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Ft.Sill vs. the Comanches

by David Yeagley · September 7, 2008 · 19 Comments ·

Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma, the largest field artillery base in the United States (during WWII), has decided to try and challenge the Comanche Indian Nation. Ft. Sill wants to build a non-descript “storage facility” or “warehouse” training center on Medicine Bluff, the most beautiful and most sacred land of the Comanche people today. This is right outside Lawton, Oklahoma. I find it hard to believe that the commanding personnel of the present forces at Ft. Sill would find it to their advantage to try to get by with such an unnecessary and egregious offense.


Medicine Bluff. PHOTO by Nick Tahchawwicka.

There is little news about this significant breach of common sense and trust by Ft. Sill. The Lawton Constitution, the small, local Lawton paper, has even a smaller online edition, for which they charge a fee. The Daily Oklahoman has kept it as quiet as possible, and they charge for archives. Their piece came out August 23. The Norman Transcript has a piece available online: Federal injunctions prevents Ft. Sill from building on sacred ground. It is an AP wire, however.


Medicine Bluff. PHOTO by Nick Tahchawwicka.

One of the first pieces of the news of the conflict was first put in clear print I believe on Comanche Nick Tahchawwikah’s site, Meruawe, (scroll half-way down), then apparently copied by Indianz.com. Nick then posted their ‘official’ version. The Tulsa World decided to put up the AP “injunction” piece today, Sunday, September 7. The temporary restraining order was issued by US District Court on August 18.

Intertribal Times posted a piece July 30. NativeBiz had something August 23. KSWO Lawton put in a piece July 30. In all the accounts, the purpose and function of the Ft. Sill intrusion are unclear, uncertain, and are entirely irrelevant to Comanche lands. The Ft. has land in all directions. There is absolutely no reason for the Ft. to strike out against Comanche people in this rather stupid manner.

“Storage facility,” “warehouse training center,” what does this mean? What is going to be stored there, something the army can’t store somewhere else–because white communities won’t allow it? I mean, where’s the research here on this matter? Where are all those “investigative” reporters who are always so proud and arrogant?


Chief of the Comanches, Wallace Coffey

The Comanches have the upper hand on this matter, historically, legally, and honestly. Ft. Sill officials have utterly misrepresented not only themselves (their privilege), but the Comanche Nation. One Col. Robert Bridgford claimes there was long consultation with the Comanche Nation. Comanche spokesman and NAGPRA rep. William Voelker says the Col. is lying. No such consultation transpired. As early as February, Voelker had notified the Ft. of the unacceptable intrusion into Comanche life and territory. In July, the Ft. received its official notice from the Comanche Nation (signed by Chief Wallace Coffey) that the intrusion was unacceptable, and garrison commander Bridgford was asked to move the location of the “warehouse” site.

The Ft.’s behavior is outrageous and unacceptable. All Indians in America should be outraged. Of all the “warrior” tribes of the southwest, the Comanches have the greatest name, and I hasten to add, in modern times, the Comanche Nation has been the most well-known for cooperation with the non-Indian community. The Comanche Nation has made every possible effort to get along with the Lawton community and evirons, and, to this day, even with four casinos, the Comanche Nation has not encountered any significicant or publicized opposition (or even problem) with the communities around these casinos. This modern record, of the formerly most warring, conquering people, says something mighty grand about the Comanche Nation.

That Ft. Still commandos would try to act like John Wayne, and take on the Comanches–to what, boost their military reputation?–is practically laughable, considering the idiotic and dishonest, slip-shod way they are trying to launch this mock attack. Of course, Comanche people take the land issue with dead seriousness. The Ft. commanders appear like jokesters in this silly incident. I hate to say such things, being the American patriot I am, and having had so many relatives (including my own father) serve the country through Ft. Sill. But, this incident is so unnecessary, so offensive, and so “secretive” and misrepresented by the Ft., I must rebuke Ft. Sill commanders with the strongest language. They are making fools of themselves.


Major General Peter M. Vangjel, Commandant, Ft. Sill

Their foolishness will be revealed in Oklahoma Federal Court, on 4th Street, between Robinson and Harvey, downtown Oklahoma City, just south of the Murrah Bombing Memorial. Case CIV-08-849-D: Comanche Nation vs. USA. It is this coming Wednesday and Thursday, September 10 and 11, Court Room No. 503 (fth floor), south hall of building. (The deposition of Comanches leaders was taken last week.) The hearings start at 9:00 a.m. I encourage every Indian in Oklahoma to be present. Certainly, every Indian in Oklahoma City, and in the greater metro area should be present. It is open to the public. (Media cannot record.) This is an issue of grave import.

