CINEMA WITHOUT BORDERS (Excerpted) Review by Robin Menken - March 24, 2010
John Ferry's "Contrary Warrior- The Life and Times Of Adam Fortunate Eagle" is a moving portrait of the renowned 80-year old Native American artist- activist Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall. As detailed in his first book “Pipestone: A Boy’s Life in an Indian Boarding School”, Nordwall fondly remembers his boyhood in the Government Pipestone Boarding School (Pipestone, MN,) Unlike most recounts of the boarding school experience where young native Americans were socialized in American "values", Nordwall describes his stay as a way out of the grinding poverty of reservation life during the Depression.
Nordwall tells his story in his own words (Regarding the Indian occupation of Alcatraz Island in 12969), "In the course of 19 months we changed the course of history.” Vetoing a covert plan to take the island back by force, Nixon officially repudiated the Termination and signed in wide-sweeping Indian Affairs reforms. "We saved the island for all Americans." Nordwall, who received his Indian name (Fortunate Eagle) from a Crow Indian he helped, recounts his first art commission. In 1970, he carved a Totem Pole honoring Livermore, California's centennial. When the shopping center cancelled his payment, he donated the pole to the city. He was appalled to see his pole, truncated beyond repair, raised at Livermore Park. The City claimed they had no money to restore the pole. Fortunate Eagle laid a curse on the city's sewage system. Once the sewers backed up, the city paid him to lift the curse and restored his pole (with a plaque) to its original glory. On a trip to Rome, he planted a spear, claiming to discover Italy in the name of the Native American peoples. The Pope asked to meet him. Years of absurdist government harassment fill out the tale. Indians are arrested for the use of eagle feathers, as was Fortunate Eagle, while the killing of eagles by ranchers remains unpunished. We tour the green roundhouse Cultural Center he's building on their reservation.
Optimistic Fortunate Eagle Nordwall is a National Treasure and Ferry's film is a worthy introduction to his life.