The Long Riders' Guild

Walt Disney hijacks the American education system

There have been some low moments during the year-long research project into the life and lies of Frank Hopkins.

Such as when the Native American journalist, when told that Hopkins had plagiarized whole passages from the book revered by the Lakota people, Black Elk Speaks, told The Long Riders' Guild that she was not going to "Joan of Arc this cause."

Such as when a famous academic agreed to "advise" us, but only if we paid him US$10,000 immediately.

But by far the lowest moment came when we discovered that the Walt Disney company is offering an "Educator's Guide" on the Hidalgo website. 

Disney's decision to promote Hopkins as a legitimate hero in the face of a storm of academic criticism is bad.  Disney's advertisements and movie trailers which falsely depict their film as "based on a true story" are worse.  But those were aimed at adults.  Disney's usage of a so-called "Educator's Guide" is an attempt to misdirect the American educational system into furthering Disney's own corporate goals.

"Meet legendary horseman Frank T. Hopkins and his stallion Hidalgo," it begins.  "This Educator's Guide for grades 8 to 12 is designed to help you integrate Hidalgo into your Language Arts curriculum by launching lessons that will hone writing, research, and critical-thinking skills."

"Research" and "critical-thinking skills?"  Hardly!

This is not the first time the Hopkins myth has been peddled to children.

In 1940, a Montana elementary school-teacher wrote to Frank Hopkins on behalf of her class.  They were querying Hopkins' claim that famed Lakota holy man, Black Elk, had made an extraordinary ride across the Old West.  Neither the children nor their teacher could find any evidence to support Hopkins's equestrian fantasy.  The American Heritage Center has a document on file wherein Hopkins lies to the teacher and her students, claiming Black Elk's ride did take place, even though nobody had ever heard of it! 

But Hopkins' efforts to deceive a single classroom of trusting children in Montana pales in comparison to the massive educational deception discovered in the Hidalgo "Educator's Guide" !

There we find Hopkins' "heroic quest" being compared to the beloved Chronicles of Narnia.
We read how Hopkins, a confirmed Indian Imposter, is alleged to be a half-Lakota who witnessed the Massacre at Wounded Knee.
Finally, Hopkins the endurance riding fraud is compared with American bicycling legend, Lance Armstrong.
All of this material comes from the same company whose PR spokesperson, Nina Heyn, told the world "No one here really cares about the historical aspects. Once a movie has been shot people move on to the others. We are like a factory.  It's like making dolls, once the latest baby is out we go on to the next one. If it transpires that the historical aspects are in question, I don't think people would care that much. Hidalgo is a family film. It has little to do with reality."

In a further effort to persuade our children that Frank Hopkins was the real thing, Random House Disney has published a "children's" book by Kim Ostrow.  It states that it is suitable for 9 to 12-year-olds. 

Here is more historical and geographical nonsense.

’Perhaps you have never heard of the Ocean of Fire,’ said Rasmussen.  ‘The great horse race of the Bedouin.  It has been held annually for more than one thousand years.  A three-thousand-mile race.  Across the Arabian desert, along the Persian Gulf and Iraq, and across the sands of Syria to Damascus.’

Two minutes' research would have told the author that Iraq did not exist in 1890, as it was part of the Ottoman Empire.  Iraq did not obtain its independence as a kingdom until 1932.

This "children's" book contains both a suicide scene and a sequence where Hopkins is almost castrated by the Arabian Sheikh.

As one reviewer - a parent - put it: "It's such a clumsy narrative that I almost don't know where to begin. Frank Hopkins is alternately characterized as silently noble and venial to a fault. He is also shown as a drifter with no fixed abode or family. In one scene he drinks himself into a stupor. No thank you, Disney!

As the story proceeds, it works in practically every falsehood Hopkins is now known to have told, which makes for a story that just doesn't hold together. The story's Hopkins goes from never-happened event (his participation in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show), to never-happened event (his presence at Wounded Knee) to never-happened event (the "Ocean of Fire" race across Arabia).

And let's talk about the dialogue! The following gems appear in this less-than-dexterous text:

"The next day, Frank rode Hidalgo across the Arabian Desert." [interesting day-trip, not to be undertaken lightly]."

The reviewer concludes with this message:  "Do yourself a favor - give the kids a copy of THE BLACK STALLION instead."

Here is a link to the "children's" book on, where you can read the complete review mentioned above.

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