Tuesday, September 30, 2008

'Angola 3' Black Panther conviction reversed after 35 years; attention now turns to 'Omaha Two' case

'Angola 3' Black Panther conviction reversed after 35 years; attention now turns to 'Omaha Two' case

by Michael Richardson

U.S. District Court Judge James J. Brady in Baton Rouge, Louisiana has ordered the state to either free or retry Albert Woodfox after almost three dozen years in solitary confinement. Woodfox, tried with two other co-defendants, was convicted for the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller at Angola Prison where Woodfox was serving a sentence for armed robbery.

After a controversial trial and an even more disputed second trial in 1998 when he was retried following appeal of his first conviction, Woodfox may see freedom from the infamous prison where he has been held in virtual isolation for over three decades.

Woodfox had been active in a prison chapter of the Black Panthers in racially-charged Angola Prison, a vast plantation-style penitentiary in rural Louisiana. Following conviction for the stabbing murder of Miller, a life sentence was imposed and Angola officials decided that for security reasons Woodfox and fellow Panther Herman Wallace would be held in solitary confinement. The 6' by 9' isolation cells would become home, night and day, for thirty-five years.
Magistrate Docia L. Dalby has described the punishment meted out to the two Panthers as, "durations so far beyond the pale that this court has not found anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence."

Judge Brady, after a careful review of the trial record and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Christine Noland, determined that Woodfox had not received a fair trial; that his attorney failed to adequately represent him; and that the state's chief witness, Hezekiah Brown, had gotten a reduced sentence for naming Woodfox. Further, exculpatory information about the physical evidence in the case, bloodstains, was withheld from the jury.

While Woodfox waits for a prosecutor's decision on his future, another Black Panther in the Nebraska State Penitentiary, Ed Poindexter, waits for a ruling from the Nebraska Supreme Court on his request for a new trial. Poindexter and fellow Panther activist Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) were convicted in April 1971 for the bombing murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard.

Unlike Woodfox, who was an inmate at the time of his alleged crime, Poindexter and Langa were free and officers in the Nebraska Committee to Combat Fascism and were Omaha's most vocal police critics. On August 17, 1970, police were lured to a vacant house investigating a report of a woman screaming when a bomb killed Minard and injured seven other police officers. Within two days of the bombing, J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who had targeted the Black Panthers, ordered Ivan Willard Conrad, director of the FBI national crime laboratory to withhold information that was not favorable to the prosecution of Poindexter and Langa for Minard's murder.

Hoover was at war with the Black Panthers and secretly directed a clandestine "no holds barred" operation, code-named COINTELPRO, to put the group out of existence. Using illegal tactics, FBI agents engaged in a nationwide campaign that encouraged violence, planted evidence, withheld evidence, obtained false arrests, and took a host of other measures that would later be denounced by the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations commonly known as the Church Committee.

At question in the Minard killing was the identity of the unknown caller who made the emergency call to police headquarters. Hidden for years behind a secrecy stamp, Omaha Asst. Chief of Police Glen W. Gates, in a confidential COINTELPRO memo to Hoover, asked the FBI to abandon the search for the killer who made the call because it might "prejudice the police murder trial" against Poindexter and Langa.

Ultimately a 15 year-old, Duane Peak, confessed to the crime and claimed he made the phone call and that Poindexter and Langa put him up to the murder. Peak's story falls apart if someone else made the deadly call. The tape recording, which was withheld from the jury that convicted the two Panther leaders, did not sound like Peak but rather resonated with the voice of an older man.

The tape was destroyed by local authorities after the trial only to have a duplicate recording emerge years later. The duplicate tape was subjected to modern vocal analysis in 2006. Expert Tom Owens has testified that the voice on the tape is not that of Peak, thus leaving an unidentified accomplice on the loose.

Poindexter is seeking a new trial over the withheld evidence and the Nebraska Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case this week. No date has been set for a decision. Poindexter and Langa are serving life sentences at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Both men deny any involvement in the crime.

Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

From InterContinental Cry

InterContinental Cry
First Nation “Days of action” campaign begins
Posted: 29 Sep 2008 10:23 PM CDT
Centered on ushering in “a new era of first nations relations with the Crown,” the “days of action” campaign is now officially underway. On Sunday, “protesters representing Treaty 4 First Nations brought traffic on Highway 1 east of Regina to a crawl and barricaded the road leading into a pipeline construction compound,” reports the Saskatchewan News Network. Lasting for about half an hour, the protesters moved and set up a camp at the intersection leading into the Waschuk Pipeline site, just west of White City. “We’re going to be 24/7 occupation here and we will remain as such until we believe we have some commitments,” stated Treaty 4 spokesperson Edmund Bellegarde. “We will take as long as is necessary to get the proper parties to the table, being the federal and provincial governments and the industry players.” “We’re hoping to keep the lines of communication open with all of the government agencies and law enforcement officials. We want to make sure that we’re peaceful, peaceful in our actions and our activities, and we want to insure that that is kept throughout the whole process here,” Bellegarde continued. Following Sunday’s action, there was another demonstration today, about 100 km east of Saskatoon. Led by Red Pheasant First Nation Chief Sheldon Wuttunee, roughly 60 Indigenous people marched through Kerrobert to protest the ongoing construction of the 1,590-kilometre oil pipeline known as “the Alberta Clipper.” Construction is currently taking place near Red Pheasant reserve on Treaty 6 territory. “We want to put out a message that we’ve had enough, that we’re ...

TransCanada must prove it respects Lubicon rights
Posted: 29 Sep 2008 09:59 AM CDT
Chief Bernard Ominayak of the Lubicon Cree Nation has (once again) informed TransCanada that the Lubicon are “prepared to consider talking with TransCanada about [their] proposal to build a major new gas pipeline across unceded Lubicon Territory,” in a letter dated September 9, 2008. However, Chief Ominayak states that such a meeting depends on the Crown corporation respecting Lubicon rights, something that must begin with the “suspension of TransCanada’s application [...] to build that pipeline without first obtaining Lubicon agreement.” These words come in response to an August 29th letter by Eric Mohun, TransCanada’s Aboriginal Relations spokesperson. In his letter, Mohun attempts to assure Chief Ominayak that “TransCanada [...] recognizes and respects Lubicon Land, and with this recognition, we are sincerely interested in meeting with Chief and Council, hear of the issues and needs of the community and to arrive at a mutually acceptable decision that will be in accordance with Lubicon Nation interests.” Mohun’s words sound promising, but then it’s easy to say one thing and then do the exact opposite. If the company is truly prepared to sit down with the Lubicon, they first have to respect the Lubicon’s request and pull back from the pipeline. Then they will have to engage in a meaningful process of consultation and consent. If TransCanada fails to do this — if instead they continue to undermine, infantilize, and ignore the Lubicon while pushing forward with the pipeline, then as the Friends of the Lubicon have just pointed out, TransCanada is headed toward an imminent confrontation with the Lubicon Nation. Recent history ...

30 Sep 2008: Native News from PECHANGA.net

Cole: Tribal governments under fire (WASHINGTON, DC) -- I wear a number of hats in my professional life: I am the congressman from the 4th District in Oklahoma, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the only enrolled member of a federally recognized Indian tribe in the U.S. Congress. I spend a lot of time with tribal leaders and tribal people, and I am often asked the following question:

Alaska Natives question Palin's support (ALASKA) -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin routinely notes her husband's Yup'ik Eskimo roots. But those connections haven't erased doubts about her in a community long slighted by the white settlers who flocked to Alaska and dominate its government.

OP/ED: Monegan did a lot to help law enforcement in rural Alaska (ALASKA) -- I don't want to get into a big political fight over the subject of this column, but I cannot allow a fellow Alaska Native to have his reputation tarnished and used as a political football. I am speaking about the former commissioner of public safety, Walt Monegan.

NYC Demands Governor Collect Tribal Cigarette Taxes (NEW YORK) -- New York City sued eight Native American reservation stores on Long Island for not collecting the city's cigarette taxes, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday, demanding the governor enforce the law.

Bloomberg targets smoke shops on Poospatuck reservation (NEW YORK) -- After banning smoking in bars and restaurants, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now targeting eight Mastic smoke shops, filing a lawsuit yesterday against the retailers on the Poospatuck Indian reservation, claiming they are unlawfully selling untaxed cigarettes.

NYC sues reservation smoke shops over bootlegging (NEW YORK) -- New York City is suing eight smoke shops that have been selling tax-free cigarettes on an Indian reservation.

High court moves toward Narragansett land claim case (RHODE ISALND) -- As the U.S. Supreme Court moves toward defining the meaning of “now” in a 75-year-old law and determining whether the Interior Department can take land into trust for the Narragansett Indians beyond the terms of the Rhode Island Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, the tribe has begun a process it hopes will ultimately overturn the act itself.

