In the popular imagination, the clash of Native American nations with Europeans is seen as a series of battles and massacres, of large events. History operates on much smaller increments, as Sandos and Burgess demonstrate in their study of an incident in California in 1909. A Chemehuevi Indian, Willie Boy, killed another Chemehuevi and kidnapped his daughter, whom he later also killed. Indian-on-Indian crime did not attract much attention in those days, but white law-enforcement officials decided to make a lesson of Willie Boy, whose "violence exemplified a 'return to savagery' of a supposedly assimilated Indian." Hunted by a huge posse, Willie Boy died by his own hand. But during the manhunt, sheriffs removed dozens of Indian families from their oases "for their own protection." Those families would never return.
From Publishers Weekly
The accepted story, embellished over an 80-year period, was that Willie Boy, a Paiute-Chemehuevi Indian, killed an Indian man in 1909 in a drunken rage and abducted the victim's daughter. The pair fled on foot into the California desert, pursued by a posse. When the young woman fell behind, Willie Boy shot her. Later, he encountered a second posse; in the ensuing gunfire, he turned his last bullet on himself. In 1960, Harry Lawton wrote a novel, Willie Boy: A Desert Manhunt , which was the basis for a 1969 film starring Robert Redford ( Tell Them Willie Boy Was Here ). Sandos, a history teacher at the University of the Redlands in California, and Burgess, director of the Redlands public library, search for the real event in order to contrast it with the novel and film accounts. They interviewed members of both Indian families and here tell the story of Willie Boy from an Indian perspective. This account denies that he was drunk, claims that the first killing occured during a struggle over the gun and attributes the young woman's death to one of the posse's leaders. Scholarly in tone, this is an absorbing work of ethno-historical research. Illustrations.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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