Wild Indian Saloon sends a strong message

The bar's owner has a few things to say about how American Indians are treated.

Published July 14, 2007

LARGO - Mike Lang is a card-carrying American Indian. If you are too, the first beer is on the house.

Lang owns the Wild Indian Saloon on Rosery Road. But he grew up about as far away from Largo as you can get and still be in the United States - in Sitka, Alaska.

His family lived on a reservation with other Sitka Indians. Life was bleak, he said. American holidays such as the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving just "weren't something we grew up celebrating," he said.

So as this Fourth of July approached, Lang decided to use the Wild Indian to send a message.

On a sign in front, he arranged the black plastic letters to say this:

"US Indian Policy

Kill Them Hang Them

Exterminate Them All

Enjoy Your Independence

You Earned It"

Lang said he hoped the strong message would stop people, lure them in. Not so much so he could sell them a beer, but more so he could talk to them, tell them about the pain inflicted on his people for centuries.

"This is what the country was founded on," said Lang, 46. "This is what they (the founding fathers) thought of a race of people."

The message went up July 1. It got immediate attention.

"I had some people who come in here who want to kick my a-- until I sit with them and talk with them," Lang said. "I have garnered a lot of business off of that sign. You got to put some thought into what's going to get your attention."

Lang opened the Wild Indian six months ago. He chose that name, he said, to draw attention to the permissive culture in America that tolerates derisive references for American Indians but rejects equally hurtful language for other people of color.

Lang's family moved to Largo when he was a teenager. He graduated from Largo High School in 1978. He went into the Navy, then returned home, got married and worked at a hospital and other jobs.

Then came a divorce and the death of his father. Lang decided to hit the road. He bought a Harley-Davidson and took 10 months seeing the country.

Back in Largo in 2006, Lang happened by what was then the Fox Bar & Grill and noticed a "for sale" sign. In December, he bought it.

Lang had some brushes with police before becoming a bar owner. He was arrested in 2002 for resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer. He contested the charges, and filed a violation of civil rights federal lawsuit against the city of Largo. He and the city settled in March 2006.

Lang said his lawyer thought he was joking when he told her he was opening a bar in Largo.

Though the sign carries a strong message, city sign rules generally do not deal with sign content, particularly noncommercial speech, said Robert Klute, assistant community director.

"I don't know off hand if that is a regulation issue," said Klute, who had not seen the sign. The rules mostly concentrate on issues such as sign size, placement, structure, he said.

"The U.S. Constitution provides many protections for people who wish to use political speech," Klute said.

Times staff writer Lorri Helfand contributed to this story.