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Floyd Red Crow Westerman (1936-2007)

Like most Native Americans of his generation, Floyd Westerman was wrenched away from the arms of his family at the age of five and sent off to a government boarding school nearly 100 miles away. These blatant attempts to destroy Indian civilization by breaking up families and making traditions obsolete became one of many subjects Westerman would take on when he developed into an important Native American protest singer and actor.

A Dakota Sioux, Westerman remained at the boarding school for the next 12 years, until he had finished high school. By this time he had learned guitar after watching the older students play and picking up some basic chords from them. Like many players who begin with rock or folk music, he sensed that learning three chords was enough to perform much of the music that was circulating at the time, and he was right. He enjoyed music and he continued playing and singing after graduation. He was influenced by both the folk music of Bob Dylan and fellow Native American Buffy St. Marie, but, like many Native Americans, deeply loved country & western music and had a sincere fondness for one of its most expressive geniuses, Hank Williams. In a tribute to his own family dynasty, Westerman began using the name Red Crow, which he had inherited from his grandfather and which had important spiritual connotations among the Sioux people.

Westerman began performing in the Colorado area, his guitar playing improving considerably. At this time he established a friendship with the young author Vine Deloria Jr., also a songwriter. The subject of many of their discussions was the lack of songs about Native American issues and traditions. A collaboration began, as Westerman took sections of Deloria's book, Custer Died for Your Sins, and created profound, sometimes humorous songs from the subjects. This work led to signing a recording contract in 1969 in New York City, and the eventual release of the first of two albums Westerman has recorded, titled after his friend's book. The album had a strong country flavor that suited Westerman's voice and has remained a sought-after classic ever since. It went out of print and was eventually released by Westerman himself, mostly distributed directly at his concerts and personal appearances.

Westerman has performed all over the world, including large benefit and festival appearances with Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Harry Belafonte, Kris Kristofferson, and Jackson Browne. He has been heavily involved with AIM, the American Indian Movement, during his entire career and has testified at congressional hearings on Native American issues, such as uranium mining. Although highly respected for his musical and songwriting accomplishments, he has actually had more time in the mainstream spotlight with his work as an actor. He made his screen debut in Renegades, playing the father of Lou Diamond Phillips. Since that time, his list of credits includes roles in Dances With Wolves, The Doors (he was Jim Morrison's spiritual guide), Lakota Woman, Clearcut, and Grey Owl. He has also shown up on the small screen, playing the role of Uncle Ray on Walker, Texas Ranger as well as leads on Northern Exposure, L.A. Law, X-Files, Millenium, Roseanne, and appearances as Sitting Bull in the four-hour miniseries Son of the Morning Star.

Westerman kept up an active schedule, his work as both an actor and musician focusing on "...the institutions that have destroyed our rights," he says. "That's what our struggle is all about, our spiritual rights and the Indian point of view...And they're so old, they make the Bible look like it was recently written."

Will Rogers 1879-1935

Born William Peen Adair Rogers, a Cherokee-Cowboy, “Will” became best known as an actor, a Vaudvillian, a philanthropist, a social commentator, a comedian, and a presidential candidate. Known as Okalahoma’s favorite son, Rogers was born to a well respected Native American Territory family and learned to ride horses and use a lasso/lariat so well that he was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records for throwing three ropes at once—one around the neck of a horse, another around the rider, and a third around all four legs of the horse. He ultimately traveled around the world several times, made 71 films (50 silent and 21 “talkies”), wrote more than 4,000 nationally-syndicated newspaper columns, and became a world-famous figure. He died in a plane crash in 1935.
Chief David Bald Eagle

Chief David Bald Eagle

Native American Chief David Bald Eagle, who appeared in the Oscar-winning 1990 film Dances With Wolves, has died aged 97.

The grandson of Chief White Bull, who fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, Bald Eagle appeared in more than 40 films.

He went on to become the face of South Dakota's Lakota people.

He died at his home on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation on 22 July, according to a local funeral home.

