Dances with Wolves actor Chief David Bald Eagle dies at 97
- 27 July 2016
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Native American Chief David Bald Eagle, who appeared in the Oscar-winning 1990 film Dances With Wolves, has died aged 97.
The grandson of Chief White Bull, who fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, Bald Eagle appeared in more than 40 films.
He went on to become the face of South Dakota's Lakota people.
He died at his home on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation on 22 July, according to a local funeral home.
Born in a tepee in 1919 on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation, his native Lakota name translates as Wounded in Winter Beautiful Bald Eagle.
He served in the US Army during World War Two where he fought in the landings at Anzio in Italy and won the silver star.
After being severely wounded by German fire while parachuting into Normandy during D-Day, Bald Eagle pursued a music career as a drummer for Cliff Keyes Big Band.
Following a foray into ballroom dancing, which ended with the tragic death of his dance partner and wife, Penny Rathburn, in a car crash, Bald Eagle established a career in Hollywood.
He trained a range of stars including John Wayne in horse and gun handling, and served as Errol Flynn's stunt double.
In the late 1950s he joined a rodeo display team and while in Belgium met his second wife, Josee.
He continued to work as an actor and became the face of South Dakota's state tourism promotions for decades.
Outside of showbusiness, Bald Eagle's dedication to the Lakota people saw him elected as the first Chief of the United Native Nations in 2001, addressing indigenous people worldwide.
His last film role was in Neither Wolf Nor Dog, which premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival last month.
The film's director, Steven Lewis Simpson, praised Bald Eagle as "truly unique".
"His life was more extraordinary than of those that most great biographies are written about; the joys and the tragedies," he said.
"He was an astonishingly beautiful man. The sparkle from his eyes when he smiled or was being mischievous was a joy to behold."
Rooks Funeral Home in Eagle Butte said Bald Eagle's funeral is scheduled for 29 July at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, following a traditional four-day wake.