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Message-ID: <199506231246.IAA26363@BU.EDU>
Date: Fri, 23 Jun 1995 08:44:23 EDT
Reply-To: native-l@gnosys.svle.ma.us
Sender: NATIVE-L Aboriginal Peoples: news & information <NATIVE-L@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU>
From: native-l@gnosys.svle.ma.us
Subject: Wash. Post Article on Peltier
To: Multiple recipients of list NATIVE-L <NATIVE-L@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU>

Original Sender: clementa@guvm.ccf.georgetown.edu (Alison Clement)
Mailing List: NATIVE-L (native-l@gnosys.svle.ma.us)

The Other Side of the Peltier Case

A dialog from Native-L 23 June 1995

The Other Side of the Peltier Case
By William F. Powers
The Washington Post, Tuesday 20 JUne 1995

Nothing like picking up a magazine to find that there's some serious icon-smashing going on inside. The July issue of 'Outside' is bold enough to go after two cultural demigods: the writer Peter Matthiessen and the long and famously incarcerated American Indian Leonard Peltier, known in some quarters as America's political prisoner.

If you have ever heard about either of these men, or perhaps even read the book that Matthiessen wrote about Peltier, or seen the Robert Redford documentary about Peltier's case, or the 60 Minutes report, or the feature film Thunderheart ... or if you have simply wondered over the years why Amnesty International and many other organizations and individuals all over the world accuse the United States of operating a gulag at Leavenworth penitentiary, then this new article by Scott Anderson is not to be missed.

A brief review: Twenty years ago this summer, two FBI agents were killed in a shootout with American Indian activists at a South Dakota reservation. Peltier was found guilty of their murder and is serving two consecutive life sentences at Leavenworth. His defenders claim he was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, a victim of a massive government campaign against leaders of the Indian rights movement.

Matthiessen, a writer with a devoted following and a number of famous books to his credit (The Snow Leopard among them), wrote a book lionizing Peltier titled In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Though it's always had doubters, the book has been a key document in the global movement to free Peltier.

Having investigated the whole long story, Anderson emerges with the conclusion that Peltier was more of a pathetic thug than an Indian patriot cut down by sinister government agents, and that much of the case for freeing him is built on very shaky ground. But the really harsh prose is aimed at Matthiessen and his book, which, according to Anderson, exhibits a casualness toward documentation that bordered on the cavalier, propagates a grand conspiracy theory without factual basis, and has succeeded with the public because the average reader had no way of knowing when truth was stretched to fit theory.

Some believe there is a live possibility that President Clinton will commute Peltier's sentence, so one imagines that this article will soon land in a few White House in-baskets.

Whether Peltier is ever set free, this seems to be one of those causes that will always have true believers and disbelievers. One view has it that if you are against the brutality that the U.S. government visited on American Indians generally, then you have to be for Peltier. For others, this is just one of the innumerable government conspiracies constantly happening all around us; Oliver Stone, for example, has a Peltier movie in the works. And some, like Anderson, seem to believe that the American Indian cause and the Peltier case have little or nothing to do with each other.

Message-ID: <199506232248.RAA08945@thymaster.interaccess.com>
Date: Fri, 23 Jun 1995 17:48:40 -0500
Sender: NATIVE-L Aboriginal Peoples: news & information <NATIVE-L@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU>
From: native-l@gnosys.svle.ma.us
Subject: Re: Wash. Post Article on Peltier
To: Multiple recipients of list NATIVE-L <NATIVE-L@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU>

Original Sender: lhellwi@interaccess.com
Mailing List: NATIVE-L (native-l@gnosys.svle.ma.us)

I've read the article. It's very well written and believable, which is unfortunate because it is also filled with errors. For instance, Anderson chooses to ignore the FBI evidence that the AR-15 recovered from Bob Robideau's exploded car was not, in fact, the murder weapon *according to FBI ballistics reports*. He rationalizes away the discrepancies in the vehicle descriptions followed on to the Jumping Bull property as if to say, Well, you can expect people investigating a crime to be 100% accurate! He buys into the FBI theory that Leonard killed the agents to prevent them from taking him back to Wisconsin for the attempted murder warrant. He absolutely does not believe that the FBI ever targeted the American Indian Movement, and he ridicules anyone who does believe it.

Leonard Peltier has asked that his supporters *not* buy the magazine - why donate money to a publication that supports lousy journalism? - but to read the article at the newstand or at the library. I personally recommend the library, it's much too long an article to read and digest while standing at a magazine rack. (Besides, you can photocopy the article at the library.)

Anderson also mentions that the majority of Leonard's supporters are white, implying that in fact all of Leonard's supporters are white. Can you imagine the suprise of Buffy Ste-Marie? Paul DeMain from News from Indian Country? The Pine Ridge Tribal Council? Dennis Banks, Russ Means, Bob Robideau? He quotes Tim Giago early in the magazine (Giago has never been known to support Leonard Peltier) and seems to slant the rest of the article as if Giago speaks for all Indians everywhere.

Anderson also brings up the in-fighting that has occured between different AIM chapters over the past few years, not to mention some of the personal fights that have been publicized, but doesn't indicate why these conflicts should have any bearing on Leonard's case. Think about it, does it really make sense to say that since AIM has split into two factions, Leonard must be guilty? Last time I checked, Leonard's innocence was the one thing both AIM groups agreed upon!

As I said at the top, it's a very well-written (from a readability standpoint) article, which means people will read this and assume that Leonard is guilty.

In the Spirit,

Lisa Stalnaker Hellwig