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Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Friday, October 24, 2014

Leonard Peltier's Testimony to Boarding School Tribunal

Written Testimony by imprisoned activist Leonard Peltier. Testimony read into the record by Dorothy Ninham, at the Boarding School Tribunal in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Dutch translation by NAIS

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- Imprisoned activist Leonard Peltier described when he was kidnapped from his family at the age of nine, along with his sister and cousin, in a statement read into the record during the Boarding School Tribunal here. 
Dorothy Ninham read Peltier's statement.
Peltier described when the men came for him as a child living with his grandmother. Peltier knew he was supposed to run, but he was curious. He watched as if he was in a trance. When he heard the word "boarding school," he wanted to run into the woods, but he didn't want to leave his grandmother, sister and cousin. He feared his grandmother would be taken to jail.
Peltier froze in place, even when his grandmother told him in Chippewa to run and hide.
Then he was taken away with his sister and cousin. He wanted to escape, but he didn't know where he was being taken or how to escape.
Later his cousin, Pauline, was placed in an insane asylum. The school said she had fallen and hit her head.
Peltier described what happened when he arrived at the boarding school. First, there were the buzz haircuts which made the youngest ones cry. Peltier was put in charge of taking care of a younger boy. Peltier was punished for not scrubbing him hard enough in the bath because the young boy started to cry from the scrub brush.
Peltier tried to escape and he and another boy made their escape across the thin ice of a river.
As night approached, it was cold, and they returned to the boarding school. They had to face the music, another haircut, 10 whacks with the ruler, and they had to wear oversized clothes and shoes to show the other children they were runaways.
After reading the statement, Dorothy Ninham said boarding schools set up children for the US military or prison.
"It seems that everything was geared for our people to go from one institution to another," Ninham said.
The boarding schools began identity theft. In Indian country that identity theft means taking our language, our culture and our way of life, she said.
Ninham said there should be a class action lawsuit against the US government and the churches because of what happened in the US boarding schools.
Listen to Peltier's detailed statement of being stolen from his family and his years in boarding school, read by Dorothy Ninham.

“My crime’s being an Indian. What’s yours?”
In his autobiography My Life Is My Sun Dance, Leonard says:
I know what I am. I am an Indian--an Indian who dared to stand up to defend his people. I am an innocent man who never murdered anyone nor wanted to. And, yes, I am a Sun Dancer. That, too, is my identity. If I am to suffer as a symbol of my people, then I suffer proudly. I will never yield.” 
Leonard tells us that when he was nine years old a big black government car drove up to his house to take him and the other kids away to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding school in Wahpeton, North Dakota. When they got there, they cut off their long hair, stripped them, and doused them with DDT powder.
“I thought I was going to die...that place...was more like a reformatory than a school...I consider my years at Wahpenton my first imprisonment, and it was for the same crime as all the others: being an Indian.”

Watch Tribunal livestream by clicking arrow below.

Watch live streaming video from earthcycles at

Boarding School Tribunal
Day 3 Preliminary conclusions and testimony
More Testimony from Day 3: 
Day 2
Day 1
Peltier's statement
Livestream videos

Preliminary Conclusions Boarding School Tribunal

Photo Brenda Norrell

Revitalization of AIM: Dennis Banks announced a walk across America for Leonard Peltier, beginning Feb. 2015, from Alcatraz to Washington DC

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News original live coverage
More testimony from Day 3:
Boarding School Tribunal Green Bay photo by Brenda Norrell

