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OBITUARIES : Floyd Red Crow Westerman, 1936 - 2007

American Indian activist, actor appeared in 'Dances With Wolves'

December 15, 2007|From the Associated Press

Floyd Red Crow Westerman, an American Indian activist, actor and country/folk singer who appeared in "Dances With Wolves," has died. He was 71.

Westerman died from complications of leukemia Thursday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said his son, Richard Tall Bear Westerman.

The actor-musician 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 & Greg."

A respected musician, he worked with Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and others.

"He always said he was a musician first and he just acted for the money," his son said Friday.

Westerman continued to act until a few months ago, completing work in September on the forthcoming Kevin Costner film "Swing Vote."

Perhaps his most memorable movie role was in Costner's 1990 western epic, "Dances With Wolves." He played the Sioux leader Ten Bears, who befriends Costner's character.

Westerman also was well-known as an activist for environmental causes and the rights of American Indians and other indigenous people.

His debut album, released in 1970, was titled "Custer Died For Your Sins." Last year, he released "A Tribute to Johnny Cash."

In the 1990s, Westerman toured the world with Sting to raise money to preserve rain forests.

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

As a youngster, he left the reservation to attend a government boarding school about 80 miles away. In keeping with policies at the time, the school frowned on his native 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."

Westerman graduated from a reservation high school, spent two years in the Marines and went on to earn a degree in secondary education from Northern State College in South Dakota.

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

In addition to his son, Westerman is survived by his wife, Rosie; and four daughters, Chante Westerman of Washington state, Chenoa Westerman of South Dakota, Jennifer Westerman of Arizona and Nicky Jackson of Minneapolis.

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