BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL by Herman J. Viola

BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL

An American Warrior
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An uncritical biography of the new US senator from Colorado, the only Native American serving in Congress. Viola, former director of the National Anthropological Archives, is content to relay the facts of Campbell's life--an approach that, in this case, makes for a fairly engrossing story. Born into poverty, of Portuguese and Cheyenne stock, Campbell spent his youth hopping trains, stealing cars, and scraping the bottom of the grade heap at school. His life did an about-face when he discovered judo. The sport became an obsession--the first of many instances in which Campbell bent his will unceasingly toward a goal--leading him to four years of study in Japan, a gold medal at the Pan Am Games, and a spot on the 1964 Olympic team. Apparently he absorbed judo technique but not its teaching about restraint, for his spare time was spent on fast cars, fast women, and frightening outbursts of violence (Viola describes one instance in which Campbell ``proceeded to give his student a lesson in manners before tossing him--bleeding, vomiting, and semi-conscious--onto the rain-soaked driveway''). He worked as a policeman, industrial- arts teacher, and horse rancher before his life took another unpredictable turn, this time into jewelry-making, a field in which he's still famous as Ben Nighthorse, one of the top designers in America. Yet another dramatic shift came in 1980, when he passed time between plane flights by wandering into a local political meeting. Soon he was a Colorado state senator and then a US congressman, carving out a middle-of-the road course and a reputation as a defender of Indian rights. Viola neither lionizes nor challenges Campbell's machismo--and this moral neutrality makes for a curiously old-fashioned biography, informative but ultimately unsatisfying. (Forty b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-59652-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993