AlcatrazisnotanIsland picture

Native American poet, activist, and performer John Trudell died earlier this week. Obituaries and tributes can be found online in publications ranging from Indian Country Today to the New York Times. We have several works in the Archives & Special Collections by and about this remarkable man.

The image above is taken from the book Alcatraz Is Not an Island, a collection of poems, artwork, and assorted documents about the takeover and occupation of Alcatraz by Native activists from November 1969 through June 1971. Trudell became one of the primary spokesmen for the occupation and is sometimes called “the voice of Alcatraz.”


The Alcatraz takeover was just one of many political actions by the American Indian Movement and its allies during the turbulent period of the 1960s and 1970s. More information about this event and Trudell’s role in it can be found throughout the collection, in books like Alcatraz! Alcatraz! published 20 years after the event:

John Trudell was active in the American Indian Movement throughout the 1970s, and made frequent appearances in the underground press of the time. The Marshall Bloom Alternative Press Collection includes a substantial run of Akwesasne Notes, a major source of information about Indigenous activism:

The Archives holds a copy of Living in Reality: A Story of Struggle (1982), which collects writings by Trudell and others, along with transcripts from the trials of several activists.

Society of the People

The phrase “Living in Reality” also appears on the cover of Trudell’s book Songs Called Poems, published in the same year.

Living In Reality

Trudell never stopped speaking out in defense of Indigenous rights, the health of the planet, and the rights of all people to live healthy and meaningful lives. Hundreds of videos of Trudell speaking and performing his poetry can be found on Youtube and elsewhere. In addition to his writing and activism, he also acted in several feature films, including Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals.


Anyone interested in the life and words of John Trudell is invited to use the resources available in the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections.

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