John Trudell (Dakota) was a hero of mine, and, unfortunately, I never told him. A remarkable wordsmith of the colonizer’s language, philosopher, and a poet of the resistance, he saw through the false nature of the predator’s reality structure. “It’s like there is this predator energy on this planet, and this predator energy feeds on the essence of the spirit,” he is quoted as saying. In 1493, Pope Alexander VI identified this predator: “We trust in Him from whom empires and dominationes and all good things proceed.”
We’re seemingly “locked” in the Patrix (a patriarchal structure) not the Matrix (from “mater” for “mother”). It is the structure of a patriarchal predator that has Mother Earth under its dominating control. John not only saw this as clearly as anyone could, he also spoke to it exceedingly well and put his clear philosophical vision to music and song, with Quiltman and others.
As a teenager I used to read John’s speeches in Akwesasne Notes and they left a deep impression on me. I recall wanting to be able to speak and write as lucidly as he did. His cogent statement, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention,” is more true today than it was back when he first said that bit of wisdom. Anger at domination and injustice when channeled properly can be a great catalyst, providing energy toward reform. But, in my view, it has to be transmuted into a spiritual energy, through prayer and ceremony, so that it does not become destructive and self-incinerating. John knew we cannot allow our outrage to result in us repeating the cycles of destructiveness and trauma. It’s about working toward healing.
John Trudell is now on his Spirit Journey across the Milky Way, leaving behind an amazing legacy of creativity and resistance. He will be missed, as we carry on in spiritual struggle against the domination system, on behalf of our nations, Mother Earth, and All Living Things. As he put it: “No matter what they ever do to us, we must always act for the love of our people and the earth. We must not react out of hatred against those who have no sense.”
Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of “Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery” (Fulcrum, 2008). He is the co-producer of the documentary movie, “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree).