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Warriors and Weapons

by David A. Yeagley
Originally published at | January 26, 2001

A year ago, I had a religious experience. No, I didn't speak in tongues. I didn't see an apparition of Mary. And even though I'm Comanche Indian, I didn't commune with my ancestors or hear the eagles talk.

All I did was watch a TV infomercial produced by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

There I was, sitting in my easy chair, eating chicken soup and watching television. Suddenly, I saw an immense pile of guns, thousands of them, being bulldozed into a metal crusher.

The narrator explained. These weapons had been confiscated from law-abiding citizens, and were being destroyed. The government had first required the people to register their firearms, and promised that no confiscation would ever occur. Then the government broke its promise.

According to the voice-over, this happened in Australia, England, and Canada. The United States was next in line. On the screen appeared distraught gun owners, one after another. "They said they would never do this, but they did it! Don't let this happen to you!" they warned Americans.

We Comanches donít usually admit to being scared. But I was terrified.I had a sense that I was losing America (and, as an Indian, it wouldnít be the first time).

I guess Iíd always known, in the back of my mind, that there were people out there trying to take our guns. But those faces on TV drove the point home like nothing else had. They were the faces of a people betrayed.

Long ago, the government took away the Indian's weapons and put him on reservations. That is history. Indians know all about broken promises.

But why would the White Man betray himself? Why would the U.S. government take the weapons away from its own good citizens?

They say theyíre trying to stop crime. But the more gun laws they pass, the more crime we get. A hundred years ago, we didnít have gun laws and we didnít have much crime either.

In his book, More Guns, Less Crime, Yale Law School economist John Lott shows that, across the United States, over an 18-year period, "states experiencing the greatest reductions in crime are also the ones with the fastest growing percentages of gun ownership.Ē

So why does the government keep pushing gun control?

The warrior in me knows. He who takes my bow is not my friend. He who takes away my ability to defend myself is my enemy.

If the government takes our guns, itís not because they are trying to help us. Itís because they are trying to control us.

Since my ďreligious experienceĒ of watching that documentary, Iíve found myself wondering why Indians have not played a bigger role in the gun rights debate.

Weapons are an integral part of our culture. In Indian country, itís taken for granted that everyone shoots and hunts. Perhaps the use of arms is so fundamental to us that we donít even think of it as a right that can be lost.

Recently, I visited Indian friends of the Salish-Kootenay Reservation in Montana. It was a few days before a funeral. Extra food was needed for the mourners. "I've got to go get a deer," my friend Terry said, as simply as most Americans would say "I've got to go to the store."

Among Indians, the weapon is a symbol of honor. In Comanche tradition, the young man grew up with the bow. Its mastery was a test of manhood. The relationship of man and weapon was intimate and lifelong.

Every Comanche learned to fight and hunt. If you werenít waging war, you were preparing for war. It was the duty of every member of the tribe to be ready, just in case.

In modern America, women seem to have turned against their own men over the gun issue, judging by the polls and the Million Mom March.

Indian women have a different mindset. It was the women who taught Comanche boys how to use their weapons. Long before anyone ever heard of Xena the Warrior Princess, a woman called the ďadiva,Ē or governess ran the Comanche training camps.

Americans nowadays seem to be forgetting what it means to be a warrior. They donít value preparedness. They think the government will always be there to defend them from enemies and criminals.

But thatís not the Indian way. Thatís not the way of a man.

Iím glad the NRA is out there spreading this message. It has earned this Indianís blessing for helping to keep the warrior spirit alive.


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