Saturday, March 24, 2007

Peltier theater review includes censored facts

Denver Post theater critic John Moore reviews Peltier prison monologue and includes the often-censored facts on uranium and Peltier's innocence:

Peltier prison monologue rallying cry for supporters

By John Moore
Denver Post Theater CriticArticle
Launched: 03/22/2007 01:00:00 AM MDT

You know from the start this isn't going to be a typical night of theater.You know by the solemn welcome from the old Native American filling theentranceway of the tiny loft theater with smoke he calls "sacred medicine"... by the "Free Leonard Peltier" T-shirts in the audience ... by themerchandise booth just a few feet from the playing area.You know by the reading of a letter that sends a jolt all the way to Boulderfrom a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa."At night when the cell doors close and I hear the silence of the night, Ican hear the voices of the Theatre 13 group as they recite their script,"Peltier's greeting reads. "I can also hear your prayers as the group workstogether in unity. I am deeply honored by your work and creativity."It seems no one has come to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art seekingan objective examination of whether Peltier actually killed two FBI agentson the Pine Ridge (S.D.) Reservation in 1975 - half his 62 years ago. Theyhave not come seeking theatrical catharsis but to demand a miracle. Theywant Peltier freed. Yesterday."My Life Is My Sun Dance" is both rally and theatrical prayer. Yet in itssmall way, it is also catharsis and small miracle.It is mostly a monologue performed by Lakota Indian Doug Foote - a hauntinghulk of a man with a deep scar bridging his nose. With a measured andunassuming cadence, Foote (an Army reservist who served two tours in Iraq)plays Peltier as percussive native music is performed underneath by a trioincluding Foote's son, Nicholas.Wearing prison grays, Foote chronicles injustices made against Peltier by acorrupt legal system, and talks of his struggle to find forgiveness inincarceration. Intermission includes political songs and heart-rendingspeeches.The stage is spare, save for six pillars wrapped in native colors and asheet that serves as both haunting scrim and screen for the projection ofarchival photos, video and Peltier's prison artwork. Gentle light and soundenhancements help turn this rally into something quite moving.At 8, Peltier was taken from his family and sent to a U.S.-run boardingschool where he says he was physically and psychologically abused. He grewinto an activist and leader in the American Indian Movement but says he was150 feet away from where two FBI agents died in a 1975 shootout, sparkingthe largest manhunt in U.S. history.Tensions were high at the time. The feds wanted the Black Hills for itsuranium. Two years earlier, the Oglala Sioux had briefly reclaimed WoundedKnee after an armed standoff. The next three years were marked by policebrutality, 1,200 arrests, rampant vigilantism and 64 unsolved murders oftribal members. The attack against these occupying FBI agents was seen bysome as an inevitability. Three men were arrested. Only Peltier wasconvicted.Peltier is serving two consecutive life sentences and is not eligible forrelease until 2041. But a one-word change in his sentence - from"consecutive" to "concurrent" - would make him eligible for parole inDecember 2008. It is likely his last chance to die a free man.In "Sun Dance," there no pretension of impartiality. This audience islargely pre-converted. But for the few of us who don't presume to know whatreally happened 32 years ago, a more objective telling would make for a moreeffective call to action. Someone, after all, ambushed those two men, thenfinished them off with point-blank shots to the head.But if Peltier is innocent, he is the victim of egregious institutionalmalfeasance: Fabricated evidence involving shell casings; a woman who claimsthe FBI threatened to put her hands through a grinder if she did not placePeltier at the scene.The possibility that Peltier was railroaded makes the Supreme Court'songoing refusal to even hear the case unconscionable. And the U.S.'spontificating about human-right abuses from Darfur to China rings a littlemore hollow.At the very least, Peltier deserves another day in court. What does thegovernment have to lose but its hypocrisy? If he's innocent, let's get onwith it and free him."America," we are asked, when "will you live up to your principles?"--Theater critic John Moore can be reached at 303-954-1056

The imprisonment of Leonard Peltier remains among the most censored topics in Indian Country Today.

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