Published on June 1, 2012 by Amy
Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman, also known as Kanghi Duta (August 17, 1936 – December 13, 2007) was a Sioux musician, political activist and actor. After establishing a career as a country music singer, later in his life, he became a leading actor depicting Native Americans in American films and television. He is sometimes credited simply as Floyd Westerman. He worked as a political activist for Native American causes.
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Westerman was born Floyd Westerman (Kanghi Duta) on the Lake Traverse Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, a federally recognized tribe. It is one of the tribes of the Eastern Dakota subgroup of the Great Sioux Nation, living within the U.S. state of South Dakota. Kanghi Duta means “Red Crow” in Dakota (one of the three Sioux related languages.) At the age of 10, Westerman was sent to the Wahpeton Boarding School, where he first met Dennis Banks (who as an adult became a leader of the American Indian Movement). There Westerman and other boys were forced to cut their traditionally long hair and forbidden to speak their native languages. This experience would profoundly impact Westerman’s later life. As an adult, he championed his own heritage.
He graduated from Northern State University with a B.A. degree in secondary education. He also served two years in the US Marines, before beginning his career as a singer.
Before entering films and television, Westerman had established a solid reputation as a country-western music singer. His recordings offer a probing analysis of European influences in Native American communities. In addition to several solo recordings, Westerman collaborated with Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Harry Belafonte, Joni Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. In the 1990s, he toured with Sting to raise funds to preserve rain forests.
Westerman became interested in acting after years of performing as a singer. He debuted his film career in Renegades (1989), in which he played “Red Crow”, the Lakota Sioux father of Hank Storm, the character played by Lou Diamond Phillips. Additional film roles include “Chief Ten Bears” in Dances with Wolves (1990), and the “shaman” for the singer Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991). Westerman appeared as Standing Elk, alongside his long-time friend Max Gail, in the family film, Tillamook Treasure (2006). He can be seen as well in the beginning of Hidalgo (2004), as Chief Sitting Bull in Buffalo Bill’s circus. In September 2007, Westerman finished work for the film Swing Vote (2008).
His television roles have included playing “Uncle Ray” on Walker, Texas Ranger, “One Who Waits” on Northern Exposure, and multiple appearances as “Albert Hosteen” on The X-Files. From 2003–2007, Westerman appeared in a number of television advertisements for “Lakota” brand topical pain reliever, for which he often wore traditional Native dress.
Westerman was recognized for his political advocacy for Native American causes. At times he participated in the American Indian Movement.
In 2000, the American Indian Expo named Westerman celebrity of the year.
Westerman married a young German woman by the name of Rosie late in life. Prior to that, He had a number of wives and fathered five children.
Westerman died on December 13, 2007, at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles after an extended illness and complications from leukemia. He was survived by his wife Rosie and five children.