Native leaders band together to broker direct investment deals with China (CANADA) -- When a group of more than 100 Canadian native leaders arrives in China six weeks from now, they will carry a message that is both historic and disarmingly straightforward: China has vast wealth to invest, and Canada's native communities, with their access to timber, coal and minerals, want to do business.

Native leaders demand campaign attention (OTTAWA) -- In full native headdress on the floor of the House of Commons, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine had a historic seat last June to hear the Prime Minister's apology for Canada's Indian Residential Schools.

Aboriginal protesters block Trans-Canada near Regina in dispute over pipeline (SASKATCHEWAN) -- First Nations protesters on horseback blocked part of Trans-Canada Highway east of Regina for about a half-hour on Sunday in a dispute over the construction of an oil pipeline.

Mohawk protester Brant gets light penalty for blockades (CANADA) -- Facing numerous defence motions that would have laid bare police actions, the Crown dropped most charges Monday against an aboriginal protester who helped organize a blockade last summer of an Ontario highway and rail line, and agreed to a slap-on-the-wrist-penalty for the remaining ones.

Tax on Chehalis tribal resort goes to court (WASHINGTON) -- A dispute over the property tax for the Chehalis Tribes' Great Wolf Lodge at Grand Mound is headed for federal court in Tacoma. The tribe filed a request this month for a court order against Thurston County tax collectors.

More headlines...

30 Sep 2008: Today's Democracy Now!

"Bridge Loan to Nowhere": Public Outcry Forces House to Reject $700 Billion Bailout of Financial Industry; Dow Falls Record 777 Points
On Monday, the House voted 228-to-205 against authorizing the largest government intervention in the financial market in US history. The measure would have granted the Treasury unprecedented authority and up to $700 billion to relieve faltering banks and other firms of bad assets backed by home mortgages, which are falling into foreclosure at record rates. As the economic crisis worsens and spreads across the globe, we speak with Robert Johnson, former chief economist of the Senate Banking Committee, and Bruce Marks, the founder and CEO of NACA, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America. [includes rush transcript–partial]

News from Indianz.Com

Supreme Court considers Indian law cases (9/30)

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Navajo family cites bias in murder charges (9/30)

Rep. Cole: Greatest threat to tribal sovereignty (9/30)

Jodi Rave: Job Corps trains reservation youth (9/30)

Elmer Savilla: A Native veteran questions McCain (9/30)

McCain cancels Nevada visit after gambling story (9/30)

McCain opposed one casino but protected another (9/30)

Column: Gov. Palin insults victims of rape (9/30)

Gov. Palin urged to form Native village task force (9/30)

Navajo leaders endorse Sen. Obama for president (9/30)

Gang clash cited in stabbings at Morongo powwow (9/30)

New York City mayor sues Indian smokeshops (9/30)

Cayuga Nation to give away gas in counter protest (9/30)

IHS cuts contract to urban Indian health center (9/30)

Nevada Urban Indians moves to new home in Reno (9/30)

Makah grandmothers to walk 330 miles for treaty (9/30)

Cherokee Nation offers small business loans (9/30)

Editorial: Law enforcement in Big Horn County (9/30)

Canada drops most charges against Mohawk activist (9/30)

Prosecutor named for US Attorney firings (9/30)

Mohegan Tribe debuts Margaritaville at casino (9/30)

Column: Connecticut casinos pass their peak (9/30)

More headlines...

John McCain: Economic Disaster

The Fives: Why the media misses Bill Janklow and five of his most controversial legacies

The Fives: Why the media misses Bill Janklow and five of his most controversial legacies
By Todd Williams, Journal staff
Monday, September 29, 2008


I was a junior in high school the first time I saw Bill Janklow in person. He was speaking at Boys State and he gave one of those classic Janklow speeches, which, in essence, were no speeches at all. What it was was an extended question and answer session that was most an answer session in which Janklow rattled off a flurry of "facts" and anecdotes as extended answers to questions that may or may not have matched the young leaders' queries.

It was hard not to be impressed.

But as I learned more about the man they called "Wild Bill," I became more dubious of his record. I would hear more things, read more things and see more things that made me wonder whether the most powerful man in South Dakota was as good for South Dakota as he said he was.

Eventually, I became one of those people that came to question his every move and motivation, essentially trusting him about as far as I could throw him. At one point, I even wrote a newspaper column that was so full of vitriol against the former governor and U.S. representative that the editor could only offer up the headline, "At least he isn't dating your sister."

But something funny happened over the years. While I still remained highly suspicious of any dealings Janklow was involved in, I became appreciative of his straight-forward style and the fact that when he spoke, it surely meant news. He was fearless in the political realm and wicked in public appearances. He would tear through opponents with reckless disregard and then return to first gear in the space of a few moments.

But most of all, he was constant news. He was always good for a quote. He despised bureaucracy, and he let everyone know about it when he did.

So when he returned to the news last week in a somewhat barely news event -- being involved in a minor accident in Sioux Falls -- I welcomed it. And so did readers. Rapid Repliers showed out in full force, and that's why he may not be the most popular of former politicos for readers, he is at least their favorite former politico upon which to heap their wrath.

Here are five of the most controversial legacies left by Mr. Janklow over the years.

5. Janklow sues over "In The Spirit of Crazy Horse", strengthens 1st amendment rights

I was a sophomore at Lead High School when my Indian Studies teacher encouraged me to do my quarterly report on the release of the book "In The Spirit of Crazy Horse."

The just released book focused on the execution-style shooting at the Jumping Bull Ranch on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the eventual conviction of AIM enforcer Leonard Peltier for the crime.

The book and the ensuing controversy over its contents would shape my views of Indian Country and the stories that came from it and about it for years. That is, there were a lot of untold stories from Indian Country, and while the book covered a lot of them, it also was tough to determine what was true and what wasn't. Much like the conflict that tore the reservation apart in the 1970s, it's hard to be an impartial judge of the things that happened before and after.

While the book focused on Peltier -- it helped launch the Free Peltier movement -- it also spends some time on first Attorney General Bill Janklow and then Gov. Bill Janklow. The portrait it paints is highly unflattering. In addition to depicting him as a racist whose firebrand actions created tumult on the reservation, it went as far to implicate him and the rape and later death of Jancita Eagle Deer.

Janklow wasted little time in suing anybody who had anything to do with the book. Author Peter Matthiesen, his publishing company, anybody who carried the book in their store, nobody was spared.

The funny thing is, when I did my report on the book, it couldn't be found in the Northern Hills so I had to get it from the state libarary. And I did.

Eventually, the lawsuits were all dismissed, and some even said Janklow's actions further strengthened First Amendment rights. Heck, that alone should make him a patron saint among journalists. When was the last time a powerful politician has done anything for the First Amendment?

[Blog editor's note: In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen is the definitive work on the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the Peltier case. The author successfully defended against lawsuits brought by Janklow and FBI Special Agent David Price in three different states, surviving an eight-year litigation. As acknowledged by the courts, Matthiessen's reputation for not being sensationalistic or scandalous is well known. He is a highly respected author and his works have received wide acclaim.]

4. Janklow sells the state cement plant in holiday season rush

You want to get local legislators' blood to boil, mention the Christmas season sale of the state cement plant in Rapid City.

After months of closed doors negotiations, the former governor introduced the deal with a Mexcian company to buy the state cement plant on Christmas Eve. He then called a special session of the legislature and rushed the deal through, closing the records of the negotiations to the public.

(The following paragraph is corrected from an earlier verision of this story).

Still, nobody challenged the matter in the legislature, and only a sole citizen -- Betty E. Breck of Groton -- brought the matter to court, knowing that few conservative Republicans would argue that the state should be in a field generally relegated to private enterprise.

The court reaffirmed the deal, and the rest is history.

3. The 'Janklow 36': An experiment in clemency

Facing a rising prison population and a federal judge's order prohibiting the placement of two prisoners in one cell, the former governor took the highly unusual action of issuing commutations for 36 prisoners at the state penitentiary in October of 1986 (corrected from an earlier version of this story).

He had a couple of rules, though. First, they must leave South Dakota within 24 hours. Secondly, they must never return.

A few were later found in South Dakota, and at least one was arrested there. Others committed further crimes but were never returned to South Dakota.

The whole issue was examined by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader earlier this year in a fascinating look at the 36 men and what became of them. And while Janklow vowed to return them to the South Dakota Pen if they broke the law again, there was no system to track their whereabouts, let alone whether they repeat offended.

Like many of the former governor's actions, the success of the program is largely left to conjecture. Those who admire Janklow give him credit for easing prison pressures and sending ne'er do wells to other regions. Janklow opponents note the recklessness in the move and the lack of followup.

