Dr. David Yeagley: The role of American Indians in politics

Dr. David Yeagley
Dr. David Yeagley

FLORIDA, July 13, 2012 — David Yeagley’s views on sociopolitical matters, along with his stunningly varied career as an artist and scholar are known but what about his relationship with fellow Comanches? What do they think about Dr. Yeagley? Has he ever officially worked for the tribe? How, specifically, does he contribute to his people?

One of America’s foremost voices in Native American conservatism explains.


Question: Let’s talk about the Comanche people, and your relation to the tribe. What do Comanche people think about you, or, is that a fair question? Answer: David Yeagley:  It is a fair question.  I started professional commentary on Indian affairs before very many Comanche people knew exactly who I was.

They knew who my mother was, and her family.

My mother grew up in southwest Oklahoma, where our Comanche land allotment is—on Beaver Creek, near Walters. I, however, was born and grew up in Oklahoma City; and then I went to school at Oberlin (Ohio), Yale (Connecticut), Emory (Georgia), Hartt (Connecticut), and University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ).

I was a Ford Fellow, a Kellogg Fellow, and had an art/lecture show on my Comanche family.  I was the only Indian artist to create a genealogy in portraiture of five generation of a single Comanche family.  It was shown at Yale Peabody, Andover Peabody, Boston’s “Presidents Church” in Quincy, and the National Hall of Fame for American Indians in Anadarko, Oklahoma.

But, this did not make me well-known among the Comanche people of the Lawton, OK area.

It was my political commentary for David Horowitz’ FrontPageMagazine.com that made me a real public figure—on a national level.  (I got personal calls from people like Ross Perot, and personal correspondence from Ted Nugent, etc.)  I was on national radio and TV within weeks, including Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.  I was later featured in two documentaries (History Channel and Danish Public TV), commenting on Comanche history and contemporary issues.

I think, however, that probably the most important event which brought me into Comanche inner-tribal issues was the matter of Rudy Youngblood, the star of Mel Gibson’s movie, Apocalypto.  I publically asked Rudy who his parents were, who his Comanche family was.  He refused to answer.  Apparently, Rudy is no Indian at all, though had a national reputation for being Comanche.  I exposed the baseless claim.  He admitted to the Los Angeles Times that his claim was false. All this was concurrent with the celebrations the Comanche people held in honor of Rudy.   It was an intense time.

I became known for a fierce protection of Comanche identity and integrity.  After that, people in the entertainment business have contacted me to verify if a certain actor or singer was really Comanche as they claimed.

Q: Have you ever worked for the tribe, officially? Have you ever held office?

A: No.  I was nominated to run for Vice-Chairman in 2007.  (In Comanche tradition, you can’t run for office unless someone else nominates you.)  I did not win.  I was nominated to run for Chairman this year, 2012, but again, I did not win.

Certainly, the campaign for chairman was an opportunity to present new ideas.

In fact, I campaigned on the most radical, progressive ideas ever put before the Comanche people.  For example, my first point in my platform was to sell the tribe.  We need to be a private entity, under a corporate model, not an archaic bureaucracy.  We need a private contract, not a government treaty.  Under private contract, we could write our own terms, and thus obtain real sovereignty. I also advocated the preservation of what remains of our blood lines.

Honor the full-bloods, I said. This is the basis of our existence, blood, not ideology.

This, of course, offended many Comanche people who are in mixed marriages, and have mixed children.  I campaigned on ideas I thought would provide the best future for the tribe. All I did was prove that Comanches are conservative, and don’t really want change.  They voted for the beloved Wallace Coffey, by nearly 60%.  Coffey has been chairman several times in the recent past.  He is a true Comanche.  If I hadn’t run for office myself, I would have voted for him!

Q: Needless to say, you have accomplished many things, which may be of collateral benefit, by association. But, what specifically have you contributed to your people?

A: I was commissioned by the Oklahoma State Historical Society to write a full-length symphonic movie score to the 1920 silent film, “Daughter of Dawn,” by Norbert Miles.  This was the first movie with an all-Indian cast, and I was the first Indian to be commissioned to write a full-length movie score.  The film features all Comanche and Kiowa actors.

I, of course, am Comanche.  I say I achieved this for Comanche people.

“Daughter of Dawn” was debuted in Oklahoma City’s Dead Center Film Festival, June 10, 2012.  Cherokee actor Wes Studi came for the debut. I created a New Constitution in 2007, and submitted it to various tribal authorities.  I attempted to incorporate our natural social behavior and psychological intuitions into a corporate organization.  I want a system which accommodates our natural, genetic coding, as it were.  I believe much strife and inefficiency can be eliminated with such an ‘organic’ method of governance.

