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THE LAST WARRIOR by Peter MacDonald


Peter MacDonald and the Navajo Nation

by Peter MacDonald with Ted Schwarz

Pub Date: July 31st, 1991
ISBN: 1-56129-093-9

 Here, deposed Navajo tribal chairman MacDonald, convicted last fall of corruption, tells (with the aid of Schwarz--The Hillside Strangler, etc.) his side of the story. As an autobiography of a contemporary Native American, his tale is absorbing; as an exploration of guilt, it is an exercise in finger-pointing and excusatory moral relativism. MacDonald's rise to naat'aannii, or leader, of the 200,000 Navajo in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico is also an interesting look at the history, culture, and organization of the tribe. Educated in Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, MacDonald drifted from job to job and was once an apprentice medicine man. Eventually trained as an electrical engineer, he left his job at Hughes Aircraft in 1963 to head the Office of Navajo Economic Opportunity, which led to his election in 1970 as tribal chairman. An effective leader and shrewd businessman, he garnered good deals for the tribe's oil, coal, and gas, and managed extensive improvements in roads, sewers, and housing. However, his ``imperial chairmanship'' brought charges of corruption as early as 1977. The Hopi-Navajo land disputes and his bitter feud with Barry Goldwater (who, MacDonald claims, tried to have him killed in 1976) culminated in vicious infighting and the death of two of his followers. By the late 1980's, MacDonald's penchant for hot tubs, BMWs, and chartered planes and his involvement in a multimillion-dollar land deal led to a Senate investigation. Despite admitting his acceptance of ``gifts'' from ``friends,'' and despite his own son's testimony against him, MacDonald claims here that the Senate committee ``deliberately framed him''by withholding evidence. His overvaluation by $7 million of the ``Big Bo'' ranch was ``just the way good old boys play the Arizona real estate game,'' and his acceptance of cash payments was ``no different from those of many U.S. congressional representatives and senators.'' Perversely fascinating, but MacDonald's painting himself as a victim of history and politics will convince few. (Twenty-one pages of photographs--not seen.)