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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Lie of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a Lie
by Tommi Avicolli Mecca‚ Nov. 21‚ 2006

Thanksgiving is a lie. Just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

There's no more truth to the Hallmark moment of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a feast of squash, corn and turkey than there is to Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag. According to my favorite history text, "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen, it was all manufactured to create a feel-good beginning for this country.

Thanksgiving wasn't invented by the Pilgrims. By the time the Mayflower pulled up at Plymouth Rock in 1620, Native Americans in that part of the country already had a rich tradition of marking the fall harvest with a major fiesta. The day wasn't recognized nationally until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared it a holiday. He had an entirely different motive than honoring the Pilgrims: Morale during the bloody Civil War. America needed a warm fuzzy holiday to make it feel good about itself again.

The Pilgrims were latecomers to the legend, not getting added to the mix until the 1890s.

Of course, some major revisions had to be done to make heroes of those guys. The truth is: When the Pilgrims arrived on the coast of Massachusetts, they found a deserted Native American settlement. Unburied human bodies were scattered everywhere. The survivors had vanished. The villagers had been wiped out by a plague, brought to the "new world" years before by the Europeans. The immune system of the native peoples had no defense against those diseases. Many in Europe couldn't be happier.

Good Christian that he was, King James of England called the death of millions of Native Americans "this wonderful plague." He thanked God for sending it. Other preachers of the day echoed this same sentiment. They believed that God had aided the conquest of the new land by sending disease to ravage the native populations, so that the English could have it. How convenient for them that God was on their side.

The Pilgrims, who were ill-equipped to survive in the harsh environment they found themselves in, immediately took advantage of the situation. They proceeded to rob food (including corn and squash) and pottery from the deserted Native village. They also stole from Indian graves. Within about 50 years of arriving, they had slaughtered most of the native population in the area that wasn't already killed by the plague.

Not the touchy-feelie story you'll see on TV this week.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a radical, southern Italian, atheist, working-class, queer performer, activist and writer who bakes a mean tofu lasagna around this time of year.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Unquiet Grave: A Book Review by Bob Robideau

The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country - A Book Review by Robert Robideau,
Co-Director of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country by Steve Hendricks

Steve Hendricks' new book, The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country, is focused on the 1976 execution of Anna Mae Aquash, a Mic Mac from Nova Scotia, Canada.

Anna Mae Aquash was a leading member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) from 1970 to the time of her death and, although known for taking part in the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, she is best known for her involvement with Dennis Banks and Leonard Peltier during the aftermath of the June 26, 1975 Oglala shoot out with the FBI on the Pine Ridge reservation.

Because of her important role in AIM, she became a target of the FBI's Counterintelligence program ("COINTELPRO"). After the exposure of FBI informant Douglas Durham, at the higest levels of AIM, in the summer of 1974 the FBI began to spread rumors that Aquash, too, was an informant. This effort to discredit her and to divide our movement, through what is known as "badjacketing" in the language of the FBI, lead to Anna Mae's death.

I met Anna Mae for the first time in June of 1975, during an AIM convention in Farmington, New Mexico, when I and others were asked by AIM leadership to discern whether or not she was an informant. We reported that we believed she was not an informant. In the passage of 30 years there has not been any evidence to disprove us.

Several books have been written about AIM and the FBI. Twenty six years ago, I was privileged to meet, and work with, noted author Peter Matthiessen. Peter Matthiessen's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse became the first important book written about events involving the federal government and Native Americans that took place between 1972 and 1976.

Peter Matthiessen called Hendrick’s book, "An impressive and important book." Peter also said in a phone conversation with me that there was “nothing new in the book,” I would disagree with Peter. I found new information, some revealing, while other skewed and unacceptable.

Hendrick’s book exposed further critical information about the FBI’s long and continuing war against the American Indian Movement, bringing into sharp focus the outrageous illegal actions of the FBI. Despite a few new revelations, he does not seriously explore the FBI’s COINTELPRO activities that creted the suspicions within AIM that Anna Mae might be an informant. Instead, Hendricks condemns AIM for the murder. It is believed within AIM that the FBI’s informer and provocateur, Douglas Durham, played a large role in the events that led to the killing of Anna Mae.

Hendricks has shared with the LPDC, the complex web of information he followed through the Freedom Information Act. His efforts exposed hundreds of documents from the FBI’s investigation: memorandums, reports and teletypes, that trace the movements of Anna Mae Aquash prior to her death, which the LPDC has been unable get access to. One very important revelation is that these documents confirm that the FBI knew 30 years ago who the shooters were who killed Anna Mae.

The investigation leads Hendricks into both the AIM and FBI camps, as he goes from one FBI agent to the next and then to members of AIM, prying obvious lies and half truths and emotionally charged expressions that reveal the mutual animosity for each other.

Although, the interplay of word games exposes that there are deep dark secrets being kept by both the American Indian Movement leadership and the FBI, it is clear that Anna Mae Aquash, a Canadian citizen, was threatened and abused by the FBI. She was found shot to death and her body dumped in a ravine.

An FBI-ordered autopsy failed to reveal the bullet wound in the back of her head, leading to more criticism and suspicisons that the FBI might have played a role in the killing (or at least the cover-up). This possibility is not seriously explored by Hendricks.