As a Comanche, who was nominated to run for vice-chairman last November, I can only wish that I had more authority to make clear the importance of this issue. The Comanche people have such a mighty history–of terror, indeed. Yet, in modern times, as I said, the Comanche Nation has created a wonderful reputation for working with all its neighbors. That the chaotic conglomerate called Fort Sill should allow an ambitious Colonel to muck up decades of trust and community relations–for clearly unnecessary and offensive motivation, with probably a lot of personal ambition–is a tragic and stupid catastrophy in Indian-white relations.

Everyone knows my position on American patriotism. One can’t be more pro-American. Everyone knows my position of nationhood, and on the value of preserving it–both American Indian nations and the American nation. This current mis-manoeuver on the part of Fort Sill is a crime against both American patriotism and against American Indian nations. The commander of Ft. Sill, Major General Peter M. Vangjel, must end this logistical error immediately. Perhaps I error in my judgement of Col. Robert Bridgford. Perhaps he is just following orders. My apologies to him, if this is so. Maybe someone else, above him, is trying to be John Wayne. (Or, are they even in communication at all over this?)


Colonel Robert Bridgford, USArmy, Ft. Sill

For now, I am covering this story. I know there is a lot going on in American politics right now. The Bad Eagle Journal (BadEagle.com) has been covering the McCain-Palin story. And I know Ft. Sill is heavily involved in Iraq, and I know many Oklahomans have sons and daughters abroad. I mean in no way to diminish the spectacular, historical service of the US Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, nor any of its personnel.

What I mean to do is keep them from a very ill-advised, offensive, and needless faux pas, from which they will not recover in terms of public relations should they remain adamant.

Join me in supporting the right thing here. See you in court this Wednesday! (And thanks to Annette Arkeketa for the email notice of the court date.) And you might want to call Fort Sill’s Public Relations: 580-442-4500 or 580-442-2521. Let them know your opinion. Let them know how bad this looks for Fort Sill. Email them at: media-sill@conus.army.mil.


Medicine Bluff. PHOTO by Nick Tahchawwicka.

Posted by David Yeagley · September 7, 2008 · 7:40 pm CT · ·

Tags: Bad Eagle Journal




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19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David Yeagley // Sep 7, 2008 at 7:55 pm   

    And I have to say, too, the service that American Indians in general have paid to the United States military–almost 100,000 living vets these days, and Comanches especially, including the famous Normandy Code Talkers of WWII, and my own family in particular, with USMC officers, air force, navy, and army servicemen in the ranks, that Ft. Sill should pull a stunt like this is so improprietous it is nearly unbelievable.

  • 2 Terry Morris // Sep 7, 2008 at 8:19 pm   

    This is the first news I’ve personally heard of this, but it sounds to me like the ‘ol “eminent domain”, fifth amendment crap that I’ve personally long been opposed to. It’s not unique to Indians in Oklahoma, but Indians have the same right to their property that whites have. We’re all in this together!

  • 3 David Yeagley // Sep 7, 2008 at 9:50 pm   

    Yeah, the irony is probably as strong if not stronger, to be white, and have your white government take what’s yours! Ha. Ouch!

    I’m still pondering that Revolutionary War. WASPs against WASPs. How could it happen?

    The land. I guess that’s the first priority. Controlling the territory. Land divides brother against brother, let alone Indian against white.

  • 4 Dat Beast // Sep 7, 2008 at 11:39 pm   

    Mr. Yeagley, you hit it right on the head, there, Brother!!! It has been that way since the begining, and it will be that way until the end times. You’d think that there was somewhere else they could build this instead of on a sacred site.

  • 5 Terry Morris // Sep 8, 2008 at 5:23 am   

    The land. I guess that’s the first priority. Controlling the territory. Land divides brother against brother, let alone Indian against white.

    Well, this isn’t just a white man thing. Indians fight with one another over property rights too.

