Longform

Lost Tribe

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Queton refused. He didn't see or hear from Clayton again until this past year, when he made a presentation to the AIC board, trying to get them interested in supporting an Indian job training program connected with the Texas Institute of Human Development. "We are interested but we have our work cut out for us building our own programs," says Queton.

Clayton and McGehee showed up a few weeks ago at a meeting of Indians who want to develop a Native American Chamber of Commerce in Dallas. Some people at the meeting thought that when McGehee spoke he showed a stunning lack of knowledge of Indian history and issues. "He made no sense at all," says Eagle Bull.

Others had a more charitable view. Doyle Logan, co- owner of the Sequoyah Bookstore, which specializes in Native American first editions, thought Clayton made some good points about making sure the Chamber didn't exclude any heritages and that it worked to improve Indian businesses. He was also taken with what he believed was 'Nato's noble, if quixotic, mission. "They want all Indian groups to band together for the common good, to give Indians a bigger voice," says Logan, whose wife is half Cherokee. "The last time Indians did that they defeated Custer."

But most Indian leaders hadn't even heard of 'Nato until the Observer contacted them for comment. "They are not involved in the Indian community at all," Queton says. "And this is the first I've heard of him being a judge. He's taken some courses and now he's a judge. Well, son of a gun--I'm baffled. I really am. What benefits he is trying to establish may be self-serving."

But Clayton explains 'Nato's low profile as reflecting their cultural heritage. "We've been aggressive, but not obtrusive. It is not the Indian way to beat your drum."

Ironically, the most bitter critic of 'Nato and of Henry Clayton shares his Indian blood. His youngest daughter Rebeka Clayton Lochhead believes he is creating the tribe for selfish ends. "My father is a manipulator and a con man," says Rebeka."This is just a way to make himself feel important."

Lochhead, who looks older than her 21 years, says she used to respect and admire her father, but now refuses to have anything to do with him, despite needing family support for her three children--a six-month-old and 18-month-old twins, one of whom was recently operated on for a clubfoot. Lochhead lives in a small apartment in Grand Prairie where she has no phone, no car, no money, and no friends.

She has lived a fast life, drinking tequila in gulps to come down from her speed highs. She recently married an addict two months out of drug rehab. "I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of," she says. "But I'm sure as hell not going to lie about them."

Her husband, Robert, a self-described former practitioner of black magic, shakes his head in agreement and smiles, revealing a dark hole where a front tooth used to be.

Rebeka and Robert Lochhead are the first to admit their life is a precarious balancing act. They struggle each day to care for their kids, stay off drugs, and stay civil to each other. The Lochheads' three-year relationship has been marked by numerous violent episodes. Still, they bristle at the idea of anyone interfering with the rearing of their children.

Their defensiveness and anger is reserved particularly for Henry Clayton, whose daughter believes is trying to gain custody of her kids. She has refused to let Clayton see them since June.

Clayton denies he wants custody. But earlier this summer Clayton petitioned a Utah state district court, which had previously ruled on custody of Rebeka's children, to turn over the case to the 'Nato tribal court in his office in Grand Prairie.

"I just want jurisdiction, so I can monitor the children's welfare," Clayton says. He also wants to make sure they are learning about their Indian culture, something that Robert derides.

"Being an Indian is special, but it offends him," Rebeka says, shooting Robert an ugly glance.

"I'm a racist," Robert says matter-of-factly. "My background is German and we haven't gotten around to playing Germans and Indians yet."

Clayton believes he has federal law on his side. The federal government, under the Indian Child Welfare Act, allows a tribal court to assume exclusive jurisdiction in deciding custody and foster care placement of Indian children. The law, of course, is meant to apply to federally recognized tribes--not a tribe that just minted itself. Clayton, naturally, vehemently disputes that interpretation of the law.

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Ann Zimmerman