CONTRARY WARRIOR: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ADAM FORTUNATE EAGLE (DVD) Image

John Ferry’s documentary provides a dullish glimpse into the life of American Indian activist and artist Adam Fortunate Eagle.

Born to a Swedish father and an Indian mother on Minnesota’s Chippewa Reservation, the young Adam Nordwall grew up to run his own termite control business in San Francisco during the 1960s.  His involvement in the American Indian civil rights movement was first publicly noted in his planning of the occupation of Alcatraz Island.  Nordwall drafted the jokey declaration in which the Indians parodied Peter Minuet’s purchase of Manhattan Island by announcing they would to buy Alcatraz from the U.S. government for $24 worth of beads and goods.

Nordwall took Fortunate Eagle as a surname in 1972, and later established a successful career as a sculptor and creator of artistically striking ceremonial pipes, and his gift for publicity stunts included a celebrated “discovery” of Italy – an event that resulted in an invitation to the Vatican, where he happily broke protocol in greeting Pope Paul VI as an equal.

While the subject clearly has a fascinating story to tell, Fortunate Eagle’s raconteur skills leave a great deal to be desired.  It doesn’t help that the film consists mostly of Fortunate Eagle on screen by himself, where he talks endlessly about his life and opinions.  Some of his stories have too much unnecessary detail, while others (particularly about the shunning of his Scandinavian heritage and his 1982 arrest for the sale of eagle feathers) seem half-told.

Those with a strong interest in American Indian culture will have to sit through a lot of monotony to extract nuggets of distinctive insight or compelling (if fleeting) anecdotes. For those with weak patience, however, the film is a crashing bore.

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  1. corey flood says:

    can you send me a list of your available Native American items, Pilamaya, Corey Flood

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