December 15, 2011

Review of Contrary Warrior

I watched this documentary on PBS last week:

Contrary Warrior: The Life and Times of Adam Fortunate EagleContrary Warrior tells the story of Adam Fortunate Eagle, a contemporary activist, artist, author, ceremonial leader. At the age of five, his father dead and his mother unable to provide for eight children, Adam and his siblings are sent to an Indian boarding school where he spends his childhood. After graduating from Haskell Institute in Kansas he moves to San Francisco and becomes a successful businessman and the "perfect" urban Indian--a poster child for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Injustices met by Urban Indians motivate him to become an advocate for the rights of urban Indians.

Eventually he becomes one of the principle architects of the American Indian takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969--an action that brings about social change. Because of this the government declares him an "enemy of the state" and he loses his business and virtually everything he owns. Forced to go back to the reservation, he hones his skills as a ceremonial pipe maker, sculptor, and author and continues his calling as a ceremonial leader and statesman for his people. Vine Deloria, Jr., author of Custer Died For Your Sins wrote, "Fortunate Eagle is one of the most outstanding Indian leaders of this generation."
Comment:  Fortunate Eagle does most of the talking in this hour-long documentary. He has a few good stories to tell--mostly revolving around his early life and his role in the occupation of Alcatraz.

Unfortunately, he's not a captivating speaker. And other than Alcatraz, he hasn't had a lot of remarkable experiences. I'd say only aficionados will find his life interesting--not the general public.

You can see most of the highlights in the five-minute excerpt below. If you want more of the same, look for the full-length video.

For more on Native documentaries, see "Thick Dark Fog" = PTSD and "Poverty Porn" Column in ICTMN.

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