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."
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.
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.