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- During the conclusion of the Boarding School Tribunal on Friday, Dennis Banks spoke on the history and direction of the American Indian Movement.
"Revitalization, what does that mean? We need a shot in the arm," Banks said.
Banks urged the youths to take a role in defining the future of the American Indian Movement.
Banks said of the youths, "We have to let them step up."
Banks described the history of AIM across the nation. He said one goal of AIM must be staying away from alcohol and drugs.
Floyd Westerman and Vernon Bellecourt have passed away, and they should be remembered and honored, he said.
The tree of racism will grow if AIM doesn't combat racism. We need to combat racism, alcohol and drugs, he said.
"We have to do all that, plus keep moving forward."
Herb Powless said the story that Madonna Thunder Hawk's story of boarding school reminded him of his own mother.
"My father was born in 1886."
"My great-grandfather came from New York, that's where the Oneida people came from."
Herb's great-grandfather was Paul Powless.
Speaking of Russell Means and Dennis Banks, Powless said, "Russell and Dennis, I've seen them in action." Powless said he had seen them "duke it out" with the cops.
One of the Native women is now speaking. "The mission schools take from us, our futures, our children. Today they are robbing our kids from our beautiful ways, from learning how to greet the morning sun."
"It is very important that when you take from Mother Earth, that you must put down your tobacco."
"We have to feed them," she said of feeding the ancestors who have passed on.
"My mom made sure I learned this way."
It is the traditional ways that saved her.
"Our kids are getting suicidal. They don't have this, some of them don't know this."
"I just lost my niece, about a year ago. She was so beautiful."
With tears, she said, "I miss you my baby."
"They are getting to us, and they are still doing it."
She said after the meeting, people will go their own ways.
"We all have to remember it is our babies."
During the Friday afternoon session, Mike Forcia, Chairman of the American Indian Movement in Minneapolis, is speaking now.
Mike started up the AIM patrol after one of the men died. Every Sunday they would have a homeless breakfast. They also gave out personal supplies.
They were at the Indian Center, but now there is no place to do the homeless breakfast and a place to give out supplies.
Mike said there was a young man who was stabbed 19 times, and was taken to the hospital and lived. The AIM Patrol also helps the elders. This is the type of help they are giving.
"I've never considered myself a leader, I'm more of a helper."
Mike spoke of the tarsands and destruction. "They are destroying us."
"They just increased their carbon footprint."
"We need those plants and animals for our food, our clothing, our housing to survive."
"But the plants and animals don't need us."
Mike said, "I hope a lot of people in America and around the world see what happened in the boarding schools, what happened to us."
Mike said he can't speak his language today because of those boarding schools.
Delbert Charging Crow, Lakota, from Wanblee on Pine Ridge spoke.
The boarding schools and Christianity put a lot of fear in people.
In Rosebud boarding school, they decided he would be a minister at the age of 12. But it was clear that was not going to happen as he grew older.
Charging Crow said in 1972, the Rosebud boarding school apologized for the beatings, cutting the hair, and forbidding the speaking of the language.
He said, "Lakotas were warriors who were not afraid of death."
"Death is a good life for us."
"When we pray, we pray to the grandfather of the Four Winds."
Charging Crow said those that go on, come back to watch over us. The young ones come back again to try again, he said.
"When you get it right, you live to be old, like these gentlemen here."
"When you pass away, you come back as eagles," he said, thanking his grandparents.
"My great grandfather Crazy Horse picked up a stone and he wore it, it protected him from any harm," he said, describing how powerful the earth is.
"The Black Hills is the heartbeat of Turtle Island."
The protectors of Black Hills are fighting the bureaucrats over the Black Hills. He said there is a way to make the wasichus leave. "Go in with your shotguns, tell them they have 48 hours to leave." He said those wasichus should be forced to go on the Longest Walk.
Charging Crow said it is time to take over those million dollar houses.
"The Black Hills is ours."
He said there is cancer, diabetes and liver and kidney failure because of the poisoning of the water on Lakota land.
One man speaking now said that his only knowledge of his Native heritage is his adoption papers.
"I'm just here to help," he said of helping the AIM Patrol in Minneapolis.
"How do we bring back the American Indian Movement the way it used to be? I don't think we can. We can make it what we want it to be."
He said people are forgetting our children are the future.
On the AIM Patrol in Minneapolis, he said some nights are very long, there's not much to do.
"We're always thinking about our elders, those people walking around our neighborhoods."
"We're the original chapter of the American Indian Movement," he said of Minneapolis.
He said they are working very hard to have a positive image of the American Indian Movement.
