Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman, a Remembrance

Some Good, Good Deer Jerky

Floyd Westerman foto © Albert Hosteen

Floyd Westerman image © Albert Hosteen


He came out of the studio and went straight for his old guitar case. It was black, leather, plastered with stickers, and he pulled from its innards a reddish hunk of something that looked as equally well-travelled. He ripped off a portion and offered it to me: "Deer meat. Try it." I tried it... It needed some chewing. Together we left the WBAI radio studios. A long handshake, Indian style, then Floyd disappeared into the depths of the New York subway system. And still I was chewing.

That was back in September of 1975. My introduction to deer jerky marked the start of our friendship.

Over the last few decades many of my Indian friends have often called on me for help. As a journalist, I can get their message out into the European media, can draw attention to their fight for survival as the indigenous people of Turtle Island. Whenever I could I tried to help. And sometimes it was the other way around, sometimes I called from Europe and needed their help. For instance in 1992 when the World Uranium Hearing took place in Salzburg, Austria. Floyd flew over without hesitation, and participated every day for an entire week. He was always in intensive discussions with indigenous peoples from around the globe, who were struggling to rid their traditional lands from the toxic legacies of the Nuclear Age. To his song, "They Didn't Listen," he added a new line: "I told them not to dig for uranium, cause if they did the children would die."

On my show at the Public Radio Station in Munich, I played Floyd's songs countless times. For me his voice was the voice of all Indians. One warm summer day, after enjoying some Bavarian beer over lunch, we sat down together in the radio studio and did an interview. Floyd was answering a question and for a moment I nodded off – nothing the sound technician noticed, but Floyd sure did. Years later at an AIM gathering in Minneapolis he couldn't resist milking the moment for all it was worth: "This is Claus from Munich, a famous radio interviewer. Famous for falling asleep when you're answering his questions."

One of the reasons I tell that story is because I like to tell Floyd-stories: it gives me the opportunity to imitate that voice of his. I'm actually not much of an imitator - probably the only reason I can do Floyd's voice is thanks to that deer jerkey.

Another time, as we were going through Marina Del Rey, I said in his voice; "Floyd, are you aware that I'm imitating you?" He said, "Ich habe nicht gewusst," (I didn't realize it), not sounding at all like himself in German. He was always good for a surprise. When my Uncle celebrated turning 75, Floyd and his wife Rosie joined us. We were in a restaurant deep in the bavarian woods, on one of the walls there was a guitar, for decoration, next to an ancient pitch fork. Floyd took the instrument, one string was missing, he kind of tuned it, then he sang, "In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus".

München also has a record label: "Trikont - Our Voice." Trikont holds the European rights to Floyd's recordings. There is a story how that came about: About one year after my introduction to deer meat, while talking on the phone across the Atlantic, I asked Floyd whether he could imagine releasing the album Custer Died for your Sins in Europe. "Okay," Floyd said, "but you'll have to get together with Jimmy Curtis. Jimmy will handle everything." Jimmy Curtis had written the album's lyrics and had produced its release in the United States. I got ahold of him in New York City. "Great, but we have a problem," Jimmy said. The problem: the master tape had disappeared. And the only albums he knew of were rather scratched. So Jimmy told me to do the following, he said: "Travel around out west. Go from Powwow to Powwow. And at one of the many stands you find that's selling music, you'll run into a copy of Custer Died for your Sins still sealed. This will your new master - I wish you much luck!" He laughed and there was something in his laugh that told me that the luck he wished me wouldn't be enough. The very next Fall, at a Powwow in Minneapolis, at a stand selling music, I found Custer Died for your Sins. I brought it to Trikont, mint, still i the plastic. When Floyd later reissued the album after starting up his own label, he used that very Trikont album as his master.

Floyd passed away on the 13th of December, 2007. Walk in Beauty, Red Crow! And thank you for your songs, for your friendship, for your support – and for the good, good deer jerky.

English translation: Craig Eldon Reishus