Published on March 6, 2013 by Casey
John Trudell (born February 15, 1946) is an American author, poet, actor, musician, and former political activist. He was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribes’ takeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz. During most of the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
dna testing, dna ancestry testing, ancestry, genealogy, indian genealogy records, paternity testing, turquoise jewelry, native american jewelry
After his pregnant wife, three children and mother-in-law were killed in 1979 in a fire at the home of his parents-in-law on the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Nevada, Trudell turned to writing, music and film as a second career. He acted in three films in the 1990s. The documentary Trudell (2005) was made about him and his life as an activist and artist.
Trudell was born in Omaha, Nebraska on February 15, 1946, as the son of a Santee Sioux 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 Sioux culture.
In 1963 when 17 years old, Trudell dropped out of high school and left the Midwest by joining the US Navy. He served during the early years of the Vietnam War and stayed in the Navy until 1967.
Afterward, he attended San Bernardino Valley College a two-year Community College in San Bernardino, California studying radio and broadcasting. He decided to work through political activism.
After leaving the military, Trudell had become involved in Indian activism. In 1969, he became the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribes’ occupation of Alcatraz Island. This was a mostly student-member group that had developed in San Francisco. Trudell went to Alcatraz a week after the occupation started. He used his background in broadcasting and ran a radio station from the island through a cooperative arrangement with students at the University of California, Berkeley, broadcasting at night over the Berkeley FM station. The show was called Radio Free Alcatraz. He discussed the cause of the occupation and American Indian issues, and played traditional Native American music. He criticized how “the system today is only geared toward white needs.” He spoke for the many Indians who believed they did not fit in with the then majority European-American population of the nation. He became a spokesperson for the occupation specifically and for the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement generally, as the author Vine Deloria, Jr. named it. Trudell was the spokesman for the nearly two-year long occupation, until 1971.
After the failure of the federal government to meet demands of the protesters at Alcatraz, Trudell joined the American Indian Movement. It had been established in 1968 in Minneapolis among urban American Indians, first to deal with police harassment and injustice in the law enforcement system. Although never officially elected, Trudell acted as its national chairman from 1973 until 1979. He took the position after the first chairman, Carter Camp, was convicted for actions related to a protest and was sentenced to jail.
In 1975 Trudell was arrested on charges of assault, felonious assault and assault with a deadly weapon. He had gone to a reservation trading post to try to get better food for senior residents. He tried to pay using food stamps, but the trading post did not accept them. The police report said that he fired a shot inside the store.
On 12 February 1979, Trudell lost his wife, Tina Manning and their three children, and his mother-in-law Leah Hicks-Manning in a suspicious fire at the home of his parents-in-law on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Nevada. His father-in-law Arthur Manning survived. He was a member of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe’s tribal council who was working for treaty rights. Opponents included the local tribal police chief and the BIA superintendent, John Artichoker. Leah coordinated social services at the reservation. Tina had been working for tribal water rights at the Wildhorse Reservoir. Opponents of her campaign included officials of the local BIA, Elko County and Nevada state officials, members of the water recreation industry, and local European-American ranchers Other activists have also speculated whether there was government involvement behind the tragedy.
Trudell believed that the fire was arson, but the BIA police investigation claimed that it was accidental. It occurred soon after he had been leading a demonstration in Washington, DC. Trudell believed that the fire was meant to threaten and silence him and his activist wife. In numerous interviews, he has expressed distrust for the federal government and specifically the FBI.