Floyd Red Crow Westerman, 71; Performer, Activist

By Robert Jablon
Associated Press
Sunday, December 16, 2007

Floyd Red Crow Westerman, an American Indian activist, actor and folk singer who appeared in "Dances With Wolves" and performed with Willie Nelson and other musicians, died Dec. 13 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from complications of leukemia. He was 71.

Mr. Westerman appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, including in recurring roles as Uncle Ray Firewalker on "Walker, Texas Ranger" and George Littlefox on "Dharma and Greg."

His most memorable movie role was in Kevin Costner's 1990 Oscar-winning Western epic, "Dances With Wolves." He played the Sioux leader Ten Bears, who befriends Costner's character.

A respected musician, Westerman worked with Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Harry Belafonte, Jackson Browne and others. His debut album, released in 1970, was titled "Custer Died for Your Sins." Last year he released "A Tribute to Johnny Cash" to positive reviews.

Mr. Westerman completed work in September on the upcoming Costner film "Swing Vote."

He was an activist for environmental causes and for the rights of American Indians and other indigenous people. In the 1990s, he toured the world with Sting to raise money to preserve rain forests.

"He was really, really politically conscious," said his son, Richard Tall Bear Westerman. "He said the Iraq war is just another land grab, like they did with Oklahoma and the Midwest in America. Back then it was about land and gold, and now it was about oil."

Mr. Westerman was born Aug. 17, 1936, on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota.

He left the reservation as a youngster to attend a government boarding school. In keeping with policies at the time, the school frowned on his culture.

"They cut his hair, and they wouldn't allow him to speak the language," his son said. "He was a survivor of everything that the government has tried to do to Native Americans."

Mr. Westerman graduated from a reservation high school, spent two years in the Marine Corps and earned a degree in secondary education from Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.

He made his movie debut in 1989's "Renegades," playing the father of Lou Diamond Phillips's character. He was a shaman in Oliver Stone's 1991 movie "The Doors."

Survivors include his wife, Rosie Westerman; his son; and three daughters.

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