2. Responsibility, no responsibility for the boot camp death of Gina Score
The July 1999 death of Gina Score at the Plankinton boot camp sent shockwaves across state government. And Janklow had a personal stake in it all.

During his second run as governor, Janklow single handedly pushed the juvenile correction system toward a model similar to his youth -- the boot camp model. Believing that the military style training that had helped transform him from a juvenile delinquent into a successful lawyer and politician could be successful across the board, he moved toward the model despite growing evidence that the model was not successful.

"Everybody in America debates whether or not they work," he declared. "We in South Dakota have always been able to make things work."

But the Score death essentially ended that dream. To his credit, Janklow almost immediately took the blame, saying that the state had killed Score. But when the blame was quickly transferred to what he called rogue activities of nurses at the school instead of recognizing that the mode of operation had essentially led to the young Score dying of heat stroke while on a forced run.

In the span of a few short months, the boot camp model was dismantled and deemed ineffective. But the Score death remains a black mark on a system Janklow had had full faith in and had brought to the state corrections system.

1. A death, a verdict, 100 days and $1 million

The accident in which Janklow blew through a stop sign at an estimated 70 mph and collided with motorcyclist Randy Scott, instantly killing the 55-year-old Hardwick, Minn., man, effectively ended Janklow's political career.

To be honest, no political career could probably survive such an event. But the fact that Janklow had a long history of speeding and reckless driving and had virtually bragged about it before the legislature on at least one occasion didn't help.

The longtime governor turned U.S. representative said that extremely low blood sugar levels had left him in a poor state that led to the accident. The argument may have worked, but he was still convicted of second degree manslaughter and sentenced to 100 days in county jail.

There was plenty of anger for the sentence as the legions of people Janklow had put behind bars for lesser crimes but longer sentences were joined by the many Janklow haters in decrying the brevity of the sentence. Janklow backers noted that his public service was so expansive, the fact that the accident would end it was an adequate sentence in itself.

But what really set off public opinion against Janklow was that even in the civil realm, it was ruled that he was not personally responsible. Because he had been at a political event in Brown County earlier in the day and was simply returning home when the accident occurred, it was ruled that he was on official business and that any civil damages would have to be paid by the government.

In the end, the family of Randy Scott settled with the government for $1 million, officially ending the event that ended Janklow's career.

That is, except, for on Rapid Reply, where the repeated mantra of Janklow and the Scott incident are brought up repeatedly by readers, assuring the longtime politician that they have not -- and likely never will -- forget the tragic crash.

Source URL:

10th Annual Native American Music Awards to Be Broadcast Live on the Internet



New York - The 10th Annual Native American Music Awards (N.A.M.A.) will be featured in a free live internet broadcast via Single Feather Media, LLC on Saturday, October 4, 2008.

The three hour Native American Music Awards will proudly commemorate its tenth anniversary with a special celebration that includes over 30 Awards categories from every genre of music as well as Hall of Fame inductions and high energy performances by nationally renowned band members from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Taste of Honey, Redone & Village People. For the past decade, N.A.M.A. has been nominating and awarding prominent national music figures of Native American heritage at its annual Awards ceremony, a highly celebratory and critically acclaimed event.

Single Feather Media, a wholly owned Native American video and multimedia company is proud to broadcast the 10th Annual Native American Music Awards, live via the internet. Michael "Kickingbear" Johnson, President and CEO of Single Feather Media, is a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, who were the hosts of the inaugural Native American Music Awards, or "NAMMYS" at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut in 1998. Mr. Johnson Stated "It is my distinct honor to help showcase some of the very best talent from Indian country. Good luck to all the nominees for this year's award show!"

The broadcast can be viewed on Saturday, October 4th by visiting WWW.NATIVEAMERICANMUSICAWARDS.COM

This coming November, two Native American Music Awards broadcast specials will be nationally televised on MHZ Networks Worldwide. An edited version of the 10th Annual Awards show will also be broadcast later this year on MHZ Networks, "a network for globally-minded people."

The first special entitled, "Best of the NAMMYS," is a one hour program featuring performances from Awards shows held from 1999 to 2003 and will air in November. "Best of the Nammys" features over one dozen music performances recorded from the Second to the Fifth Annual Awards shows. Featured performers include; Crystal Gayle (Cherokee), Bill Miller (Stockbridge Munsee), Thunderbird Sisters (Shinnecock), Bird Singers (Viejas Band of Kumeyaay), Pamyua (Yup 'ik), Howard Lyons (Onondaga) Felipe Rose of the Village People (Lakota/Taino) and more.

The second program is a two hour edited version of the Ninth Annual Native American Music Awards which will also be broadcast on the MHZ Networks. Taped live at the Seneca Niagara Hotel & Casino, this Awards program features performances by such award-winning artists as; Brule' & AIRO, CornBred, Digging Roots, NightShield, Derek Miller, the Iroquois Dancers, Joanne Shenandoah and more.

The airing of both programs help commemorate the month of November as National Native American Heritage Month proclaimed by the President of the United States of America.

MHZ Worldwide is an independent, noncommercial television network delivering international, educational and arts programming to an estimated 18 million households nationwide. Owned by the Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corporation, the network consists of independent public television stations, cable and satellite television channels across the country. See affiliate list below or visit www.mhznetworks.org.

MHZ Affiliates:

WNVC Washington, DC Broadcast Channel 56 (analog), 30-1 (digital broadcast) 2,241,610 DMA HHS Cable various 1,587,840 Cable

WEIU Charleston, IL Broadcast Channel 50-2 (digital broadcast) 382,460 DMA HHS Cable 50 256,810 Cable HHS

KCSM San Francisco,CA Broadcast Channel 43-2 (digital broadcast) 2,359,870 DMA HHS Cable various 1,785,510 Cable HHS

WYCC Chicago,IL Broadcast Channel 21-2 (digital broadcast) 3,417,330 DMA HHS Cable various 2,382,760 Cable HHS

KBTC Tacoma/Seattle, WA Broadcast Channel tba 1,690,640 DMA HHS

LSR Access Colorado Springs,CO Cable: Channel 15 Adelphia 90,000 Cable HHS

MPS Cable Minneapolis, MN Cable: Channel 76 Time Warner 80,000 Cable HHS

Senate Approves Broadband Data Bill

Senate Approves Broadband Data Bill
With the passing of the "Broadband Data Improvement Act", the Senate has taken a crucial step toward a national broadband policy. The data collected would lay the foundation for policies in the next Congress to promote universal, affordable high-speed Internet access for all Americans.
Free Press

Report: Investigation into the Removal of Nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006

(Office of the Inspector General, September 2008) - A report on the highly-publicized firings of U.S. Attorneys in 2006 that raised concerns over political interference with the U.S. Attorneys. While not declaring an outright politicization of the firing process, the report did find that the process was fundamentally flawed, and accused the person implementing the process of acting arbitrarily, failing to confer with DoJ officials knowledgeable about the Attorneys' performance, and failing to examine formal evaluations of each U.S. Attorney's Office. In addition, the report concluded that statements and congressional testimony by DoJ officials after the firings became public were inconsistent, misleading and inaccurate. The report attributes primary responsibility for the flaws in the firings to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty based on their failure to adequately oversee the process. Read more...

Prosecutor named to probe US Attorneys' Firings

Prosecuting the prosecutors

PROSECUTOR NAMED TO PROBE US ATTORNEYS' FIRINGS (AP) - Attorney General Michael Mukasey has appointed a special prosecutor to pursue possible criminal charges against Republicans involved in the controversial firings of U.S. attorneys.


Related Resources

Read the New DOJ Report on U.S. Attorney Firings of 2006

Government deposes tribal leaders who oppose logging

InterContinental Cry
Government deposes tribal leaders who oppose logging
Posted: 24 Sep 2008 10:56 AM CDT
In an attempt to break the resistance to logging in the rainforests of Sarawak, the government has officially announced that it will no longer recognize tribal leaders in some Penan communities. These leaders include: 1. Saund Bujang from the community of Long Benali, who successfully led an effort to stop the timber company Samling from entering their lands through the use of blockades and a media campaign. The government is currently trying to replace him with a Samling stakeholder. 2. Bilong Oyoi from the community of Long Sait (pictured on the right), who is one of the leading plaintiffs in the long-standing Penan land rights claim. Bilong received a letter from the government simply stating that he had been deposed. 3. Another plaintiff in the land rights case, the late Kelesau Naan, former headman of Long Kerong who disappeared in October 2007. Two months later, he was found dead. The community of Long Kerong community have since elected a new headman, the former deputy headman Tirong Lawing. The government refuses to recognize Tirong. 4. The government also refuses to recognize the newly-elected representative of Long Lamai, Wilson Belare, who was chosen to replace his father, former headman Belare Jabu, who passed away in May 2007. “We protest against these violations of our right to elect our own leaders”, a Penan representative from the Upper Baram region has said. “Despite all these attempts to undermine our leadership, the communities in the Upper Baram stand firmly behind their elected leaders.” The non-recognition of the elected community headmen by the Sarawak State Government is ...

Exploring Native American Repatriation Act at UCSD Teach-in

Exploring Native American Repatriation Act at UCSD Teach-in
Written by Jan Jennings - UCSD
Monday, 29 September 2008

San Diego, California - The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) will be up for scrutiny when four panelists offer different points of view to the Grave Injustice: UCSD Repatriation Teach-In Oct. 13 in the Student Services Center at the University of California, San Diego.

The event, part of U C San Diego’s Native American Day Celebration, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. in the center’s Multi-Purpose Room. It is free and open to the public.

NAGPRA is a federal law passed in 1990 defining a “process for museums and Federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items – human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony – to lineal descendants, culturally affiliated Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.” If remains are found on federal land, the law states, they should be returned to the tribe of origin or the tribe with the closest cultural affiliation.

Devon Lomayesva, executive director of California Indian Legal Services and a member of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, will moderate the panel discussion.
The panelists and their particular expertise on NAGPRA:

-- Sherry Hutt, National NAGPRA program manager, will speak on NAGPRA at the national level and the intent of the law.

-- Carole Goldberg, professor of law at UCLA and faculty chair of UCLA Law School’s Native Nations Law and Policy Center, will focus on NAGPRA in the UC system.

-- Louie Guassac, Sycuan consultant, will consider the Kumeyaay perspective of the current repatriation issue with the UCSD’s University House remains.

-- Ross Frank, UCSD Department of Ethnic Studies and author of UCSD’s NAGPRA Minority Report on the University House remains, will talk on the current repatriation issue as a member of the UCSD NAGPRA Ad-Hoc committee and minority report author.

“Simply stated,” notes the UCSD NAGPRA Working Group Report regarding the University House remains issue, “our finding is that there is not a significant preponderance of evidence to support an affirmation of cultural identification or affiliation with any modern group … The highly imperfect and incomplete record of temporal sequencing of archaeological remains contains little to argue for or against such affiliation.”

In the UCSD NAGPRA Minority Report regarding the University House remains, Frank concludes the reverse: “The burials that form the basis for this claim were human beings whose most likely descendants, through both inherited culture and kinship, are the Kumeyaay people represented by the Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee. No concerted attempt has been made by the (NAGPRA Working Group) committee to bring a coordinated interdisciplinary analysis to bear on the disparate lines of evidence.”

Meanwhile, the University continues to work with Kumeyaay representatives on a number of cultural issues, in addition to repatriation, to foster and build on mutual interests.

Source URL: http://www.imperialvalleynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2831&Itemid=2

Tribal members concerned about proposed oil refinery

InterContinental Cry
Tribal members concerned about proposed oil refinery
Posted: 25 Sep 2008 02:35 PM CDT
Tribal community members from the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations have major concerns about the dangers they will face if the Council of the Three Affiliated Tribes (TAT), along with Triad Engineers Limited (of Linden, Utah and Calgary, Alberta, Canada), go ahead with their plan to build a new oil refinery on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. “The people of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations and of the surrounding area are all already living and dying with the devastating, adverse effects imposed upon our health & well being by the existing multiple polluting stressors of several coal/lignite power plants, the USA’s first coal gasification plant, coal mining, oil wells, the states existing oil refinery, and farm land herbicide/pesticide use, and we all agree that the proposed refinery’s toxic effects to human and environmental health and well being can not be and will not be tolerated or accepted,” explains the Environmental Awareness Committee (EAC), a grassroots group that was formed by tribal members. “The incidence of asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and many other chronic health conditions, diagnosis and associated death is of already extreme number amongst the Indian and non-Indian alike. Health care needs and existing emergency services are also extremely lacking and unmet.” The EAC is also concerned about existing levels of mercury contamination in fish, to which the North Dakota State Department of Health have responded on numerous occasions by issuing Fish Consumption Advisories. “[This pollution] is a result of coal fired power plants surrounding the Three Affiliated Tribes’ reservation,” ...

Filiberto Ojeda Rios Film Festival 2008

The Filiberto Ojeda Rios Film Festival 2008 is an initiative of the ProLibertad Freedom Campaign to showcase films that speak to our experience as a colonized people fighting for independence and self-determination!

We have named the film festival after assassinated Machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios because his death raised consciousness throughout the Puerto Rican Diaspora; his murder illustrated the colonial oppression Puerto Rico faces and has radicalized a generation of young activists to continue the fight for independence.
We hope these films will do the same. Join us on our three consecutive Fridays!

Don’t support the Hollywood machine that feeds you nonsense, sex, violence and cheap humor! Learn about yourself, your people, and your struggle!

$5 donation/Best offer at each film!


Friday November 7th, 2008 @ 7pm @ Hunter College West Building 2nd floor room 217 (E68th St. and Lexington Avenue)

¡Palante Siempre Palante!

From Chicago streets to the barrios of New York City and other urban centers, the Young Lords emerged to demand decent living conditions and raised a militant voice for the empowerment of Puerto Ricans and other Latino/as in the United States and for the independence of Puerto Rico. Through on-camera interviews with former members, archival footage, photographs and music, the documentary surveys Puerto Rican history, the Young Lords' political vision and actions, and the organization's legacy. Take the 6 train to E68th St. and Lexington Avenue.


Friday November 14th, 2008 @ 7pm @ John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 889 10th Ave., Room 3305N (between W58th-W59th St. on 10th Ave.)

The Double Life of Ernesto Gomez Gomez

What happens to the parents, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters of those willing to sacrifice everything for their beliefs? This film uniquely blends forms to tell the singular story of a son of Puerto Rican revolutionaries — his mother in prison, his father in exile — sent as a baby to Mexico to be raised in safety and anonymity. As a teenager Ernesto/Guillermo learns of his past and collaborates with filmmakers Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg to magically chronicle his turbulent journey of self-discovery, offering a striking account of the costs of fiercely held convictions and the binding force of a son's love. (56 minutes) Take the A,B,C,D, 1, and 2 to 59th St. and Columbus Circle


Friday November 21st, 2008 @ 7:30pm @ The Brecht Forum 451 West Street (that's the West Side Highway) between Bank & Bethune Streets

La Operacion/The Operation

This documentary brings to the foreground the problem of widespread sterilization among Puerto Rican women through the use of personal testimony, newsreels, and government propaganda excerpts. The procedure is so common that more than one-third of all Puerto Rican women of childbearing age have been sterilized. Begun in the 1930's as a means of curbing the surplus population, it continues to be reinforced politically and socially in the Puerto Rican communities. Directions: A, C, E or L to 14th St. & 8th Ave, walk down 8th Ave. to Bethune, turn right, walk west to the river, turn left. 1, 2, 3 or 9 to 14th St.& 7th Ave, get off at south end of station, walk west on 12th Street to 8th Ave, left to Bethune, turn right, walk west to the river, turn left. PATH Train to Christopher Street, north on Greenwich St to Bank Street, left to the river.

What is the ProLibertad Freedom Campaign?

The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign has been working for the release of the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners for over 10 years.

With the release of 11 of the Political Prisoners in September 1999, we have re-dedicated our efforts to securing the freedom of the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners.

Through educational events, lobbying and public pressure work and
activities it is our goal to secure the freedom of these patriots whose only “crime” has been the love of their home land, Puerto Rico.

We support the release of All U.S. held Political Prisoners, oppose the U.S. colonial control of Puerto Rico, U.S. imperialism throughout the world, and the U.S. military presence in Vieques.

CONTACT US AT ProLibertad@Hotmail.com or
call the ProLibertad Hotline at 718-601-4751. Check out our website for campaign updates:

Navajo Nation sends delegates to Geneva discussion: Caucus to address rights of indigenous peoples

Navajo Nation sends delegates to Geneva discussion: Caucus to address rights of indigenous peoples
By Alysa Landry The Daily Times
Article Launched: 09/25/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT

GENEVA, Switzerland — Four Navajo Nation delegates are joining an international discussion this weekend in the city that played backdrop to some of history's most important policy-making conferences.

The Indigenous Peoples Caucus convenes Sunday in Switzerland's second-largest city to address the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a statement authored after more than 20 years of discussion about the privileges of the globe's nearly 400 million native people.

The United Nations general assembly adopted the declaration last year with a 143-4 vote. Eleven countries abstained. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States voted against the declaration.

