by Tim Findley
(Click here for Part 1)
It had something to do with the success he felt from teaching Native American Studies in the California State College system, assigning eager young wannabees in his class to each "become" the cultural descendant of selected, and often obscure, tribes.
He was surprised at first how seriously they took themselves in their assignment, exchanging their own identity for their newly-discovered tribe.
But that too had been eliminated with the government's destruction of First American Termite.
Fortunate Eagle (the name he had been given by the Crow in honor of his earlier exploits), was now limited to the two-acre patch on Bobbie's Shoshone-Paiute Reservation and wherever else he could afford to show up in the cranky Chevy pickup he called "Ol' Blue."
It was the other part of the circles in his mind that led him off on the pow wow trail across western America, sometimes serving as master of ceremonies, sometimes making his own way with prize money from traditional dance contests.
Pow wows were something else the government forgot about when they made another of their many efforts to make the tribes vanish into the "mainstream." Back in the 1950s, when he and Bobbie were just getting started in the Bay Area, the Interior Department was on a roll to terminate federal trust responsibilities to the tribes by encouraging young people to accept "relocation" with housing and job training in distant cities. It was supposed to break up the reliance on the reservation and mingle tribal members together in a stew of vague ethnic mixes.
But in the Bay Area, for example, they started out with weekend picnics for newly-arrived relocatees. And then somebody brought a drum and people began showing each other how they danced back home. And the more they traded stories, the more they found in common. Pretty soon, it was a weekly pow wow and then a whole Bay Area Intertribal organization, with Adam as its president.
By the mid-1970s, the government had abandoned any serious idea it had of termination, and the pow wow trail was moving from late spring into early autumn all across the West, with probably greater participation in weekends separated by hundreds of miles than anything since the Ghost Dance.
Fortunate Eagle's milieu in it was as both a celebrity in some spots and at least a curiosity in others. Not all this stuff about Italy and Columbus Day made sense to some serious-minded Native Americans, and Adam's fatal attraction for publicity was even resented by others.
But you couldn't take it all away from him. Even if he was inclined more than most to tell a joke, Fortunate Eagle was no clown. His own skills at the dances and those of his son, Adam, as a perennial champion Fancy Dancer earned him serious recognition in the essential Intertribal cultural events.
So much so, in fact, that he was sought for his advice and his skill in constructing and sewing together the traditional outfits of tribal identity.
Most of those outfits, especially in ceremonial and pow wow events, included eagle feathers as part of the religious and social custom.
Eagles confuse a lot of Americans. They're symbolic of strength and courage and even the high-flying destiny of the continent. But people who have never actually seen one outside a zoo often

think they are all but wiped out in North America. Ranchers and others who live in the country know better. The bald eagle may have been in some serious trouble for a time and is even now less often seen, but the golden eagle never was endangered or even threatened. It was, in 1963, declared by the government to be protected, however.
Fair enough, as far as most Native Americans were concerned. They admired and revered the symbolic strength of the eagle even more than Europeans did.
The compromise had often come between Indians who used the feathers in their costumes, and sheep ranchers especially who hired trappers to protect their flocks.
On the pow wow trail, Fortunate Eagle, appropriately enough, soon became a conduit for remains of birds who met their demise in ways ranging from lambing season to road kills.
Gradually, the slow circles in his mind were taking shape on Fortunate Eagle's alkali flat into a lodgepole and plank construction he built himself and called "The Roundhouse Gallery," selling Native American arts and crafts and displaying museum pieces of ancient pottery, leather scalp shirts, and, among other things, a couple of fine old eagle-feather headdresses.
Kieth Taylor, a Seletz Indian from Oregon and a former California prison guard, said he first heard of Adam somewhere along the pow wow trail
Among other adventures in those days of relocation gatherings before Alcatraz, Adam had organized a support group who regularly visited Native American inmates at San Quentin and even succeeded in producing pow wow at the prison itself. Adam, Fortunate Eagle of all the previous good luck, though he had no reason to distrust a former prison guard.
Taylor's stated desire to become a traditional dancer himself was pathetically unlikely with the scraggly little bustle of hawk feathers he showed Adam. The bait was well-placed.
It should be said here that Fortunate Eagle's wife, Bobbie, has seldom been actually comfortable with her husband's brash trust in things just working out right. But she had been doubtful that day they sailed around Alcatraz and she really hadn't wanted to get off the plane in Rome. But it was hard to argue with Adam's rate of success.
Taylor brought along with him a white woman he said was his girlfriend when he came to look at Adam's eagle feathers. Actually, she was a Fish and Wildlife agent, and there were four more of them waiting outside in a van concealed behind the roundhouse.
Fortunate Eagle was hauled off in the same unceremonious way as a drug dealer, and his house and his gallery searched in just the same fashion.
The man who discovered Italy and conquered Alcatraz had never actually been in jail before in his life, and those three days before he made bail are among the worst he can remember.

Third and final part: next week.

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