    I did want to clarify something I said before…

    I’m not saying that I think the “takings” clause in the fifth amendment is illegitimate. I’m simply saying that it’s being abused under our current liberal order. It used to be that it was extremely difficult to “take private property for public use,” as the U.S. Supreme Court has recently noted in Kelo et al vs. New London among other cases. Now it seems all too easy for the government to take private property for public use, and without “just compensation.” It used to be understood that the only person who could rightfully determine the value of a given piece of property was/is the property owner himself. But that’s all changed now, and the government determines what a given piece of property is worth, pays it, and calls that “just compensation.” So quite literally, though we think otherwise, individuals no longer own their property, we just possess it on loan. And that’s a big, big problem that a free people cannot allow to stand, whether it involves Indians or whites, or whomever.

  • 6 David Yeagley // Sep 8, 2008 at 9:07 am   

    Certainly there are other places to build! In all directions. This is the information that must be made public. This is the information that’s critical. Why the Comanche land?

    The Army is looking very bad on this one. Very bad.

  • 7 Jim // Sep 8, 2008 at 12:51 pm   

    In the past you’ve said that the Comanche had no religion and traveled in individual groups with little or no connection to one another.

    So can you tell me why Medicine Bluff is sacred to the Comanche?

    If the Comanche have a real estate dispute that’s one thing. But to all of a sudden claim this hill is “sacred” is another.

  • 8 Terry Morris // Sep 8, 2008 at 1:42 pm   

    Jim,

    There’s an informative article at Wikipedia that might be helpful to you. Just google Quanah Parker.

  • 9 David Yeagley // Sep 8, 2008 at 2:09 pm   

    The issue of “sacredness” is not something I would dispute, or even really bring into the matter, personally. Original Comanche, straight out of the Rockies, apparently had no organized “religion.” No social strata of authority. No gatherings, no feasts, no concepts, nothing to indicate a communal recognition–of themselves or of any superior being. None that there is any semiological evidence for. We’re talking before 1700, through most of that century.

    What might be called “spirituality” or “religious faith” was entirely personal. It did not manifest itself in a group activity or formality of any kind.

    This is early. Later, Comanches apparently developed deeper, more complex communications of the same, simple, deep and abiding regard.

    No, I don’t think Comanches mean “sacred” in just the same way other, more complex tribes mean it. What does sacred mean? You have an idea yourself, Jim? Are you sincere here? Are you going to dispute something for which you yourself have no clear idea? That does happe a lot. It is an easy thing to dispute. This is why I would not make this “sacred” think an argument, necessarily. Anyone can regard anything as sacred. Does that make it sacred. I’ve written a book on this matter, in fact: Altered States.

    The point here is that Comanche people do hold Medicine Bluff (hint? get the name?) “sacred,” and always have, since it was part lands. History records bear this all out. Ft. Sill doesn’t have a leg to stand on in this case. It is sheer and unnecessary aggression on their part.

    There is such a thing as religious “development,” otherwise, Europe (white people)could never claim Christianity. Keep that in mind, if people are going to make an argument about “sacredness.”

  • 10 Terry Morris // Sep 8, 2008 at 2:41 pm   

    Well, according to Biblical Christian teaching property ownership IS sacred. Otherwise why would God declare “Thou shalt not steal”?

  • 11 Phidoux // Sep 8, 2008 at 3:57 pm   

    David

    Then I take it this event may alter your stance on Indian Land claims?Phi

  • 12 David Yeagley // Sep 8, 2008 at 5:10 pm   

    Phi, I have always had the same beliefs about Indian land claims–which is the wrong way to word it anyway. There were wars. The government “settled” by treaty. We were left alive, on certain lands. What’s the issue?

    The entire Ft. Sill area is leased to the US government by the Comanche-Kiow-Apache tribes. Comanches, for instance, conceded to share with the state the administration of the Wichita Wild Life Refuge. That’s ours, too, historically.

    Medicine Bluff belongs to the Comanche, as I understand it. The “industry” the Ft. wants to set up is right beside it, right at the base of the bluff, according to the cited injunction (linked in this blog).

    This is why I’m going to the court hearing on this. I don’t know the details. They haven’t been published.

    The injuction (Aug. 18) clearly states that the cause of Comanche protest is the fact that Medicine Blugg is in fact long held sacred by the Comanches. That has been its function–as obviously indicated by the name.

    Unnecessarily building this Ft. “warehouse” right at the base of the bluff is like bulding a giant brothel (casino?) directly next to a cathedral, or a church. It is wholly inappropriate. In this case, wholly unnecessary on the part of the Ft. They have many other places to build.

