Fellow veterans, radio personalities and other assorted friends and family will gather on May 25 to honor the late John Houston Talley, a Mohawk and the radio host of Portland’s “Indian World” on KBOO radio for 33 years.
He passed into the spirit world on March 25, 2012. At 81 years old, he was an icon in the Portland Area Indian community, said his niece, attorney Patricia Lenzi, who works with the nonprofit National Tribal Judicial Center at the National Judicial College.
In a tribute she wrote about her uncle and shared with Indian Country Today Media Network, Lenzi said that Talley volunteered at KBOO. When asked why he refused to get paid, he replied, “People say, ‘Well, why do you do that for no money?’ And I say, ‘Because people need the communications. They need the service.’ And that’s my gift to the community.”
Talley used his show to tell news from Indian Country and to promote Native American musicians, authors, artists and causes, according to the obituary. He mentored other American Indians, who learned from him how to host a radio show.
At the time of his 25th anniversary on the radio, Talley was interviewed by Indian Country Today, the predecessor of ICTMN. Talley talked during the show about realizing what his show had meant in Indian country, how “through a different kind of activism,” he had helped Native people get involved in political campaigns, education and economics, the story said, as well as “helped Native artists sell their work, Native writers sell their books and Native musicians promote their music.”
In 2000 he officially dedicated his show to “people who follow the traditional ways and the youths who are his hope for the future,” Indian Country Today said. “One of the things ‘Indian World’ has tried to do is to take the traditional Indian values and show how they are still valid in this year.”
Things like, “respect the earth, don’t litter, recycle, preserve things. Respect the elders and take care of the children. … These things are very important … and it’s very valuable that we maintain perspective in these things and realize the positive things that our people have contributed,” Lenzi wrote.
John was a former co-chair of the American Indian Movement’s Seattle chapter and brought food and medical supplies to the siege at Wounded Knee.
“He was proud to say he was arrested for his efforts, but never charged,” Lenzi’s tribute said, adding that over the course of his life Talley served on the boards of many nonprofit organizations, including the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), the Bow and Arrow Culture Club in Portland and the Portland Regional Telecommunication Corporation (PRETC).
A veteran, Talley served three tours in the Korean War with the U.S. Army, developing a lifelong love of Indian food while stationed with troops from India during one of their holidays and sharing meals with them.
Talley was raised in Syracuse, New York, by Bertha Talley, whose family embraced him as one of their own, Lenzi said. He is survived by his sister, Catherine Everhart Conrad, of Florida, 13 nieces and nephews, and dozens of great-nieces and -nephews, great-great nieces and nephews, and numerous close friends. His late parents were Julia Gray Everhart and John Talley, Sr. His late brothers were Elmer Everhart, Ernst Everhart and Harvey Everhart. His late sisters were Florence Everhart Gates and Geraldine Everhart.
Talley’s life will be celebrated on Friday, May 25, at 2:30 p.m. at Portland State University’s Native American Student and Community Center. The emcee will be Terry Cross of NICWA, and it will be attended by family, many artists and friends from the Portland area and beyond.
“Musicians who could not attend sent musical tributes, including songs from Gary Small and Joanne Shenandoah,” Lenzi’s writeup said. “Others will perform, tell stories, read poetry and offer remembrances of John as part of the event. Volunteers and friends from the Portland area have planned this as a group to celebrate the life and memory of their dear friend and mentor.”
It will end in a potluck supper.
Talley’s family will gather in August at Akwesasne to bring him back home, Lenzi’s statement said. The family asks that those who wish can make contributions to the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) in Talley’s name.