Born in a tepee in 1919 on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation, his native Lakota name translates as Wounded in Winter Beautiful Bald Eagle.

He served in the US Army during World War Two where he fought in the landings at Anzio in Italy and won the silver star.

After being severely wounded by German fire while parachuting into Normandy during D-Day, Bald Eagle pursued a music career as a drummer for Cliff Keyes Big Band.

Following a foray into ballroom dancing, which ended with the tragic death of his dance partner and wife, Penny Rathburn, in a car crash, Bald Eagle established a career in Hollywood.

He trained a range of stars including John Wayne in horse and gun handling, and served as Errol Flynn's stunt double.

In the late 1950s he joined a rodeo display team and while in Belgium met his second wife, Josee.


He continued to work as an actor and became the face of South Dakota's state tourism promotions for decades.

Outside of showbusiness, Bald Eagle's dedication to the Lakota people saw him elected as the first Chief of the United Native Nations in 2001, addressing indigenous people worldwide.

His last film role was in Neither Wolf Nor Dog, which premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival last month.

The film's director, Steven Lewis Simpson, praised Bald Eagle as "truly unique".

"His life was more extraordinary than of those that most great biographies are written about; the joys and the tragedies," he said.

"He was an astonishingly beautiful man. The sparkle from his eyes when he smiled or was being mischievous was a joy to behold."

Rooks Funeral Home in Eagle Butte said Bald Eagle's funeral is scheduled for 29 July at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, following a traditional four-day wake.

These Leaders should have been carved in the mountain First.

Oren Lyons

Oren R. Lyons, Jr. (born 1930) is a Native American Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Once a college lacrosse player, Lyons is now a recognized advocate of indigenous rights.
In the 1960's, Lyons joined the Red Power movement and joined the Unity Caravan, which traveled through Indian Country to foster dialogue about traditional tribal values. In 1972, he was a leader in the Trail of Broken Treaties, a caravan to Washington DC to convince the Bureau of Indian Affairs to honor its treaties with Native American tribes.
In 1977, Lyons helped create the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth at a meeting in Montana. Since then, the Circle has gathered annually at a different site in Indian country. In 1977, he also was part of the Haudenosaunee delegation to the first World Conference on Racism.
"At first, I wanted to defend the Iroquois. Then my sights broadened to embrace other Indians. Then I saw this had to include defending indigenous peoples all over the world," Lyons said.
In 1981, he traveled with Stephen Gaskin and Ina May Gaskin to New Zealand to attend festival at Nambassa, where he delivered a number of lectures and workshops. At Nambassa he coordinated with Indigenous Maori land rights activists on questions of indigenous people sharing his Native American experiences.
For over fourteen years he has taken part in the meetings in Geneva of Indigenous Peoples of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, and helped to establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival, and is a principal figure in the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders. He was a negotiator between the governments of Canada, Quebec, New York State and the Mohawks in the Oka crisis during the summer of 1990.
Lyons appeared on a one-hour documentary Faithkeeper, produced and hosted by Bill Moyers and broadcast on PBS, July 3, 1991. He appeared in Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary "The 11th Hour" in 2007.
In 1992 he addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations where he opened the International Year of the World's Indigenous People
Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr.
Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr. (2 July 1925 – 5 November 1950) was a Marine in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, and later a soldier in the United States Army during the Korean War. Corporal Red Cloud posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions near Chonghyon, North Pyongan Province, North Korea on 5 November 1950.
Born in Hatfield, Wisconsin, Red Cloud, a Ho-Chunk Native American, dropped out of high school to enlist in the US Marines during World War II. He served first with Carlson's Raiders during the Battle of Guadalcanal before health problems forced him stateside to recover. Red Cloud avoided discharge, and served with the 6th Marine Division during the Battle of Okinawa.
Red Cloud enlisted in the US Army shortly before the beginning of the Korean War. Serving with the 24th Infantry Division, he was among the troops who fought the first battles of the war, being pushed back with the 19th Infantry Regiment during the Battle of Taejon and the Battle of Pusan Perimeter. He was then a part of the Eighth United States Army advance into North Korea. On the night of 5 November 1950, Red Cloud was manning a forward observation post when he spotted an imminent surprise attack by Chinese forces. Red Cloud singlehandedly held off the Chinese forces despite being shot eight times, at one point ordering his men to tie him to a tree because he was too weak to stand by himself. His company found him the next morning, surrounded by dead Chinese troops. He was credited with alerting his company to the ambush and saving them from being overrun. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Richard Oakes
Richard Oakes was a Mohawk Native American activist and former SFSU student, who, through his actions and voice, promoted the fundamental idea that Native peoples have a right to sovereignty, self-determination, justice, respect and control over their own destinies. His legacy reflects the struggles of Native peoples—and all peoples—to maintain their land, identity and lifeways.

