THE BROKEN CIRCLE: A True Story of Murder and Magic in Indian Country by Rodney Barker
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THE BROKEN CIRCLE: A True Story of Murder and Magic in Indian Country

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Masterful account of the torture/murder of three Navajos by white teenagers. Farmington, New Mexico, the only major Anglo community for hundreds of miles, lies beside the reservation of the largest Indian tribe in the US--the Navajos. The discovery in 1974 of the battered bodies of three Navajo men and the subsequent arrest of three teenagers for their murder brought Navajos into Farmington's streets in several marches for equal justice, which were ended by an apparent police riot. During questioning, the teenagers claimed to have only ""rolled"" the victims but, here, Barker (The Hiroshima Maidens, 1985) draws on his own interviews to reveal the appalling secret behind the murders. The ""rolling"" of Indians, it seems, was a common sport of high-school boys and was winked at by authorities. Picking up drunk Indians--whom they called ""subs"" (subhumans)--teenagers drove them into the desert, where they were kicked, beaten, and pushed over cliffs, with their belts and boots stolen for trophies. When the three accused teenagers were sent to reform school for two years instead of being tried for murder, there was an outpouring of disgust among the Navajos, and it was rumored that medicine men had placed a curse on the killers. Barker, who nurtured a strong friendship with the widow of one of the slain Indians, evokes her viewpoint and life story in an extraordinarily vivid picture of how Indians live today, and he goes on to explore in rare depth the lives of the killers. One was mentally ill, he tells us, but the other two mirrored community attitudes: In 1974, Farmington was considered the Indian-rights equivalent to Selma in the black struggle. Finally, Barker attempts to discover whether a curse had been placed on the slayers. He reports that one died in an accident, one suffered a kind of emotional death, and the third has been dogged by personal calamity. A thoughtful and important social document full of deep human insight; essential reading to understand the present-day lives of Native Americans.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster