On Floyd Westerman's repeated passings

by Paul DeMain
News From Indian Country

Floyd Westerman was another one of those angry AIM guys with a soft side, I used to get along with very well. With Floyd, the relationship never ended, despite all the things that I have written that have exposed the uglier elements that were conducted by AIM leadership.

His worst description of me to another friend, was, “Paul seems to be disruptive.” But he knew the truth. He cautioned me in Connecticut after a presentation saying only, “With time the truth will all come out about Annie Mae, about Peltier, but be patient, be careful.”

Floyd never had to engage in the same media grabbing frenzy that others in the Movement always looked for. He was a natural, because the things he believed in were natural to him. The injustices of removing children from the reservation, the discrimination, the boarding schools, the love for Mother Earth.
The themes in his music were those about injustice and speaking out and doing the right thing and came from the heart, rather than a political mind.

Musician Keith Secola once told me when asked why he would support fund raising concerts for people who were on the inside mix of murder and bad-jacketing, and it seemed more like a Westerman quote, “Paul, I play for sinners and I play for saints, its more about the music....” Floyd had asked him, and Secola never would have turned him down to assist in doing something for one of his mentors or for “the people.” “The people, and the music” came first before the politics of who ran an organization.

I remember Floyd personally from the 1980s when he stayed at my home in Madison, Wisconsin, as part of a crew of people running across the United States trying to raise awareness of treaties. As we stepped out of my car the first night, he had yet to enter the house when he stopped and said, “I can smell wild rice cooking.” Sure enough, as he trumped through the front door, living room and into the kitchen, there it was boiling on the stove, and that’s were he stood until it was ready for his meal.”

“Hmmmmmmmm,” with his eyes closed for the longest time ever.

It will be those memories, hundreds, maybe thousands that will be cherished the most by those whose lives he touched.

I prematurely announced Floyd’s passing a month before he actually did on our web site. We retracted, corrected and apologized to the family all within a few hours.

A frenzy of inquiries, and emails claiming he had passed on, and the grave feeling of ill-will that goes with the announcement of someone you looked up to and cared for, led to a moment of indiscretion in journalism verification. There were people sending out numerous text messages about his passing (called digital rumors) and etc., and we received several of them from very prominent people.

I witnessed professional, educated people get, and pass on their text messages while they wondered why we had yet to report the information on our web site.

In all my estimations, what must have started out with one person, then a few people and snowballed by mathematics, 5x5x5x5 and eight hours later some 1,953,125 people worldwide thought the worst had occurred.

Do the calculations yourself, it is astounding, it is mind blowing, how fast information can now travel, and people all did it in good will, for Floyd within hours.

And it might have actually happened, considering how people felt about it.

There is a spiritual element to my life that I always try to look to as a Skabewis, or “Messenger” in our culture. I help bury people whose spirits have left the body to travel on. And I have learned over time, that there is a meaning, even to the errors of conduct – for those people in touch with that element, and some may have already known.

Floyd passed away on a ride to the hospital about a decade earlier. Reciting the story of hearing the attendants announce that he had flat-lined the monitor and finding himself walking in a dark tunnel toward the light at the end – he then woke up some time later in the hospital and lived to talk about it.

He said “they told me I was clinically dead for a while,” with a laugh and smile about his own resurrection.

In another culture, a man who once did that was held in high esteem for centuries to come.

Floyd did it at least twice.

See: Westerman was a true friend by Doug George

See Related article: Floyd Westerman: Musician, activist, elder passes on 1-13-0