louisville Courier-Journal, “He finally agreed to fly. But then he went to an army surplus store and bought a parachute and actually wore it on the plane. It was a pretty rough flight, he was down in the aisle, praying with his parachute on.” (Black History, see Aug 31 – Sept 6; Ali, see September 5, 1960)

August Peace Love Art Activism

Emma Goldman

In August 1893: Goldman addressed a public meeting, urging those in need to take bread if they are hungry. Four days later, she lead a march of 1,000 people to Union Square, where, speaking in German and English, she repeats her belief that workers are entitled to bread. The speech leads to her arrest.  (see Goldman for expanded story)

August Peace Love Art Activism

United Farm Workers

Bracero Program

In August 1942: with a shortage of workers due to the US entry into World War II, the US and Mexico made a series of laws and agreements, known as the Bracero Program (“strong arm” in Spanish), for the importation of temporary contract laborers from Mexico to the United States. (Bracero dot org article)

César E. Chávez

From 1946 – 48: Chávez in the Navy. At the time Mexican-Americans could only work as deckhands or painters. Chávez described his experience in the military as “the two worst years of my life.”

In 1948: out of the Navy, Chávez married Helen Fabela. 

Community Service Organization

In 1952:  Chávez met Fred Ross and joined the Community Service Organization.

Dolores Huerta

August Peace Love Art Activism

In 1955: Dolores Huerta co-founds the Stockton, CA chapter of the Community Service Organization. 

Bracero program

August Peace Love Art Activism

In 1957: the peak year of the Bracero program: 192,000 Mexican workers imported. Along with Chicanos, the braceros soon became the most important component of the California agricultural work force after World War II.

                Theoretically, the bracero program provided standard contracts covering wages, hours, transportation, housing, and working conditions. The American government guaranteed the provision of emergency medical care, workmen’s compensation, and disability and death benefits. In reality, many of these provisions were never enforced and  the bracero system perpetuated the poverty of California’s migratory laborers. Between 1950 and 1960, the earnings of three million Mexican nationals employed in 275 crop areas were effectively frozen; average annual wages in fact declined slightly, from $1,680 in 1950 to $1,666 in 1959. (Bracero, see December 31, 1964)

Chavez confronts Bracero

In 1958:  Chávez works in Oxnard, a leading citrus-growing region north of Los Angeles, for 18 months confronting the bracero issue. 

Agricultural Workers Association

In 1960:  Dolores Huerta co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association to set up voter registration drives and pressed local governments for housing improvements. (Chavez, see March 31, 1962; Voting Rights, see May 6)

August Peace Love Art Activism


Diseases of the Nervous System

In August 1950:  “L. S. D. 25 As an Aid in Psychotherapy” was the first American article about LSD. It appeared in Diseases of the Nervous System. The article presented the possibility that LSD might be useful as an aid to psychotherapy. (text of article)

Al Hubbard

In 1951: Al Hubbard first tried LSD. Hubbard was an early proponent for the drug during the 1950s. He is reputed to have been the “Johnny Appleseed of LSD” and the first person to emphasize LSD’s potential as a visionary or transcendental drug. Hubbard may have introduced more than 6,000 people to LSD, including scientists, politicians, intelligence officials, diplomats, and church figures. Hubbard, then forty-nine years old, eagerly sought out others familiar with hallucinogenic drugs, including Aldous Huxley, the eminent British novelist who for years had been preoccupied with the specter of drug-induced thought control.

                “Most people are walking in their sleep,” Hubbard said. “Turn them around, start them in the opposite direction and they wouldn’t even know the difference. [but]  give them a good dose of LSD and let them see themselves for what they are.” 

Charles Savage

In 1952: Charles Savage published the first study on the use of LSD to treat depression (see December 1952)


In August, 1964 : Ken Kesey & his Merry Pranksters arrive with their Bus to visit Timothy Leary & Richard Alpert at Millbrook, NY. (see Dec 1)

August Peace Love Art Activism

Cold War


August Peace Love Art Activism

In August 1955: the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) subpoenaed Seeger. Seeger.  Earlier that summer he had written: “We the people suffer by not having the songs we need. We need thousands of new songs these days: humor to poke fun at some of the damn foolishness going on in the world; songs of love and consciences and stir our indignation and anger.” He was an uncooperative witness, gave short answers and asked to show them why the song, “Wasn’t That a Time” was a patriotic song. 