    My point, again: why at Medicine bluff. Why hidden away? What is this “warehouse?” What are they really planning. The Ft. has been deceptive, dissembling, and dishonest, up to this point, in their communications about the project. So it appears.

  • 13 David Yeagley // Sep 8, 2008 at 5:18 pm   

    If you will look at the injunction, or the temporary restraining order (which apparently no one has bothered to do), you’ll see as much detail has has been made available to the public.

    The court charged the Comanche Nation $25,000.00 as a “security.” The Ft. claimed it was going to lose $1,800.00 a day for the delayed construction.

  • 14 Phidoux // Sep 8, 2008 at 5:21 pm   

    “The government “settled” by treaty”

    So I take it that Ft Sill and this proposed “Warehouse” are within the confines of Comanche treaty terratory?

  • 15 David Yeagley // Sep 8, 2008 at 5:30 pm   

    The whole Ft. is in the middle of Comanche-Kiowa-Apahce lands–which were ours based on an agreement to lease to the Ft., I think.

    Personally, I just don’t want to see more beautiful land needlessly trashed by arrogance. The Ft. simply needs to build this trash site elsewhere. And, like I said, they really haven’t identified what this “storage facility-warehouse training center” is all about. Sounds way too phoney for me.

    Leave the land alone!! As much as possible, whenever possible. That’s a rule of thumb for any sensible, rational human being.

    For me, it is not about religion, not communal religion. I have my own. I’m a little more in tune with the older Comanche days. To each his own. Po-ha-cut (medicine, power, etc.) was wholly personal.

    But the invasion of the white man evolved a certain group consciousness among Comanche. Communal experience did in fact develope. Medicine Bluff is indeed a communal site of Comanche religious sentiment, Comanche identity. Comanche self-awareness. Whatever.

    Most of us have heard stories about events and happenings there, from yesteryear.

    I’m a little weird when it comes to “Indian” religion, myself. I don’t use myself as an example. I have my ways. But they are personal, and not communal. (Remember, Bad Eagle was related to Ishatai, according to Tree Top (Clifford Seymour.) This is more of the old way of po-ha-cut. Not about communal ceremony or group religion. But, I don’t represent Comanche communal religion. My personal ‘condition’ is I believe quite irrelevant to this situation. I know what Medicine Bluff means to Comanche people. It means the same to me, therefore.

  • 16 David Yeagley // Sep 8, 2008 at 7:29 pm   

    Note: to readers, the posts of “TOM” will be deleted as soon as I see them. Please do not respond, or your post will seem irrelevant to the thread.

    TOM has also been banned from BadEagle.com. A cowardly liberal who is no longer welcome here. My patience is at and end. No more “TOM.”

  • 17 cipher // Sep 8, 2008 at 7:32 pm   

    Dr. Yeagley,

    The ranks of colonel, general and so forth aren’t filled with dashing men of daring deeds so much as professional politicians, managers, and bureaucrats. Most of them would be right at home in a division management position at any Fortune 500 global corporation. The venue for victory therefore is in a court of law. Your (the Comanche peoples’) lawyers vs. the Army’s lawyers – who themselves will no doubt call upon lawyers from other federal bureaucracies (and there are hundreds of federal bureaucracies to choose from) for support should the Comanche’s lawyers begin to prevail. Be prepared.

  • 18 David Yeagley // Sep 8, 2008 at 7:55 pm   

    Yeah. You’re quite right. I’m afraid this might be drawn out, for a good while.

    We have spent a fortune on our “tribal” attorneys, none of which are even Comanche. This has always seemed like a rip-off in itself. Yet, we need a good team of attorneys. Always.

  • 19 David Yeagley // Sep 9, 2008 at 9:08 am   

    Oklahoma Federal Court
    4th Street, between Robinson and Harvey, downtown Oklahoma City
    Just south of the Murrah Bombing Memorial.

    Case CIV-08-849-D: Comanche Nation vs. USA. It is this coming Wednesday and Thursday, September 10 and 11
    Court Room No. 503 (fth floor), south hall of building.
    The hearings start at 9:00 a.m.

    (The deposition of Comanches leaders was taken last week.) I encourage every Indian in Oklahoma to be present. Certainly, every Indian in Oklahoma City, and in the greater metro area should be present. It is open to the public. (Media cannot record.)

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