Bad Hand–A Politically Incorrect Indian

Bad Hand
Bad Hand

The first time I saw Bad Hand, i.e. Apache Warhorse, he stood holding a lance, in a photograph, wearing fringed buckskins and a bear-claw necklace. He had two tall feathers in his hair and was the very image of an American Plains’ Indian warrior.

I saw the pix a few days after I joined The Order of the Indian Wars, a Facebook–based group (many of whom are historians) who discuss all things regarding that bloody carnage.

Apache Warhorse is a OIW member and considered a Plains’ Indian expert.

Bad Hand was a model for this image by Howard Terpning.
Bad Hand was a model for this image by Howard Terpning.

I was impressed. He said sensible and true things about Indian culture, attitudes and history.

For instance, he explained a few days ago that among some tribes, “a scalp hanging from your horse’s chin” meant “you and that horse (had in the past run) over a dismounted enemy….You could also paint on your horse’s chest a stick figure of a man. Amongst the Crow, to designate the same war honor, a red hand was painted on the horse.”

Useful stuff for an historical novelist (meaning me).

And he said: Indian warriors often agreed to scout for the U.S. Army because, among other reasons, “it goes back to that thing of being ‘professional predators,’ it is all they knew.”

Come to find out, Warhorse is a Seminole named Bad Hand (Apache Warhorse is his Facebook handle) and he does all things Plains Indian, including working in the movies as a stuntman, technical advisor, replica-maker and warrior trainer.

He also makes Indian regalia and crafts, models for artists who need an Indian man and speaks to groups.

Bad Hand’s book, Plains Indians Regalia & Customs, is informative and full of illustrations.51jHYYBDX2L._AA160_

Bad Hand, 59, has lectured in more than 200 places, including the American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY; Charles M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, MT; Eastern Montana College, Billings, MT and Eastern Oregon University LaGrande, OR.

Bad hand also lives part-time in a tipi lined with scalps (but not taken violently, of course) and has definite ideas about modern Indian life.

Here is my Question and Answer session:

Q. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Bad Hand's tipi, lined with scalps.
Bad Hand’s tipi, lined with scalps.

A. Florida, I grew up in the Glades area way out until seven years old. Got married and moved to Wyoming when I was 19 and lived in a tipi in the wilderness for four years.

Q. You’re a Seminole, correct?

A. Yes a quarter.

Q. Where do you live now?

A. Oregon in the winter and in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado in the summer.

Q. You’ve been in the movies?

A. Yes, 44 films, TV shows, documentaries, etc. Dances With Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, Last of the Dogmen, on and on. dances-with-wolves-blu-ray-cover-84

Q. How did you learn so much about America’s tribal peoples? You seem to know just about everything about everybody from the Apache, to the Comanche, the Northwestern tribes, etc.

A. Like anything just lots of reading, study, going to museums etc etc. There are no modern Natives or native groups that are generally even remotely aware of the real history.

Q. How did you learn the craft of making tribal objects, like the different projectiles, buckskin dresses, etc.?

Bad hand made this Cheyenne head dress
Bad hand made this Cheyenne head dress

A. Same as #5. (Just lots of reading, study, going to museums).

Q. You seem like a man who’s determined not to live like a victim, or consider yourself a victim.

A. You are correct. I make my own way, I have a working brain and capable body so do not need, want or expect help from anyone.

Q. Why do so many Indians (do you mind that name, Indian?) seem troubled, alcoholic, etc., or are those troubled people basically reservation residents?

A. No, Indian is fine. Unless non-Indians are around, most natives in the U.S. use Indian. Yes, the reservations often perpetuate only the worst in people and support an indigent lifestyle which is passed on from one generation to the next.A Bad Hand creation

A Bad Hand creation

Q. Why do the people who live on the reservations have so many problems, such as the high percentage of alcoholics?

A. Because the system has promoted, allowed, encouraged reliance upon the government with nothing really done to promote real actual pride and self respect. IMO it is time for the Rezs to go away. Give the land to the families there and let them make their own way like everyone else.