This year's caucus will discuss implementation of the declaration, said Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie, who serves as chairman of the newly established Navajo Human Rights Commission. Yazzie will attend the caucus, along with three other Navajo delegates.

The declaration comprises 46 articles that define the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Among the rights are edicts calling for freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples who are free from acts of genocide, other acts of violence or forcible removal from their lands or territories.

The declaration also calls for indigenous peoples' rights to self-government in financial and internal affairs and freedom to practice and revitalize native culture and language.

"The intent is to develop the implementation process for the declaration," Yazzie said. "I am honored to be invited."

Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Human Rights Commission, did not return phone calls for comment this week.

Commission spokesman Tom van Winkle said no information about the possible effects of the declaration on the Navajo Nation is available.

"As far as I know, we're going as observers, and we may be asked to make recommendations as to how we would go about implementing the declaration," he said. "We don't know what to expect about how it will affect the Navajo Nation."

More than 370 million indigenous people struggle with poverty, Caucus Chairman Les Malezer said in a prepared statement. The United Nations debated the declaration for more than 20 years before adopting it in September 2007.

"One quarter of a century ago the United Nations agreed that the situation of indigenous peoples around the world was so desperate and consistently exploited that it warranted international attention," Malezer said. "Together we found out that indigenous peoples around the world shared a common situation of loss of control of our lands, territories and resources and a history of colonization."

Opponents of the declaration cited concerns about self-determination provisions, according to data released by the United Nations Department of Public Information. The declaration calls for rights of veto over national legislation and state resource management.

United States delegate Robert Hagen told the general assembly last year the declaration was confusing and open to interpretations and debate about its applications.

Hagen said the United States did support promotion of indigenous peoples' rights, however, and it would continue to foster government-to-government relationships with tribes and fight against discrimination of native people, according to United Nations records.

Yazzie said the vote against the declaration will not hurt implementation of the principles.

"It's unfortunate that the United States didn't vote for it," he said, "but I don't believe that there are any critical issues that would prohibit or prevent implementation of the declaration in the United States."

The Navajo Nation Council voted in June to staff its Human Rights Commission, an entity charged with protecting the Navajo people from discriminatory acts.

The commission, established in 2006 under the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission Act, comprises five professionals appointed by Council Speaker Lawrence Morgan.

The commission's next meeting is at 10 a.m. Oct. 3, in the Sports Banquet Room, next to the Ace Hardware in Shiprock.

Source URL:

Monday, September 29, 2008

An Athabascan's response

September 26, 2008

An Athabascan's response

Unlike Mr. [Ben Nighthorse] Campbell, who remarks that he is Northern Cheyenne, a former senator, and a leader in the McCain campaign, I am an Athabascan Indian, I have lived in Alaska all my life, and I actually know firsthand what Gov. Sarah Palin has done.

Contrary to the former senator's remarks, Alaska subsistence hunting and fishing issues are not complicated. As the former senator concedes, however, they are deeply "political." My point exactly: consistently, Sarah Palin has politicized subsistence and sought to advantage urban hunters and fishers over the rural people who actually live a subsistence way of life. It is a stunning hostility, given that subsistence fishing, as one example, consumes a mere 2 percent of all consumptive uses of fish in our state.

Nor are Alaska Native people "divided" on this issue. To the contrary, in the late 1990s Alaska Natives held a special statewide convention in Alaska and overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for rural subsistence.

Palin cannot dodge her responsibility for continuing lawsuits that her predecessor began. She is against federal agency protection for subsistence. She is against subsistence fishing in many navigable waters that are critical to Native people. She is against subsistence hunting in many areas our Native people depend upon for their survival. She is against subsistence rights that prefer rural users as the federal law favored by Alaska Natives demands over urban users.

It is true that Alaska is disabled by its own constitution from extending rural subsistence rights to state lands and waters. But a governor committed to Alaska Native people would press the federal government to do everything in its power to protect those subsistence rights as broadly as possible on federal lands and waters. Instead, Palin has chosen to attack those rights with lawsuits – and "attack" is indeed the fair word here. How else to characterize Palin's lawsuit brought to defeat subsistence? And how else to explain Alaska Natives' overwhelming support for the Obama/Biden ticket?

Sarah Palin has built a solid record opposing subsistence and tribal sovereignty in Alaska. That truth may be inconvenient to the former senator, but that does not change it.

Heather Kendall Miller
Anchorage, Alaska

Source URL: http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/opinion/letters/29766074.html

29 Sep 2008: Native News from PECHANGA.net

Alaska Natives question Palin's support (ALASKA) -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin routinely notes her husband's Yup'ik Eskimo roots. But those connections haven't erased doubts about her in a community long slighted by the white settlers who flocked to Alaska and dominate its government.

NYC sues reservation smoke shops over bootlegging (NEW YORK) -- New York City is suing eight smoke shops that have been selling tax-free cigarettes on an Indian reservation.

1 Dead, 3 Injured In Gang Fight At Morongo Casino (CALIFORNIA) -- One person died from a stabbing, and three others were injured, in an apparent gang-related assault at a public cultural event being staged this weekend in a Casino Morongo parking lot, authorities said Sunday.

Person killed, two injured in fight (CALIFORNIA) -- A 20-year-old Banning man was stabbed to death Saturday night after a fight in the parking lot of the old Casino Morongo in Cabazon, authorities said.

'Rez disease' of alcohol, drugs is deadly among Seminole youth / Alcohol-involved crashes, drug overdoses, suicide claim alarming number of young Seminoles (FLORIDA) -- For young members of the Seminole Tribe, this should be the best of times. With annual revenues from casinos and other businesses that have topped $1.4 billion, the tribe provides each of its 3,300 members with an income of about $120,000 a year, a free education and a guaranteed job.

Drugs, alcohol worsening problems for Seminoles (FLORIDA) -- The average age at death among Seminole Indians in Florida has dropped by 12 years in the past decade, according to a newspaper analysis, to below age 50.

Seminole Tribe Members Dying Younger, Study Says (FLORIDA) -- A new study has found members of Florida's Seminole Indian tribe are dying younger these days. The study found that in the past ten years, the average age of a Seminole at the time of death has dropped from nearly 60 years old to just 48. That's a full 25 years younger than the statewide average of 73 years.

House approves Indian housing bill (OKLAHOMA) -- An Indian housing bill threatened by efforts to punish the Cherokee Nation for trying to bar descendants of former slaves from tribal citizenship has been passed by the U.S. House.

JODI RAVE: Onondaga faith keeper's work Nobel worthy (NORWAY) -- On a recent trip to Norway, some fellow journalists and I kept driving past the Nobel Peace Center in the central part of Oslo as we made our way between museums and restaurants.

Q & A: Wilma Mankiller (INDIANA) -- More than two decades before politicians talked about Hillary Rodham Clinton cracking the glass ceiling, Wilma Mankiller was the first woman serving as the leader of the second largest American Indian tribe in the country.

Target of murder-for-hire plot sues Mexican Mafia, San Manuel tribal members for $50 million (CALIFORNIA) -- A former bar manager is suing a couple of top Mexican Mafia members and two San Manuel Indians who were convicted earlier this year of plotting to kill him in 2006.

Red Lake band opens Duluth office (MINNESOTA) -- A new Duluth outreach office hopes to make treatment, education and jobs the solutions to what is the bane of too many Red Lake band members: unemployment and substance abuse.

More headlines...

29 Sep 2008: Today's Democracy Now!

“Is this the United States Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?” Rep. Dennis Kucinich Rejects $700 Billion Bailout
The House is set to vote today on a $700 billion emergency bailout plan for the financial industry. The proposed legislation was forged during a marathon negotiating session over the weekend between lawmakers from both parties and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The 110-page bill would authorize Paulson to initiate what is likely to become the biggest government bailout in US history, allowing him to spend up to $700 billion to relieve faltering banks and other firms of bad assets backed by home mortgages, which are falling into foreclosure at record rates. [includes rush transcript]

FDR in 1933: "There Must Be a Strict Supervision of All Banking and Credits and Investments. There Must Be an End to Speculation with Other People's Money."
We now move three-quarters of a century back in time to 1933. It was the middle of an era that our current moment is sometimes compared to: the Great Depression. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took his oath of office in March of that year, over 10,000 banks had collapsed, following the stock market crash of 1929. One-quarter of American workers were unemployed, and people were fighting over scraps of food. We play an excerpt of FDR’s inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, and speak to Adam Cohen, author of the forthcoming book, Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America.

Senators John McCain and Barack Obama Debate Iraq, Pakistan, Russia During First Debate
For analysis on Friday’s debate we speak with investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss. He is a contributing editor with the Nation magazine and author of “Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.” In his latest blog posting about the foreign policy portions of the debate he castigates Obama for not drawing a stark contrast with McCain.

