John Trudell: Requiem for a Hemp Warrior

John Trudell during his days leading occupations of Alcatraz and Wounded Knee in the early ’70s.

The cannabis community lost a fierce supporter on Dec. 8 as activist/spoken-word artist John Trudell walked on after a long bout with cancer. He was 69.

Trudell and his band Bad Dog regularly performed at Hempstalk in Oregon.

He co-founded Hempstead Project Heart with Willie Nelson in 2012. Nelson sent these words about Trudell to CelebStoner: 

John was a good friend a great activist
And a fellow Native American
He will be missed

Trudell received a High Times Doobie Award in 2002 for Most Conscious Artist and was inducted into High Times' Countercultural Hall of Fame during the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam in 2005.


'Cannabis is a medicine for the the Earth and we're part of the Earth, so therefore that's the form of medicine it would provide for us. But I also think we need to understand that it is a medicine and use it as a medicine and not think of it as a drug.'

Born in Omaha in 1946, Trudell moved to California after a stint in the Navy. Part Native-American (his father was Santee Dakota), he got involved in political activities, beginning with the occupation of Alcatraz in 1969, which lasted almost seven months. By 1973, Trudell was chairman of AIM (American Indian Movement), which led the occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota. 

Trudell somewhere on the High Plains, where he grew up in Nebraska in the ’50s and ’60s.

Ten years later, he launched his recorded career that spanned 15 albums, the best of which is arguably A.K.A. Graffiti Man (it was issued twice). Angelina Jolie produced Bone Days in 2001. His last album was Through the Dust in 2014.

Trudell also acted. He appeared in Thunderheart with Val Kilmer, On Deadly Ground with Steven Seagal and Chris Eyre's Smoke Signals. He was the subject of Heather Rae's documentary, Trudell, in 2005.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.