Rolling Thunder (person)

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Rolling Thunder
Born John Pope[1]
Spouse(s) Spotted Fawn

Rolling Thunder (birth name: John Pope; 1916–1997[1]) identified as a Native American medicine man.[2] He was raised in Oklahoma and later moved to Nevada and lived with the Western Shoshone. He married Spotted Fawn, who was Shoshone.[3]

In print[edit]

John Pope is the subject of Rolling Thunder (1974), a book by the American journalist and author Doug Boyd, and Rolling Thunder Speaks: A Message for Turtle Island (1998), a narrative edited by his second wife, Carmen Sun Rising Pope. Rolling Thunder also figures prominently in Mad Bear (1994), Boyd's follow-up book to Rolling Thunder, which chronicles the life of Tuscarora medicine man Mad Bear Anderson, a peer and mentor to Rolling Thunder.[3] His grandson, Sidian Morning Star Jones has written a book with Stanley Krippner about Rolling Thunder entitled The Voice of Rolling Thunder: A Medicine Man's Wisdom for Walking the Red Road.

In film[edit]

Rolling Thunder is credited in the 1971 film Billy Jack, starring Tom Laughlin. In the film, Rolling Thunder leads the snake dance that serves as Billy Jack's rite of passage, via an encounter with a Western diamondback rattlesnake.[4] He later portrayed himself in the film's sequel, The Trial of Billy Jack, and in Billy Jack Goes to Washington.[5]

In music[edit]

Rolling Thunder appears on Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart's album Rolling Thunder, a 1972 release. In 1975/76, Bob Dylan organized and headlined the Rolling Thunder Revue, a nationwide series of concerts. Rolling Thunder himself was said to have appeared at some of the shows (bootleg recordings exist of concerts - such as the ones in Providence on November 4, 1975 - in which Rolling Thunder is introduced, and delivers an invocation).[citation needed]

Life and legacy[edit]

Rolling Thunder was a lifelong proponent of women's rights (although not, by current definition, a feminist[citation needed]) for the environment, and Native American rights. His message, as related through the books about his life, is one of togetherness and inclusiveness. In 1975 he and his wife Spotted Fawn founded an intertribal, interracial, non-profit community on 262 acres (1.06 km2) of land in north-eastern Nevada (just east of the town of Carlin) called Meta Tantay (Chumash for "Walk in Peace").[6] There he served as leader and healer.[7] Meta Tantay operated until 1985, and included both Native and non-Native members; visitors over the years included Buckminster Fuller, Mickey Hart[8] and The Grateful Dead, and Tibetan monks.[3]


Rolling Thunder died in 1997 from complications associated with diabetes. He also suffered from emphysema in the later years of his life.[3]


Rolling Thunder's given name was John Pope. He claimed to be part Cherokee[1] and at various times also claimed to be Shoshone.[9] He is criticized for cultural misappropriation, including teaching non-native people ceremonies for money.[10]

Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia saw him as a spiritual leader. The movie Billy Jack was loosely based on his life and he served as a consultant and bit player in the film. He worked with other New Age people like Mary Thunder,[11] a non-native women who identifies as "adopted Lakota."



  • A Case History of a Shamanic Healing Performed by Rolling Thunder – Jim Swan (Audio Cassette)
  • Rolling Thunder – Mickey Hart (1972)


  • Rolling Thunder: Healer of Meta Tantay – UFO TV – DVD Release Date: February 22, 2005
  • Billy Jack (1971)
  • The Trial of Billy Jack (1974)
  • Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977)


  1. ^ a b c Panther-Yates 40
  2. ^ Mystics, Magicians, and Medicine People: Tales of a Wanderer
  3. ^ a b c d Rolling Thunder Speaks
  4. ^ Rolling Thunder on the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Internet Movie Database Website
  6. ^ The Vision of Walk in Peace
  7. ^ Narish Shontie Website
  8. ^ Mickey Hart at Meta Tantay
  9. ^ "The Thunder People: Grandfather John "Rolling Thunder" Pope." Prophesies of the World. Retrieved 15 Oct 2013.
  10. ^ Ivakhiv 278
  11. ^ Rolling Thunder. "Letter Of Recommendation For Mary Thunder." 21 Nov 1986. Retrieved 15 Oct 2013.


Further reading[edit]

  • Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality By Philip Jenkins (2005) Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-518910-8, ISBN 978-0-19-518910-0. 2004.
  • Hollywood and the Supernatural by Sherry Hansen and Brad Steiger – St. Martin's Press (1990).
  • Mad Bear: Spirit, Healing, and the Sacred in the Life of a Native American Medicine Man by Doug Boyd (1994) Touchstone
  • Mystics, Magicians, and Medicine People: Tales of a Wanderer by Doug Boyd – Marlowe & Co (1995) ISBN 1-56924-880-X, ISBN 978-1-56924-880-5
  • Personality Theories: Critical Perspectives by Albert Ellis, Mike Abrams and Lidia Abrams (2008) Sage Publications, Inc. ISBN 1-4129-1422-1, ISBN 978-1-4129-1422-2
  • Rolling Thunder: A Personal Exploration into the Secret Healing Powers of an American Indian Medicine Man by Doug Boyd – Delta (1976) ISBN 0-385-28859-X, ISBN 978-0-385-28859-0
  • Rolling Thunder Speaks: A Message for Turtle Island by Rolling Thunder and Carmen Sun Rising Pope (editor). Clear Light Publications (1999). ISBN 1-57416-026-5, ISBN 978-1-57416-026-0.
  • "The Voice of Rolling Thunder: A Medicine Man's Wisdom for Walking the Red Road" by Sidian Morning Star Jones and Stanley Krippner. Bear & Commpany: Inner Traditions International 2012, Rochester, VT, ISBN 978-1591431336

External links[edit]