Yesterday evening July 10, 2010, John White, who is a reader of my Blog, posted a very long comment (more of an open letter) below my morning post “Hoka Hey Challenge. The Questions Asked To Jim Red Cloud Durham“. I immediately informed John that I will re- publish as is his writing as a formal post so that none of my readers could miss his answers to the questions that many have asked. It’s about the nature of the relation(s) between Jim Durham organizer of the Hoka Hey Challenge and John White, CEO of Hoka Hey Motors Company.
From John White,
“I was not aware of the Hoka Hey Challenge until 28 days before the Challenge began. I called the organizers, namely Jim Red Cloud, and asked for permission for our motorcycles to enter the race. He asked me our company name and when I said it was Crazy Horse Motorcycles LLC he told me I needed to fly to Pine Ridge and meet with him directly. I did not ask why. I got on the plane.
We have been using the name Crazy Horse for a very long time. In addition, I own the trademark for the name Crazy Horse. Trademarks are complicated. I am sure you have found out that I own many patents and have a good background in this area. My trademark covers motorcycles, engines, etc. I have been very concerned about using the name Crazy Horse. There are two bands on Pine Ridge, the Black Elks and the Iron Clouds, that are descendants of Crazy Horse and they do not like seeing that name used or exploited. They have been involved in law suits against a beer company that put Crazy Horse on their label. I may have the United States of America Patent and Trademark office behind me but I did not have the spiritual backing of the descendants. I was very aware that as our company expanded I would probably experience a day when I would have to answer to the descendants of Crazy Horse. Knowing this, I made sure I did not disrespect the name by putting it on a beer can. Last year when Dave Perewitz and Ron Finch and Kris Krome all won awards using our engine I knew the time was close.
I came up with the name Crazy Horse after my failed attempt to buy Indian Motorcycle in 2004. Indian Motorcycles closed the doors in September 2003, a week after I had purchased a new Indian. I had no service. I purchased Rolling Thunder in Seattle and hired the ex employees of Seattle Indian. I purchased the engine program called the PowerPlus. Indian had left it on the floor in Lavonia, Michigan and nobody wanted it so I purchased it for $250,000 cash. I moved the factory to Seattle. I changed the engine from PowerPlus to V-Plus. I purchased all the drawings for the bikes. I then started buying up other assets formally owned by Indian Motorcycle. A British private investment company purchased the name “Indian” and I was second or third bidder. Few know that Harley Davidson also bid.
I wanted an All American made motorcycle with a Native Indian theme. My business plan (which is still my business plan) was to make American made motorcycles with American made parts. In addition, I wanted to have the accessories made by Native Indians. For example, if you purchased a Crazy Horse Chief you could name your Native Indian theme……..such as Navajo. The bags and leathers and various accessories would be made by Navajo Indians, complete with their colors and culture, thus providing jobs for Native Americans and securing their art and crafts. If you purchased a Crazy Horse Chief but wanted it with a Cherokee theme, then your bike would be fitted with bags and accessories from that tribe and so on. This was my business plan for Indian Motorcycle and I adapted it when I could not buy Indian. I adapted it to Crazy Horse. I then set out to fix the engine. I re-engineered it. I gave engines away at no cost as long as they reported the miles and provided me with feedback. We have done this since 2004 and now the engine is world wide known in the custom bike business.
So I flew to Pine Ridge not so much to get permission to enter our bikes in the Hoka Hey. It was my time to solve a concern I had over the use of the name Crazy Horse. I arrived in a storm. It was raining like hell and lightning was striking our truck. On the way there we were passed by a crazy person on a motorcycle, going over 100 mph in the rain with no helmet or windshield. I noticed the guy had a Hoka Hey jacket. My driver, Ed Corbett, who happens to be our test rider for Crazy Horse, said we need not enter the race because this nut that just passed us is better than we are.
Ed did not want to continue taking me to Pine Ridge. He thought I was going to get beat up or killed or attacked for using the name Crazy Horse. I told Ed to stop worrying and to realize that I would die, not him. Meanwhile the rain kept coming down and we inched our way and then it started hailing and we were forced to stop. Three inch diameter hail stones destroyed our truck and nearly broke the windshield. I instructed Ed to stop and we came upon the motorcyclist that passed us. He was dodging ICE balls so I rolled down my window and told the kid to get in the truck. By this time our truck looked like someone had taken a giant hammer to it. The kid got in the truck and was in pain from hitting ICE balls but he was ok. I introduced myself and Ed and then I looked him in the eye and said “your name is Elijah Whirlwindhorse. I had recognized him from the short video on the Hoka Hey website. Elijah thought I was a police officer. He then told me he was riding to Jim Red Cloud’s house to meet John White from Seattle. We laughed. The lightning and stones kept peppering our truck. Ed started asking Elijah if we were in trouble for using the name Crazy Horse. I finally had to tell Ed shut the F…K up. Ed was so worried.
The hail stopped. Elijah told us to follow him. He took off on his bike like a bat out of hell. We could not keep up with him. The hail started coming down even worst than before. I yanked out my I Phone and recorded it because I was sure our windows would be broken. We got to the side of the road and there was Elijah, dodging ICE balls and lightning; it was a terrible situation. He was really hurt this time. He was holding his shoulder. I motioned for him to get in the truck and this time I scolded him. No one in their right mind would ride like that. He is lucky to be alive.
Ten minutes later the hail stopped and we drove to Jim’s house. Ed would not get out of the truck and was ready to go for his weapon. Jim was standing in the front yard, among all the hail stones that had not melted yet. He asked me why Ed would not get out of the truck. I told him that Ed was fearful over my use of the name Crazy Horse. Jim smiled and said that Crazy Horse rode into battle with a lightning bolt painted on his face and white hails stones on his body and you and Ed have come here on Crazy Horse’s spirit. Jim thanked me for protecting his nephew. Ed relaxed and we had dinner.
To make a long story short, Jim took me to his Grandfather Chief Oliver Red Cloud. We discussed the name Crazy Horse. I made my case. No answer was given. He said Jim would give me the answer. Jim told me that it is difficult to find any two Indians to agree on anything. I could ask for the blessing from the Iron Clouds and then not get it from the Black Elks. It was a losing battle. I always knew this. I returned home without an answer but I did get permission to enter our bikes.
I called Wayne Shammal. Wayne is a Blackfoot lawyer for the Umpqua’s. He spent more than a million dollars trying to buy Indian Motorcycle back in 1999. I told him years ago when I could not buy Indian that I would use the name Crazy Horse. He warned me then. I explained to him the above experience. I told him that I would change the name. He said you are a good man and I knew that you would find a new name. I told him that I did not find a new name. He said it will come.
Jim called me the next morning and said my business plan was good. He suggested I use the name Hoka Hey.
I hope this answers your question as to why I am trying to take this mess and form it into an organization. You think I am crazy, I think I am fortunate. My wife thinks I am nuts. My lawyers think I should wait until someone is paid. Therefore, you are entitled to your opinion.”
Sincerely, John L. White. CEO Hoka Hey Motor Company. President, American Piledriving Equipment, Inc. USMC 1973-77