DVD Review: In the Tradition of the Warrior
A History of Modern-day Comanche Veterans
By Dr. David A. Yeagley
Mike Tosee and Lanny Asepermy have put together the most unique American Indian DVD to date. With producer and script writer Bill Curtis, In the Tradition of the Warrior has established a precedent by which all other American Indian productions will be measured. The 86 minute DVD brandishes the Comanche Nation seal, and the date of 2009.
The pure solipsism of the Comanche mind is present throughout the text, and the opening presentation of Comanche tradition is as objective as only true solipsism can make it. This work is authentic, in a way that few Indian documentaries are, or that few writers and producers know how to be.
Solipsism, from the Latin, solus ipse (“self alone”) simply means that the reality known and experienced in one’s own mind is all-sufficient, and no other reality exists, or it is certainly not important. This is the soul of the Comanche, and accounts for everything unique about the Comanche people in history.
Based on the research of Tosee and Asepermy research, the Curtis narrative inevitably outlines the shape of the Comanche mind in the simple telling of the story. The history of the warrior tradition since 1875 creates its own image of the Comanche.
The simplicity and beauty of the narrative carry the content with a grandeur that perhaps only Comanche people can fully appreciate. Nevertheless, the text is explicit and perfectly communicable. Non-Indians, or even Indians of other tribes, will surely understand something of themselves inherent. This is the nature of true solipsism. The most faithful adherence to oneself produces the most universal images—meaningful to all humanity. In other words, the true Comanche life is humanity in its purest, simplest form. Therefore, all human beings can respond to this narrative.
The Comanche mind, manifested in history, is still present today, very much alive, and continuing in full force. The documentary demonstrates how the original Comanche mind went through a historical transition. The warrior image disappeared from the people after 1875. The Comanche warrior experienced a hiatus, a suspension of being, during the first generations after the wars against America had ended. Not until the Comanche found a place in the wars for America did he recovered his full identity as a Comanche, war–the supreme honor for the Comanche. Beginning in World War I, and every American war since, including the war in Iraq, Comanches have served in the American armed forces.
The Tradition of the Warrior contains many interviews with living Comanche veterans and family relatives of deceased veterans. Very precious statements are gleaned, especially those of Ed Mahseet (Vietnam). One WWII Comanche POW said to German soldiers who questioned why an American Indian would fight for America, “Our land has been taken from us before. I don’t want it taken again.”
There is, however, an implied reticence in the narrative to honor American patriotism. Indeed, the term “American patriotism” is not heard in the narrative, though love and service to one’s country, and self-sacrificing devotion to one’s people, are expressed many times as part of the Comanche warrior’s motivation.
The documentary is not flawless. There are a number of chronological glitches, but this seems unavoidable, given the scope of the story. The music soundtrack is rather amateur and somewhat incongruent. However, there is not a moment of pretense in the work. It is true to the Comanche spirit, and that is what is significant.
A young CO of the USMC,
Capt. Raymond C. Portillo, ca. 1945.
There is less coverage of the Pacific Theatre of WWII than of the other wars, but that’s easily remedied. For example, my late uncle (my mother’s brother), Lt. Col. Raymond C. Portillo, was a highly decorated officer in the US Marine Corps. He led the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, of the marines in the beachhead of Okinawa (Japan). He was later awarded the Bronze Star. I’m sure there are many Comanche veterans who were not included in the Curtis narrative. Lt. Col. Portillo’s son (my cousin), for example, Lt. Col. Dave Portillo, also a Marine, served in the Iraq, and is an active Marine today. This kind exclusion is rarely intentional. Resources tend to reflect who is available at the time, and what circumstances allow. I do note there are no young veterans in the documentary.
Lt. Col. Dave Portillo, son
of Lt. Col. Raymond C. Portillo
The Tradition of the Warrior nevertheless puts the image of the Comanche warrior in a historical context that is compelling. It deserves preeminence in American Indian documentary. It captures the soul of the Comanche, and as such, represents something with which all people of the world can identify.
To purchase The Tradition of the Warrior, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. The price is $15.00, money order or cashiers check payable to the CIVA (Comanche Indian Veterans Association). The price includes shipping. Also please visit the official Comanche Nation web site, and the Comanche Veterans page.