John Trudellmusician, poet, activist
Born: Feb. 15, 1946
Birthplace: Omaha, Neb.
John Trudell, the son of a Santee Sioux father and a Mexican mother, grew up around the Santee reservation near Omaha. He joined the Navy in 1963 and served in Vietnam. After getting out of the military he became involved in Indian activism and participated in the takeover of Alcatraz Island. He joined the American Indian Movement and was its national chairman from 1973 until 1979. In 1979, his mother-in-law, wife, and three children were killed in a suspicious fire, a tragedy that led him to poetry. A meeting with Jackson Browne in 1979 introduced him to the musical world. His first album was AKA Grafitti Man in 1986; more recent endeavors include Blue Indians (1999) and Bone Days (2001). He has also dabbled in acting, with small roles in Thunderheart (1992) and Smoke Signals (1998). A documentary on his life, Trudell, debuted at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.