August Peace Love Art Activism

In 1956: the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program [COINTELPRO] began. It initiated a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted aimed at surveiling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations, particularly the Communist Party of America. COINTELPRO eventually enlarged to include disruption of the Socialist Workers Party (1961), the Ku Klux Klan (1964), the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party (1966), and the entire New Left social/political movement, which included antiwar, community, and religious groups (1968). (Democracy Now articles on COINTELPRO) (see June 21)

August Peace Love Art Activism

see August Music et al for expanded coverage


In August 1956: named after his school, John Lennon forms The Quarry Men, The band performed what was known in England as “skiffle” music which was originally an early 20th century American style music. (see July 6, 1957)

Ringo Rory Storm

In August 1959: Ringo Starr begins drumming for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. (Ringo would be Rory’s drummer until August 18, 1960). (see Aug 29)

Beat Brothers

In August 1961: Tony Sheridan and the Beatles or Beat Brothers released “My Bonnie/The Saints (Go Marching In) in Germany. (see Oct 28)

Sam Cooke

In August 1963,  Sam Cooke released Night Beat album.

Bob Dylan

In August, 1964: “I’m Going to Get My Baby Out of Jail” by Len Chandler & Bernice Johnson Reagon. Dylan “stole” the Len Chandler tune to accompany his “The Death of Emmett Till.” (see 1962-03-11) (see Aug 8)

John Sebastian

In August 1965: The Lovin’ Spoonful (John Sebastian age 19) released their first single, “Do You Believe in Magic” (see Aug 13)

James Brown

In August 1968, James Brown released “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” (see Nov 9)


In August, 1969: Santana (Carlos Santana age 22) released its first album, Santana. In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Langdon Winner panned Santana as “a masterpiece of hollow techniques” and “a speed freak’s delight – fast, pounding, frantic music with no real content”. He compared the music’s effect to methedrine, which “gives a high with no meaning”, finding Rollie and Santana’s playing repetitively unimaginative amidst a monotony of incompetent rhythms and inconsequential lyrics.

John & Yoko

In August 1971: John & Yoko rent an apartment on Bank Street in NYC’s Grenwich Village. (see Aug 1)

Eric Clapton #1

In August 1974: Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” reached #1 on US singles charts.

August Peace Love Art Activism


In August 1966: after transgender customers become raucous in a 24-hour San Francisco cafeteria, management called police. When a police officer manhandled one of the patrons, she threw coffee in his face and a riot ensued, eventually spilling out onto the street, destroying police and public property. Following the riot, activists established the National Transsexual Counseling Unit, the first peer-run support and advocacy organization in the world. (see January 1, 1967)

August Peace Love Art Activism


In August 1968: WNEW-FM DJ Rosko reads anti-war column on air. (see Aug 1)

August Peace Love Art Activism

Native Americans

Alcatraz Takeover

In August 1970: California governor Ronald Reagan announced a $50,000 planning grant to the Bay Area Native American Council for programs addressing the needs of urban Indians in the San Francisco Bay Area. (see Aug 21)

Kennewick Man

August Peace Love Art Activism

In August 2002: the U.S. District Court of Oregon ruled that bones of the 9,000 year-old human remains known as Kennewick Man, found in the Columbia River in Washington, be returned to the five Indian tribes that have claimed him as their ancient ancestor, as determined by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. (see February 11, 2008)

August Peace Love Art Activism


In August 1997: Linda Tripp encountered Kathleen Willey coming out of Oval Office “disheveled. Her face red and her lipstick was off.” Willey later alleged that Clinton groped her. Clinton’s lawyer, Bill Bennett said in the article that Linda Tripp is not to be believed. (see Clinton for expanded story)

