In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement

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9780140144567: In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement

An “indescribably touching, extraordinarily intelligent" (Los Angeles Times Book Review) chronicle of a fatal gun-battle between FBI agents and American Indian Movement activists by renowned writer Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014), author of the National Book Award-winning The Snow Leopard and the new novel In Paradise
 
On a hot June morning in 1975, a desperate shoot-out between FBI agents and Native Americans near Wounded Knee, South Dakota, left an Indian and two federal agents dead. Four members of the American Indian Movement were indicted on murder charges, and one, Leonard Peltier, was convicted and is now serving consecutive life sentences in a federal penitentiary. Behind this violent chain of events lie issues of great complexity and profound historical resonance, brilliantly explicated by Peter Matthiessen in this controversial book. Kept off the shelves for eight years because of one of the most protracted and bitterly fought legal cases in publishing history, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse reveals the Lakota tribe’s long struggle with the U.S. government, and makes clear why the traditional Indian concept of the earth is so important at a time when increasing populations are destroying the precious resources of our world.

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About the Author:

Peter Matthiessen was the cofounder of the Paris Review and is the author of numerous works of nonfiction, including In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Indian Country, and The Snow Leopard, winner of the National Book Award.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

INTRODUCTION

 

The buffalos I, the buffalos I . . .

I am related to the buffalos, the buffalos.

Clear the way in a sacred manner!

I come.

The earth is mine.

The earth is weeping, weeping.

On June 26, 1975, in the late morning, two FBI agents drove onto Indian land near Oglala, South Dakota, a small village on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Here a shoot-out occurred in which both agents and an Indian man were killed. Although large numbers of FBI agents, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) police, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and vigilantes surrounded the property within an hour of the first shots, the numerous Indians involved in the shoot-out escaped into the hills.

The death of the agents inspired the biggest manhunt in FBI history. Of the four men eventually indicted for the killings, one was later released because the evidence was “weak,” and two others were acquitted in July 1976 when a jury concluded that although they had fired at the agents, they had done so in self-defense. The fourth man, Leonard Peltier, indicted on the same charges as his companions but not tried until the following year, after extradition from Canada, was convicted on two counts of murder in the first degree, and was sentenced to consecutive life terms in prison, although even his prosecutors would dismiss as worthless the testimony of the only person ever to claim to have witnessed his participation in the killings. This testimony was also repudiated by the witness, who claimed to have signed her damning affidavits under duress, as part of what one court of appeals judge would refer to as a “clear abuse of the investigative process by the FBI.”

Whatever the nature and degree of his participation at Oglala, the ruthless persecution of Leonard Peltier had less to do with his own actions than with underlying issues of history, racism, and economics, in particular Indian sovereignty claims and growing opposition to massive energy development on treaty lands and the dwindling reservations. In the northern Plains, the opposition was based on a treaty, signed in 1868 between the United States and the Lakota nation at Fort Laramie, in Dakota Territory, which recognized Lakota sovereignty in their Dakota-Wyoming homelands and hunting grounds, including the sacred Paha Sapa, the Black Hills. With the discovery of gold in the Black Hills a few years later, this treaty was illegally repudiated by the U.S. government; not until the 1970s was the justice of the Lakota treaty claim recognized in court.

In the year of the 1868 Treaty, a former Governor of New York State named Horatio Seymour was nominated as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States; and the history of the Lakota people might possibly have been less tragic had the Democrats won, since Governor Seymour held strong convictions that Ulysses S. Grant did not share about the offense to its own Constitution in the young nation’s shameful treatment of the native peoples.

 

Every human being born upon our continent, or who comes here from any quarter of the world, whether savage or civilized, can go to our courts for protection—except those who belong to the tribes who once owned this country. . . . The worst criminals from Europe, Asia, or Africa can appeal to the law and courts for their rights of person and property—all save our native Indians, who, above all, should be protected from wrong.

