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Home --> Politics --> John Kerry --> Running Eagle

Running Eagle

Claim:   Native Americans dubbed John Kerry "Running Eagle."

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2004]

San Carlos, AZ

During a campaign tour of the Apache Nation Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said he had a plan to increase every Native American's income by $40,000 a year. Senator Kerry refused repeated requests for details of his plan, however. He also told the Apaches that during his Senate career, he has voted YES 9,637 times for every Indian issue ever introduced.

Before his departure, the Apache Tribe presented the Presidential candidate a plaque inscribed with his new Indian name, Running Eagle.

After Kerry left, tribal officials explained that Running Eagle is a bird so full of shit it can't fly.

Origins:   We've been seeing this piece on the Internet since mid-June 2004. In a nutshell it's Eagle a bit of humorous fiction — there was no tour of the Apache Nation, no promise of increasing every Native American's income by $40,000 a year, and no sly "Running Eagle" dig at the Democratic party's nominee for the presidency.

It is true, however, that Indians have begun to command the attention of some of those on the campaign trail. It is estimated there are 1.5 million Native Americans who are registered voters, and in 2004 those votes are being courted. Not only are Indian issues being addressed in the ramp-up towards the November 2004 election, but some of those seeking higher office have been going to the tribes to make themselves heard.

For instance, a number of (then) candidates for the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination addressed the November 2003 National Congress of American Indians held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Some appeared in person, and
some sent taped remarks. (Senator Kerry was one of the latter.) In August 2004, Senator Kerry attended the Inter-Tribal Indian Pow-Wow in Gallup, New Mexico. While there, he lamented the lack of health insurance for an estimated one-third of Native Americans and pledged to increase federal funding for the U.S. Indian Health System (IHS) and cover all children "immediately" in the health insurance plan he would make his first bill to Congress.

The Indians are courting the politicians right back, seeing in these carpetbaggers the possibility of having tribal concerns addressed. Rather than dubbing the Democratic presidential nominee a derogatory nickname (and by so doing risking the loss of his goodwill once the meaning behind the name became clear), at that August 2004 pow-wow tribal members brushed down Senator and Mrs. Kerry with an eagle fan, a traditional blessing.

In February 2005 we began seeing a version aimed at President Bush land in our inbox:
[Collected on the Internet, 2005]

President Bush was invited to address a major gathering of the American Indian Nation last weekend in Arizona. He spoke for almost an hour on his future plans for increasing every Native American's present standard of living. He referred to his career as Governor of Texas, how he had signed "YES" 1,237 times - for every Indian issue that came to his desk for approval.

Although the President was vague on the details of his plan, he seemed most enthusiastic about his future ideas for helping his "red brothers".

At the conclusion of his speech, the Tribes presented the President with a plaque inscribed with his new Indian name - Walking Eagle. The proud President then departed in his motorcade, waving to the crowds.

A news reporter later inquired to the group of chiefs of how they come to select the new name given to the President

They explained that Walking Eagle is the name given to a bird so full of shit it can no longer fly.
In the fall of 2006, as interest in potential candidates for the Democratic nomination grew, this version featuring Senator Hillary Clinton appeared:
[Collected on the Internet, 2006]

Senator Hillary Clinton was invited to address a major gathering of The American Indian nations 2 weeks ago in upper New York State. She spoke for nearly an hour on her future plans for enhancing every Native American's standard of living, should she one day become the first female president of the United States.

She referred to her career as a New York Senator, how she had signed "YES" for every Indian issue that came to her desk for approval. Although the Senator was vague on the details of her plan, she seemed most enthusiastic about her future ideas for helping her "red sisters and brothers". At the conclusion of her speech, the Tribes presented the Senator with a plaque inscribed with her new Indian name - Walking Eagle. The proud Senator then departed in her motorcade, waving to the crowds.

A news reporter later inquired of the group of chiefs of how they had come to select the new name given to the Senator.

ARE YOU READY FOR THIS??????

They explained that Walking Eagle is the name given to a bird so full of shit that it can no longer fly.
In the spring of 2008, once the Democratic nomination appeared to settle upon Senator Barack Obama, this version appeared:
[Collected via e-mail, June 2008]

'Walking Eagle, Senator BARACK OBAMA , was invited to address a major gathering of the American Indian Nation two weeks ago in upstate New York. HE spoke for almost an hour on HIS future plans for increasing every Native American's present standard of living, should HE one day become the President. HE referred to his career as a Senator, how he had signed 'YES' for every Indian issue that came to his desk for approval. Although the Senator was vague on the details of his plan, he seemed most enthusiastic about his future ideas for helping his 'red sisters and brothers'.

At the conclusion of his speech, the Tribes presented the Senator with a plaque inscribed with his new Indian name - Walking Eagle. The proud Senator then departed in his motorcade, waving to the crowds. A news reporter later inquired to the group of chiefs of how they came to select the new name they had given to the Senator. They explained that Walking Eagle is the name given to a bird so full of shit it can no longer fly.
The meme of cunning Native Americans slipping honest assessments past unsuspecting palefaces is not new to the "Running Eagle" rumor — it it has been used quite effectively in other howlers, such as the one we discuss in detail on our Moon Shot page:
When NASA was preparing for the Apollo project, they did some astronaut training on a Navajo Indian reservation. One day, a Navajo elder and his son were herding sheep and came across the space crew. The old man, who only spoke Navajo, asked a question, which the son translated: "What are the guys in the big suits doing?" A member of the crew said they were practicing for their trip to the moon.

The old man got really excited and asked if he could send a message to the moon with the astronauts. Recognizing a promotional opportunity for the spin-doctors, the NASA folks found a tape recorder. After the old man recorded his message, they asked the son to translate. He refused. So the NASA reps brought the tape to the reservation, where the rest of the tribe listened and laughed, but refused to translate the elder's message to the moon.

Finally, NASA called a official government translator. He reported that the moon message said: "Watch out for these guys; they've come to steal your land."
And an anecdote quite similar to the current political jape was told by Congressman Moris Udall of Arizona in the 1960s:
A Senator was touring a Native American reservation. To start things off, the Senator made a fine speech full of rosy promises of better things. "We shall see," he said, "a new era of opportunity." To this, the audience gave a ringing cry of "Hoya, hoya!" Encouraged by the cheer, the Senator continued, "We promise better schools and better hospitals!" "Hoya, hoya!" the audience cried once again. Beaming with pride, the senator ended his fine speech by saying, "Trust us. We have only your best interest at heart." The air shook with a long, mighty "Hoya, hoya!"

Greatly pleased by the reception, the senator then began making his tour of the reservation. When he asked if he could inspect the reservation's cattle, his guide answered, "Certainly, come this way. But be careful not to step in the hoya."
The "Running Eagle" jab makes a point about what some perceive as Senator Kerry's promising everything to everyone in pursuit of his Presidential ambitions. By casting stereotypical sly Indians as the truth speakers, the damning evaluation of the candidate's likelihood of delivering on his vows is seen as issuing from wise but wily individuals, making the appraisal appear more valid. (We trust the Indians to know when the white man is speaking with a forked tongue, after all.) The setting also works to enhance the validity of the assessment, as Senator Kerry has been pursuing the Native American vote by making pledges that may prove hard to keep.

Barbara "lemon pledges?" Mikkelson

Last updated:   25 June 2008

Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2014 by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson.
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
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  Sources Sources:
    Linthicum, Leslie.   "Candidates Woo Indians."
    Albuquerque Journal.   18 November 2003   (p. A1).

    Healy, Patrick.   "Kerry Vows Funds for Indians' Health."
    The Boston Globe.   9 August 2004   (p. A2).