Claim: Native Americans derisively tagged a pandering U.S. politician with the name Walking Eagle because "he's so full of crap he can't fly."
Example: [Collected via e-mail, January 2016]
THE NATIVE AMERICANS GOT IT JUST RIGHT!!!
Donald Trump addressed a major gathering of the American Indian Nation. He spoke for almost an hour about his plans for increasing every Native American's present standard of living. Though vague in detail, he spoke about his ideas for helping his "red sisters and brothers."
Afterwards, the Tribes presented him with a plaque inscribed with his new Indian name, "Walking Eagle", which he proudly accepted.
After Trump left, a news reporter asked the chiefs how they came to select this name. They explained that "Walking Eagle" is the name given to a bird so full of shit it can no longer fly.
[Collected via e-mail, August 2004]
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.
Origin:It was in 2004 that we first encountered Internet versions of this piece about Native Americans tagging a pandering U.S. politician seeking their votes in an upcoming election with the name "Walking Eagle" (or "Running Eagle") because that's "the name given to a bird so full of shit it can no longerfly." This item is simply an old bit of humor that is dusted off and trotted out every election cycle, with the name of current politicians substituted for those referenced in previous versions.
The first online version of this joke we saw targeted Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who was then (i.e., in 2004) on the campaign trail as the Democratic presidential nominee. By February 2005 we began seeing a version aimed at incumbent president George W. Bush land in our inbox:
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.
By the fall of 2006, as interest in potential candidates for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination was growing, a version featuring Senator Hillary Clinton began making the rounds:
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, as Senator Barack Obama was emerging as the leader for Democratic presidential nomination, this piece was updated yet again to take a jab at him:
'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.
In 2016, this joke was applied yet again to GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
The meme of cunning Native Americans slipping honest assessments past unsuspecting outsiders is not new to the "Running Eagle" rumor: it has been used quite effectively in other howlers, such as 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 common 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 cynical point about pandering politicians who promise everything to everyone in pursuit of their presidential ambitions. By casting stereotypical sly Native Americans 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.
Barbara "lemon pledges?" Mikkelson
Last updated: 31 May 2016
Originally published: 16 August 2004
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).