In 1969, Oakes led a group of students and urban Bay Area American Indians in an occupation of Alcatraz Island that would last until 1971, becoming the longest occupation of a federal facility by Native peoples.

Described as handsome, charismatic, talented, and a natural leader, Oakes was identified as “chief” of the island. However, all decisions were made by the unanimous consent of the people.

The goals of the Native inhabitants of Alcatraz Island were to gain a deed to the island, establish an American Indian university, cultural center, and museum. While Oakes and his followers did not succeed in obtaining the island, as a result of their occupation, the U.S. government policy of terminating American Indian tribes ended and was replaced by a policy of Native self-determination.

Oakes played an integral part in creating one of the first American Indian Studies departments in the nation here at San Francisco State University by developing the initial curriculum for the program and encouraging other American Indians to enroll.

Chief Seattle
The indigenous populations in North America occupied large parts of uninhabited land, wherein they sheltered their families and lived with the values of love, peace and respect for their ‘creator’ and for Mother Earth. While women tended to families, men rose within their communities and were made leaders on the basis of their skill-sets, be it for hunting, warfare, peace activities or agriculture. Similarly, Chief Seattle, the leader of the Suquamish and the Duwamish tribes, was made a leader for his flawless oratory skills and for his imperious, commanding presence among his people. A front-runner and a proponent of peace, the chief hoped for two extremely different cultures, in this case; the Whites and the Natives, to co-exist harmoniously. He ensured that his tribe was safe from other warmongering neighbors and stood-up for the peace among his people and ensured they were given their rights and their true place, in the land they worshiped and called home. With the help of his friend and fellow white counterpart, David Swinson Maynard, he chased a path of housings to white settlers and also witnessed the birth of a new town named after him, which has since then, grown into a large and flourishing metropolis in the United States— Seattle.
Ira Hayes
Ira Hayes was born January 12, 1923 in Sacaton, Arizona, and died January 24, 1955 in Bapchule, Arizona. Ira Hayes was a Pima Indian. When he enlisted in the Marine Corps, he had hardly ever been off the Reservation. His Chief told him to be an “Honorable Warrior” and bring honor upon his family. Ira was a dedicated Marine. Quiet and steady, he was admired by his fellow Marines who fought alongside him in three Pacific battles.
When Ira learned that President Roosevelt wanted him and the other survivors to come back to the US to raise money on the 7th Bond Tour, he was horrified.
To Ira, the heroes of Iwo Jima, those deserving honor, were his “good buddies” who died there. At the White House, President Truman told Ira, “You are an American hero.” But Ira didn’t feel pride. As he later lamented, “How could I feel like a hero when only five men in my platoon of 45 survived, when only 27 men in my company of 250 managed to escape death or injury?”
In 1954, Ira reluctantly attended the dedication of the Iwo Jima monument in Washington. After a ceremony where he was lauded by President Eisenhower as a hero once again, a reporter rushed up to Ira and asked him, “How do you like the pomp & circumstances?” Ira just hung his head and said, I don’t.”
Ira died three months later after a night of drinking. As Ira drank his last bottle of whiskey he was crying and mumbling about his “good buddies.” Ira was 32.

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