Basil F. Heath

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Basil F. Heath (March 18, 1917 – January 24, 2011),[1] better-known by his stage name, Chief White Eagle, was an actor, stuntman and television personality whose career spanned several decades beginning with the 1940 film, Northwest Passage.[2] He was sometimes credited as Chief Sky Eagle. He also appeared in television programming in the Chicago, Illinois, area.[3]

He claimed to be a senior Mohawk tribal chief in both Canada and the United States.[4]


Basil F. Heath was born on March 18, 1917.[2] Although he claimed to be of Mohawk ancestry,[1] after his death, his wife stated that Heath's parents were actually Andrew Cleve and Amelia (née De Amorim) Heath.[2] Heath attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec,[citation needed] and Oxford University,[citation needed] in the United Kingdom.[2] After moving to the United States, Heath served as a liaison officer for the United States Office of War Information during World War II, as well as a volunteer member of the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division during the war.[1][2]

He began his career as a welder and iron worker in skyscraper construction in Chicago and other cities.[better source needed][2][3] He then became a stuntman before transitioning to on-screen film roles.[2] His first film role came in the 1940 movie, Northwest Passage, which starred Spencer Tracy.[2] He appeared in more than thirty films throughout his career,[1] including Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Niagara.[2] Chief White Eagle noted that his characters had been killed in films seven times by actor John Wayne.[1][2]

As "Chief White Eagle" he hosted Totem Club on WTTW in Chicago during the 1960s, including a segment called "Indian Stories with Chief White Eagle".[2][3] The show was one of the first children's programs to debut on WTTW, a PBS affiliate based out of Chicago.[2] He also hosted a radio show, appeared in television and radio commercials and appeared as a guest on television series, Wagon Train.[2] He was known for his appearances in which he wore a plains-style headdress.[1]

Heath married his wife, Roberta “Bobbi Bear” Heath, on June 29, 1977. He resided in Tinley Park, Illinois, from 1975 until 1990.[2] He and his family then moved to Rochester, Indiana, where he lived for the rest of his life.[3]

In 1996, Heath reflected on his acting career and the role of Native Americans in western films saying, "The Indians were always the losers...For years, the movie industry portrayed the Indians in a derogatory manner. Happily, today, Indian films are more credible."[3]

He died at Woodlawn Hospital in Rochester, Indiana, at 2:35 a.m. on January 24, 2011, at the age of 93.[2] He was survived by his wife, Roberta “Bobbi Bear” Heath; daughter, Eunice Madeline Heath Collard; his adopted son, Kenneth "Lone Eagle" Heath; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.[2] He was predeceased by his daughter, Lauraine Heath, and his two sisters, Sylvia Schroeder and Valerie Peterson.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Metsch, Steve (2011-01-28). "Chief White Eagle' remembered as friend of Tinley Park". SouthtownStar. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Dailing, Paul (2011-01-26). "Former Tinley Resident and Kids' Host, Killed Seven Times by John Wayne, Dies in Indiana". Tinley Park Patch. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Stephens, Dave (2011-01-27). "Film, television actor Chief White Eagle dies, Rochester resident Heath known for film, television roles". South Bend Tribune. Retrieved 2011-02-22. [dead link]
  4. ^ Rueff, Ashley (2011-01-27). "Former Tinley resident, Native American actor dies at 93". TribLocal. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 

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