The indictment of two individuals, John "Boy" Graham and Arlo Looking Cloud 30 years later, when the FBI had gathered sufficient evidence to have brought the case to trial in the 1970’s, has renewed suspicions from AIM and other indigenous communities close to the events of foul play by the FBI.

Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, despite a deal made with the Feds for his cooperation. The trial, felt by many to be a sham, and disguise to cover up the FBI’s real purpose of retrying Leonard Peltier for the killing of their two FBI agents after the federal prosecutors had admitted publicly that the prosecution could not prove that Peltier shot and killed the agents.

The sensational testimony at Looking Cloud's trial, by Kamook Banks-Ecoffey, that Leonard Peltier had confessed to the killing of agents Coler and Williams, was contaminated by at least $42,000 in "moving expenses" and other fees that the FBI had paid Banks-Ecoffey for her testimony. Nevertheless, the slanderous allegations against Peltier lingered in the press for months to follow.

Kamook Banks later married Robert Ecoffey an ex goon, who became an investigator in the case, undoubtedly introduced both Kamook Banks and another AIM member, since expelled after turning informant, John Trudell, to the FBI.

In an hour-long interview with Mike McCormick, on KEXP 90.3 FM, Seattle, Washington, Steve Hendricks made the outrageous and ridiculous charge that the reason why the “FBI, who had the names of Anna Mae’s killers 30 years ago did not prosecute because they feared that their informant, David Hill, may have been too close to the murder.”

Steve Hendricks, unoriginal accusations that David Hill became an FBI informant after being arrested and released for the Mount Rushmore Bombings were first lauded by John Trudell twenty-six years ago, then adopted by Paul DeMain, Editor of News From Indian Country. Without proof, these are unacceptable and dangerous accusations to be throwing around. This behavior,on the part of Hendricks, is irresponsible, and under other circumstances that he, himself, describes in his book, would easily be interpreted as the activities of a provocateur.

It put me on my guard when Hendricks ask that we believe an FBI’s story that they rejected David Hill as an informant because he “knew nothing.” There is more then ample evidence to show otherwise and also that his actions in the 1970s were completely loyal to our struggle. If he had been an informant, arrest would have come much earlier then they did. Those of us in AIM who knew David Hill best are not buying these regurgitated stories and false accusations. Let Hendricks reveal his direct, documentary evidence on this allegation, or he should retract it.

Much of Hendrick’s information about David Hill undoubtedly came from John Trudell, who has labeled many individuals in the American Indian Movement and associates as informants. In my view, for many years, Trudell’s behavior has been that of provocateur.

In disregard for the Reign of Terror, accelerated by the counter intelligent activities of the FBI to destroy AIM from 1973 to 1976 resulting in 60 murders, Trudell, in a interview with Indian Country Today recently charged that it was “…The explosion of militancy [ of AIM ] surging from many sources. In that summer of 1975, you had the shootout in Oglala, the killing of Joe Stuntz, the killing of the two FBI agents, you had the bombing at Mount Rushmore , there was a series of bombings at Pine Ridge in the fall. And the operative in my mind, as I consider it, was mostly in that group, hyping up the violence. Annie Mae had gravitated to that most active group and as the government tracked them, she was amongst the people that were accused of doing these things.”
SEE: http://www.leonardpeltier.net/reignofterror.htm

Despite Hendrick’s admission that Paul DeMain, “… will not disclose his sources,” he still regurgitates and validates DeMain’s accusations that accuse David Hill of being in a house where it is alleged the order to kill Anna Mae came. If DeMain’s sources are so good, why weren’t they called to testify at the Looking Cloud trial?
SEE: http://www.leonardpeltier.net/peeledapple.htm

There has been an ongoing effort for the past 30 years, without success, to get the U.S. Congress to investigate the Reign of Terror and culpability of the FBI, as sanctioned in a memo entitled "Para military activity in Indian Country," which was issued because of the 1973 Wounded Knee confrontation with the United States government.

Thirty years of investigations by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee has contributed much to exposing criminal activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who, under the Nixon administration, was given Presidential authority to destroy the American Indian Movement and others dissent groups through the counter intelligence program (COINTELPRO) a predecessor to today’s Patriot Act.

Hendricks references, but does not explore the important connections between the FBI’s domestic Conintelpro period to that of President Bush’s Patriot Act today. The Leonard Peltier and Anna Mae Aquash cases have inspired two other books to be written by Ward Churchill and Jim Vanderwall, Agents of Repression and The COINTELPRO PAPERS, but Hendricks barely mentions them.

It is evident that Hendricks agrees with the FBIs condemnation that Peltier shot the agents, but he concludes that Peltier should be freed because he has served 30 years in prison, and because of the illegal methods used by the FBI to gain the convictions. Hendricks then writes that if he were to ‘meet Leonard Peltier that he knew that he would not like him.’ These pronouncements left me wondering about Hendricks motivation for writing the book.

Steve Hendricks has not just written a book with a single purpose in mind. His web site, http://www.stevehendricks.org/, is indicative of a plan to create a long career from the tribulations, sufferings, sacrifices and struggles of our past and continuing wars with the United States. I hope that this is not true.

Hendrick’s book, The Unquiet Grave, despite its coverage of much information already written in other books, and its other shortcomings, deserves to be read by all who have an interest in learning the dynamics of this story, and how the story continues to be played out today.
Robert Robideau
Co-Director Leonard Peltier Defense Committee