Reflections of an Outlaw Indian Lawyer
"By focusing on hair, Alexie implied something about the absurdity of the question."


Friday, November 26, 2004  

"Out of Control": Alexie’s Mullet Examined

After associating Alexie’s hairstyle with mullet No. 16 on the mulletsgalore.com website, the The Stranger proudly proclaimed, “Mullet Power!"

Indian writer Sherman Alexie recently shed a ray of sunshine on an issue that has for years puzzled everyone from literary critics to the casual observer of American Indian literature: Having achieved semi-fame in literary (if not coffeehouse) circles – and presumably with ready access to a stylist – why in Christ’s name does he insist on wearing a mullet?

Never one to back down from a controversy, Alexie answered his clean cut critics head on in a recent story in the UW Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Washington. “I wore a mullet to fight against elitists,” Alexie reportedly told the Daily," adding that, "The mullet was a last grasp ... at trying to maintain reservation identity." Prior to damning all of Indian country with his mullet equals “Indian heritage" explanation, Alexie, a member of the Spokane Indian tribe, authored several books of poetry and novels, most with Indian themes or storylines.

Demonstrating a certain amount of backbone for a student publication, the Daily prodded Alexie further about his chosen hairstyle and even did some philosophizing of its own. The Daily reported that after he cut his hair short, Alexie claimed that “he could pass as Mexican, Italian or Middle Eastern.” The Daily went on to pontificate that, “By focusing on hair, Alexie implied something about the absurdity of the question.”

Party in the Back: In describing Mullet No. 16 (pictured above), Mulletsgalore.com concedes that, “[I]f I were a mullet breeder, I would no-doubt pay top dollar for this particular quoiffe." (sic)

Absurd or not, the Daily was not the first publication to notice, if not outright ridicule, Alexie’s unkempt locks. In a January 26, 2000 brief, the alternative Seattle weekly The Stranger went so far as to classify Alexie’s mullet using standards promulgated by the then fledgling website, mulletsgalore.com. Gushing that mulletsgalore.com “even features an educational photo gallery of about 30 detailed ‘Mullet Classifications,’” The Stranger theorized that Alexie “comes closest to #16 or #25” in the website’s classification system. The photograph accompanying mullet No.16, which mulletsgalore.com labels “Out of control,” shows a darker-skinned male with a whispy mustache and an impressive mane of long wavy hair.

As of this writing, mulletsgalore.com identifies and classifies no less than 99 specimens of mullets and offers membership into an exclusive brethren it dubs, “The Mullitia.”

11:29 PM


Sunday, June 13, 2004  

A Small Town Remembers: Reagan as "Chief Buffalo Boy"

A View From Above: This black and white satellite photo of Cut Bank perhaps serves as a metaphor for the grim economic realties waiting below
It turns out that the late President Ronald Reagan had a little secret in the form of a semi-secret Indian name. But it wasn't just any Indian name that makes this story special. Reagan's Indian name came came not from his wife Nancy or a member of his cabinet, but rather from real life Montana Indians. According to a story in the Cut Bank Pioneer Press, Reagan spoke to a small town audience in rural Montana in the late ‘70s and afterwards earned the moniker “Chief Buffalo Boy” from leaders of a local Indian tribe.

The Pioneer Press reported that Reagan addressed a crowd of 4,000 at a “Farm Forum” in the sleepy Montana town of Cut Bank back in February of 1979. Nestled in northern Glacier County near the Canadian border, Cut Bank ranks “below” or “significantly below” other towns in Montana in key indicators such as median house value, household income and number of students in college. Indeed, the average construction price of a single-family home in Cut Bank fell by twelve and half percent over the last decade. Not to be discouraged by globalization and inevitable march of progress, the Cut Bank Chamber of Commerce continues full steam ahead in the town promotion category, boldly proclaiming on its web site that “[w]e know the Lewis and Clark expedition found the area exciting; we think you will too.”

So it was with great fanfare that Reagan strolled into a local gymnasium and spoke about such diverse issues as taxation and agriculture. Former Chief of Police Joe Gauthiar recalled to the Pioneer Press his positive recollection of Reagan’s words. “He gave a nice talk. He hadn't announced at that time he was considering running for President, which in a small community like Cut Bank was a good thing,” Gauthier said. The former town cop did not elaborate on why it was a good idea for Reagan not to disclose his intent to run for national office when visiting Cut Bank.