Q. Is there a way to help these people?

A. Yeah see #11 (to end the reservation system).

Q. You don’t seem to have racial animus. Why? Lot’s of people do, including Whites who hold resentment against tribal peoples and African-Americans, and visa-versa.

A. Because I am an historian who views the world and its peoples as one, we all have the same fears, issues, desires, just different places, cultures etc.

Q. What was the most interesting movie you were in, and why?

A. Son of the Morning Star because it was about Custer’s Last Stand, because we killed soldiers every day for seven weeks in every conceivableCuster's_Last_Stand-2 way and rode horses every day.

Q. Why was killing soldiers in the Custer movie and riding for weeks interesting?

A. Because most movies are pretty boring, sitting around watching actors trying to get their lines right!

Q. Are the scalps in your tipi real hair, or synthetic?

A. Real hair of course.

Q. Why did you make scalps out of hair and hang them on the inside of your tipi?

A real scalp
A real scalp

A. Because that is what would have been in a great warrior’s tipi!

Q. Since you are 75 percent White, why have you chosen the Indian way (to an extent)?

A. Who knows the answer to that or why anyone leans towards something. I always have been into it and history.

Q. Movies don’t seem to accurately reflect Indian life or culture. But maybe they don’t accurately reflect anything. Can you comment on this?

A. Bits and pieces of many of them do, but none have done it 100% right. Little Big Man is the closest to understanding and showing that lifestyle.

Bad Hand working as a model
Bad Hand working as a model

Q. You have commented sometimes, in Facebook-oriented history groups, impartially, on Indian versus White issues (like, bad guys versus good guys). Are you impartial?

A. I try to be and try never to judge any one or groups in history, just observe them.

Q. Is there a good guy or a bad guy?

A. Nah, not IMO…good and bad on both sides and what happened to Native peoples was an inevitable thing. The world was growing and you could not stay isolated forever.

Q. You also seem skeptical regarding the reverential way many Whites view the American Indian.

Painting by Howard Terpning
Painting by Howard Terpning

A. It is misguided but well meant sympathy and pity that I do not like, as it unwittingly serves no good for Natives and only helps perpetuate a loser mentality and promotes the whole indigence. That in turn prohibits or hampers growth and self reliance.

Q. I’m assuming you don’t live in a tipi full time.

A. Not any more, but I have quite a bit and do part time in the summer.

Q. You look a lot more than 25 percent Seminole. Why did you choose the Indian way of life versus the White way?

A. Well, if anything, it is the Old Way and not the modern Indian life. I move in and out of the real or modern world.

Bad Hand working as a model
Bad Hand working as a model
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5 thoughts on “Bad Hand–A Politically Incorrect Indian

  1. Julia, great interview. I had the pleasure of seeing Bad Hand’s presentation on the banks of the Piney Creek, Ft. Phil Kearny, a few years ago. Very authentic. And I saw him ride bareback at the reenactment of Custer’s Last Stand on the battlefield. The man can REALLY ride.
    I very much enjoyed your interview and feel I learned a lot about him and especially enjoyed reading about how easily he can go between modern life and old Indian times.
    Nice interview!

    Frank Bodden

  2. Frank, you made my day. It takes many hours to do a blog post, but when people like it, the whole thing was worthwhile. I particularly wanted to do the interview with Bad Hand because I believe what he has to say is important, and so many people are afraid to say it. Bless you.

  3. I had the privilege of seeing a couple of Bad Hand’s presentations, at Little Bighorn and at the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale, WY. His knowledge is encylopedic, and he is a wonderful lecturer. His craft work is unbelievably great.

  4. I am puzzled at Bad Hands disdain for the word ” indigenous.” He seems to equate it with “handout” and I am understanding it to mean “naturally occurring in an environment or native to.”

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