David Bald Eagle 1919-2016

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David Bald Eagle, the Lakota chief whose adventurous life included several movie appearances, has died aged 97, NPR reports. Although uncredited, he may have met Marilyn in Canada, during production of River of No Return in 1953. Might Dave Bald Eagle have been among these men with whom she was photographed on location?

Marilyn with unnamed man during filming of 'River of No Return'
Marilyn with unnamed man during filming of ‘River of No Return’

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“In the U.K., the headlines note the passing of a Dances With Wolves actor. But appearing in an Oscar-award-winning film was one of the least interesting things David Bald Eagle ever did…

In his long, extraordinary life, he was a champion dancer — both ballroom and Lakota styles — a touring musician, a rodeo cowboy, a tribal chief, an actor, a stunt double, a war hero.

He danced with Marilyn Monroe. He drove race cars. He parachuted into enemy gunfire at Normandy. He played professional baseball. He was a leader not just of his tribe, but of the United Native Nations. He was an advocate for Native people.

And he was a bridge between the past and present — a man who, in his childhood, heard stories from survivors of the Battle of Little Bighorn.

He started race car driving, tried skydiving, returned to the rodeo circuit, took up bareback bull riding, became a stunt double in the movies.

Shooting Westerns required ‘people who can actually ride horses,’ as Sonny Skyhawk puts it. Skyhawk is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation who has been a film actor for nearly four decades.

So Bald Eagle, a talented rider, went on to appear in dozens of Hollywood films — which is how he met, and danced with, Marilyn Monroe.

The Westerns he was in represented Native people as less than human, Skyhawk says: ‘We were always being shot down or killed. With one bullet five or more Indians would fall.’

But Bald Eagle always tried to teach people about Native American history and life, whatever was happening around him, Skyhawk says.”