Remembering Floyd Westerman

I only met Floyd Westerman once, at Max Gail‘s house in Malibu. I didn’t know at the time that Floyd was a celebrity. Actually, I’m not sure if Floyd was a celebrity or not. I figure a celebrity is somebody whose name I know or whose face is instantly recognizable to me. Floyd’s wasn’t, even though I’d seen him in perhaps dozens of movies, usually playing either an Indian or the Indian. He was in The Doors, Dances With Wolves, Northern Exposure and L.A. Law, to name two examples each from the big and small screen. In fact, I didn’t know, until I read his obituary in the Boston Globe today, that he was also a singer, songwriter and musician who had also performed with Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson and Don Henley, among many others.

Mostly I remember him as a thoroughly good man who helped guide me through a tough patch in my life

He and some friends, including Max, were holding a sweat in a small dome lodge at Max’s house. I had never participated in a sweat before, and wasn’t eager to this time, since it combined my only two phobias: claustro and extreme heat. Sticking it out was very hard — so hard that I had to leave for awhile. But Floyd invited me back for a final round of hot rocks and steam, and to talk about what was in my heart.

I did, and Floyd’s guidance in response was warm, humane and deeply helpful. It truly turned me around and I’ll always appreciate it.

8 comments

  1. Gert’s avatar

    Hi,
    my name is Gert, I live in France. I had exactly the same experience with Floyd at Max’s house in 1990 so I can really understand what you’re talking about. That sweet lodge I did with Floyd and Jean-Pierre Dutilleux remains an incredible experience to me. Do you remember how Floyd used to ask us to dedicate this pain we were feeling then to all our relatives? That was something very deep to me.

    I’ll make my own tribute to Floyd in the forthcoming days on my own website : http://www.gertonline.com

    All the best.

    Gert

  2. ken winston caine’s avatar

    I met him in fall of 1971. He was hanging out on the Southwestern College campus near Chula Vista, California, for a couple weeks. Walking around campus with his guitar strapped across his back, Johnny Cash-style (or carrying it in its case), his hair dark brown then and in long braids. He was selling his record album, “Custer Died for Your Sins,” for $2 a copy (which is what albums sold for in 1971) and staying, I believe, with an old college friend of his who was a Southwestern College instructor.

    He didn’t use the “Red Crow” middle name then. Was just “Floyd Westerman.”

    I was of the impression that this was how he made his living at the time, wandering the country and college campuses, staying with friends where he could, performing anywhere they’d let him, and selling his album, one album at a time.

    Besides his own songs, he was singing a lot of Kristopherson songs then. I talked to him about that one afternoon on the lawn at Southwestern, and we talked of Johnny Cash, who had given Kristopherson his initial boost and was a Westerman fan and behind-the-scenes sponsor (promoting him in the music industry via endorsement). I was believing at the time that my future was in country-folk songwriting and performing (turned out it wasn’t, but took a few years to figure that out) and asked his advice. He told me that Johnny Cash was a good man to meet and in fact I did meet him a year later. And he did offer to help me. I didn’t tell him Floyd sent me.

    Floyd Westerman played a free concert at Mayan Hall on the college campus one noon. It was pretty well attended. Just Floyd walking around campus with his guitar for a week was plenty of advance advertising. Everyone was curious about him. The the “Custer Died for Your Sins” concert posters went up.

    About 20 minutes into the noon show some loud kid came in and interrupted it yelling, “This is BULLSHIT!” And telling about a protest taking place somewhere else on the campus and insisting that was where the audience needed to be, not sitting on their asses listening to a singer. I don’t recall what the protest was about, but I was quite irked at the kid for interrupting the concert.

    Floyd put his guitar down on its stand and said he agreed completely and that he would quit singing now so that everyone could go to the protest.

    And that was that. He put his guitar in its case and walked off stage.

    I didn’t see him again until I was at the theatre watching “Dances with Wolves” when it came out. I saw him onscreen. He was gray-headed then, but I immediately recognized him. Or, that is, I thought, I KNOW this guy. WHO is he? So I watched the credits really carefully and saw that it was Floyd Westerman.

    His life was too short and he managed to do a lot of good in it. And I’m glad I had a chance to know him for a few minutes.

  3. ken winston caine’s avatar

    I’d like to apologize for misspelling Kristofferson’s name.

  4. J.D. Nash’s avatar

    Floyd was an old and dear friend of mine, with whom, I am honored to say, I was fortunate enough to have performed with on a few occasions.

    An original AIM Warrior and staunch supporter of freedom for Leonard Peltier, Floyd was always on the search for injustice and ways to combat it.

    He will be sorely missed.

  5. Carmen Abraham’s avatar

    I don’t even know how I was when I first heard his music. All I know is I enjoyed his style of singing, his voice, and his Native touch to all those songs. Then I met him while attending the American Indian Higher Education Consortium several years ago here in Bismarck. He sang Amazing Grace in Dakota. He was later signing autographs when I approached him and handed him my name tag. He looked at me and said, “you look familiar, do you know a woman by the name of Karen Abraham?” I said, “yeah, thats my sister.” He then told me he had a brother named Cecil Longie who lived in Fort Totten. Floyd then gave me his home phone number and told me to give it to his brother. I felt honored and excited that he asked me to do that. I met up with him again some years back when he came to Fort Totten to do a concert. He took pictures with me and my mom. He was a nice man.

  6. WoW WotLK’s avatar

    Oh This was so sad to hear about his passing! He will definitely be missed!

  7. Drew Mackenzie’s avatar

    So true Floyd Westerman was a great talent and will and is sadly missed.

    Drew

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