News from Indianz.Com

Jodi Rave: A Native for the Nobel Peace Prize (9/29)

No action on Indian Health Care Improvement Act (9/29)

Column: DNC goes after Sen. McCain on gambling (9/28)

Campbell blames NIGC for McCain's gaming bill (9/28)

Gawker: 'No one' noticed McCain gambling story (9/28)

Gov. Palin too busy to meet with tribal leaders (9/29)

DOJ releases report on firings of US Attorneys (9/29)

Substance abuse claiming young Seminole lives (9/29)

Saginaw Chippewa Tribe repeals ban on unions (9/29)

Target of San Manuel murder plot sues for $50M (9/29)

Stabbing death reported at Morongo powwow (9/29)

Interview with Wilma Mankiler, former Cherokee chief (9/29)

'Fighting Sioux' arena to display tribal flags (9/29)

Indian county sheriff faces recall election (9/29)

Four Indian suspects wanted for home invasion (9/29)

Native American Bank names new president (9/29)

Alaska Native charter school offers bus service (9/29)

EPA honors Oglala Sioux woman for tribal efforts (9/29)

The Fives: Why the media misses Bill Janklow (9/29)

Editorial: Investigate Gale Norton for corruption (9/29)

Column: All is not well on Indian gaming front (9/29)

Dry Creek Band scales back casino expansion (9/29)

Northern Arapaho Tribe brings back bingo games (9/29)

Cherokee Nation to hire 500 at expanded casino (9/29)

More headlines...

Just for Fun

The local police department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are all trying to prove that they are the best at apprehending criminals.

The President decides to give them a test.

The President releases a Rabbit into the forest and tells the FBI, CIA, and local police department to catch it.

The CIA goes in first.

They place animal informants throughout the forest. They question all the plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigation, they conclude the Rabbit does not exist.

The FBI goes into the forest next. After 2 weeks with no leads, they burn down the forest, killing everything in it (including the Rabbit) and they make no apologies. The Rabbit had it coming to him, they say.

The local police department goes in. Two hours later they emerge from the forest with a badly beaten bear yelling, "Okay, Okay! I give up. I'm a Rabbit! I'm a Rabbit!"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Senate Indian Affairs Committee and Other Congressional Committees Urged to Convene Hearings on Sacred Lands

From the Call to Action below: "Article 12 of the Declaration [United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] affirms that "Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies and the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites." …

Tribal Nations and Native rights organizations are aware of hundreds of threatened sacred places throughout the US and are highlighting two critical threatened sacred places as evidence for immediate political action: The Medicine Lake Highlands located in California and the San Francisco Peaks located in Northern Arizona.

Please fax a brief letter to Senate Indian Affairs Committee urging that a hearing be held on these issues as soon as possible. The Committee fax number is 202-228-2589.

Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites; Save the Peaks Coalition; Indigenous Environmental Network; International Indian Treaty Council; Seventh Generation Fund; Vallejo Inter-Tribal Council; Morning Star Institute

For Immediate Release: September 25, 2008

Contacts: James Hayward, Redding Ranche ria/Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites, 530-410-2875; Klee Benally, Save the Peaks Coalition,928-380-2629; Radley Davis, Pit River Nation/Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites, 530-917-6064; Mark LeBeau, Pit River Nation/Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites, 916-801-4422; Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council, 907-745-4482; Chris Peters, Seventh Generation Fund, 707-825-7640; Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network, 218-751-4967; Wounded Knee, Vallejo Inter-Tribal Council, 707-556-8776; Suzan Shown Harjo, Morning Star Institute, 202-547-5531 Tribal Nations, Native Rights Organizations, and Social/Environmental Justice Allies Call on Congress and Administration to Immediately Address Tribal Sacred Lands Protection

Senate Indian Affairs Committee & Other Congressional Committees Urged to Convene Hearings on Sacred Lands

Indian Country, USA— Tribal Nations, Native rights organizations, and social/environmental justice allies are calling on the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee and other Congressional Committees to conduct hearings concerning federal land management practices that threaten or destroy Tribal sacred lands. The Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites, The Save the Peaks Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network, International Indian Treaty Council, Seventh Generation Fund, Vallejo Inter-Tribal Council, and Morning Star Institute have joined together to address the lack of federal government cooperation and consultation with Tribes in balancing destructive corporate development of Tribal ancestral lands an d honoring Tribal rights and needs. The groups are also calling on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to investigate federal government non-compliance with Tribal consultation requirements and to assist in immediately remedying the problems.

"Corporate development of federal lands that overlap sacred Tribal ancestral lands not only further the desecration and destruction of sacred places and areas which Indigenous Peoples have traditionally used and safeguarded, but harm longstanding and positive Tribal social and cultural structures, increase threats to endangered and threatened species, and cause environmental destruction," stated Mark LeBeau, Co-Chair of the Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites.

"The protection and preservation of sacred places are essential to the practice of Indigenous Peoples' freedom of religions, a fundamental human right which is recognized by both federal and international law."

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. This Declaration represents the dynamic development of international legal norms and sets an important standard for the treatment of Indigenous Peoples by states. It is a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations against the planet's 370 million Indigenous Peoples and assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalization. Article 12 of the Declaration affirms that "Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies and the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites."

"Congress and the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation must intervene where the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal agencies have fallen short in their fiduciary responsibilities to federally-recognized Tribes, including working cooperatively and constructively with Tribes to resolve disputes," said Radley Davis, Co-Chair of the Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites.

On July 11, 2008, more than 1,000 Native rights and environmental justice advocates arrived in Washington, DC after walking across the US to raise awareness about key issues affecting Native peoples and the environment. The successful journey, known as the Longest Walk 2, delivered a 30-page manifesto and list of demands to Congress, which included the protection of sacred places and climate change mitigation.

House Judiciary Chair, US Representative John Conyers (D-MI) promised representatives from the Longest Walk 2 that their issues would be addressed but set no timetable.

"The Committee on the Judiciary will hold hearings on each one of these items that you have outlined here," stated Rep. Conyers.

Tribal Nations and Native rights organizations are aware of hundreds of threatened sacred places throughout the US and are highlighting two critical threatened sacred places as evidence for immediate political action: The Medicine Lake Highlands located in California and the San Francisco Peaks located in Northern Arizona.

The Medicine Lake Highlands, northeast of Mt. Shasta, are sacred to the Pit River, Wintu, Karuk, Modoc, Shasta, and other Tribal nations. The Pit River people believe that the Creator and his son bathed in the lake after creating the earth, and then the Creator placed healing medicine in the lake. In the 1980s the BLM gave energy development leases in the Highlands to developers, without first conducting adequate environmental review and consulting any of the Tribes that would be affected by the projects. Developers such as Calpine Energy Corporation have used any tactic that money could buy to try to achieve their goal of building massive power plants in the sacred Highlands to harness geothermal energy, including activating teams of20lawyers, lobbying state and federal representatives, buying-off some adversaries, and information spinning.

"The developers are attempting to move ahead in spite of the fact that project-drilling in the Highlands would likely release dangerous chemicals, including arsenic, chromium, and hydrogen sulfide, into the surface and ground waters that Californians and all other living things in this region rely upon," stated James Hayward, Co-Chair of the Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites. "This proposed project must be stopped and the US government must assist in this effort."

In November 2006, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal agencies neglected their fiduciary responsibilities to the Pit River Nation by violating the National Environmental Protection and the National Historic Preservation Acts and that the agencies never took the requisite "hard look" at whether th e Highlands should be developed for energy at all. As a result, the court rejected the extension of leases that would have allowed Calpine to build geothermal plants and ordered judgment in favor of Pit River. Now BLM and Calpine are at it again as they prepare to attempt to conduct geothermal resource exploration in the sacred Glass Mountain region of the Highlands. BLM contends that the ruling was not explicative enough and so it is moving forward with the exploration. The Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites strongly oppose BLM's reinterpretation of the ruling and will stop the agency.

Louis Gustafson, Citizen of the Pit River Nation, says, ''The government has agreements not to bomb holy mosques when they're at war, but we have to go through all these hoops just to protect our holy place.''

Arizona's San Francisco Peaks are recognized internationally as a sacred place. The Peaks are a unique ecological island and are held holy by more than 13 Native American Nations. Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort, located on the holy Peaks, is attempting to expand development, clear-cut acres of old growth trees, and make fake snow from treated sewage effluent, which has been proven to have harmful contaminants. The US Forest Service manages the San Francisco Peaks as public land and has faced multiple lawsuits by the Navajo Nation, Hopi, White Mountain Apache, Yavapai Apache, Hualapai, and Havasupai tribes, as well as the Sierra Club, Flagstaff Activist Network, Center of Biological Diversity, and others after it initially approved the proposed ski area development in 2005.