 

Seymour’s unpopular opinion appeared on the title page of Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor (1881), one of the first books to deplore the wrongs inflicted on “the tribes who once owned this country”:

 

There is but one hope of righting this wrong. It lies in appeal to the heart and the conscience of the American people. What the people demand, Congress will do. It has been—to our shame be it spoken—at the demand of part of the people that all these wrongs have been committed, these treaties broken, these robberies done, by the Government. . . .

The only thing that can stay this is a mighty outspoken sentiment and purpose of the great body of the people. Right sentiment and right purpose in a Senator here and there, and a Representative here and there, are little more than straws which make momentary eddies, but do not obstruct the tide. . . .

What an opportunity for the Congress of 1880 to cover itself with a lustre of glory, as the first to cut short our nation’s record of cruelties and perjuries! the first to attempt to redeem the name of the United States from the stain of a century of dishonor!1*

 

The Congress of 1880 did not redeem the name of the United States, and that “century of dishonor” was followed by another—less violent, perhaps, but more insidious and sly—as the “frontiersman” gave way to the railroadman and miner, the developer and the industrialist, with their attendant bureaucrats and politicians. And the Congress of the 1980s will do no better, to judge from the enrichment of the powerful and the betrayal of the poor to which it has reduced itself under President Reagan.

The poorest of the poor—by far—are the Indian people. It is true that in our courts today the Indian has legal status as a citizen, but anyone familiar with Indian life, in cities or on reservations, can testify that justice for Indians is random and arbitrary where it exists at all. For all our talk about suppression of human rights in other countries, and despite a nostalgic sentimentality about the noble Red Man, the prejudice and persecution still continue. American hearts respond with emotion to Indian portraits by George Catlin and Edward Curtis, to such eloquent books as Black Elk Speaks and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, to modern films and television dramas in which the nineteenth-century Indian is portrayed as the tragic victim of Manifest Destiny; we honor his sun dances and thunderbirds in the names of our automobiles and our motels. Our nostalgia comes easily, since those stirring peoples are safely in the past, and the abuse of their proud character, generosity, and fierce honesty—remarked upon by almost all the first Europeans to observe them—can be blamed upon our roughshod frontier forebears. “The tribes who once owned this country” were simply in the way of the white man’s progress, and so most of the eastern tribes were removed to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and the western tribes mostly banished or confined to arid wastes that no decent white man would want. By a great historical irony, many of these lands were situated on the dry crust of the Grants Mineral Belt, which extends from the lands of the Dene people in Saskatchewan to those of their close relatives, the Dine, or “Navajo,” in New Mexico and Arizona, and contains North America’s greatest energy resources. More than half of the continent’s uranium and much of its petroleum and coal lie beneath Indian land, and so the Indians are in the way again.

After four hundred years of betrayals and excuses, Indians recognize the new fashion in racism, which is to pretend that the real Indians are all gone.2 We have no wish to be confronted by these “half-breeds” of today, gone slack after a century of enforced dependence, poverty, bad food, alcohol, and despair, because to the degree that these people can be ignored, the shame of our nation can be ignored as well. Leonard Peltier’s experience reflects more than most of us wish to know about the realities of Indian existence in America; our magazines turn away from articles about the Indians of today, and most studies of Indian history and culture avoid mention of the twentieth century. But the Indians are still among us—“We are your shadows,” one man says—and the qualities they were known for in their days of glory still persist among many of these quiet people, of mixed ancestry as well as full-blood, who still abide in the echo of the Old Way.

My travels with Indians began some years ago with the discovery that most traditional communities in North America know of a messenger who appears in evil times as a warning from the Creator that man’s disrespect for His sacred instructions has upset the harmony and balance of existence; some say that the messenger comes in sign of a great destroying fire that will purify the world of the disruption and pollution of earth, air, water, and all living things. He has strong spirit powers and sometimes takes the form of a huge hairy man; in recent years this primordial being has appeared near Indian communities from the northern Plains states to far northern Alberta and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

