John Trudell has released through Fulcrum Publishing an anthology of his poetry from his 25-year recording career and it is a powerful moving read from a man who has a lot to say on the state of the world and how we relate to each other. Mr. Trudell, a Santee Sioux, is a well known Native activist, and much of his poetry draws on Native imagery and concerns, but he is also interested in drawing parallels to oppression whereever and however it is experienced. His message focuses on healing, searching for inclusion rather than exclusion of viewpoints. Lines From a Mined Mind blends a delicate lyricism with passionate political criticism and left me determined to hear Mr. Trudell perform the poetry as the songs they were created to be.
Trudell’s style is to tell his truths simply and sincerely, mixing different visions and voices as he moves from very personal stories to hard political commentary. His insight is based on a life of activism laced with personal tragedy. He was spokesperson for the Indian of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 and Chairman of the American Indian Movement (AIM) from 1973 to 1979. In 1979, Trudell’s wife, three children and mother-in-law were killed in a fire of unknown origin and it was this tragedy that compelled the artist to find his voice.
The book opens with “Listening,” an excerpt of which lays out the spirit of Trudell’s philosophy:
The Power of Understanding
Real connections to spirit
Is meaning our resistance
Is not sacrifice lost
Natural energy properly used
To Trudell, we all need to engage in the definition of our culture and our mores, rather than leaving it to those who benefit from exploitation. This shared responsibility to speak up would lead to a feeling of connection to each other and to nature, something the poet feels has been increasingly lost in our materially-based culture.