On August 8, 2008 the 9th Circuit of Appeals overturned a previous court ruling stopping the proposed development. The case is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

"We have no guarantee for the protection for our religious freedom when it comes to government land use decisions," stated Klee Benally of the Save the Peaks Coalition. "This case underscores the fact that we need legislative action to ensure protection for places held holy by Native American Tribes. Federal land management policies are inconsistent when addressing Native American religious practice relating to sacred places. From the San Francisco Peaks, Medicine Lake Highlands, Yucca Mountain, Bear Butte, Mt. Taylor, Mt. Graham and the hundreds of additional sacred places that are threatened or are currently being desecrated, we need consistent protective action now."

"The corporate projects proposed in the Medicine Lake Highlands and on San Francisco Peaks must be stopped. Key federal lawmakers and administration officials must work more rigorously with Tribes to ensure adequate cooperation and consultation on proposed projects that overlap Tribal sacred lands," stated Radley Davis. "Our call for hearings is a critical measure that must be taken seriously to ensure that balancing corporate and agency development of Tribal ancestral lands and the needs and rights of Indigenous Nations are honored."

Please fax a brief letter to Senate Indian Affairs Committee urging that a hearing be held on these issues as soon as possible. The Committee fax number is 202-228-2589.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Interview with Political Prisoner Lori Berenson

Peru: Interview with Political Prisoner Lori Berenson

Written by Emma Shaw Crane
Thursday, 25 September 2008

American activist Lori Berenson was pulled off a bus in Peru in November of 1995, detained by anti-terrorist police, and tried for treason against the Peruvian state by a hooded military tribunal. A gun was held to her head as she received her sentence: life in prison. Accused of being a leader of the MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement), Lori was one of thousands of people kidnapped, tortured, disappeared, and/or imprisoned during then-president Alberto Fujimori’s campaign to defeat rebel groups.

At the time of Lori’s first "trial," Peru was emerging from over a decade of bloody civil war, fought between leftist guerillas and the Peruvian military. Two major armed movements fought the Peruvian government, the MRTA and Sendero Luminoso, the Maoist Shining Path. Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has estimated that approximately 70,000 people were killed between 1980 and 2000. Seventy–five percent of the victims were indigenous people, mostly Quechua, a number vastly out of proportion to their 16% share of the national population. The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission holds the government (through its military, police and intelligence apparatus along with paramilitary units) responsible for at least 45% of those deaths–compared to the MRTA who caused less than 2% of mortalities during the civil war. The Shining Path was deemed responsible for the majority – 53%.

This interview with Lori Berenson took place shortly before the first of a series of trials of Alberto Fujimori began in Lima. Last December, the former president was sentenced to six years in prison for abuse of authority, the first of three charges. His second trial, for human rights abuses including homicide and kidnapping, resumed July 14th, 2008. Ironically, if he is found guilty on all counts, Fujimori could serve up to 30 years in prison–just ten years more than Lori Berenson is currently serving. However, since Fujimori turns seventy this year, he is eligible under Peruvian law for a reduced sentence served under house arrest.

In this interview, Lori discusses how she maintains her hope while in prison, what she believes it takes to effect real and lasting social change, the emerging ‘New Left’ in Latin America, and why women political prisoners are perceived as a threat to social stability.

What’s the hardest thing for you about being in prison?

Frustration! You don’t have control of your own life. People don’t treat you like an adult. People are afraid to tell you that someone’s sick. You are unable to deal with your own problems, either economic or otherwise. You feel sort of – in Spanish it would be impotencia – you can’t do anything. The prison authorities beat someone up, you can’t do anything. Someone’s sick, you can’t do anything. You need to write a letter to someone and you can’t mail it. Frustration.

How do you maintain your hope and political conviction in a place as oppressive and confining and limiting as prison? What can you say about the prison system?

Each of the prisons I’ve lived in has provided a direct experience of why I think this prison system needs to change. Certainly, the first years I was in jail were very repressive years. Even in the last few years, you can still see the mistreatment of poor people. You can see it when they are presented before the judges, and you can see it in daily treatment. It’s money: those who don’t have money are not equal citizens. It’s a very defined class differentiation.

What advice do you have for young people who want real and lasting change?

I think that today’s young people have a really strong responsibility upon them. I’m no expert in any topic, but what I’ve heard about the environment is that there won’t be much water in Peru in 20 years. Unless people start changing the way they live day to day, and unless people dedicate themselves to making superpowers change their environmentally destructive habits, then things will be hell on earth in 5 to 10 years. And that’s just about the environment! Every war that superpowers like the U.S. wage mainly for economic interest is harmful on many levels – including mass killing of people. We’re seeing a drastic situation, basically,

What do you think are the major components of a successful political movement?

At this point, I think there are two things. One is that you have to decide what "star" you are looking to follow. I think most of the left (i.e., "progressive people") have a lot of confusion as to where they are going right now. And that is not helpful. What I find very negative, and what I’ve certainly seen here and in El Salvador, is that when you have a very divided left and progressive circle you go nowhere. You just wind up with everyone in their own little cube doing nothing. At least for me, if you want to be in your little cube, just fight your own struggle, don’t fight your struggle on the basis of saying, "Oh, so and so is worse." In the presidential campaign here in Peru, the most pathetic thing I’ve seen was one segment of the left criticizing other segments.

You’ve been outlining your first point about a successful social movement. What is your second point about?

On certain issues, it is important that there be unity among progressives and leftists. For example, in the U.S., what might be a principal point is to stop the war in Iraq immediately and not permit that there be another war like that. From what I hear on the radio, that’s something that the left has in common with many from the Democratic Party. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. What issues are big enough? Protecting the environment! These are things that a lot of sectors can unite to do.

The other thing is that the left needs to look for where to go. I don’t think we need to look for a guide, someone who is going to say, "Do this." We need to sit down and think: What was good about what used to be regarded as the standards of the left before the falling of the Soviet block? What things were good, what things were not? What things need to be changed, what things shouldn’t exist? That kind of thing. We must learn from what was good and what was bad. But it’s time to do it, because I think we’re sitting around too long – myself included, by the way.

What lesson would you want to pass on to other activists, particularly young activists?

Go ahead with whatever you’re doing. I admire and I’m proud of the fact that there are still people who think that there are streets in which other people roam, and that things are not really what the press says, and that it is necessary to look out farther than what you can see from the windowsill. This is in spite of the fact that I think there is a proliferating move throughout the world to create individuals that live in their own little cubes. You go, and you see, that the world isn’t really what you think it is, and that it is that way maybe not for the reasons that the mainstream press says. It is necessary to think and to do – and not to sit and wait.

What is your hope for the future? Your future, and the future of movements you’ve been involved in?

I don’t think the future is going to be better in the short term. I’m not that hopeful about the governments in power. Even the trend in this region doesn’t give me much hope for solid structural change. You can have certain reforms that could be helpful, you can give spaces to the political or popular movement, allow them to do things they haven’t been able to under very repressive regimes, but it doesn’t mean there is a substantial change. The rules of the game haven’t changed. And unless those change, nothing will. It’s time to get back to discovering where we want to go, and while we’re discovering that, just start walking.

Do you have hope for the Chavez/Morales movement in Latin America, the threat of having a unified Latin American bloc that could potentially create solidarity among Latin American countries? What do you think about that?

I think it’s important that there be solidarity. But I don’t have enough information to know what they are really doing or not. What is clear to me is that it is still not possible to change the rules of the game. That’s the issue. You have to get to that place. It’s good that they feel this way. Certainly here in Peru the leaders seem to be afraid of something about the Chavez movement. What are they so afraid of? And the Peruvians are very afraid. And much of the U.S. is too. Actually, I think that they are giving us a hand on that. By making bigger deals out of things, they are actually unifying the left on certain things. Well, thank you!

What is your opinion of the war on Iraq, and do you see that fitting into the history of imperialism in Latin America?

I don’t know enough about history to give a historical background, but I think it’s more complicated in the sense that the economic interests are very big. It’s not only the interest in petroleum–it’s the interest in making a war and making peace-so that a lot of money is invested in destruction and the rest invested in reconstruction, which is disgusting. But then on social terms, I would say that they saw fighting as a way of uniting the U.S. after September 11th and making it feel strong. The heroes and Rambos–I’m not sure if that’s the correct name in today’s movies–but that kind of figure that’s going to go in there and kill all the bad guys. I also think the whole "hyping up" on nationalism is the other thing they intended to do.

