By DR. HONEY DAWN KARIMA PETTIGREW, Ph.D
“Last night in a dream I interrogated god,”writes John Trudell in his poem “Reason to This”, “Why is it that the good die young What’s the reason to this?” In this poem from his stirring collection, Lines from a Mined Mind, the noted activist relates that “We talked, we argued, we cried I never did get any answers But god knows I tried.” John Trudell shares his wrestlings with a higher power and the result is a dynamic book.
Trudell’s tries to make sense of relationships, environmental angst, racial injustice, family ties and cultural preservation fill the pages of this intriguing book. Blending songs and poems into thought-provoking pieces of Trudell’s inner life allows readers to enter into the issues that face Native America, Mother Earth and individuals from diverse walks of life.
John Trudell masterfully incorporates vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, intriguing historical and social incidents, cultural aspects and spiritual themes into his pieces. As a result, the words in this book come across its pages with strong impact, which enlightens the reader. Further, Trudell uses beats and meter in each verse with alacrity, which engages the reader. Lines from a Mined Mind transmits truths through Trudell’s sincerity and transparency.
Achingly, John Trudell laments the eradication of Native American spirituality in “To God”, saying “your Representatives spoke magnificent things Of you which we were willing to believe But from the way they acted We know you and we were being deceived.”
In “Blue Indians”, John Trudell describes “Blue Indians being pulled into melting pots Grueling class rules the haves and have-nots Industrial reservations tyranny stakes its claim Blue Indians emotional siege in civilized stain.”
“Rich Men keep living off the poor, “sings John Trudell in “Rant ‘n’ Roll” as he claims, “The soul is what’s left after they eat your spirit When every act is an act of self-defense We have to do something or perish in the pretense.”
In addition to his admonitions concerning social conditions, John Trudell also celebrates the blessings and feelings of his own life. “Little Daughter” records the pleasures of parenting as “the times I hold you next to me I am flowing An infinity of love to fill the times I cannot hold you next to me.”
“Men don’t cry Indians are stoic,” asserts John Trudell in “Tears of Salt” during a reflection on release and emotions, “I tell that to my heart To my eyes They just laugh at me And sometimes When my spirit hurts They make me cry.” Frequently, the author recounts the passions and romance that characterize his own life as he does in “Such a Fine Day” when he triumphs,
“Such a fine day Woman in a T-shirt walking down the street Some women need silks and diamonds Some women need furs and limos Some women need to turn cosmetics Some women have just what they need.”
Lines from a Mined Mind shows the special inner workings of a unique and creative mind. The Santee Sioux activist and artist shares the circumstances of reservation and urban Native life, specifics of environmental and political crisis and the value of traditions and heritage in this collection of potent words and phrases. John Trudell has composed colorful pieces that effectively carry emotions and information to readers and to listeners.
Book info: Lines from a Mined Mind:The Words of John Trudell. Golden,CO:Fulcrum,2008, 270pages, ISBN#:978-1-55591-678-7.
Dr. Honey Dawn Karima Pettrigrew, Ph.D is the author of two novels, The Way We Make Sense and The Marriage of Saints. She is an award-winning filmmaker and resides in the Yellowhill Community.