OCALA, Fla., March 18, 2014 — One week ago today, America lost one of its most devoted patriots.
He was a native son of this land in a way which most of us could never be. Nonetheless, he despised the term “Native American”, instead preferring one ordained by the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution: “American Indian”.
Indeed, those two words describe Dr. David A. Yeagley to a tee. The great-great-grandson of Comanche dignitary Bad Eagle, Dr. Yeagley lived his life with one foot firmly, and proudly, planted in the past, another in the present, and both eyes focused on the future.
Dr. Yeagley also found prominence as an author of fiction and nonfiction literature, totaling eight published books which touched on subjects ranging from Iran’s displaced Pahlavi dynasty to Christian theology. Not one to leave stones unturned, he became involved with the film industry and made history as our nation’s first American Indian motion picture composer.
None of this even begins to touch on his work as a humanities and literature professor or, of all things, portrait painter.
In spite of such staggering accomplishments, Dr. Yeagley never put on the slightest of airs. He lived a life in service to his tribe, home state of Oklahoma, and in the broadest sense, United States of America. Until weeks before his death, Dr. Yeagley maintained an active blog where his opinions on almost every subject imaginable were shared.
Quite often, this journalist found himself in disagreement with not only Dr. Yeagley’s sociopolitical views, but how he chose to express them. Looking beyond this, though, Dr. Yeagley was a man of not just impeccable, but unimpeachable, honesty. His sincerity was accompanied by bountiful kindness, exceedingly high intelligence, and unbridled enthusiasm for all things America.
Without fear of reprisal, Dr. Yeagley brought a perspective to the American table which is almost always overlooked; namely that of a society which flourished long before Plymouth Rock was anything other than a boulder by the sea.
His tribalistic philosophy on American politics and history was politically incorrect in every way conceivable. Still, it harkens us back to a time when political parties were not even a figment of one’s imagination, and survival in accordance with respect for Mother Earth was all that mattered.
When the Founding Fathers spoke respectfully of Indian warriors with whom they fought, and in some cases befriended, they no doubt were discussing men such as Dr. Yeagley. Interestingly enough, his own family history was unique among American Indians, for Bad Eagle stressed assimilation to WASP-dominated American life.
This is not to say that Bad Eagle advocated the abandonment of Comanche traditions; far from it. He did acknowledge that his compatriots had lost their war with the Union, though. Rather than eek out an existence of perpetual victimhood, Bad Eagle chose the path of honor. This came about by integrating Comanches with American society, all the while maintaining their fabled history and social cohesiveness.
In short, Bad Eagle wished for his people to live as unhyphenated Americans. For him, being a loyal American gelled perfectly with being a fiercely proud Comanche. It is this standpoint which informed all facets of his great-grandson’s life.
Dr. Yeagley’s passing is all too soon; he was in his early sixties and recently won a very important legal fight. The outcome of this has national implications, as the plaintiff was an Internet activist who used cyberspace to disrupt a private gathering. Said plaintiff did this because he disagreed with the gatherers’ views.
The victory which Dr. Yeagley so richly deserved was a win for personal accountability in an age of impersonal online treachery.
In 2012, The Conscience of a Realist featured an eight-article interview series with Dr. Yeagley. This found unexpected popularity, and since then, he made several appearances in TCR. To think that will never happen again, aside from releasing unpublished material, is somewhat inconceivable.
Recognizing that Dr. Yeagley is now a part of history in the same way as Bad Eagle proves a far greater burden.
When all is said and done, however, the facts are what they are. This is not to say that Dr. Yeagley is gone forever, though. If one looks to an American flag on some breezeless afternoon and waits for the wind pick up, the stars and stripes will unfurl themselves and flutter majestically in the wind.
At this time, it should be clear that Dr. Yeagley, working with the Great Spirit, of course, is reminding us to be proud of who we are — Americans, with no ifs, ands, or hyphenations.
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