Undercover Brother: In Cattle Queen, Reagan starred as an undercover federal agent investigating the sellers of guns to renegade Indians. The real-life Reagan was no stranger to undercover work. In the 1950s, he reportedly served as an FBI informant while President of the Screen Actors Guild and provided names of suspected communists to the government.
It was only after Reagan’s speech that the Indians became involved. According to the Pioneer Press, representatives of the Blackfeet Tribe presented Reagan with a belt buckle, a Hudson Bay blanket and the Indian name “Chief Buffalo Boy.” In an even stranger turn of events, Blackfeet leader Earl Old Person recalled during Reagan’s speech an earlier meeting he had with Reagan during the 1954 filming of the film “Cattle Queen of Montana” in nearby St. Mary. Old Person waxed poetic about how the Indians hired as extras for the production failed to fall when fired on by Calvary troops, as apparently called for in the script. “After the offer of a $10 bonus to those who would go down, everyone fell,” Old Person concluded.

Reagan reportedly responded to Old Person’s story by keenly pointing out that “the real villains in the movie were white men disguised as Indians and not the Indians themselves,” and promised to “try and not do anything that would anger the Indians or impede their fight to improve their way of life.”

9:50 PM


Tuesday, April 20, 2004  

The Face of a Butcher?: Rogers is all smiles for his Local 6 News broadcast debut

Local 6 News Exclusive: Area Indian Skins Bald Eagle

According to a story posted on the Local 6 News website, Florida authorities arrested area Indian Michael Rogers for skinning the head of a bald eagle after allegedly catching Rogers in the act. Rogers reportedly told authorities that the skinning was in preparation for a spiritual burial ritual. The eagle was reportedly already deceased when the alleged skinning occurred -- the victim of poisoning, Rogers reportedly told authorities.

Local 6 News reported that “Rogers is licensed to handle the bald eagle but not to dismember them after they’re dead.” Local 6 News did not elaborate on the requirements for a dismemberment license, nor did the report state whether such a license exists.

It should be noted that Local 6 News serves the central Florida market and is a product of WKMG television. A perusal of its website reveals that in addition to the Rogers arrest, Local 6 News is first on the scene of other hard-hitting news events. The headline to Local 6 News’ top story as of this writing is, “Mom Loses Custody Battle After Kids Found in Feces.” Local 6 News went so far as to deem The Kids in Feces story a Big Picture Desktop Alert – a designation reserved only for “big stories” that allows computer users who download the appropriate software to receive instant notification of the breaking news event.

In contrast to the Kids in Feces, Rogers’ arrest merited only “Spotlight” treatment on the Local 6 News website.

10:13 PM


Saturday, February 21, 2004  

I'm with Landham

A Man in Full: Landham and me after several glasses of whisky at the Bally's casino lounge
Last weekend, none other than the real life Billy Bear himself, Sonny Landham, graced me and several of my rude friends with his presence for a three-day stint in Las Vegas. Half bachelor party (mine) and half vacation, the gathering turned out to be pretty much as expected: rife with booze, cigarettes, Indians and the occasional contribution to Sin City’s underground economy.

The weekend got off to a rather unsettling start when Landham greeted an unsuspecting me at his hotel room door wearing only a towel and a gold chain around his neck. After my cautious step back, Landham explained that he had just emerged from the shower following a massage on a sore right leg. Landham re-emerged a few minutes later ready for action. Though still somewhat shaken, I escorted Billy Bear to the main casino bar downstairs to meet my friends.

Once at the bar, Landham – who to my surprise stands approximately 6’2” instead of the 6’4” I was expecting – broke the ice by laying down his uncompromising political views to a mostly attentive audience. After hearing Landham’s views on abortion, about the state of Kentucky’s economy and The Establishment in general, we all agreed that a change in scenery in the form of a strip club was in order. To our relief, Landham agreed. We headed to the Olympic Gardens. While there, one feather-haired dancer confided in me that she's "been in this business for 27 years." To Landham’s credit, he left early.

