Sunday, June 30, 2019

Was Bass Reeves the Original Lone Ranger?

Hey, wanted to give everyone the heads up:

Western Magazine Digest will feature Martin Grams' research paper on Reeves Vs. The Lone Ranger connection this coming weekend!

Be sure to tune in to WMD this coming Sunday morning!
--Allan B. Colombo, publlisher

Thursday, June 27, 2019

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Celebrating Native Americans in the United States Military

After decades of broken promises and atrocities committed against their people, it makes us wonder sometimes as to why the Native Americans (especially the plains Indians) would want to serve in the military of the nation which severely oppressed so many of them.

But serve they did. And they served valiantly, and continue that tradition today.

Most of us remember the movie, “Windtalkers,” which depicted the degree of courage, honor, pride, and physical and mental toughness that was demonstrated by our Native American troops during WW-2. But their allegiance to America's causes began as far back as our Revolutionary War... Well sort of.

Pre-World War II

While there were some Native American tribes serving with the colonists, some served with the British who promised them their help to push back against the expansion of the settlers. And then again in the war of 1812, the Native Americans were pretty well divided as to who's side they were on.

During the Civil War, the Native Americans served valiantly for both sides. And in my opinion, the men of the Confederacy were just as much real Americans as those of the Union. So, I'd say that this was the first war where the Native Americans had fought wholly for American causes.

In The Spanish American War, Teddy Roosevelt didn't hesitate to recruit Native Americans into his famous fighting force called the Rough Riders when they went into battle in Cuba in 1898. And likewise, General John J. Pershing recognized the combat and scouting prowess of the Indians when they went against Poncho Villa in Mexico. But in the Mexican campaign, there were also four Native American Catholic Sisters from South Dakota who worked as nurses.

By the time that WW-1 erupted, more than 12,000 Native Americans stepped forward and volunteered to fight for the United States. Many of those troops were awarded high honors and medals, including France’s Croix de Guerre and the Church War Cross for courage. And what is interesting here is that when eight Choctow Indians who were assigned to a communications unit became surrounded by Germans, they were able to send tactical messages to our troops in their native language.

Yes. These were the first of the Code Talkers. Later, in WW-2, It would be members of the Navajo tribe who became so widely recognized. And also, as in the Mexican campaign, there were Indian women serving America in the Army Nurse Corps.

World War II

Native Americans had been granted citizenship by then, and were eligible for the draft. But the tribesmen did not wait for the draft. In record numbers, 44,500 signed up and served honorably in both the European and Pacific campaigns. No other ethnic group had a higher per-capita rate of participation in the war than our Native Americans. Which brings us again to the legend of the Navajo Code Talkers.

There were more than 400 Navajo Code Talkers deployed with the U.S. Marines throughout the Pacific. And as it was in WW-1 with the Germans, these Code talkers managed to stymie the Japanese who intercepted our U.S. military messages. The Navajo language was virtually impossible for our enemies to understand. But what some people are not aware of is the fact that likewise in the European campaign, seventeen Comanche Code Talkers served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and fought under brutal combat conditions as they faced the Germans. And in the same manner in which the Navajos fooled the Japanese in the Pacific, the Comanche Code Talkers prevented the Germans from interpreting U.S. messages.

One of the most iconic photos of a Native American in the service of our country is in the photo of the raising of the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima, where Ira Hayes, a full blood Pima Indian is shown among those other brave and dedicated Marines.

Post World War II

In the Korean conflict, our Native Americans again answered the call with an estimated 10,000-15,000 men who voluntarily enlisted.

A massive number of Native Americans signed up for duty in Vietnam, which has been estimated to be over 50,000 men.

Then in 1991, 3,000 Native Americans answered the call for Operation Desert Storm (the Persian Gulf War).

In the post-911 era, Native Americans continued to serve in a higher percentage than the veterans of other ethnic groups. 18.6 percent vs. 14 percent, respectively.

And there are currently approximately 31,000 Native American men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces. A great number of them are deployed to combat duty.

In recognition of the courageous service of our Native Americans, The Smithsonian's National Museum of The American Indian has spearheaded a project, which has now been commissioned by congress, to build a museum on it's grounds in Washington, DC that will honor our American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian veterans.

It is great to see that this acknowledgment will finally be taking place. It is hoped that the anticipated millions of annual visitors to the museum will gain an insight as to the service and sacrifices made by our Native American citizens as they answered the call to serve our nation.

Happy Trails
Gary Miller

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Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Many Faces of Sedona’s Red West - part 2

Previously, we explored Sedona’s rich history and examined some of the classic western films shot there. As the town was still being developed, major studios arrived, taking full advantage of the unique topography and open vistas, transforming the rural community into a ‘little Hollywood” that remains a significant industry today.

