Ed McGaa (Eagle Man) is a registered tribal member of the Oglala Sioux OST 15287 and was born on the Pine Ridge reservation. He received his Bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and earned a law degree from the University of South Dakota. He has studied under Chief Eagle Feather and Chief Fool’s Crow, both influential Sioux holy men.
He is honored by the Sioux for having participated six times in the Sun Dance ceremony. He also served as a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, flying 110 combat missions in F-4 Phantoms, receiving 8 air medals and 2 Crosses of Gallantry, and was recommended for a Distinguished Flying Cross.
Ed is the author of the seven books: Red Cloud – Biography of an Indian Chief, Mother Earth Spirituality – Healing Ourselves and Our World, Rainbow Tribe – Ordinary People Journeying on the Red Road, Native Wisdom – Perceptions of the Natural Way, Eagle Vision – Return of the Hoop, Nature’s Way – Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth, and most recently, Crazy Horse and Chief Red Cloud – History of the Sioux and its Warriors.
Ed has seven kids and seven grand-children. He enjoys his favorite hobbies whenever time allows, hunting pheasants in Iowa and South Dakota and fly-fishing in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The Following is take from an interview of Mr. McGaa . . .
RV: Thank you Mr. McGaa for finding time to speak with me. It is an honor to speak with you about your writings and your career. Your works are highly rated and enjoyed by many of your readers. You have an extensive background; you flew F-4’s in Vietnam, became an Oglala Sioux lawyer, and a celebrated writer and lecturer. When did you first become interested in writing?
Ed: Took a Creative Writing elective in high school and got a ‘D’ for a grade. They also flunked me in Aerodynamics. I tried out for the speech team and never made it- Glee Club (Singing) also rejected. Was an all white school then- Rapid City. I was straight A in Grade School however and had a knack for good spelling. 1972, I wrote my first book, a historical, out-of-print now but a great writing ‘tooth cutter’- Re: Notes, References, Content out lay. 17 years later I wrote Mother Earth Spirituality (1989) which shot right through to Harper/Collins a premier publisher and now 41 times re-printed and which includes a Book-of-the-Month club printing. That was pre-Rupert Murdoch Harper back then. He is such a controlling Catholic and right winger that Harper editors were afraid to publish my best book- Creator’s Code despite MES success. Harper did do two others pre- RM but he bought Harper just when Nature’s Way, which is very accurately eco-Spiritual Environmental, a how the Indians maintained such a successful stewardship and it never got the Harper promotion it deserved. That’s the World’s loss – not mine, my feeling.
RV: Where did your inspiration come from when you were growing up?
Ed: Beats me? I was gifted academically – ‘Curious’ I guess and loved to read about adventure and exploration, scientific data, etc. Men’s books, True, Argosy, Blue Book etc, my older brother’s which provided a wealth of facts which I devoured and hence really polished up my spelling knack as well. Living in the Black Hills helped- fishing, hunting exploring for real. Old Indians telling my folks stories were also catalysts.
RV: What compelled you to write and share your knowledge of ceremonial practices in your book Mother Earth Spirituality?
Ed: I got disgusted with how so many writers- all of them actually, downgraded and demeaned our Spirituality. Missionaries & Goody-Goody Jesus Indians always telling us our ways were Devils ways and G.D.!- we don’t even have a stupid Satan or their Devils in our beliefs. I became exposed to our way through two historic medicine men- Fools Crow and Bill Eagle Feather just prior to my Vietnam tour and all they predicted for me through Spirit Ceremony came true. “You will see the enemy over 100 times and the bullets will bounce from your airplane.” I survived two SAM missile encounters very, very miraculously and came back and damn well did Thanksgiving and Appreciation for my life through the Sun Dance. I was forever free now from the white man’s controlling, fear-filled superstitions. The academic Indians of those times wouldn’t touch our ceremonies or Natures Way, back then and come out and support us from their cushy college thrones. This includes the noted Vine DeLoria. Some one had to take a stand and I guess I got called. FC & Chief Bill certainly gave me their blessing. I could have, maybe should have, stayed in the Marines and rose in rank or become a lucrative air line driver like many of my combat buddies did.
RV: Certainly overpopulation, mining of resources and draining the earth for fossil fuels continue. Even as efforts are made towards “Green” resources do you think that there is still time to make changes as population and dependency on resources continue?
Ed: I hope I am wrong on this one but I am not optimistic especially with the dangerous population numbers which mathematically are exponential- What? 6 billion yesterday, 7 Billion today and 8 billion tomorrow. Mid Century or well before you can double that. China is the only government to efficiently attack this disaster generating fact. People, especially Americans are too saturated with make believe, happy ending scenarios- fairy tales, movies, actually they cannot admit or believe utter disaster is just around the corner. No! I have no positive projections via, Heat, Thin, Gone and Too Many (Chapter Headings of NW and add Water as well. Maybe Nature will severely cut down the population earlier than the inevitable slow death coming. It is highly possible that Yellowstone’s blowing Calderas could do it- Meteor etc. before Planetary Heating (Heat) gets to us. Whatever? Some heavy shxx is coming. Real Heavy. Nature’s Exponential Math doesn’t lie or paint Hollywood scenarios. We did bring it on ourselves and I blame Organized Religion primarily.
