Leukemia has claimed the life of Floyd Red Crow Westerman, the Native American activist, actor and country/folk singer best known for his roles in Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves (as Sioux leader Ten Bears) and TV's Walker, Texas Ranger (as Uncle Ray Firewalker).
Westerman, who passed away Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, was born on Aug. 17, 1936, on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota. A man of many impressive talents and passionate interests, he was a respected musician who worked with such artists as Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt, and toured the world with Sting during the 1990s to raise money to preserve rain forests. He remained active in show business until just a few months ago, when he completed work in another Kevin Costner film, the forthcoming Swing Vote.
Kevin Abourezk of Reznet describes Westerman as man who provided a "lyrical and plainspoken voice for the oppressed," and reports: "In his final years, [Westerman] had begun work on a six-part documentary called Exterminate Them: America's War on Indian Nations. With the help of his niece [Gwen Westerman Griffin], he had completed the first part, California Story, and had begun work on the second installment, Great Plains Story. Westerman Griffin said she doesn't plan to let her uncle's death end efforts to complete the documentary. Nor does she plan to let his relentless efforts to improve the lives of Native people die with him. 'It's going to take a lot of us to fill in the void that this one man is going to leave,' she said. 'It's going to take so many of us to carry on his work.'"