In 1976, an Indian in spiritual training took me to Hopi, where traditional leaders told us more about this being. Over several years, we visited the elders in many remote canyons of the West, and eventually I traveled on my own, from the Everglades and the Blue Ridge Mountains north to Hudson Bay and from the St. Lawrence westward to Vancouver Island. Along the way I learned a little of the Indians’ identity with land and life (very different from our “environmental” understanding) and shared a little of their long sadness about the theft and ruin of ancestral lands—one reason, they felt, why That-One-You-Are-Speaking-About had reappeared. From these journeys came a series of essays attacking the continuing transgressions against these lands by corporate interests and their willing allies in state and federal government.3

Like most people with more appreciation than understanding of the Indian vision, I clung to a romantic concept of “traditional Indians,” aloof from activism and politics and somehow spiritually untouched by western progress. This concept had a certain validity in the old Hopi nation, which was never at war with the United States and never displaced from its stone villages on the desert rimrock north of the sacred San Francisco Peaks, in Arizona; the Hopi traditionals are looked to by other Indians all over the continent for guidance in the quest to rediscover and maintain those roots of the Old Way that might still nourish the Indian people. In most Indian communities, however, romantic concepts were difficult to sustain. While it was true that, here and there, a few “old ones” still existed, it was clear that most reservation traditionals had resumed their traditions only very recently, and that many, as one Indian writer has observed, were “conservative Indians whose cultural tenacity somehow got confused with a sadly-compromised grasp of their own heritage. . . . A decline in their firsthand experience in Native American customs has resulted in a reactionary mentality that poses as traditionalism . . . and . . . a degraded and stereotypical ‘pow-wow’ view of themselves.”4 Such people were especially wary of the new activist organizations, in particular the American Indian Movement (AIM) and its young “warriors” from the cities with their red wind bands, guns, and episodes of violence, who were sure to bring down further grief on a desperate people. I had absorbed some of this attitude, having failed to perceive that whatever AIM’s origins, excesses, and mistakes, that warrior spirit had restored identity and pride to thousands of defeated people and inspired attempts to resurrect the dying languages and culture.

Then, in the spring of 1979, while investigating the proposed construction of a vast fuel terminal on Indian sacred grounds at Point Conception, California, I took part in a sweat-lodge ceremony* led by Archie Fire Lame Deer, a Lakota of the Minnecojou band who had married among the coastal Chumash and was a leader in the Point Conception struggle. During a walk into the hills to the vision-quest pits that he maintains in the mountains of the Coast Ranges above Point Conception, Lame Deer spoke of the sweat lodge he had established at Lompoc Federal Correctional Institution, on the far side of these Santa Ynez Mountains; just recently, he said, the AIM leader Leonard Peltier had been transferred to Lompoc, to the great relief of Indians all over the country, who had feared that he would be assassinated in the federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. At first, I resisted the police-state implications in this idea, discounting it as Movement rhetoric and paranoia. But a few weeks later, when Peltier made a desperate escape from Lompoc in which a young Indian named Dallas Thundershield was killed, I had to take what Lame Deer had said more seriously. I began to make inquiries about Peltier’s case, and I have been making inquiries ever since.

Lame Deer made a firm distinction between a true leader such as Peltier and the self-appointed AIM spokesmen who turned up at every political confrontation and split the local Indians by demanding leadership and encouraging divisive factions, or brought discredit on the Movement through drink and violence. Many Indians had now concluded that AIM had been infiltrated from the start by the FBI, and the Chumash people were wondering if one of the AIM men involved in a Point Conception shooting had been sent in to damage the Indian cause with bad publicity. Lame Deer doubts this. “Guys like these, every time they mess up, they start hollering about the FBI—well, that is bullshit. The FBI has no time to fool with every loose Indian who comes along. But Leonard is different, he is a real leader; they are afraid of him, and they’re out to get him.”

