Philip Red Eagle spoke on war as a formative experience


UNC Pembroke’s Native Speaker Series continued on March 25 with author and cultural activist Philip Red Eagle, who spoke in the Main Reading Room of the Mary Livermore Library.

Philip Red EagleIn her introduction, Dr. Jane Haladay, a member of UNCP’s American Indian Studies Department, said Red Eagle uses his writing to “build culture,” a testament to the “powerful transformative possibilities of literature.”

Red Eagle is also a canoe carver and a founding member of the Canoe Movement. The group is working to restore the heritage of the American Indian canoes of the Pacific Northwest.

His book, “Red Earth: A Vietnam Warrior’s Journey,” was published in 2007. It is an inner look at his experiences in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

“I didn’t want to tell stories of blood and guts,” Red Eagle said. “I wanted to write something with emotional strength behind it.”             Red Eagle told stories of the darker times and issues that troubled him from Vietnam. Rage was the number one issue, but the emotional turmoil led him in a new direction, he said.

 “If you can’t work under pressure, you can’t be creative,” he said.

Red Eagle shared the concept of “Mythical Realism,” the style he employed to tell his story. He also mentioned the importance of community.

“Native cultures all have similar backgrounds no matter their differences,” he said. “The cultures have distinct similarities that they share with one another.

“Much like a car, no matter the make or model, they have the same key components, and Native people do as well,” Red Eagle said.

In the question and answer period, Red Eagle was asked about positive experiences that shaped his life.

“Vietnam brought me down to earth,” he said. “I was more of a creative-minded person before I went there.

“Now I use both hands,” Red Eagle said. “It gave me an equal balance of life in a sense of real issues and creativity.”

The Native Speaker Series continues on April 17 with Lumbee historian Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery. She will speak at the Chancellor’s Residence at 7 p.m. Reservations may be made by calling 910.521.6252.

Justin Walker is a senior mass communication major at UNCP.