By Albert Bender
People's WorldLuther Medicine Bird White Eagle by the holding of a Memorial Dance marking his passing a year ago, August 14, 2018. The Memorial Dance was initiated by his son, Stephan White Eagle. The event began at noon and continued into the night with the drum group “Southside,” Grand Entry, powwow dancers, Gourd Dancing and a performance by the Azteca Dance Group Ilhuicamina. White Eagle was a Tsistsistas Southern Cheyenne Sacred Ceremonial Arrow Priest, a Bowstring Headsmen and a Vietnam veteran.
As a fighter for Indigenous rights none stood taller locally than Luther (Lou as he was known in the Native community). White Eagle was a leader in all of the efforts to preserve Native American burial grounds and historic sites in Middle Tennessee. Prior to that he lived in Memphis for 10 years and was in the forefront of efforts to halt the destruction of ancient burial and sacred sites in that area, most notably the Desoto Mounds. Lou hailed from Kingfisher, Oklahoma and was a member of the Southern Cheyenne Nation of western Oklahoma. The history of the Cheyenne people and their epic struggle of resistance to the European invasion was reflected in his attitude toward the present-day fight for Indian rights. I fervently recall the many conversations I had with him about Native sovereignty and the endless broken promises of the federal government. Steeped in the traditional religion of the Cheyenne people he was an Arrow Priest, and an Arrow Headsman for the Bow String Society. He was also a member of the American Indian Movement(AIM) and the head of a Oklahoma AIM chapter in the 1970’s. He served in the U.S. military in the Vietnam War, but was always acutely aware of the huge injustices imposed on the Indigenous people by the federal government. Lou was a consistent speaker at all events, gatherings and demonstrations of the Nashville Native community. He was also a much sought after advisor concerning issues confronting Indigenous people locally and nationally, including the Standing Rock struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and the successful efforts to establish an Indigenous Peoples’ Day in this city.
Dancers at a memorial in honor of Luther Medicine Bird White Eagle. Photo by Melanie Bender / People's World
Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He was an organizer and delegate to the First and Second Intercontinental Indian Conferences held in Quito, Ecuador and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Recently, he has been an active participant and reporter in the Standing Rock struggle in North Dakota. He is an attorney and is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty. He is also writing a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war of the late 20th century. He is also the recipient of several Eagle Awards by the Tennessee Native American Eagle Organization and a former Director of Native American Legal Departments and a Tribal Public Defender.
This article originally appeared on People's World. It is published under a Creative Commons license.
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