VIP John Trudell

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John Trudell (February 15, 1946 - December 8, 2015)

Born of mixed tribal blood, John Trudell grew up in and around the Santee Sioux reservation near his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska and served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam from 1963-1967. In 1969, he participated in the occupation of Alcatraz Island by Indians of All Tribes, becoming a spokesman for the group.

After the occupation ended in 1971, Trudell worked with the American Indian Movement, becoming national Chairman of AIM in 1973 until 1979. In February of 1979, Trudell's wife and three children were killed in a fire of unknown origin hours after he set fire to a U.S. flag in Washington, DC at a protest. In 1982, with Jackson Browne's help, he launched a career as a recording artist.

In November 2005, Trudell was inducted into the High Times Counterculture Hall of Fame at the 18th Cannabis Cup Awards Show in Amsterdam, the first Native American to receive the honor. In his acceptance speech, he said, "Cannabis is an integral part of the web of life, and how we connect to it and how we use it can be very strengthening to the overall meaning and overall purpose of life. It truly is a medicine and it's a medicine for us so that we can be a medicine to the earth."

"I don't smoke marijuana to escape," Trudell said. "It helps me to think about things other than my fears, to see more clearly and think things out." In his song "Grassfire" from the disk Blue Indians he chants, "My DNA needs THC."

Trudell spoke with wisdom and heart at the Humboldt Hempfest in November 2010, where he reminded us that as medical marijuana is medicine for people, hemp is medicine for the planet. He called his tour that year the "Hemp Is Earth Medicine" tour. He subsequently founded Hempstead Project H.E.A.R.T. with the Earth Island Institute and appeared as a speaker and musician at The Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa, California (pictured).

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