FLORIDA, July 3, 2012 — It would be no small understatement to say that David Yeagley’s views are controversial.
From matters of partisan politics to social psychology, his writings never fail to attract a diverse array of supporters and detractors. Beyond this, however, he is also a noted composer, scholar, and historian; not to mention the great-great-grandson of Comanche dignitary Bad Eagle.
How did Dr. Yeagley become such a voice for Native American interests in the realm of public affairs?
Joseph F. Cotto: Now that our discussion is at its end, many readers are probably wondering exactly how it was that you came to be one of the foremost voices in Native American political commentary. Tell us a bit about your life and career.
Dr. David Yeagley: I am a classical composer, as well as an academic. I have degrees from Oberlin Conservatory, Yale Divinity, Emory University, University of Hartford (Hartt School of Music), and the University of Arizona (Tucson). I was also a graduate student at Harvard for a short time, but completed no degree or certificate. I’ve been a Ford Fellow, a Kellogg Fellow, and in fact was the first Indian to enter Yale Divinity.
I am the first American Indian composer to be commissioned to write a movie score. The Oklahoma State Historical Society commissioned me to write the music score to a 1920 silent film, “Daughter of Dawn,” the first all-Indian cast and the first full-length Indian drama on film. It was premiered at the Dead Center Film Festival here in Oklahoma City, June 10.
I taught college at Oklahoma State University (OKC campus), University of Central Oklahoma, and the University of Oklahoma. While teaching ancient humanities at OSU-OKC, I developed some concepts of nationhood which led me to emphasize patriotism. Unless the people love the country, that country is short-lived. I took my complaints to the governor, and collaborated with Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating on the matter of teaching patriotism in public schools. He wanted a mandatory course for high school seniors before graduation. I provided a curriculum. Unfortunately, Democrat senator Penny Williams killed the bill on her desk.
In the meantime, I began writing regular articles for David Horowitz’ FrontPageMagazine, back when Richard Poe was the editor. I was soon appearing on shows like Hannity & Colmes, Bill O’Reilly, and C-Span. I also made a History Channel episode on “Comanche Warriors.” I was on many radio shows, beginning with Ken Hamblin, Scott Hennen, etc. I was a regular speaker for Young America’s Foundation, and spoke at colleges and universities across the country.
In time, however, my specificities about race, ethnicity, and the fundamentals of nationhood led me to make statements that were too controversial for many. I still speak occasionally, and publish articles from time to time. For the most part, however, I have been concentrating on composing symphonies, chamber works, and choral works.
I’ve always understood the American Indian to be the foundation of the United States. I’ve employed metaphoric language to communicate this. The white infant that washed up on our shores was the object of our charity and good will. He was the seed of giants, little did we know (and little did he know). We raised him. He is our adopted son, our step son. He grew to be a grand hero. He was mighty, and we should be mighty proud. Yes, he grew so big he pushed us out of our own house, but, I don’t think that was his plan. That was just an unexpected inevitability. I think the responsible thing for Indians to do is to continue our role as host, guide, and even savior.
I believe the Indian is the foundation of the American collective psyche. We are the wild side, the side of nature. We are the link to the land. Without us, America is not America. We have a profound responsibility for the preservation of this great nation.
The quintessentially American stories of our country’s native peoples are far too often marginalized, or simply ignored.
It is, in my opinion, our responsibility to learn about this nation’s history from a broad perspective. While even a cursory glance at the trials and tribulations of the United States is sure to include mentions of Sasquatch and Little Bighorn, far too much is left out.
Perhaps this information deficit can be attributed to the fact that Native Americans are badly underrepresented in the national media. From sitcoms to commentary programs, the rare mention of this crucial demographic usually boils down to sensationalist rhetoric at best, or crude stereotypes at worst.
Either way, the time has long since passed for a change. The pre-Founding Fathers deserve nothing less.