71 Best John Trudell Quotes, Saying and Quotations

John Trudell, a Native American author, poet, actor, musician and political activist, was born on February 15, 1946, in Omaha, Nebraska to a Santee Dakota father and a Mexican mother.

Raised near the Santee Sioux Reservation, he was educated both in local schools and Santee Dakota culture.

Trudell joined the US Navy at 17, serving during the early years of the Vietnam War. He later attended San Bernardino Valley College in California.

In 1969, Trudell became the spokesperson for the Indians of All Tribes’ takeover of Alcatraz, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz.

John Trudell Quotes

Throughout the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement.

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Following the tragic death of his family in a suspicious fire in 1979, Trudell found solace in writing, music and film, acting in several movies during the 1990s.

His life and activism were captured in the 2005 documentary “Trudell.” He passed away on December 8, 2015.

Top 10 John Trudell Quotes


1. “One Earth, one mother – one does not sell the Earth.” ~ (John Trudell).


2. “We use our intelligence, our creative intelligence because we create with intelligence.” ~ (John Trudell).


3. “Sometimes when it rains, it’s not that simple, when the sky has reasons to cry.” ~ (John Trudell).


4. “As human beings we’re living in a reality of industrial madness.” ~ (John Trudell).


5. “The past is more than a memory.” ~ (John Trudell).


6. “It’s like there is this predator energy on this planet, and this predator energy feeds on the essence of the spirit.” ~ (John Trudell).


7. “I am just a human being trying to make it in a world that is rapidly losing its understanding of being human.” ~ (John Trudell).


8. “Because we are all of an oral tradition in our beginning histories, the voice of the poet in this particular society will be heard.” ~ (John Trudell).


9. “I knew I had to stop running. I had to be in a place. Los Angeles became that place.” ~ (John Trudell).


10. “Before Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull had dream of soldiers falling from the sky.” ~ (John Trudell).

Best John Trudell Quotes

11. “For us, it’s a matter of just staying alive and getting the best deal we can now. Eventually, this will all straighten out. It may be two generations away or 10 generations away, but time is irrelevant in that sense. As long as we, as a people, stay alive, we will survive.” ~ (John Trudell).

12. “Whatever their reasons, Hollywood, or the entertainment industry, is saying something about Indians. I don’t see the rest of the media knocking down any doors to do that.” ~ (John Trudell).

13. “I was going mad. One day, I just started writing, and it was like therapy because I was in a position where I couldn’t rage. I never expected to be a writer; it’s a different world than I ever expected to be in.” ~ (John Trudell).


14. “All that I am is me. So I’m not really a poet or a writer or an actor or an activist; I’m me, and these are things that I do.” ~ (John Trudell).

15. “We have power… Our power isn’t in a political system, or a religious system, or in an economic system, or in a military system; these are authoritarian systems… they have power… but it’s not reality. The power of our intelligence, individually or collectively IS the power; this is the power that any industrial ruling class truly fears: clear coherent human beings.” ~ (John Trudell).

16. “Historically speaking, we went from being Indians to pagans to savages to hostiles to militants to activists to Native Americans. It’s five hundred years later and they still can’t see us. We are still invisible.” ~ (John Trudell).


17. “We’re not Indians and we’re not Native Americans. We’re older than both concepts. We’re the people, we’re the human beings.” ~ (John Trudell).

18. “What I view life like is about energy. Everything is about energy – everything. We physically are little units of electrical energy, and we vibrate and project electromagnetic thought.” ~ (John Trudell).

19. “We cannot change the political system, we cannot change the economic system, we cannot change the social system, until the people control the land, and then we take it out of the hands of that sick minority that chooses to pervert the meaning and the intention of humanity.” ~ (John Trudell).

20. “You go back and you read your Constitution. You read your Declaration of Independence. And you will see that the only people who could decide these freedoms were white males who owned property, and all the rest of us were excluded.” ~ (John Trudell).

Top John Trudell Quotes

21. “Everybody interprets things differently with their own perception, and I want poetry to pull out of them their own feelings.” ~ (John Trudell).

22. “Every song I’ve ever written always starts with the words because I want the music to be the musical extension of the feelings of the words, and not the words being the emotional extension of the feeling of the music.” ~ (John Trudell).

23. “The whole point is to take from our native culture and from contemporary culture without using one art form to mimic the other, so that our native identity remains the native identity, the contemporary identity remains the contemporary identity, and the mixing of these two musical identities creates a third musical identity.” ~ (John Trudell).


