In July, 2012, I was interviewed by Sally Jacobs of the Boston Globe. Jacobs published her piece “Elizabeth Warren’s family has mixed memories about heritage” on September 16 (that would be Rosh Hashanah), nearly two weeks ago. I discovered it, without being notified, on September 25 (that would be Yom Kippur).
The subject I was interviewed about was being Indian in Oklahoma in the 1960′s. The purpose, as I understood it from Ms. Jacobs, was for me to give an account of my personal experience, and that of my older brother Fred, so that she could have more insight into the experience of Elizabeth Herring Warren Mann. Elizabeth was in the class of my older brother, two years ahead of me. We all went to Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City. A professional journalist, Ms. Jacobs wanted the advantage of first hand sources.
Elizabeth Herring Warren Mann, smooth operator, successful Democrat.
I spoke an length with Ms. Jacobs, at least twice, on the telephone. I also exchanged a number of significant emails with her. I’d not been interviewed personally in this way on this topic. Since my older brother Fred has passed in 2000, I was the sole resource on what it was like to be Indian in Oklahoma City, at Northwest Classen.
Ms. Jacobs was the kindest, most sympathetic inquirer one could ever hope to encounter in the professional field. The tone and tenor of her voice bespoke a wonderful warmth, sincerity, and genuine purpose. The nature of her questions indicated her intuitive understanding of ethnicity (she being Jewish) and her candid desire to know the truth. Or, so it seemed to me.
I revealed details I haven’t spoken of in decades. I mentioned an article written about me in the school news paper after I had performed the Rubenstein piano concerto with the Oklahoma City Symphony. (This was in 1965, some months after I had turned 14. I actually won the contest when I was 13, after only three years of piano study.) The headline read: “Prodigy Runs the Gamut from Tom-tom to Bach.” The article contained a completely fabricated joke about my Comanche mother–which I hotly protested.
I and my older brother were constantly teased for being Indian. We were outstandingly talented, in many ways, and the fact that we were Indian seemed to dramatize our personae. We were targeted. I usually ignored it. I was called “black boy” (I think because of my being the only kid with black hair) growing up until the year just before 1965.) After one of my performances with the symphony, a wealthy donor came up to me and asked, “Are you Japanese?” People simply could not conceive of an American Indian playing classical piano. It was too out of place.
My older brother Fred was not so accommodating. He was in physical fights, often, from being teased. “Red Eagle,” they said was his real name. Fred Yeagley, minus the “F” and the “y’s.” They said my parents had changed his name!
These, and many, many other experiences, in detail, I shared with Sally Jacob of the Boston Globe. I really felt I had contributed to the message she intended to bear.
Sally Jacobs, Boston Globe
It so happens, she quoted four sentences from me, on the last page of her 7-page article. The little information she referenced contains some inaccuracies, as well, I’m sorry to say:
David Yeagley, whose mother was Comanche, said that he and his brother Fred, who was a class behind Warren, were routinely teased for their dark hair and skin. When fellow members of the football team did not feel like playing on a hot day, “they’d say, ‘Fred, do a rain dance. Do a few steps for us,’ ” Yeagley said of his brother, who died in 2000.
“Fred did not like that, and he was in fights every other day. Why would you ever bring up being an Indian if you didn’t have to? You’d just get teased or ridiculed,” said Yeagley. “If you were an Indian woman, you were thought of as an easy mark.”
Let me correct the misinformation:
1) Fred and Elizabeth were in the same class, 1967. I was in the class of 1969, two years later. I was of course explicit in these simple details. No reason to be unclear.
2) Fred had dark hair and eyes, but he was more fair complexioned. I was the tanned one. (My younger brother and sister are darker than I. That’s the way it goes sometimes in breed offspring.)
3) “Why would you ever bring up being an Indian if you didn’t have to?” I don’t remember saying this quite so. If I did, it was not of myself or my other brother. I, particularly, looked obviously Indian, more even than Fred. We couldn’t hide it if we wanted to. And we never wanted to. We were not ethnic chauvinists, but, we weren’t ashamed, either. I may have made that “didn’t have to” remark in reference to white kids who may have been part Indian, as family lore would have it, as in the case of Elizabeth Warren, but didn’t claim it, lest they be teased somehow. With the Yeagley brothers as an example, who’d want more of that? Since they were all quite fractional, with no visible indications, it was terribly easy to not be Indian.
4) Since there were no Indian girls at Northwest Classen that anyone knew anything about, no Indian girls who wanted anyone to know they may have been some fraction of Indian underneath all that blonde hair and blue eyes, I don’t know what basis I would have to say anything like an Indian women being “an easy mark.”
Clearly, Ms. Jacob’s intent was to justify the fact that Elizabeth Warren did not identify herself as being Indian as she was growing up, certainly not publicly, and certainly not at Northwest Classen. My stories of prejudice and persecution were used, however, not to discount the authenticity of Elizabeth’s claim to be Cherokee, but to account for why she did not claim it then. My testimony was used to buttress her claim to be Indian!
This was a totally different use of my testimony than I had expected.
I do not respect Elizabeth Warren. I consider her a fraud, a liar, and a manipulator. In short, a Democrat politician. Why would I want to contribute to any legitimacy about her–especially to her claim of being Indian? This was all a misuse of my testimony, or I should say, an unexpected, unanticipated use, and a use of which I do not approve.
I detest liars. To have the authenticity of my own experience used to support such a liar is piquantly offensive to me.
But, the fact is, Elizabeth Herring might be a tiny part Cherokee. Many white people in Oklahoma are. I said that to Ms. Jacobs. I was completely honest. But, again, the fact is, Elizabeth Herring was not proud of being Indian, did not claim to be Indian, was ashamed or embarrassed about being Indian, so that she was not know by anyone for being Indian–not by me or my older brother. It was a very well-kept secret. Perhaps I and my brother’s experience discouraged her from making any such obviously dubious claim. And she didn’t look Indian. She would have been thought to be a fool for making such a claim. But, if she were really Indian, she would have identified with it. She would have been proud of it, and would have made herself known to me or my brother.
Let her get her high-paying jobs by claiming to be Indian so late in life. Let her practice law in Massachusetts without a license. Let her make her millions and claim she’s represents the poor. Let her be a Democrat politician.
But don’t associate my experience with hers. She hasn’t paid any price for being Indian. She has no experience of being Indian. She’s only reaped undeserved advantage claiming to be Indian.
So, I regret the Boston Globe interview, which was a great waste of my time, and my testimony was used to foster the authenticity of a fraudulent individual. Elizabeth Warren has never identified with Indian people, never had any association with Indian people, never participated in anything with Indian people, and has no experience with Indian people. She doesn’t know anything about Indian people. Some old wife’s tale about somebody being Indian in the family, a way back when, doesn’t cut it. Plus, Elizabeth has apparently lied many times about it, and referenced fabricated evidence.
The Boston Globe supports her. Liberal media supports manipulative liars. That’s just how it is.
I still say Sally Jacobs is a wonderful person, with a very warm heart, and with deep understanding and sympathy. I’m just chagrined that so little of what I said was used, and that it was used in a way wholly other than what I’d expected, or would have sanctioned.
When I told my friend Richard Poe that I was interviewing with The Globe, he said, “Why would they want to interview you? Why would you want to interview with them? Why?” I was burned badly when I interviewed with the Los Angeles Times in 2007. I didn’t learn my lesson. Two strikes on me now. The next thing I know, I’ll get a call from the New York Times.