Is Yeagley Truly Indian? Actual Comanches Say No
Claiming to be a Comanche is clever. To the naive it makes Yeagley's white supremacist preachings look like self-criticism coming from within Native communities. At its worst, Yeagley's words of hate seem to provide "proof" for those on the far right that every stereotype they believe is somehow true.
Yet Yeagley's claim to be Comanche, like virtually everything else he says, is almost certainly an outright lie, fabricated for the most cynical and crassest of reasons. His claim to be Comanche does not stand up on even the most cursory of inspections.
For our non-Native readers, there are six standards widely used by Native people to say who is an Indian and who is not.
1. Self-Identification: Simply claiming to be one. As any Indian could tell you, this standard is almost useless unless combined with one of the others below. A great many people falsely claim to be Indian in addition to Yeagley. Whites have been playing at being Indian since at least the Boston Tea Party. Many whites romanticize Natives or want the moral authority and legitimacy Natives have. (I include Yeagley among them, who romanticizes what he falsely believes to be Indian warrior traditions.)
Self-identification is useless unless backed up by the word of Native communities. By this standard, Yeagley is NOT Indian unless he can show other Indians who say he is.
2. Knowing the culture of the tribal people you claim: This means far more than simple book learning and includes knowing the ways of a people that could only be learned by living as an Indian, within a Native community.
By the words of his OWN website, Yeagley did not know (and never particularly cared about) Comanche ways growing up. Despite having a Comanche stepmother, he was never raised in Comanche ways and was never taught them:
“Yeagley’s Comanche [step]mother did not raise her children (three boys and a girl) within Indian culture. She felt that culturally, socially, and professionally, this was a dead end….She also disagreed with many Indian ways and customs. Therefore, her children were raised with the values of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants….Yeagley was simply not taught Indian ways. Much of what he thought was ‘Indian’ came to him through his experience with whites."
So by this standard, Yeagley is NOT Comanche or Indian.
3. Acceptance by a Native community as a Native of that particular community. Relatedness or knowing who your extended family and clan members are remains incredibly important to Native people. Native elders and their communities keep extremely good tabs on who is or who is not related. Many can trace their genealogy further back than Great Britain's royal family.
By this standard, Yeagley is NOT Indian or Comanche. Kiowa activist Cinda Hughes investigated extensively within the Comanche Nation and could not find even one person who knew of him as Comanche:
"Most Indians who live around there own know who is who and what their family history is. Comanches who live around their own know a lot about their own tribal members. They know about such things as marriages, divorces, AND YES adoptions....I have no reason in the world to discount the word of my close friend who works for the Comanche Tribe....Everyone I asked had never heard of him till very very recently. No one in any of my families had heard of him (and they've been in the Lawton/Cyril/Anadarko/Cache areas for many many years, most on our original allotments thank you.) Last year when I asked a particular official Comanche historian about the Bad one's family, he didn't have any idea who I was talking about until I mentioned Bad Eagle (the original, not the new boy using that name,) and then he had some interesting things to say."
Many Comanches also state quite publicly that Yeagley is NOT accepted as one of them. Famed and respected Comanche educator and artist Juanita Padapony challenged his alleged Comanche ancestry and pointed out he did not represent Comanche views.
"I challenge his connection to the Comanche culture and Comanche people."
"David 'Pole-dances-for-white-guys' Yeagley...he's as far from being Comanche as Tonto was being a real representation of Indians."
Probably the most striking evidence that Yeagley is not Comanche comes from his own alleged family. None of his supposed blood brothers or sister came forward to defend him, not even to point out he is not lying about being related to them. To anyone familiar with Native communities, not defending a relative would be unthinkable.
4. "Living as an Indian:" To non-Natives this often-used phrase within Indian Country might take some explaining.
Living as an Indian includes both having the experiences common to other Natives and living for your people. Having Native blood or being descended from someone Native is not enough. Did you grow up on a reservation or within an urban Indian community? Did your family always have a strong sense of being Apache, Cherokee, Comanche, Lakota, Navajo, etc.? Did others think of you as an Indian and treat you as one (including discrimination)?
Just as important, do you live for your community? Do you always think what you can do to help your tribal people be strong and live well, or at least better than they live now?
By both aspects of this standard, Yeagley is NOT Comanche. As we saw in number 2, Yeagley had no experience growing up as Indian. Yeagley also does everything he can to tear down Native communities, disrupt and harm Native causes, and urges Indians to accept that white supremacists like him supposedly know what's best for Native people.
