Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 7, 2013

Robert Free's dramatic moments with Nelson Mandela

Robert Free's tepee Occupation of Alcatraz 

Freedom Fighters

Robert Free, who was at the Occupation of Alcatraz and the Stronghold of Wounded Knee 1973, shares his dramatic time with Nelson Mandela

By Robert Free

At a breakfast with Nelson Mandela in the 90s at Seattle University, with 600 community activists, I held up a sign to 'Free Peltier' as Mandela talked. While attacked and packed off immediately by state department security, I turned and yelled to Mandela, "Madiba! Help me!"

Heading off to jail, the organizers came running to the cops and said Nelson Mandela would not continue speaking until I was returned and allowed to hold my banner to 'Free Peltier.' When I was returned he looked to me and the crowd and said, "There is the gentleman with the banner! I am not afraid of freedom fighters. I am one myself!" and with that he left the stage. 

I had remembered his tribal elder name was Madiba -- a great honor -- to have him call me a freedom fighter. Mandela showed the world how to move with love in his heart and not hate!

Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel at 
Seattle University,
December 1999

I had planned it all and asked the organizers Teledisky, Gates Foundation, Russell investments what Tribal protocol were in place to receive him. This was after I heard that he was coming to Seattle and said that "he would respect the tribes land he was entering. Mandela as a tribal person would follow tribal protocols."

I knew they would not have an idea, so I was asked to put them together: Had a Talking stick carved by Chief Charles Elliott and offered to Mandela by Chief Cecile Hansen's grandson, Duwamish and Alaskan dancers welcome him on arrival. That gave me an invitation and access to his events. Also had the organizers pay for it all, and had Free Peltier carved on the talking stick.

Mandela would not leave to other events. He stated at the arrival at the airport, "I can not leave until I had shaken the hand of every dancer and welcoming natives!"

So he came by and shook the hand of each of us and especially the children and in slow Indian time smiled and spoke and hugged the people saying repeatably, from him and his wife Graca Machel, "Thank you so much! you have made us so very happy!"

Thank you Robert Free for sharing your story with Censored News!

Read more:
Nelson Mandela, said during his visit to Oakland in 1990, "All these letters which I have received described of the conditions of the American Indians here, and I can assure you that they have left me very disturbed." Read more:

CIA helped jail Mandela

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