[sixties-l] Fwd: Put a Close to This Sad Chapter

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 01/08/01

  • Next message: radman: "[sixties-l] Paul The Poet McCartney Bursts Into Verse"

    >Los Angeles Times
    >Sunday, January 7, 2001
    >Put a Close to This Sad Chapter
    >By Kevin McKiernan <kevinmck@silcom.com>
    >         SANTA BARBARA -- I don't know which American
    >Indian killed FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams in a
    >notorious South Dakota shoot-out 25 years ago. Nor do I know
    >the identity of the federal lawman who shot and killed Joe
    >Stuntz, the American Indian Movement (AIM) member, whose
    >body I photographed afterward. But I was there on June
    >25, 1975, outside the Jumping Bull ranch on the Pine Ridge
    >Indian Reservation, when some of the bullets were flying. A
    >stray round hit my pickup, and my memory is still fresh of
    >crouching low behind the truck with my portable tape deck,
    >recording the exchange of gunfire for a National Public
    >Radio broadcast.
    >         The government has never produced an eyewitness in
    >the deaths of the agents, and prosecutors admit they still
    >don't know who actually killed Coler and Williams. But AIM
    >leader Leonard Peltier, one of the estimated two dozen
    >Indians present on the 40-acre reservation that day, has
    >admitted that he participated in the firefight. A U.S.
    >appellate court upheld his murder conviction as an aider
    >and abettor, but the court chastised the FBI for its use of
    >"fabricated" evidence in securing Peltier's extradition from
    >Canada and for withholding from the jury an exculpatory
    >ballistics test conducted on a rifle attributed to Peltier.
    >         Amnesty International maintains that Peltier, who
    >is 56 and has been in jail for the last 25 years, did not
    >get a fair trial. Now, in the waning days of the Clinton
    >administration, the organization is one of several groups
    >petitioning the president to commute Peltier's sentence.
    >         Two other AIM members were acquitted in the case,
    >on grounds of self-defense, despite testimony that they had
    >fired in the direction of the agents. The jury also heard
    >evidence about COINTELPRO, the FBI's counterinsurgency
    >program used against AIM, and a representative of the
    >U.S. Civil Rights Commission testified to the "climate
    >of fear" on the reservation before the 1975 shootings.
    >Other testimony challenged FBI assertions of neutrality
    >in the tribal civil war that followed AIM's takeover of
    >the historic reservation village of Wounded Knee two years
    >earlier. Two Indians were shot to death at Wounded Knee; a
    >dozen Indians and two lawmen also received gunshot injuries
    >during the 10-week takeover.
    >         There have long been allegations that the FBI
    >chose sides in the internecine conflict that took place
    >from 1973-75 between AIM-led traditionalists and a vigilante
    >group of mostly mixed bloods who called themselves the GOONs
    >(Guardians of the Oglala Nation). But testimony concerning
    >FBI activities on the reservation before the 1975 killings
    >was excluded by the judge in the case of Peltier, who was
    >tried separately from the other two defendants.
    >         In fact, the climate of fear back then was all too
    >real, and it matched anything I have experienced reporting
    >from war zones like El Salvador and the Middle East. In
    >those days, the reservation seemed like the Wild West, and
    >almost everyone was armed. I once was threatened with guns
    >in my face when I tried to film a GOON squad roadblock;
    >another time I was slammed up against a wall by GOONs,
    >who tended to perceive the entire press corps as AIM
    >sympathizers. The brakes on my car were cut, and, on one
    >occasion, a high-powered rifle blew a hole in an automobile
    >in which I was riding. My experiences pale by comparison to
    >the beatings, fire-bombings and drive-by shootings were
    >common during the period; at least 25 murders of Indians
    >still remain unsolved. Former South Dakota state Sen.
    >James Abourzek said that the near-lawless atmosphere
    >on the reservation approached "total anarchy."
    >         District U.S. Judge Fred Nichol, who tried many of
    >the Wounded Knee cases, once told me in a filmed interview
    >that "The FBI and the GOON squad worked pretty much together...
    >because they were against AIM." In a 1984 televised interview,
    >which I conducted for PBS's "Frontline," a leader of the
    >GOON squad claimed that FBI agents provided his group with
    >intelligence on AIM and, in one instance, "armor piercing"
    >bullets for use against AIM members who, like the GOONs,
    >were heavily armed at the time.
    >         A few years ago, Gerald W. Heaney, chief judge of
    >the U.S. Court of Appeals that upheld Peltier's conviction,
    >petitioned the White House to commute Peltier's sentence.
    >Heaney stated in a letter that the FBI shared the blame for
    >the two agents and one Indian killed in the South Dakota
    >shoot-out. He said that the government "overreacted" to
    >the 1973 occupation at Wounded Knee. Instead of "carefully
    >considering the legitimate grievances of Native Americans,"
    >he said, "the response was essentially a military one that
    >culminated in a deadly firefight on June 26, 1975.
    >         Before he leaves office, President Bill Clinton can
    >provide closure to a difficult and divisive period in Indian
    >history. As Heaney wrote in his clemency plea, "At some time,
    >the healing process must begin. We as a nation must recognize
    >their unique culture and their great contribution to our
    >Kevin McKiernan Covered the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
    >for National Public Radio From 1973-1976. He was the
    >co-producer of the PBS "Frontline" Program "The
    >Spirit of Crazy Horse."
    >Copyright (c) 2001 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved.
    >Call the White House Comments Line Daily
    >Demand Justice for Leonard Peltier! 202-456-1111
    >Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
    >P.O. Box 583
    >Lawrence, KS 66044

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : 01/08/01 EST