Willie Boy & the Last Western Manhunt

By Lisa Morgan

2nd Friday Old Schoolhouse Lecture Series, Twentynine Palms, CA, November 12, 2021

More than a century ago, a Romeo and Juliet- esque tragedy unfolded in the desert southwest. The antagonist, Willie Boy, shot and killed the shaman, William Mike, and eloped with William Mike’s daughter, Carlota, who met her demise at the hands of the pursuing posse.

The story has been framed and reframed for generations from the settler perspective, including the Harry Lawton book “Willie Boy” and a 1969 Hollywood movie starring Robert Redford and Robert Blake. The resulting narrative has endured in large part because cultural law has prevented the Chemehuevi community from speaking of the dead.

Clifford E. Trafzer, distinguished professor of history and Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs at UC Riverside, explores this fateful saga from the perspective of the Native community in his book, “Willie Boy & The Last Western Manhunt.”

Professor Trafzer was included, along with Matt Leivas, one of the last keepers of the sacred Chemehuevi Salt Songs and respected elder, to consult on the script for the recent independent film, “The Last Manhunt,” co-written and starring Jason Momoa.

Jason Momoa told Deadline.com: “I love Joshua Tree and the community out there. I remember hearing about Willie Boy, the Desert Runner, and was fascinated by the story surrounding him. What should be a universal story of a relationship gone bad, quickly became a muddy, complex story about the power of crooked media and how Native Americans are portrayed to the public. The true story of Willie Boy has never been told, and it’s a beautiful one. I developed the story with my team because I wanted to set the record straight and set the spirits of this story free.”

Join Clifford Trafzer at the Old Schoolhouse for this in-person lecture series at the 29 Palms Historical Society, 6760 National Park Drive, on Friday, November 12 at 7 pm. Admission is $5 at the door.

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