24. “They took all our land; I don’t have any land to toil. My crops have to grow somewhere else.” ~ (John Trudell).

25. “All politics to me – Indian or white – is an illusion preventing us from being authentic because we’re communicating through something that isn’t real to us.” ~ (John Trudell).

26. “For decades, my identity was political, but I’ve come to understand that there’s no political solution when you’re dealing with someone else’s rules.” ~ (John Trudell).

27. “It’s always good to go home. It’s strengthening to see your past and know you have someplace to go where you’re part of a people.” ~ (John Trudell).

Famous John Trudell Quotes

28. “The average human being in America is going through some sort of hard times – physical, emotional, psychological. Everybody’s carrying a bit of bone days in them.” ~ (John Trudell).

29. “I wanted to take the power of thought and the word, along with the power of speaking and heart, and see if we could wire what was coming out of us as humans with electric instruments.” ~ (John Trudell).

30. “In a personal context, I’m not in the ground, and I’m not in an institution. So I guess I’m doing pretty good.” ~ (John Trudell).


31. “I’m not a musician making words to go with my music.” ~ (John Trudell).

32. “When I left politics in the early Eighties and started writing and recording, my idea was that I could have an influence further down into other generations. That Natives could come into the culture through arts and music.” ~ (John Trudell).

33. “I find there is room in music to talk with music. It may expand ways people can participate with music. It doesn’t sound hokey or like some kind of voice-over.” ~ (John Trudell).

34. “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.” ~ (John Trudell).


35. “I don’t want to tell people how to remember me. I want people to remember me as they remember me.” ~ (John Trudell).

36. “I consider the electric guitar to be like a drum with strings. It became the drum of the Baby Boom generation. And the drum has always been the center of the tribe, a new electronic tribe.” ~ (John Trudell).

37. “I don’t write as much now as I used to, but I write. The lines still come, maybe periodically, and I’ll go through these little bursts of time where I write a lot of things then a long period of time where maybe I don’t write anything. Or these lines will come into my head and I’ll write ’em down in a little book, just little sets of lines, but I won’t try to make stories or poems out of them. I’m doing a lot of that now, just the lines.” ~ (John Trudell).

38. “I have experienced within my own lifetime the attack of my winter camp and the killing of the women and children. It left me even angrier than I was – and I was never too calm to begin with.” ~ (John Trudell).

39. “In the society of illusion, reality must manifest itself. The story songs of Joel Rafael are that manifestation… the essence of minstrel.” ~ (John Trudell).

40. “As human beings, we’re given intelligence. This is how we make our way through this reality, how we manifest our reality clearly and coherently.” ~ (John Trudell).

41. “I’ve never not been pleased with one of my albums. I figure because it’s spoken word, there will be people who relate to it, and people who don’t, so I don’t worry about any of that. I’ve been doing it for over twenty years. I’ve always written because it was something I had to do, never for the glory.” ~ (John Trudell).


42. “Class is material consumed.” ~ (John Trudell).

43. “A lot of my writing is basically about observation, and things that I’ve seen, either through personal experiences or the experiences of people around me, or society at large.” ~ (John Trudell).

44. “They’re called poems but in reality, they’re lines given to me to hang on to.” ~ (John Trudell).

45. “The strength of the poetry as we enter into whatever it is we are entering into, will be determined by the clarity of the thinking we put into it.” ~ (John Trudell).

46. “Because you look at it, you know, and there’s basically one set of rules that protect that industrial ruling class. That’s what the governments do, that’s what the religions do. They protect the interests of that industrial ruling class.” ~ (John Trudell).

47. “My influences in this world have always been Crazy Horse and Malcolm X, my overall influences. But I was influenced by rock n’ roll, blues, and country music. I was influenced by singers.” ~ (John Trudell).


48. “I’m a member of the American Indian Movement, and I’m from the indigenous nations of the Western Hemisphere.” ~ (John Trudell).

49. “I have a real interest in working with younger Native artists. I think it’s a very important way for Native people to communicate the realities of our culture and remember our ancestors.” ~ (John Trudell).

51. “From activist stage, I just spoke and said whatever I had to say. When the writing started, I would just read it. Then I had the interest into going into musical aspects. When that happened in ’86, I liked the result of work we did in the studio.” ~ (John Trudell).

52. “I’ve gone through most of my life not believing anything. Either I know or I don’t know, or I think.” ~ (John Trudell).

Inspiring John Trudell Quotes

53. “We’re all human beings and we all have feelings. And we all live in this industrial meat grinder where we don’t really understand love anymore.” ~ (John Trudell).

54. “When I go around in America and I see the bulk of the white people, they do not feel oppressed; they feel powerless [. . .] and we understand the psychological genocide that they have already inflicted upon their own people.” ~ (John Trudell).

55. “The thing is, it has to do with heart – we have to understand what hearts are for before we can get back to heaven or paradise or the power in our minds.” ~ (John Trudell).

56. “I think we live in an industrial dimensional reality where we’re programmed to believe what we’re told. We’re programmed to believe them. We’re programmed to believe what that ruling class wants us to believe.” ~ (John Trudell).


57. “Everything that has ever happened to us is there to make us stronger.” ~ (John Trudell).

58. “I think it’s the responsibility of every human being, not just those who wear the identity of poet, activist, voter, religious person… it’s the responsibility of every person. Our responsibility is to use our intelligence as clearly and coherently as we possibly can.” ~ (John Trudell).

59. “Our bones, flesh and blood are made up of the metals, liquids and minerals of the earth and everything on this planet is made up of the same things. As humans we have being, so everything on the earth does too in our culture, because we are made of the same thing.” ~ (John Trudell).

60. “Believing isn’t thinking, but we’ve been programmed to believe that believing is thinking. To use our intelligence to think means we’re keeping the energy active, we’re thinking, we’re really using the power of our intelligence in a thinking way. But when we’ve been programmed to believe, we’re no longer thinking, because energy flows.” ~ (John Trudell).

61. “When we’re believing, we’re not really thinking, because the belief has walls: “This is what I believe.” So what I believe is like a box, and we’re taking the energy of our thinking and putting into a box of beliefs, pretending that we’re thinking. But we’re really stifling our own energy. We create these mental stresses and frustrations because we’re blocking our spirit, so to speak.” ~ (John Trudell).


62. “Don’t trust anyone who isn’t angry.” ~ (John Trudell).

63. “The great lie is that it is civilization. It’s not civilized. It has been literally the most blood thirsty brutalizing system ever imposed upon this planet. That is not civilization. That’s the great lie, is that it represents civilization.” ~ (John Trudell).

64. “We must go beyond the arrogance of human rights. We must go beyond the ignorance of civil rights. We must step into the reality of natural rights because all of the natural world has a right to existence and we are only a small part of it. There can be no trade-off.” ~ (John Trudell).


65. “Protect your spirit, because you are in the place where spirits get eaten.” ~ (John Trudell).

66. “I’m just a human being trying to make it in a world that is very rapidly losing it’s understanding of being human.” ~ (John Trudell).

67. “Every human being is a raindrop. And when enough of the raindrops become clear and coherent they then become the power of the storm.” ~ (John Trudell).

68. “I wasn’t interested in having to live with a camera – I have a hard enough time getting along with myself. I don’t need cameras around and all that action.” ~ (John Trudell).


69. “White people don’t seem to have many Elders. They do have a lot of oldsters.” ~ (John Trudell).

70. “When one lives in a society where people can no longer rely on the institutions to tell them the truth, the truth must come from culture and art.” ~ (John Trudell).

71. “There have been some positive things that have happened for the tribes, but it’s a constant, vigilant fight about protecting what resources we have in terms of land and rights.” ~ (John Trudell).

Short Biography of John Trudell

John Trudell was a Santee Dakota activist and artist known for his work in the Native American rights movement and his unique blend of poetry with Native American music.


Starting his activism with the Alcatraz Island occupation in 1969, he later led the American Indian Movement.

Despite being closely watched by the FBI, Trudell made significant contributions to music and film, collaborating with famous artists and appearing in notable films.

Two-Column Table
Full Name John Trudell
Occupation(s) Indigenous rights activist, poet, musician, actor
Born February 15, 1946, Omaha, Nebraska, United States
Died December 8, 2015 (age 69 years), Santa Clara County, California, United States
Spouse Tina Manning (m. 1972–1979)
Children Eli Changing Sun Trudell, Sunshine Karma Trudell, Ricarda Star Trudell
Nationality Santee Dakota-American
Parents Clifford Trudell, Ricarda Almanza
Organization American Indian Movement

He passed away in 2015 but left a lasting legacy through his art and activism.