In this second part we’ll look back at a few more of the westerns that focused their lenses on the red rocks and finish up with a brief rundown on what to do and expect when visiting. On that note, one additional thing to consider; Temperatures in Arizona can reach the hundreds by June, leading some residents and businesses to vacate entirely during summer months, so plan accordingly when booking a trip. Finally, don’t be surprised if you encounter one of these! (part 2 follows)

Part II


In 1954, Burt Lancaster starred in and produced Apache, based on Paul Wellman’s novel, Broncho Apache, which proved a successful outing for Lancaster’s own production company. He portrays Massai, an Apache warrior who, after Geronimo’s surrender, escapes an army transport during relocation to a Florida reservation. He travels east on foot and takes up the Cherokee practice of farming corn, an Indian symbol of sustenance and a gift from the Great Spirit.

Co-starring Jean Peters as Massai’s lover and Charles Bronson as a traitorous Apache scout, there was no apparent attempt at casting actors with identifiable Native American physical traits.

Indeed, it now seems inappropriate and even laughable but one needs to take it in the context of the theatrical style of the 1950s. It‘s also easier to digest in light of the fact that by this point in time, Hollywood stories were being told from Indians’ perspectives. Ironically, it is the “blue-eyed Indians” that contemporary viewers will find unacceptable and not Massai’s patterns of violent spousal abuse.

Despite a dearth of realism and plot, the film holds up as an overall enjoyable and thoughtful adventure. The scenery too, can be fully appreciated here as the majority of Apache is set outdoors.

Johnny Guitar

Also, in color, from 1954 we have the classic, Johnny Guitar starring Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden. Crawford plays a saloon owner named Vienna, ensnared in a local war between cattlemen and a coming railroad. Vienna’s rival, Emma(Mercedes McCambridge), turns the screws on Vienna by rallying townspeople and some pernicious outlaws against her. An ally arrives in one Johnny Guitar(Hayden)and their relationship gets as hot as the action that follows.

Johnny Guitar’s production was a tumultuous and dysfunctional affair by many accounts and was not received well by critics at the time. As the years passed, viewers have picked up on its sexual undercurrents and allusions to McCarthyism. In Europe, especially, it has grown in reputation since 1954. Its storyline figures heavily into Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West as a deliberate homage.

Stay Away Joe

Elvis Presley’s movie career plays out stranger in retrospect, in part due to the decline of movie musicals, and 1968’s Stay Away Joe may be his strangest. Elvis plays Navajo rodeo rider Joe Lightcloud(it’s strange, already) who returns to his family’s home on a reservation which he turns into a cattle business. This results in a bull riding competition which Joe organizes to bankroll the business.

A strong supporting cast(Katy Jurado, Burgess Meredith and Joan Blondell) and plenty of Arizona scenery didn’t rescue the sitcom-styled comedy from critical slander. Actor L.Q. Jones claimed to have almost killed Elvis on the set after throwing a firecracker into his trailer as a prank. If only the cameras were rolling for that!

In any case, the King was now primed for a “comeback” and preparing to leave Hollywood for good.

Additional Landmarks to Visit

Whether you’re passin’ through or hangin’ up your hat for a spell, there’s a lot you’ll want to do in Sedona. Resorts, museums, entertainment and fun activities are all there, ready to be experienced. Here are some of them to consider:

Montezuma Castle National Monument

This captivating cliff dwelling alcove in nearby Camp Verde was once inhabited by the Sinagua and the Hopi almost one thousand years ago and is a testament to the indigenous peoples’ architectural ingenuity.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross

Built within a red butte, this Roman Catholic chapel has become an iconic landmark since its completion in 1957.

Kachina House

The largest distributor of Native American arts and crafts in the state, this shop boasts a fine variety of artwork, pottery, jewelry, artifacts and more.

Rainbow Trout Farm

For unbeatable fishing in the legendary Oak Creek Canyon, this fresh fish farm provides poles, bait, tables, barbecues and the perfect view to boot.

Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park

For some peaceful meditation after a good hike through the trails, you can visit this sacred Buddhist structure surrounded by juniper pines, sought for prayer and enlightenment for over two-thousand years. Ostensibly a paradox for this part of the world, it actually seems more and more appropriate considering the healing powers many say are inherent in the Sedona valley.

Sedona International Film Festival

To help celebrate Sedona’s rich cinema heritage, this nine-day festival features indie films of all kinds with guests from across the globe to help you take it all in.

Getting Around

Roam Sedona however you chose. Whether you prefer guided ATV tours, jeep rentals, horseback rides or balloon expeditions, it’s all available.

In conclusion, the next time you’re watching your favorite cowboy picture, look beyond the shoot-outs, stampedes, cavalry battles, stagecoach chases and cattle drives to stop and appreciate the view. Much like in real estate, the movie business can be summed up in three words-Location, location, location!

Christopher Robinson

The Many Faces of Sedona’s Red West - part 1

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