A very big man with a bearish walk, Archie Fire is a descendant of that Lame Deer who in the winter of 1835–36 (according to the “winter count” marked on buffalo hide by an Indian called the Swan) “shot a Crow three times with the same arrow,” and also of the Minnecojou chief of the same name who joined forces with Sitting Bull’s Hunkpapa and the Oglala of Crazy Horse in the great battle of June 25, 1876, in which Colonel George Custer’s Seventh Cavalry company was destroyed. At the death of his father, John Fire Lame Deer, in 1976, Archie Fire became head of his family, and one day he will return to the Dakotas. Lame Deer himself was raised on the Rosebud Reservation, but most of his Minnecojou people—the most traditional of the seven Lakota bands—live farther north on the Cheyenne River Reservation, and also on Standing Rock, on the North Dakota border.* “There’s a lot going on up in that country now,” said Archie Fire, referring not only to the threat to the Great Plains from widespread mining but to recent appearances of the big hairy man at Little Eagle, on the Standing Rock Reservation, who came in sign, some people said, of those days at the world’s end “when the moon will turn red and the sun will turn blue” and the Lakota people will resume their place at the center of existence.5

Opening his tobacco bundle, he purified the vision pit with smoke from a braided hank of sweetgrass, after which he assembled the stone pipe.* We smoked the pipe together, facing successively in the four directions, giving thanks in our own ways to the Creator, to Wakan Tanka (literally, the Unknowable Great; loosely, the Great Mystery).6 Lame Deer stood for a long time against the California sky, chanting in the Siouan tongue, his big voice rolling down the mountains to the grasslands...

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Descripción Softcover. Estado de conservación: New. An "indescribably touching, extraordinarily intelligent" (Los Angeles Times Book Review) chronicle of a fatal gun-battle between FBI agents and American Indian Movement activists byrenowned writer Peter Matthiessen (1927-2014), author of the National Book Award-winningThe Snow Leopard and the new novel In ParadiseOn a hot June morning in 1975, a desperate shoot-out between FBI agents and Native Americans near Wounded Knee, South Dakota, left an Indian and two federal agents dead. Four members of the American Indian Movement were indicted on murder charges, and one, Leonard Peltier, was convicted and is now serving consecutive life sentences in a federal penitentiary. Behind this violent chain of events lie issues of great complexity and profound historical resonance, brilliantly explicated by Peter Matthiessen in this controversial book. Kept off the shelves for eight years because of one of the most protracted and bitterly fought legal cases in publishing history,In the Spirit of Crazy Horse reveals the Lakota tribe’s long struggle with the U.S. government, and makes clear why the traditional Indian concept of the earth is so important at a time when increasing populations are destroying the precious resources of our world. Nº de ref. de la librería 116428969

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Descripción Penguin Books Ltd, United States, 1995. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. New edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. On a hot June morning in 1975, a desperate shoot-out between FBI agents and Native Americans near Wounded Knee, South Dakota, left an Indian and two federal agents dead. Four members of AIM, the American Indian Movement, were indicted on murder charges, and one, Leonard Peltier, was convicted and is now serving consecutive life sentences in a federal penitentiary.Behind this violent chain of events lie issues of great complexity and profound historical resonance, brilliantly explicated by Peter Matthiessen in this controversial book. In a comprehensive history of the desperate Indian efforts to maintain their traditions, Matthiessen reveals the Lakota tribe s long struggle with the U.S. government, from Red Cloud s War and Little Big Horn in the nineteenth century to the shameful discrimination that led to the new Indian wars of the 1970s. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780140144567

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Peter Matthiessen
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Descripción Penguin Books Ltd, United States, 1995. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. New edition. Language: English . Brand New Book. On a hot June morning in 1975, a desperate shoot-out between FBI agents and Native Americans near Wounded Knee, South Dakota, left an Indian and two federal agents dead. Four members of AIM, the American Indian Movement, were indicted on murder charges, and one, Leonard Peltier, was convicted and is now serving consecutive life sentences in a federal penitentiary.Behind this violent chain of events lie issues of great complexity and profound historical resonance, brilliantly explicated by Peter Matthiessen in this controversial book. In a comprehensive history of the desperate Indian efforts to maintain their traditions, Matthiessen reveals the Lakota tribe s long struggle with the U.S. government, from Red Cloud s War and Little Big Horn in the nineteenth century to the shameful discrimination that led to the new Indian wars of the 1970s. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780140144567

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