You saw, because of your involvement with struggles in El Salvador, what happens when damaging policy is directed at a specific group of people. I’m curious if you see the war on Iraq as a parallel to that, as part of U.S. expansion and hegemony?

I think it is, but I wouldn’t make a parallel with Central America. I think Iraq is a much more powerful country, and I think there are other issues involved, like pride of the nations that are situated close to Iraq. I think it’s a much more complicated issue. And I don’t think the United States really took that into account. Vietnam, for example, was more isolated, whereas Iraq is not. And Vietnam didn’t have petroleum.

What is horrifying as well in Iraq is that so many historical relics and architecture have been destroyed–and no one seems to care. That’s never mentioned, ever, just as all the civilians killed are never mentioned. I think the U.S. has opened a big can of worms and they don’t know how to close it; at this point, they don’t know how to pull out.

Do you expect to be paroled in 2010, and what is your hope for your future?

I should be paroled but I’m not sure. I think many things can happen. The only thing that’s been constant over the last sixteen to twenty years is that the terrorists are the bad people. During the ten-year regime of Fujimori, Alan García was in exile for corruption – and now he is president again. Who knows how Fujimori’s trial will be, and how he will be regarded in about five years. But what has been a constant is that terrorists are terrorists, at least in the media. If it is really perceived as a danger, then political prisoners who are higher profile won’t be released, and I won’t be released on parole when I become eligible.

What tactics do you use to stay sane?

I was once asked a similar question: "How do people cope with prisons?" There are a variety of tactics. One is escaping from it in your mind - people get high, people do a whole bunch of things. In the case of myself, and most political prisoners I have known, the thing would be the confidence that whatever you believed in was right. So I think that has not changed. And you might have a good day or a bad day, I mean, when it rains everyone gets sort of gloomy, but even so, you don’t forget that you have that.

What messages do you have for Mumia?

My greatest respect to him and to all the political prisoners I’ve read so much about over these last several years. Keep struggling, because you’re right! This isn’t just a message for him, but to those who need to move on such issues so that his situation, and the situation of others like him, can change. There needs to be knowledge and consciousness of the need for these things to change. These are people who are victims of a state’s oppressive ways.

Do you think labeling people ‘terrorists’ will get old, like labeling people as ‘Communists’ did?

I still have the pieces that we wrote on this three or four years ago, saying ‘No, we’re subversives, we’re political prisoners, we are not terrorists. Terrorism means actions that cause terror, that try to create terror.’ I think I spent so much time trying to explain it to people, where it got to the point, after years of that, that I realized people still use the word terrorist and it doesn’t really change anything. Those who will feel deterred by the word might feel deterred by it anyway, and those who can see through the paint will do so as well. So this is a point on which I’ve definitely changed over the last three or four years, in the sense that it really doesn’t matter. You want to call me a terrorist? Call me a terrorist! It really doesn’t change anything. I know I am not a terrorist.

Yes! I remember growing up in a peak period of the Cold War, in an era when they would say the Russians are going to invade and whatnot, and all these communists, they are doing this and that. And you know? People became immune to that.

How do you see consumer culture affecting the types of crimes that are committed, and the aspirations that young people have?

Cajamarca, where this prison is located, used to be a small town, but since ’94 became a tremendous mining center. So it has grown but has not developed. All of the wonders of capitalist society have come here: the people now have giant shopping centers, filled with all sorts of junk that no one really needs, but they don’t have the education, the other side of development here. And that creates ‘created needs’. I would say, in general, in all of the societies that follow the model of the U.S. there are consumer cultures. Many people rob because they want what’s in style. They are taught since they are kids they need to consume; they need to be stylish; that these objects are a necessity. So what is a necessity is no longer food and water, but a whole bunch of junk. And those created needs are what drive people to different kinds of crimes, combined with the fact that there is no way of making enough money legally to get those kinds of things.

In that same vein, what has the mine brought here or not brought here? Has the promise of having industry in the town delivered or not delivered? What do people think of the mines?

Very mixed. Cajamarca doesn’t have industry related to the mine. What they have is a lot of services. The whole service sector in Cajamarca is related to the mine. Which means that most people, indirectly, might be providing for someone who works at the mine, or whatever. It’s very hard to do anything that is totally isolated from the mine. It’s everywhere. You hear it on the radio: they have paid ads talking about the environment. That’s what they do.

A woman in the line outside said that the only crime people in prison here have committed is de ser pobre, to be poor. What do you think of that?

I think that’s true on different levels. There are actually cases of police picking people up for stealing pañales [diapers]. In order for someone to give birth in a hospital they need to have their diapers, they need to have syringes, and surgical gloves. There have been people caught stealing diapers so that their wives can give birth. So that is an example of people stealing to meet their needs in a crude sense.

People are in here because of poverty on many levels: they don’t have enough money to buy off a judge, or enough money for a decent defense, though a decent defense is almost irrelevant with this legal system. In a good number of cases people without knowledge – poor in the sense that they don’t have a good education because wherever they are from doesn’t have a good enough education system, or because they’ve worked since they were kids – say things wrong when they talk to the police. They don’t answer the questions right because they were never educated to answer those kinds of questions. They get surprised by the authorities, or physically brutalized by them, which is always helpful in having them sign whatever they [the police] want. And this happens because people don’t know.

It’s poverty in the sense that you can’t do anything with your case, you can’t help out in the moving of papers from one desk to the next. This is often the case in the judicial system and the prison system in terms of benefits, like parole. They can take forever if you don’t have money.

How does the prison climate shift and change as there are fewer political prisoners in here with you?

It’s interesting because the last year that there were a fair amount of political prisoners in here was probably 2004. There have been other types of changes. For example, in 2003 the government replaced the police in internal control of the prison system. At the end of 2003 other types of prisoners started to be brought here from coast jails. In the last two or three years, however, prisoners brought here are often people being caught in Cajamarca who are not from Cajamarca. This has to do with the accelerated growth in Cajamarca, unrelated to development; so the city doesn’t develop its own criminals, it imports people to rob! I’m totally serious! People plan to come and rob here because they know so few people are doing this here. And so there have been a whole lot of people detained here who are not from this region in the last two or three years. It’s a very new experience.

The Cajamarca mines have created new needs, like drugs and prostitution. They always mix prostitution in there. These things create other kinds of violence. Now there are people here for drugs because Cajamarca is part of a drug route.

The other point to make is that there have been some crime categories for which prison benefits such as parole and work equivalence have been removed. In the case of rape, the sentences have been made much more drastic, and prison benefits have been removed from most if not all cases. The same has occurred in the cases of kidnapping and extortion. So now there is a greater number of crime categories that don’t have the right to benefits. The prison population is growing just on the fact that there are people who would have gotten out in the past but are not anymore.

I assume that women are in the minority here. What is it like being one of the only women in this prison?

Here I would say it’s actually a privilege. In this prison, the women have been treated well. Generally, treatment of women is much harsher. But the difference here is that there are so few of us. For instance, we have a sewing workshop that none of us can use because we don’t know how to work the machines, but it was donated to the women because there are few of us, so we could benefit from it. So in that sense we actually benefit because we are only a few. Sometimes the doctor won’t attend the men because there are 500 of them, but they will attend the women because there are approximately thirty women here.

Why is treatment generally harsher in women’s wings, and how has that been your experience?

I am sure that if you speak to other women prisoners they will say the same things. I think it has to do with a lot of idiosyncrasies. One is the way the authorities see women: once you leave the roles that were given to you by society, then you have to accept what you get. With women, the treatment usually is very demeaning. I remember when I was in Arequipa they called us hijas (daughters). "I look at you as if you are my daughters." That is very offensive! It’s very demeaning. The worst thing in the treatment of women is that they don’t treat you like adults. Men can be roughened up a lot, mistreated, spoken too grotesquely, but they are never treated like children. And women always are. That’s the biggest difference.

The other thing is, in terms of political prisoners, I definitely think that female political prisoners are seen as a greater threat.

Why do you think that is?

One of the things they always say, and you can read this in cases, particularly in the case of the Shining Path, they always say, "Oh, the ones from the assassination squadrons are cold blooded, and they are always women." I remember hearing something similar when I lived in El Salvador. I think it’s this fear that a woman, when she is politically clear on things, is supposedly firmer in her beliefs. The torture of women has been horrendous- how many women have had kids in jail because of rape? It has to do with revenge. They committed the crime of leaving the roles that were given to them, and then on top of that being subversives, and on top of that, being firm in their beliefs.

I remember a woman who was recently sentenced to thirty years for something she didn’t do. I think it was largely because of the fact that when she was detained by the police she refused to speak, she refused to self–incriminate, and they said, "She’s too strong, she’s got to be a leader." She withstood the torture, withstood everything. And that was probably the reason she got a thirty-year sentence.

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