RV: How can people reconnect with themselves?
Ed: They better. Hopefully there exists a Spiritual Beyond. Maybe, Maybe Not. I do not want to appear as some dammed Absolutist. On second thought; You do not re-connect with yourself- not in this error prone world. Big Errors actually. Look where we are at now because of these horribly erroneous values, propaganda & dogmas. Rather you re-connect with Creator’s Created Nature. Native people did down through eons and most were pretty well proven- ‘Right On’; certainly from an environmental perspective. The depressed, stressed and angry should consider a Beyond which, hopefully is an -All-Truth place if this Creator which is evidently All-Truth does so allow. They should get with Creator’s Nature as their main influence. Where am I going to fit in to this place? My supposition is that we go with “our own kind’ as we would like to also do while here in this place now. Yup- it is a Creator endowed trait within all of us. Economics, Government, controlling Religion, etc. however, prevent us from satisfied so doing however. Maybe in that Beyond our preparation or lack thereof will be our reward or non-reward: makes a bit more sense than the harps & clouds or horned devils and red-hot pitch forks that the white man has come up with.
RV: What project(s) are you currently working on?
Ed: I have tried 9 (books) now. Maybe, maybe not I am toying with an idea, maybe a foolish one. Who knows? I have been working a bit with the Chinese and Mongolians a bit and have been positively influenced by many of their approaches, theories, philosophies and actual projects. Discipline! Which all Humans will have to adapt to or perish- eventually. Oooohh- Discipline? Anathema thinking-Right? Possibly I may write a book- ‘to them!’ about a long departed Chino-Mongolian Tribe that crosses the Bering Strait. Yup!…and what they encounter over here and their struggle (which did not bode well for their adversaries and white writers have covered up but not in this book) and how their culture survived against almost over whelming odds which over whelmed most of the other Asiatic based tribes. I would not expect much of a white man readership for this one and hence therefore designed toward a more Nature based readership but I cannot leave out our Nature based Spirituality. Will the Chinese Government (which I respect and which is false fearfully constantly maligned by our Press & Media) (While we obsequiously clamber into their purses however) will they allow such a publication? Maybe a century could go by, one never knows but what I have to say Environmentally and Spiritually, the entwined combination needs to get projected somehow. I do believe that the bulk of presently ignorant, misled America will not be able to digest or understand such work. You might. But you and yours are such a minority right now. I will say this. “Organized Religion in America will fade away someday as it is in Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Australia etc right now. Human, because of our new communication has finally become more intelligent world view, universe view wise. I just came back and saw it. The Euro-churches are dilapidated and crumbling. “You Yanks.” “You are so naivete (Stupid) to let those Evan-gel-icals get control of your Parliament. Not in our country!”
RV: Is there another Native American author, musician that you have admiration for?
Ed: Buddy Red Bow-deceased and of course, Brule, for musicians. Medicine Story- Author. Black Elk of Course, Nicolas Black Elk-1862-1950?- He spoke no English but through John Neihardt was responsible for Black Elk Speaks. Also ‘Fools Crow’.
RV: Can you tell me a little of your experience as a Marine fighter pilot in Vietnam?
Ed: The F-4 was top of the line back in its day. Its size was a bit awesome when you first solo it- MC version F4B had only one stick. Surprisingly it was fairly nimble acrobatics wise. I flew H-34 helicopters in Reserves out of Mpls- closest Reserve base to SoDak Law School. I did crash one F-4 but walked away from it – a bit of shock- I must admit. I flew my tribe’s flag ‘Over the enemy’ as requested by my tribe’s Tribal Chief- Enos Poor Bear. He had the Marine Corps tuck it under my ejection seat unbeknownst to me before going out on a combat mission. I have a hung nape under the Phantom after this mission if you take a close look. “Look at all the photographers, ” I exclaimed to my back seat RIO- radar Operator as we came in to the revetments. “Some big wig S. O. B. must be coming in.” Little did I know it was for me. The Corps respects our tribes as many, many Marines were and are tribal members and most often we do well in combat. It is in the Blood. In combat you swear a bit. Part of the Culture.
RV: What are some of your highs and lows in life?
Ed: Some regrets in my life, only Natural but the major highlight (or Success) is that I consider myself a damn good parent. All my 7 kids and an adopted 8th graduated from college with 5 Masters among them. (5th due this Spring- LBJ Public Affairs Scholarship- U of Tex. I played a lot with my kids, sports mostly, some canoeing and travel – plus – 5 had one helluva, athletic, attentive step-mother whom they all Revere to this day.
Thank you Ed for finding time out of your schedule to talk to me. I wish you continued success with your books. Thank you also for your heroic service in Vietnam.
His books are very interesting and discuss some interesting aspects of Native American life. I recommend them all.