An Indian Love Story Becomes An Unforgettable High Plains Wedding

UPDATED 07/15/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/15/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

High atop a mesa on Navajo land near Shiprock, N.Mex., 26 brightly colored tepees from Montana raised their lodge poles to the sky as about 2,000 Native American emissaries gathered for the "Indian event of the century"—the wedding of Lynda Hart Bailey, former wife of star lawyer F. Lee Bailey, to multimillionaire businessman Mel F. Pervais of the tribe. In a nearby hogan built especially for the first of two Indian wedding ceremonies, Peter MacDonald, the bride's adopted Navajo "father," posed the traditional Navajo dowry request to the groom and a Navajo medicine man: "Will you bring 12 horses?" A dozen wild horses couldn't have kept him away.

"When I met Mel last December 15th," says green-eyed blonde Bailey, 37, "I knew within 20 minutes that I wanted to marry him. It took him longer—'til the end of the day."

Pervais proposed January 18, but it was Bailey's idea to put on a traditional Indian wedding. The second ceremony, in accord with Pervais' Ojibwa heritage, took place at sundown the day after the hogan wedding on the night of a new moon, because, says Pervais, "as the moon grows, so does your love." The wedding was a return to his roots for Pervais, 45, whose father had pushed him out into the non-Indian world at an early age. "It was the most traumatic thing he ever did," he says, "but it was the best thing he ever did for me." A self-taught engineer and a strong proponent of free enterprise for Indians, Pervais recently sold his high-tech engineering company, Cataracts, Inc., for $20 million. Father and son exchanged a lot of smiles during the feasting, but no one appeared happier than the bride, who has been enamored of American Indians and their lore since her childhood in New Zealand. "When they were married in the hogan by the medicine man," says Lynda's mother, Betty Hart, "the expression on her little face was one of pure self-fulfillment."

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