Native American Obituaries
Gladys Tantaquidgeon, the Mohegan Indian Tribe’s venerable medicine woman and a nationally known expert on ancient Indian practices, died Tuesday morning. She was 106.
Dennis Banks, a founder of the American Indian Movement who helped lead demonstrations — notably the 10-week siege at Wounded Knee, S.D., in 1973 — that at times descended into violence as they brought long-festering tribal wounds to national attention, died Oct. 29 at a hospital in Rochester, Minn. He was 80.
Folk singer and activist Richie Havens, Blackfeet, died at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey, on April 22. He was 72 years old. Havens will always be remembered as the opening act at the Woodstock music festival in 1969.
It wasn’t his scheduled slot at Woodstock, (the band Sweetwater was supposed to open), but because the highways were choked to a standstill with traffic, many of the other artists hadn’t arrived. Festival co-organizer Michael Lang gave Havens the task of taking the stage first, and holding it for as long as need be. “It had to be Richie – I knew he could handle it,” Lang later wrote, according to a Havens obituary at RollingStone.com.
Richie Havens composed “Freedom” on the spot at Woodstock.
Havens gave a marathon performance that included numerous encores and an on-the-spot composition of what would become an anthem of the documentary film, and the era. As Havens recalled for CNN in 2009:
My band had made it up from Manhattan in the early morning hours, and we had the least amount of gear to set up, so after some strong convincing from the promoters I agreed to go on.
The show was late in starting, and they were feeling pressure to start the music. We played for nearly three hours as they were still building the stage around me. I sang every song I knew, and when they asked me to go back on one more time, I improvised “Freedom.”