News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

If we free Leonard Peltier, can we keep the Black Hills?

The U.S. legal system sucks.  With gusto.

It has evolved into  a system that insures no equal justice under the law.  Due process is a process of extortion and bilking through which the accused are coerced into the various forms of servitude.

The Leonard Peltier case makes the point.  Particularly at this time. 

When a member of the South Dakota Legislature, who is also some kind of pastor, mentioned on his blog that releasing Leonard Peltier might be some kind of gesture of reconciliation, he elicited a number of opinions on the blogosphere.  No facts, but a plethora oif blogospheric opinions.

The good pastor's posting acknowledged our long history of fucking over the indigenous people of our country and he calls for redress.  But short of an omnipotent miracle, nothing can be unfucked.  (There are occasions when the brutality of the language must match the brutality of the deeds.)  However, a tweet he sent out when the Governor asked for suggestions for celebrating 125 years of statehood is cause for caution:


SD seeks ideas to celebrate statehood. Giving the Black Hills back ain't happning but how about a meaningful reparation gesture of some sort. 

This is a propitious time to bring up the Peltier case because it demonstrates the way that justice is a race-based, class-based process of discrimination.   This week a member of the Kennedy family, Michael Skakel, who was convicted in 2002 of murdering a neighbor girl
in 1975 was granted a new trial.  The judge who granted the new trial did so on the basis that Skakel's defense attorney did an incompetent job.  Jeffrey Toobin, the lawyer-journalist on judicial matters,  finds that the judge seems to be looking for any kind of plausible argument to free Skakel.

In contrast, the Peltier trial was fraught with misconduct to the point of fraud and unfairness that has caused Amnesty International to list the trial not just a miscarriage of justice, but an outright abortion.  The entire matter of the occupation of Wounded Knee and the subsequent killing of two FBI agents is just another episode of the racial rage and the vicious dishonesty with which the American Indian people have been treated.

The two cases demonstrate how our justice system is driven by race, class, and connections.

The cautionary aspect of the good reverend's tweet that "giving the Black HIls back ain't happening:"  The Lakota people have been awarded money for the wrongful taking of the Black Hills, but have spurned the money, preferring a return of the Hills, or at least a good portion of them, to their custody.  America has never understood how or why the land is essential to the American Indian culture.  A culture built upon greed and indiscriminate exercise of power cannot understand a culture of generosity and mindful stewardship of the natural gifts.  The land is the scripture of Native American culture.  Its defilement is to the indigenous people of America what the burning of the Bible or the Koran is to their adherents.  The Black HIlls are the last remnant of their scripture.

There can be no reparation.  But there might be a temple where the traditions may be fully observed. 

What bothers some most about the return of the Black Hills or a good portion thereof is that the entire violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 will be called up for examination.  And that examination would cover all of west river South Dakota.  The prospect of a Lakota nation in the middle of the United States is disconcerting,  unthinkable for most. 

But it would be required if the U.S. is to honor its treaty.  And it would be justice.  Justice not delivered by devious dishonesty and misconduct. 


Steve Hickey said...

Here is a short article I wrote in 2010 related to the my tweet which you referred to in this article...

don stevens said...

Michael Skakel's defense attorny in 2002 was actully the prosecuting attorney who reviewed the case in 1975. Really. Thus, Skakel had the advantage of having a guy who knew the case from both perspectives.......and the court still ruled that he had an inadequte defense!

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States