And now:Ish <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> writes:

>>Date:         Tue, 12 Jan 1999 12:21:13 -0500
>From:         "Jordan S. Dill" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
>Subject:      [FN] Beating a dead Iron Eyes
>To:           [EMAIL PROTECTED]

>Since the recent death of Iron Eyes Cody, I am reminded of a feature
>article published by the New Orleans Times Picayune a few years ago,  in
>which Cody was revealed to have been of Italian descent and an  original
>resident of Louisiana. Cody maintained that he was born and  raised
>Cherokee in Oklahoma. Many Indians in the country would like  to know of
>the evidence gathered by Times Picayune reporters that went  into this
>story. I would appreciate any information you could provide;  a copy of
>the original article, either on paper or online, would be  especially
>Which generated the following response:
>Copyright (c) 1996, The Times-Picayune Pub. Corp.
>Sunday, May 26, 1996
>NATIVE SON By Angela Aleiss Contributing writer
>He stole America's heart with his "Keep America Beautiful" television ads
>in the 1970s. His image was unforgettable: as careless citizens littered
>the country's lakes and forests, he turned toward us with a tear trickling
>down his cheek.
>Iron Eyes Cody, veteran Hollywood actor of more than 100 motion pictures,
>thus came to represent America's noble Indian hero. Long before the ad
>ran, he rode alongside cowboy stars Tim McCoy, Gary Cooper and Roy Rogers
>in countless Westerns. He even has his own star on Hollywood Boulevard's
>Walk of Fame.
>But Iron Eyes, supposedly of Cherokee/Cree descent, is actually a
>second-generation Italian-American from Louisiana. His true heritage lies
>within the state's southwestern parish of Vermilion and its records of
>probates, deeds and baptisms.
>Today, Iron Eyes speaks of how his mother was a Cree Indian who married
>his Cherokee father and raised the children in Oklahoma. He recently
>suffered a stroke and still lives in the same modest home in Los Angeles
>that he purchased in 1936. His living room is a museum of his own photos
>and trophies, and his Hollywood memorabilia clutters the tables and
>In a telephone conversation last year, Iron Eyes denied his Louisiana
>origins. "You can't prove it," he said. Instead, he gave his own
>explanation: "All I know is that I'm just another Indian." But Iron Eyes'
>Indian guise, his Hollywood fame, was an escape from an early life of
>hardship and despair. Ultimately, he created his own Native American
>May Abshire, 80, is half sister to Iron Eyes Cody. She explains that their
>mother was Francesca Salpietra, a short woman with long black hair and
>dark skin who grew up in Sicily among a family of winegrowers. Her
>traditional parents arranged her marriage to Antonio DeCorti, an Italian

>immigrant awaiting his bride-to-be in New Orleans.
>According to New Orleans' passenger lists, Iron Eyes' mother arrived in
>1902, a decade after the notorious 1891 lynching of 11 Italian immigrants
>that nearly triggered a war between the United States and Italy.
>Widespread tensions erupted between the city's Italian and Irish
>residents, and by the turn of the century, New Orleans greeted its
>immigrant arrivals with suspicion and hostility.
>"We were known as `Dagoes' (knives) when we got there," May recalls her
>mother telling the children.
>May says that the couple soon left New Orleans to work in Louisiana's
>sugar cane fields, where Sicilian immigrants commonly replaced black slave
>Iron Eyes - or `Oscar' as he was called - was born on April 3, 1904, in
>the small town of Kaplan. Baptismal records at Holy Rosary Catholic Church
>show that his sponsors christened him "Espera." Iron Eyes was the second
>of four children, with Joseph William the eldest (born in about 1902), and
>sister Victoria Delores (about 1907) and brother Frank Henry (about 1909)
>the younger siblings.
>Francesca and Antonio struggled to make ends meet with their small grocery
>store in Gueydan. But May explains that in 1909, Antonio ran afoul of the
>notorious "Black Hand Society" and its Mafia tactics. He fled to Texas and
>never returned. "He said he wanted to hide because he didn't want his
>family destroyed," she explains.
>Parish records indicate that Francesca soon faced seizure of her business
>by the store's suppliers. "She had a hard time. She washed at night and
>ran the store during the day," May adds.
>According to May, Antonio lived virtually incognito in Texas and
>communicated with his family only through his sister in Missouri. But
>mention her husband's name, and Francesca paled.
>The incident left 5-year-old Iron Eyes temporarily without a father. But
>Francesca soon remarried Alton Abshire, a native Louisianian whose
>ancestors had immigrated from Nova Scotia. She bore five more children,
>and May was the couple's second eldest.
>May recalls that even as a youth Iron Eyes would dress up as an Indian and
>lead neighborhood boys in outdoor games. "He always said he wanted to be
>an Indian. If he could find something that looked Indian, he'd put it on,"
>she says.
>Meanwhile, Iron Eyes' struggling parents temporarily moved to Orange,
>Texas, to find work in the oil refineries. Within a year they returned to
>Gueydan, but the DeCorti boys stayed behind to join their biological
>Part of the family mystery is that no one appears to know what happened to
>Antonio. But Texas vital records show that he changed his name to Tony
>Corti and worked in Houston as a poolroom manager. He died in 1924 at the
>young age of 45.
>Following Antonio's death, the three boys journeyed to California to start
>a new life. They changed their names from Corti to Cody, and Iron Eyes
>"turned 100 percent Indian," as May puts it. "He had his mind all the time
>on movies," she says. For Iron Eyes, Hollywood became a comfortable escape
>from his unsettling past. He easily sympathized with an oppressed people

>and knew firsthand of
>hardship and persecution. He pledged his life to Native American causes,
>married an Indian woman (Bertha Parker), adopted two Indian boys (Robert
>and Arthur), and seldom left home without his beaded moccasins, buckskin
>jacket and braided wig. "He looks just like an Indian," May notes.
>For awhile, playing Indian seemed to run in the family. Iron Eyes' two
>brothers also portrayed Indian characters in the movies until they drifted
>into other careers. Frank was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 1949, and
>Victoria worked as a seamstress in Los Angeles until her death in 1965.
>Joseph died in 1978, the same year Iron Eyes lost his wife of nearly 42
>Last year, Hollywood's Native American community honored Iron Eyes for his
>longstanding contribution. Although he was no Indian, they pointed out,
>his charitable deeds were more important than this non-Indian heritage.
>For Iron Eyes, it seems that his Indian identity will become another movie

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