Quick Facts about John Trudell

  • John Trudell was a Native-American poet and activist.
  • He formed the Grafitti Band with Jesse Ed Davis, a guitarist from Oklahoma.
  • Davis played guitar for famous musicians like Eric Clapton and John Lennon.
  • Trudell passed away on December 8, 2015.
  • He played Leonard Peltier in the movie “Thunderheart” and was an advisor for “Incident at Oglala”.
  • Trudell’s activism in Native American politics was significant until 1979.
  • His family died in a fire shortly after he protested by burning an American flag.
  • Trudell’s work blends blues, rock, and Native-American chants.
  • Musicians like Kris Kristofferson and Jackson Browne contributed to his music.
  • Jesse Ed Davis died in 1988, and Mark Shark took over on guitar.
  • Bob Dylan praised Trudell’s album “AKA Grafitti Man” as the best of the year.
  • The album features songs with impactful guitar work and storytelling.
  • “Restless Situation” reflects on Elvis Presley’s cultural impact.
  • “Baby Boom Che” combines blues with a narrative of separation.
  • “Bombs Over Baghdad” comments on the Gulf War and has themes relevant to modern conflicts.
  • “Rich Man’s War” is a spoken word piece on the struggles of ordinary people.
  • Never Never Blues” showcases Jesse Ed Davis’ guitar skills.
  • Trudell is remembered as a significant figure in American poetry and activism.

Top Questions about John Trudell

Q: What was John Trudell known for?

A: John Trudell was a Santee Dakota activist, performance artist, actor, and poet. He was known for being a leading advocate of Native American rights and used his talents in poetry and songwriting to spread his message.

Q: How old was John Trudell when he died?

A: John Trudell was 69 years old when he passed away.

Q: What nation is John Trudell from?

A: John Trudell was from the Santee Dakota nation. He was born to a Santee Dakota father and a Mexican mother.

Q: Where did John Trudell live?

A: John Trudell lived in Omaha, Nebraska.

Q: What was John Trudell’s view on being labeled as a poet, activist, or agitator?

A: John Trudell preferred not to be labeled as any one thing. He believed these were just parts of him, not his entire identity.

Q: How did John Trudell’s early life experiences shape his views and activism?

A: Growing up with hardship on the Santee Sioux reservation and witnessing racial and economic injustices deeply impacted Trudell, fueling his contempt for the American work ethic and driving his activism.

Q: What significant event in 1969 influenced John Trudell’s path towards activism?

A: The Indians of All Tribes Occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969, where Trudell served as the national spokesman, was a pivotal moment that brought Native American issues into mainstream awareness and steered Trudell towards activism.

Q: How did John Trudell’s time in the Navy influence his perspective on racism and injustice?

A: Witnessing racism during his Navy service, both towards Asians by Americans and within the U.S. military towards minority troops, heightened Trudell’s sensitivity to injustice and discrimination.

Q: What was the American Indian Movement (AIM), and what role did Trudell play in it?

A: AIM was an advocacy group for Native American rights. Trudell served as its National Chairman from 1973 to 1979, during which the U.S. government aggressively targeted the movement.

Q: Can you describe the tragic event that deeply affected John Trudell’s life in 1979?

A: In 1979, a suspicious fire killed Trudell’s wife, Tina, their three children, and Tina’s mother. Trudell believed it was an act of war in retaliation for his activism, particularly after burning an American flag in protest.

Q: How did John Trudell begin his journey as a poet?

A: After the tragic loss of his family, Trudell turned to writing as a form of therapy and connection to reality, discovering his poetic voice during this period of grief.

Q: What was the significance of the album “AKA Grafitti Man” in Trudell’s career?

A: “AKA Grafitti Man” was a critical success that blended Trudell’s poetry with music, gaining praise from figures like Bob Dylan and expanding Trudell’s influence beyond activism to the arts.

Q: How did Trudell view the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America?

A: Trudell saw it as a reflection of ongoing disorientation, likening the lost descendants of Columbus to those who live without purpose, emphasizing the need for a meaningful existence over mere survival.

Q: What was John Trudell’s ultimate message about the use of intelligence in human life?

A: Trudell believed in using our intelligence responsibly and clearly, as intended by the Creator, to navigate life’s challenges and maintain balance with nature and each other.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar

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