Issue date: 2/27/09
"He is extremely eloquent, therefore extremely dangerous…" were the
first words that crossed the screen in the Leak Room. Spoken by an
anonymous FBI agent, they describe the iconoclast depicted in the
The Native American Club (NAC) chose to screen the film on Feb. 16
about John Trudell as part of their continuing series of Awareness
Movie Nights. A dozen students watched the documentary during its
showing, with none opting for a discussion afterwards.
"Trudell is a visionary that speaks against the injustices of the
world, not just pertaining to the Native American people but people
in general," said co-vice president of NAC, sophomore Christina Somerville.
These injustices are prevalent today and can be seen in the number of
Native American students in colleges.
"North Carolina has the fifth largest Indian population in the
nation, yet this isn't represented in their colleges," said senior
Marshall Jeffries, NAC president.
"Trudell" follows the turbulent career of a man who demanded equality
for Native Americans. His life?as portrayed in the film?is that of an
advocate, poet, singer, author, and humanitarian.
Trudell was born in 1946 to a Mexican mother and a Santee Sioux
father, in Omaha, Neb.
At the time when the civil rights movement was making strides,
Trudell campaigned for a historically oppressed people. In 1969, he
and others from the American Indian Movement (AIM) took control of
Alcatraz Island in a symbolic gesture for moral reparations.
In 1971, after three years of negotiating with the United States
government, the FBI removed the group from Alcatraz. Trudell then
became the spokesperson for AIM.
He served as chairperson for the AIM for five years. Then In 1979,
Trudell set fire to an American flag on the steps of Congress and was
Tragedy followed. In an incident that is still under speculation,
Trudell's home burnt to the ground killing his wife, their three
children, and his mother-in-law. The film draws a connection between
Trudell's involvement with the AIM movement and the fact that the FBI
was watching him closely after Alcatraz and other incidents.
"Even people who are politically active wouldn't expect the FBI to
burn a house down but people from an Indian community might," said
Jeffries, a descendant of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
The documentary followed the development of the AIM through the
contributions of Trudell, illuminating a movement in American
history. According to some students this history does not receive
much attention and the film increased their knowledge.
"I'd never heard of him and what he did for our people," said Watkins
about Trudell. "I'd heard about Alcatraz, but never knew it had to do
with Native Americans," said first-year NAC member Adam Watkins.
Much of the aim of the film and of NAC is fostering dialogue on the
question of equality and responsibility in society, especially in the
"I believe that a portion of the Guilford College community is aware
of Native American Club's core values," said Somerville, "but their
understanding and desire to learn more is not evident when it comes
to their lack of participation in our events."
The NAC meets the first and third of each month, with many events on
the itinerary, and encourages the student body to attend the
continuing Awareness Movie Nights.