August Peace Love Art Activism

Sexual Abuse of Children

In August 2005:  The Diocese of Oakland, California, agreed to pay $56m to 56 people. (see December 16, 2006)

August Peace Love Art Activism


In August 2010:  some states delayed executions because of a shortage of sodium thiopental, a drug used as an anesthetic and given to prisoners during lethal injections. It was one of three drugs used for lethal injection in more than 30 states. Some states had been trying to get additional supplies of the drug for months. In August, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was asked to sign death warrants for three prisoners in Kentucky but could set only one execution date because it only had a single dose. ‘We’ve had the drug on back order since March,’ said Todd Henson, a spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections. ‘The company that supplies it to us advised that they were unable to produce it because they weren’t able to get the active ingredient from their supplier.’

                Hospira, based in Lake Forest, Ill., was apparently the only manufacturer of the drug. The company told Kentucky officials it won’t be available until early 2011. (see Sept 23)

August Peace Love Art Activism
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February Music et al

February Music et al

Gil Evans

February Music et al

In February 1961: Gil Evans’s “Out of the Cool” released. Recorded at Van Gelder Studio. The Penguin Guide to Jazz selected this album as part of its suggested “Core Collection” calling it “Evans’ masterpiece under his own name and one of the best examples of jazz orchestration since the early Ellington bands.”

February Music et al

Bob Dylan

In February 1963: Columbia staff photographer Don Hunstein photographed Dylan and Suze Rotolo, together again after seven months’ separation, for the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Hunstein recalled: “We went down to Dylan’s place on Fourth Street, just off Sixth Avenue, right in the heart of the Village. It was winter, dirty snow on the ground . . . Well, I can’t tell you why I did it, but I said, Just walk up and down the street. There wasn’t very much thought to it. It was late afternoon you can tell that the sun was low behind them. It must have been pretty uncomfortable, out there in the slush.” (see Apr 12; photo, see May 27)

February Music et al

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane

In February 1963: Duke Ellington (64 years old) and John Coltrane (37 years old) released Duke Ellington & John Coltrane.  In a Sentimental Mood, written by Ellington in 1936 as an instrumental and later given lyrics was one of the songs done on the album The song had been theme song for at least nine radio shows; included in eight movie soundtracks; and two Broadway shows.

February Music et al

Jimi Hendrix

In February 1964: won first prize in an Apollo Theater amateur contest.  First prize was twenty-five dollars. (see March 1964)

February Music et al

LSD/Owsley Stanley

February Music et al

In February 1965: Owsley Bear Stanley first succeeded in synthesizing crystalline LSD. Earliest distribution was March 1965. (see Feb 21)

February Music et al

Ken Kesey

In February 1966: newspapers began reporting that Ken Kesey was not dead but in Mexico.  (2008 NYT article) (see Feb 5)

February Music et al

A Love Supreme

In February 1965: John Coltrane released A Love Supreme album. Recorded at Van Gelder Studios.

February Music et al

News Music

In February 1965: the Impressions released People Get Ready, a Curtis Mayfield composition. (see Mar 25)

February Music et al

The Beatles  & Monterey Pop

February Peace Love Activism

In February 1967, organizers asked the Beatles to contribute a drawing to the upcoming Monterey International Pop Festival The Beatles’ publicist Derek Taylor. Paul McCartney was on the Board of Governors for the Festival and he insisted that the relatively unknown Jimi Hendrix appear at the show. The Beatles had stopped touring, so they did not want to appear at the festival. Instead, the Art Director for the Festival, Tom Wilkes, asked Derek Taylor if the Beatles could contribute something for the official festival program. The Beatles created an original illustration with felt marker, colored pencil and ink which said “Peace to Monterey” at the top. The Beatles were busy working on their landmark album, Sgt. Pepper, at the time, so the drawing is “from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The message on the drawing continues: “Loving You, it happened in Monterey a long time ago.” In classic Beatles humor, the drawing is signed “Sincerely, John, Paul, George and Harold.”

FFebruary Music et al

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