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The Failure of Indian Men By: David Yeagley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 20, 2002


WHEN WARRIORS FALL, a world falls with them. The abyss of moral failure among modern American Indians is caused by the fall of valor in the Indian male.

Uncontrolled youth, alcoholism, drug abuse, ill health, and short lives are the result of male irresponsibility. These phenomena, more than any others, make life a living hell for many American Indians.

When men fail to be men, everyone suffers.

The excuse of "racism" provides no solution. It is pointless to harp on it.

The fact is Indian men just don’t seem to care.

"That’s the problem with Indians," says my friend Johnson Black Owl, a ‘recovering alcoholic’ and now professional counselor. "The men don’t care. They’re too drunk to care." His tribe, Southern Cheyenne, has the highest rate of alcoholism of any tribe in Oklahoma.

Of course, Black Owl is older and wiser now. He is an unusually effective counselor. He invites me to speak to his clients at the center where he works. I play my Comanche flutes and talk about spiritual "journeys."

But there’s a journey many Indian men refuse to take: the journey to self-respect. Without self-respect, we’ll never understand the importance of loving our own people and protecting our race from extinction.

The consequences can be seen with tragic clarity in my own family.

My own Comanche mother and all her Comanche sisters married white men. Why? Women look for strength, always. They obviously didn’t see it in Indian men.

Not all Indian women take this route. Some find other, more inventive, ways of humiliating, punishing, emasculating and otherwise rejecting Indian men.

According to an AP wire story carried in the January 1, 2002 Native American Times, the all-female Sweetgrass Road Drum Group is outraged over the fact that they were asked to leave by Indian organizers of a pow-wow at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

"We were turned away from our own community, and that hurt us the most," said Raven Hart-Bellecourt. "They were trying to stomp on our pride, our honor and our dignity."

The article explained, "Drumming is historically a sacred art performed only by men, though a handful of female groups have recently risked ostracism to challenge convention."

From the point of view of America’s liberal media, the clear villains of this story are the male chauvinist guardians of Indian tradition. But, in fact, these women are making a direct attack on the traditional male role in Indian culture.

The explanation they offer for their actions is revealing.

"We brought a drum group together because there are a lot of women in single parent families and we want to teach our children our ceremonies and ways," says Hart-Bellecourt.

One can understand Hart-Bellecourt’s predicament. It’s hard to raise a traditional Indian family without a man in the house. Indeed, it is impossible, since the man is part of the tradition.

But more and more Indian women – having abandoned all hope in Indian men – are now making the situation worse by abandoning, disrespecting and perverting their own ancient traditions.

Female drummers such as Hart-Bellecourt are, in fact, taking away the last remaining traditional role for the Indian male.

It is a fitting punishment for men who, in so many ways, have abused and abandoned their own women. But it will not make the situation better.

Indeed, while growing numbers of Indian women do what my mother and aunts did – marry white men – greater numbers of modern Indian men are seeking comfort in the arms of white women.

As my friend Black Owl puts it, "We couldn’t beat the white man, so we count coup on his women!"

In the warrior days, counting coup was when an Indian humiliated his foe in battle by just touching him with a bow or lance, when he could have easily killed him. That took more courage.

"Counting coup" on white women is a good way to salve the Indian male ego and exact emotional revenge on Indian women. Think of it as a male version of forming an all-female drum group.

But, again, it doesn’t help the real problem.

Too many Indian children live in foster homes; too many grow up without fathers; and too many Indian men are drunks.

We have terrible enemies, but no real warriors.

Armies of federally-funded social workers will never solve these problems for us. Self-respect is what Indians need, and that has to be won by each warrior.

We Indian men must finally face our worst enemy: our own irresponsibility.


Dr. David A. Yeagley is a published scholar, professionally recorded composer, and an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Liberal Studies. He's on the speakers list of Young America's Foundation. E-mail him at badeagle2000@yahoo.com. View his website at http://www.badeagle.com.


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