Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Following the Trail of Truth, 100 years later

WHAT: Dragonfly Lecture, "Tell Them Willie Boy Was (Still) Here."
CO-SPONSORS: Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, 
WHEN & WHERE: 6 p.m. April 20 at the Learning Center, 17 W. Hays, Banning, CA.
Your Donations at the door will benefit the Learning Center, which saves and shares Southern California's American Indian cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts.

Willie Boy, 100 years later
In what became the West’s last famous manhunt, a man named Willie Boy shot and killed another man 100 years ago at Gilman Ranch in Banning. Willie Boy then ran off with the dead man’s young daughter. A posse chased him for more than a dozen days over 600 miles of desert, finally reporting that Willie Boy killed the girl and then killed himself.

People have been arguing about what really happened ever since. As the saga of Willie Boy reaches its 100th anniversary this October, the controversy doesn’t appear to be letting up. Clifford E. Trafzer, a UC Riverside history professor, supports what many Indian people believe: He says Willie Boy escaped and lived for many years after.

Trafzer will share his research, based on oral and archival histories, in his Dragonfly Lecture, “Tell Them Willie Boy Was (Still) Here.” 

What's in the history books
Trafzer contradicts the tales famously told by Harry Lawton in the 1960 book Willie Boy, and then made more famous in the 1969 Robert Redford film, Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, and revived in 1994 by James Sandos and Larry Burgess (The Hunt for Willie Boy).

According to the legend, William Mike, a Chemehuevi Indian shaman, or religious leader, wouldn’t let Willie Boy, a Chemehuevi or Southern Paiute, marry his daughter. Willie Boy then killed Mike during the apricot harvest at Gilman Ranch in Banning, and took off with the daughter, Carlota. The October 1909 posse chase made national headlines, hyping a possible Indian uprising and warning of assassination dangers to President William Taft, who at the time was visiting Inland Southern California, many miles away from the posse chase.

During the famous chase, Willie Boy supposedly killed Carlota because she was slowing down his flight. Under the intense media spotlight, the posse reported that he then killed himself to avoid capture and said that posse members later burned his body. A plaque commemorates that site on Ruby Mountain.

“Tell them we’re all out of souvenirs,” Deputy Sheriff Cooper (Robert Redford) says in the movie when people say burning the body ruins the chance for people to see the now-dead outlaw.

What really happened?
Trafzer said his research revealed that the posse accidentally killed Carlota, mistaking her for Willie Boy, and that Willie Boy then set a trap for the posse, shooting one and watching the rest flee him. Many Indians have said for years that Willie Boy escaped and died many years later, of tuberculosis in Nevada. Trafzer agrees.

The case illustrates how the power of oral narrative often is disregarded as part of the historical record, according to Trafzer. As UCR’s Costo Chair and a UCR history professor, he emphasizes how oral narratives hold the history of Southern California Indian nations. He invites people to share their knowledge as he continues his research in what continues to be a controversial chapter in national history.

For more information about the Dragonfly Lecture, call (951) 849-4676. Remember, your donations at the door will support Dorothy Ramon Learning Center’s nonprofit work of saving and sharing Southern California’s Native American cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Big Honors

Ernest Siva, the president and founder of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, will receive an honorary doctorate from California State University, San Bernardino, at the university's June commencement ceremony, according to university officials. Read about it here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A conference for Indian education

Sunday, March 29-Tuesday, March 31 will find us in Palm Springs.
It's time for the 38th annual California Conference on American Indian Education.
This year's theme is Building Success through Tradition and Education.
Our President and Founder, Ernest Siva, will be speaking and sharing at the conference.
So will a host of other interesting and inspiring people.
The schedule is here. 
Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Websites in transition

Update on Friday, March 20:
Our websites will be down starting Monday, March 23, for a transition to a new server. We'll be back soon. 

Due to some pending changes and transitions on our server, the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center and Ushkana Press websites will go down soon, but we've been assured that the situation will be temporary.  Thanks for your patience!