5. Native descent by blood: By itself, this means little unless you combine it with "living as an Indian." Many whites have (or claim to have) some small amount of Native ancestry. Many Latinos are partly or entirely of Native ancestry, yet do not identify as Native.
Yeagley himself admits there have long been “rumors” about his lack of ancestry, and often comes close to admitting his impersonation. Yeagley frequently states on his own forum, “You’re all much more Indian than me. So don’t worry about that argument anymore.”
The truly striking thing is, he often says that even to white critics.
A former neighbor of Yeagley's brother and childhood friend of Yeagley's niece reports that the entire family, father and children, looked like and identified as white, never as Indians:
"I grew up in a very white neighborhood in Oklahoma City. My family was probably the only family of any kind of color in that whole square mile. Directly across the street from my house was that of the Yeagley family...who I now know to be "Badeagle"'s brother's family. I actually grew up with his niece (who is the nicest person in the entire world, which is amazing when you consider who her uncle is). I spent many weekends playing at their house when I was a little girl and I was always known as "the cute little Indian girl from across the street." I was sort of a novelty to them, if you know what I mean. Not once in the entire 15 years that we lived across the street from them did they ever mention anything about being Indian at all, let alone Comanche. I actually just asked my mom today if she ever knew anything about them possibly being Indian. She was surprised as hell to find out that "Badeagle" Yeagley was the brother of the nice (and white, I might add) Mr. Yeagley we lived across the street from forever."
So perhaps the reason his alleged family members by blood don't defend Yeagley is that they too are white, and know it.
6. Enrollment or citizenship in a federally recognized Native tribe: But there have been fraudulent enrollments before. The most widely known was the famed Dawes Roll, where many whites managed to get themselves listed as Cherokee to obtain Cherokee land. Several New Age charlatans have also managed to get themselves fraudulently enrolled, namely Charles Storm AKA "Hyemeyohsts Storm" and Brooke Schiavi AKA "Brookie Craig" and over a dozen other false names used in her career as a serial con artist.
Schiavi's case may be the one that most closely resembles Yeagley's. Like Yeagley, Schiavi had a Native step-parent. Through a bureaucratic mistake, Schiavi enrolled and received a tribal ID card, which she then used to give the false appearance of being Indian. Schiavi, like Yeagley, went on to fool many naive whites into thinking she was their "Indian" leader. In Schiavi's case, she cheated people out of their money by posing as a Native or New Age healer. In Yeagley's case, he has used the false claim of being Comanche to obtain scholarships, fellowships, federal grants and employment, first by far right racist reactionary David Horowitz, then briefly by the National Museum of the American Indian.
The bigger question is if Yeagley's boss David Horowitz knew about Yeagley's impersonation, or if he even cares. Yeagley's impersonation was exposed over a year ago, again by Cinda Hughes. Rather than seek out the truth, Horowitz and FrontPageMag.com cheered on Yeagley's attempt to silence Hughes with legal threats. After all, were Yeagley to be exposed as the white man he is, they would have no professional Indian token.
Hughes pointed out that people within the Comanche tribal enrollment office stated Yeagley is not Comanche by blood or descent. He was adopted, and through a state agency, not by Native practices of informal adoption.
Yeagley's public response to Hughes was to issue legal threats at her and at the Native American Times. The Times issued a statement which did NOT back down from Hughes's original story:
"A piece in the 'Whisper' column erroneously implied that David Yeagley was not member of the Comanche Nation. Mr. Yeagley is in fact an enrolled member."
Notice that the Times pointedly avoided saying Yeagley was Comanche. Enrollment was never the issue, but whether he was enrolled by mistake.
Yeagley also produced his birth certificate when critics said he was adopted. But in closed adoptions, certificates are altered to show adopted children listed as birth children. It is possible that Yeagley could be adopted but never heard it from his adoptive parents. But it is very striking that Yeagley produces as “evidence” only written documents instead of doing what most Natives would do, discuss other Natives they are related to.
Again, the big mystery is why he does not ask his alleged blood relatives to speak out, including brothers and a sister. Or why they do not come forward themselves. That is almost as big a mystery as why anyone would continue thinking Yeagley is actually Comanche instead of simply a white racist imposter.
To continue to still believe that Yeagley is Comanche, one would have to claim that all the living Comanche elders are wrong, and that every famed and respected living Comanche leader is also wrong about Yeagley. Even in the extremely unlikely event that Yeagley actually has descent, it does not matter. Culturally, he's white as well as white supremacist. Actual Comanches neither want nor accept him, and their word counts far more than his.