Waterford - Trudie Lamb-Richmond, a member of the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe, passed away peacefully surrounded by love and family at her daughter, Erin Lamb-Meeches' home in Waterford, April 26, 2021. She was 89 years old.
Born Gertrude Alice Ray Aug. 5, 1931, in Bridgeport, she was the eldest daughter of Margaret A. (Cogswell) and John W. Ray Jr. Trudie graduated from Hawley High School in Newtown. As a passionate knowledge seeker, Trudie went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Long Island University, an Master of Arts in Education from Bank Street College, and an Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Connecticut.
Trudie was a leading voice for indigenous educational and political issues for over 60 years. She was an author, professor, anthropologist, storyteller, and Native American rights activist. She leaves behind a legacy of scholarship, advocacy, and cultural preservation. A strong matriarch, respected elder and fierce intellectual warrior, and advocate for indigenous rights, Trudie was a force to be reckoned with. She began taking her children to protests in the 1960s, even boycotting her favorite wine because of their treatment of field workers. In 1973, Trudie travelled to Wounded Knee, S.D., to stand with the people of Pine Ridge and members of the American Indian Movement for over 40 days of the 71-day armed occupation.
Trudie often shared the words of her grandmother – "Sometimes we have to stand strong like an oak and sometimes we have to bend like a willow." While Trudie was a staunch advocate, she was known for her soft-spoken voice and gentle generous spirit. She led through her unassuming nature, dedication to her people and remarkable conviction to always doing what is right. Ever hospitable and kind, Trudie and her husband Dave often opened their home to Native people, whether for a meal, warm bed, or meeting place to discuss the latest land, water or civil rights issue occurring in Indian Country.
Trudie mentored entire generations of indigenous leaders, educators, and museum workers. In 1982, she was elected Tribal Chairperson of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation – the only woman ever. Trudie was an accomplished lecturer and captivating master storyteller; she was a culture bearer and traditional keeper of stories, participating in cultural exchange programs all over the world including one trip to Hong Kong, China. She once visited her granddaughter stationed in Italy and took time to share stories and talk about Native American culture at the local elementary school. Trudie was the recipient of the First Peoples Fund Community Spirit Award for her contributions as a storyteller and efforts to maintain a sense of pride and community amongst indigenous people. Fittingly, her name, Kekiokwashawe means "she gathers the people."
Trudie began her professional career in the newspaper industry in New York City in the 1950s before becoming a 1st grade teacher in the city. This is where she found her passion for education and sought to use her skillset to support indigenous education while dispelling myths and eliminating stereotypes. Trudie co-founded American Indians for Development (A.I.D), a Connecticut-based community center that provided indigenous people from around the country with needs-based resources, employment, and educational services. Trudie began working for Save the Children as the Assistant Director of the American Indian Program in 1984 while concurrently serving on the Connecticut Indian Affairs Council and Connecticut Indian Education Council. She then became the Director of Education and Public Programs at the Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS) in 1988 until 1996. During her tenure at IAIS, Trudie also taught American Indian History and Cultural Anthropology courses at many Connecticut universities, including Yale, UConn and Western. In 1987, Trudie was appointed by Governor William O'Neill to the Connecticut Legislative Indian Task Force. Trudie retired in 2010 after serving as the Program Manager of Education and Director of Public Programs at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center for 14 years. Throughout her career, Trudie authored, edited, and consulted on numerous publications, educational projects, and museum exhibits.
In a 1980s interview, Trudie said, "As a mother, grandmother, and storyteller, I believe the Creator has given me a purpose and I am trying to fulfill it." Trudie has left this world a better place with so many stories and memories to comfort the ones she left behind.
Besides her daughter Erin, Trudie leaves behind her grandchildren, Wunneanatsu (Gregory) Lamb-Cason, Francesco Lamb-Privitera, Kirk (Kyle) Miller, Jason R. Lamb, Garry Meeches Jr., Akicita Lamb and Tatewin Lamb; her step-grandchildren, Christopher Courchene, Jeremy and Alana Running Crane; ten great-grandchildren, as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins. Trudie was predeceased by her husband of more than 40 years, David A. Richmond (Akwesasne Mohawk); her son, Jason S. Lamb; and her sisters, Barbara Ray, Bette (Ray) Gonzalez and Johnette "Peggy Jo" (Ray) LaConte.
The family wishes to extend its gratitude to the nurses, doctors and staff at Bayview Health Care of Waterford and Hartford HealthCare at Home for the exceptional care Trudie received.
Calling hours and services will be from 3 to 7 p.m. May 1, 2021, at the home of her daughter, Erin Lamb-Meeches, 5 Marlin Drive, Waterford. Trudie will be laid to rest on the Schaghticoke Indian Reservation at the family's convenience. The Dinoto Funeral Home is assisting the family.
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Published by The Day on Apr. 30, 2021.