Walker, Texas Stereotype
The biography of Chuck Norris says he was born Carlos Ray
in Lawton, Oklahoma to an Irish-English mother and
a Cherokee father. Apparently, his Cherokee heritage
forms the basis of many episodes of
Walker, Texas Ranger.
While we aren't able to confirm at this time whether or
not Norris an enrolled
in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (anyone?), we are
able to confirm that the show features some of the most
interesting and hilarious Indian images and stereotypes on
We watched the episode "Tribe" recently and have many interesting
comments on it. But since we are limited in space, we'll
cut them down to the most important.
We are glad "Tribe" takes place on Indian land, stars Indian
actors, and focuses on some Indian-related issues.
But couldn't Norris have set the episode in a real tribal
We aren't aware of any Cherokee reservation in Texas, so we
guess Norris had to invent one. These
Cherokees must have taken a detour off the Trail of Tears.
So maybe Norris didn't want to call the show "Walker,
Oklahoma Ranger" -- which would have been more appropriate.
But at least the imaginary reservation has a tribal police
force and a tribal court. Eloy Casados is police Chief Sam
Coyote, Branscombe Richmond is Deputy George Black Fox, and
Ned Romero is Judge Henry Fivekills.
And of course, there's Walker, affectionately known
by his Indian name, "Washo." We don't know what that means
but its probably something like "Weighs Too Much."
Washo, Cherokee Ranger.
Tribal cops Black Fox and Coyote.
"Tribe" tackles a lot of issues: racism, environmental
exploitation, and sovereignty are just a few. Does
the show succeed?
There's Sam Coyote,
who asks a White Woman (tm) archaeologist who's conducting
a dig on tribal land to be his lady. She declines
his offer and he becomes distraught.
When he tries to talk with her, the White Men (tm) working
on her dig move in to protect "their" woman from the bad Injun.
They hurl racial insults
Obviously, he get
gets upset. Fighting with White Men ensues.
We don't doubt there is a lot of racial animosity on this pretend
reservation, but we think the White Men lay it on a bit too thick.
They refer to Officer Coyote as "Crazy Horse."
"Some Injuns just don't know their place."
"Yeah, we know our place with the lady, boy!"
"Its clear the lady don't want none of your kind!"
Or are Texans really this bigoted?
We aren't sure but we're glad we don't live in Texas.
"Stop bugging me!"
"You crazy Injun!"
The Injuns fight the Whites.
Fortunately, we get to meet the best asset of this Cherokee
reservation, Judge Fivekills.
In his infinite Cherokee wisdom, he fines all of the men
for fighting (except Officer Black Fox, who was only trying
to break up the fight) and makes them donate money to the Cherokee
Orphans Fund. We didn't feel the fines were
high enough but maybe the Cherokee Orphans don't ask for
much come Christmastime.
He even threatens the archaeologist with a withdrawal of her
license to dig on tribal land if her employees cause any more
trouble. He also grants the archaeologist a restraining
order against Coyote.
We were impressed. Can we nominate him for tribal judge
of the year?
Judge Fivekills, Tribal Court Judge of the Year.
Of course, the whole episode can't be only about Judge Fivekills.
As it turns out, some company has discovered
oil on the Cherokee reservation and they want to steal it
without the tribe's knowledge. But the archaeologist stands
in their way.
So obviously they must kill her. And of course, Coyote
gets accused and arrested because like all men, when a woman declines
his advances, he wants to hurt her. Or so seems the
message the show tries to give us.
Its hard to accept
that Coyote is prone to domestic violence when we've never
seen examples of it in the past. Did he stalk the archaeologist
commercials? Does he have other restraining orders against
him in tribal court? Does he have a history of violence with
So while the episode tries to address exploitation of Indian
land and mineral rights, it also exploits our poor Indian cop.
Back to The Judge
Luckily, the episode does better by going back to our favorite
character, Judge Fivekills.
This time, Fivekills is trying to protect the tribe's sovereignty
by stifling the FBI agents who've come to take Coyote
into federal custody.
In probably the only pro-sovereignty speech ever seen on network
television, he denies the FBI's request and orders Officer Coyote
to face a trial of his peers,
not a white jury who will most likely convict him because
he is an Indian.
"The federal government created reservations, the Bureau of
Indian Affairs, and judges like myself to administer the law here,"
says Fivekills. "But when it comes to a high-profile case like
this one, the FBI comes charging onto the reservation and wants
to take control."
"Look, Judge Fivekills, I understand your anger and frustration,"
the FBI agent pleads.
"You don't understand a damn thing, son," retorts the judge.
The FBI agent pleads but gets rejected by Judge Fivekills.
But like all good judges, Fivekills knows the FBI
will eventually be able take the officer away because
they have jurisdiction under to the Major Crimes Act. Plus,
there is no double jeopardy because the tribe and the federal
government are separate sovereigns.
So of course, this is Chuck Norris' show and its time for Walker
what he does best. He uses his Cherokee intuition (and the show's
only other minority character) to dig
up some dirt on the oil company. Then he kicks some people in
Finally, he saves the day for the tribe by revealing
the oil company's true intent to steal the tribe's natural resources.
More importantly, he saves the day for
Officer Coyote by uncovering the archaeologist's true killer. And
he does all of this in slow motion.
But like all good rangers, he has to leave his tribe, ending
the episode on the imaginary Cherokee reservation. So maybe
Washo isn't all that bad. Not every episode has to be about crazy
bigots in Texas.
why isn't there a series called Fivekills, Tribal
Judge, we wonder?
Walker, Texas Ranger can be seen every Saturday at 10PM EST on CBS
and Monday thru Friday on the USA Network, usually at 8PM EST.
Check NativeTV for
updates on the next time Washo returns to the imaginary reservation.
Walker, Texas Ranger on the web
The official CBS site:
Schedule on USA: