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In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Peter Matthiessen

Viking Press, 1983

The power of words constantly amazes me. Perhaps we should burn all the books that say things we don’t want to hear. In this instance the governor of South Dakota reached for his matches in 1983 when he tried to suppress the publication of this book because it spoke the truth about a travesty of justice that continues to this day with the life imprisonment of an innocent Indian named Leonard Peltier. We all know how threatened and offensive the government becomes in the face of the truth.

Long story short—two FBI agents and an Indian are killed in a shoot out near Wounded Knee in 1975. Four Indians from AIM, the American Indian Movement, are tried for murder, and although the FBI admits it doesn’t know who killed their agents, they go after Leonard Peltier who alone is convicted in a complete farce of a trial. The government went after the Lakota leaders of AIM with an unusually ferocious vengeance because it wanted to continue to relieve Indians of their resources with minimal interference.

In the 19th Century if any Tribe had something we wanted, our modus operandi would be to violently exterminate as many as possible, then make “peace” with the survivors, take their land and resources and then lock them in reservations. Of course now we have to be a bit more politically correct, so we try to just eliminate selected leaders when we can and imprison them when we cannot.

Apparently Gen. Tecumseh Sherman’s opprobrium “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” still carries weight in our national policy and law enforcement agencies.

Make the circle complete. Free Leonard Peltier.

Note: To hear Leonard Peltier tell the story himself, listen to the song “Sacrifice,” from Robbie Robertson’s Contact from the Underworld of Red Boy. It’s frightening.