[A photo of Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance smiling]
Another Friday, another Historical Hottie. Today we are graced with the smiling face of Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance, born December 1st, 1890 as Sylvester Clark Long. Both his parents were born enslaved, and according to the film Long Lance, were each of mixed background (Black, Indigenous, and White). He initially gained fame as a writer, after publishing his autobiography, going on to become an actor in the mid-twentieth century. He attended the Carlisle Indian School in the United States, infamous in its abuse of not only Indigenous but also Puerto Rican and African American youth.
Long Lance eventually went on to star in the 1930 film The Silent Enemy. He was a strong advocate for representing Indigenous Peoples and cultures respectfully within mainstream Euro-America and Euro-Canada. For many years he hid his identity as a man of mixed background (Black, European, Indigenous). Unfortunately, when his identity was revealed, this caused Long Lance to suffer to the point of committing suicide in 1932 (some people believe he was actually murdered). His will left all of his wealth towards aiding Indigenous youth in Alberta.
Although I do not want to refute Long Lance’s lived experiences and his family’s Indigenous claims, I think it is also important to acknowledge that his claims of being Indigenous are muddled in the half truths of any personal history and are still contested. It is also important to situate him within the broader history of Black Americans and White Americans claiming Indigenous history, often times with little evidence but other times with accuracy – especially in relation to Black Americans who are often denied being Indigenous due to anti-Black racism.
Today’s Historical Hottie is a gentle reminder that compassion and acceptance for each and every one of us can go a long way.
Long Lance. Online. Directed by Bernie Dichek. 1986. https://www.nfb.ca/film/long_lance
Reel Injun. Online. Directed by Neil Diamond. 2011. http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/reel-injun