He carries a big stick: Landham lines up a shot on the fourth hole par 5. Landham exhibited superb concentration on most shots, even with a cigarette dangling from his lips.
The following afternoon we proceeded to inflict irreparable damage to the fairways of a local golf course. What we assumed would be a leisurely round of 18 holes morphed into a five hour Marlboro and whisky fueled hack-and-slash session, during which a rented 3 wood was destroyed, profanities were screamed and countless golf balls were lost. The regular appearance of the beverage cart dulled the pain somewhat, as did the kindly driver's unflinching ability to make change from $50 and $100 dollar bills.

The next day found us strapped to the seats of a rented minivan in route to Hoover Dam. Though intended as a reprieve from two consecutive nights of drinking and smoking, the trip turned out to be an exercise in frustration as snarling traffic slowed the last miles to the dam to a crawl. Though obviously unimpressed, Landham was a sport to the end and didn't reveal until the ride home that he had already witnessed the dam up close during the filming of Best of the Best II.

Despite the potential for bedlam, Landham proved himself over the weekend to be every bit of the morally upright figure he presented during the Kentucky gubernatorial race in 2003 – even while reminiscing about some of his faster times in the 1980s. Landham recounted how after 48 Hrs. wrapped, he led co-star Nick Nolte and actor Gary Busey on a sleepless 16 day romp through the New York City party scene. Considering that Nolte and Busey were reportedly no strangers to the wild circuit, Landham's leadership of this motley crew (Landham says they were so rough looking no taxicab would pick them up) is all the more impressive.

Before retiring to our rooms on our last night in town, we left Landham with a comely blond we spied at the bar. He called me a couple of days later, and when I asked how the evening unfolded, he said would say only that things turned out fine. Some things never change.

1:22 PM


Thursday, January 15, 2004  

Those Masked Men Like Their Smokes: Mohawk Militants Burn, Lay Siege

Proving that ski masks never really went out of fashion, Mohawk militants lie in wait outside the police station
The Mohawk Indians of Canada once again proved that pretty much any political objective can be realized with the help of some friends from the neighborhood, some ski masks and a little something we in the states call first degree arson.

According to a story in the Boston Globe, on Tuesday masked Mohawk Indians in Kanesatake, Quebec, furious that tribal authorities intended to put an end to an allegedly flourishing cigarette smuggling and marijuana trade, laid siege to a tribal police building and blockaded a highway with felled trees. The night before, the self-described “warriors” burned down the home of Mohawk Grand Chief James Gabriel who, in Gabriel’s own words, “narrowly escaped being burned alive.”

The trouble reportedly began late Monday when Grand Chief Gabriel, in a move reminiscent of Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness in the 1987 film The Untouchables, appointed a new police chief in hopes of restoring law and order to the Kanesatake community. The new police chief, Terry Isaac, proceeded to assemble dozens of Mohawk law enforcement officers from outside the community in apparent preparation for raids against suspected cigarette smuggling operations and marijuana farms.

Somebody give this man a light: Grand Chief Gabriel narrowly escaped with his life when militants torched his house
That didn’t sit well with the Kanesatake locals, who accused Gabriel and Issac of selling the community down the river. “This isn't about cigarettes or pot, it's all politics,” Mohawk community activist Mavis Etienne reportedly said. “Our people are angered because we've been invaded by an outside force,” referring to the Indian police drawn from outside the area.

For his part, Gabriel, in hiding and speaking from an undisclosed location, claimed that he only wanted to restore law and order to the Tribe. Though Gabriel was able to lead himself and his family to safety, Gabriel’s dog was not so lucky.

As the siege outside the police station continues, Canadian federal authorities have thus far been reluctant to intervene. And for good reason. In a 1990 dispute over plans to build a golf course on a Mohawk cemetery, masked Mohawk militants faced down Canadian army troops in a lengthy standoff precipitated when a Quebec police officer was allegedly shot dead by the militants.

Speaking by phone with a Globe reporter from inside the besieged police building, Isaac tried to look on the bright side. “The protesters are still outside,” he said. “We're still inside.”

It should be noted that the 1990 standoff with Canadian army troops lasted 78 days.

11:03 PM

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