I can’t say the New Constitution has received much formal attention, much to my regret. Again, Comanche people are resistant to change, thus proving my point again, Indian people are naturally conservative. Actually, the most immediate, useful contribution I have made has been ComancheMedia, a new LLC devoted to the cause of improving communication among all Comanche people—those living in the Lawton area (southwest Oklahoma), as well as those living elsewhere, out of state, or out of country (in the military).

This company was formed by me and my partner, Nick Tahchawwickah, in 2010, registered in the state of Oklahoma.  We were the first company ever to live-stream a tribal council meeting—the Comanche Nation General Council, 2010.  This was noted in Indian Country Today, April 23, 2010.

Communication is the future for the tribe, and ComancheMedia is the cutting edge.  We look for investors in this new enterprise. ComancheMedia (ComancheMedia.com, and on facebook.com) is independent owned, and not funded by the Comanche tribe, and this allows us the freedom that true journalism and news media really need.  We have conducted many interviews with tribal leaders and individual members, and have broadcast numerous events, such as hymn sings, fairs, and pow-wows, as well as official tribal meetings, monthly and annually.

I also want to mention the Bad Eagle Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit, formed in 2004.  I formed this IRS-approved foundation for the purpose of development of positive image building for not only Comanches, but for all American Indian people. This includes media, publishing, recording, and advocacy of social development.  Though independent from the Comanche Nation, per se, I have always intended for it to be used by Comanche people.

It was used recently, for example, in a Native American Cultural Arts festival in Cache, Oklahoma.

Last but not least, I consider my own web site, BadEagle.com, to be a contribution to the Comanche people.  It is my attempt to demonstrate that Indians have opinions about the world.  We are not totally isolated and indifferent.  We can think.  We have opinions about Serbia, abortion, space, and government.  I more or less offer myself as an example.  Whatever I am and whatever I can do, belongs to the Comanche people.  If they want it, it’s theirs.  If they don’t, then I go out and hunt again, and bring back some other kind of meat.

Maybe they’ll like that instead.  The point is to be a warrior—which means to be a servant, a provider, and a protector.  It’s not personal.  A warrior cannot afford to be offended.  He will slack on his job.

Q:  How do Indians across the country regard you, in general?

A: I think this has changed.  In the beginning, when I challenged Russell Means (on Hannity & Colmes) over the mascot issue, most of the liberal-trained professional protester Indians all despised me, or certainly opposed me rigorously—particularly the feminist types, or the mother-earth type, like Winona LaDuke.  These were all a bit older than I, and all were associated with radical Left protesting.

When I burst onto the scene, through Horowitz’ FrontPageMagazine.com, they were hotly angered.  The old AIM (American Indian Movement) vanguard, like the Bellecourts, Banks, Peltiere, etc., could not help but be deeply offended.  I insulted their life work as Commie-supported street activists. But as Indians have come to realize that the Democrat Party has done nothing but talk, many of the old leaders have been willing to consider other ideas.

Russell Means has always had more of an open mind than the rest.  He supported Republican John Thune, for instance, who ousted Democrat Tom Daschel.  Russell Means is not afraid of new ideas.  And other activists began to open their minds.  Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux, Betty Ann Gross, for example, when interviewed by Sports Illustrated (March 4, 2002) about the Indian sports mascot issue, stated that there was a major disconnect between the activists and the Indian people.  The people were not concerned about the mascots at all.  It was the professional protesters who, supported by liberal media, created the concern. I think that conservatism will be the new Indian approach to solving Indian problems.

It takes time, but, as Indians understand “Indianness” as a conservative political position, I believe that Indian people will develop a positive regard for the American political process.  At least, I surely hope that the conservative movement will come to regard the American Indian as a valuable, even precious asset to the conservative cause.   T

hat I would like to see.  That has been my goal for over ten years now.  I am most grateful to you, Mr. Cotto, for giving me this opportunity to share my experience with the public.


Family identity is very important in Native American life. How does Dr. Yeagley’s family play into his unique story? Speaking of which, how is his family regarded? Is there generational resentment? Was his great-great-grandfather, the storied dignitary Bad Eagle, really considered a traitor? Furthermore, some people have challenged Yeagley’s entire Indian identity, even to the point of claiming that Bad Eagle did not exist.

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