Sometimes, he said Mike will go and clean peoples houses.
"These are the things that we are willing to do."
He said they are thinking of canoe races and other events. He said it is important to contribute to self preservation. It is important to do something today.
"I'm here for you, those who want to be the future leaders."
Robert Roche, former director of the Cleveland Indian Center, said the tribes aren't representing their own people, their own children.
"Without the American Indian Movement we wouldn't be having this discussion." Robert said there would be none of the laws today, including those laws protecting the children, and funding for necessary projects.
"We need the youths, we need the young people."
Robert spoke of the high rates of suicide, diabetes, and the low life expectancy.
What the AIM Patrol is Minneapolis is doing today, helping the elders, cleaning the houses, that is what the early AIM did, he said.
Robert brought a message of solidarity from Glenn Morris and Autonomous AIM in Colorado.
A 19 year old whose ancestors are from the Carolinas, is speaking now. He said a new Longest Walk should reach out to people in the east.
"What I'm hoping for is Indians across the country will reach out to each other."
He said there are gangs and drugs in Cleveland where he lives.
"It would be important to reach out to the youths." He hopes the AIM Patrols will spread out across the country. He said what would help the youths would be to see the AIM elders united and not fighting.
Jean Whitehorse, Dine' (Navajo) said that in the Bay Area, AIM West is alive.
"We talk about issues. We invite different tribes." 
"We do try and help our people."
She said in California, many tribes are still trying to get recognized.
"You're welcome to come and join us in November, at our AIM West Conference in San Francisco."
There will be a protest against the Redskins. She said it is actually protecting rights instead of protecting.
When she returned home from the Bay Area, in late 1973, AIM was on the Navajo Nation.
Jean said racism starts in the home, when the children are three or four years ago. She makes presentations on bias in children's literature.
She said the bias in books that is shown to two and three year olds will be remembered. As a tribal librarian, she makes libraries and schools aware of which books to select for the children.
"I don't like to sit in my office. I go to the communities. I go to the schools."
She asks the teachers about the books that will be shown to the children. She works with 50 Navajo communities.
"I know everything starts with young children under the age of three."
Yvonne Swan, from Colville Confederated Tribes, said the young men are on the right track who said they are helpers.
"That's what life is all about, to help wherever we can."
"I get my direction from my dreams."
"We are all equal, we are all doing what we are supposed to be doing."
She remembered the words of a street philosopher: "You get the people healthy physically first, then everything will fall into place.'
Yvonne thanked Dennis Banks for using his notoriety for making people aware of diabetes.
During the open microphone, Jessica Powless thanked her grandparents and shared her thoughts about encouraging the youths.
"If we are going to do something good, we need to be drug and alcohol free." She said she is glad that she has always been drug and alcohol free.
Jessica said it is important to be alcohol and drug free and have a spiritual base.
"I was raised with a spirituality, a lot of kids don't have that."
She said lots of kids don't have that.
"They want to learn, they want to learn their language, they want to learn their culture."
Jessica encouraged this standard to be the foundation of AIM Chapters.
"I believe in spiritual education first." She said this is more important than her college degree.
She said she finished her degree fast, so she could do something to help her people.
Jessica said social media can help get the word out, with Facebook and Twitter.
"The young people were saying that they want something to stand up for."
A midwife is speaking now on the importance of home birth, undisturbed birthing.
She said the shields people surround themselves with, are opened.
"Those shields are opened, she becomes primal, like her baby."
A life can be put back together at that time, when the shields caused from hurt and pain are shed.
She said that 85 percent of sex trafficking in Minneapolis were Native American children.
Sex trafficking victims have told her that this happens because people have the misconception that all Natives receive per capita from casino revenues. Another reason is that Natives are considered exotics.
Dorothy Ninham concluded with thanks to all who participated.
Dennis Banks said a walk across the country would be good and it should be led by the American Indian Movement. He said people from other countries should be invited to join the walk. 
Dennis said, "We should take up the challenge to walk across this country as we did in 1978."
Dennis said, the five month walk in 1978 stimulated the movement in a new way.
Dennis said others look at this earth and see real estate. "We see our Mother Earth."
Finally, Dennis said a walk across America for the freedom of Leonard Peltier will begin on February, 2015. Dennis urged students, and people around the world, to come and join AIM for the five and one half month walk from Alcatraz to Washington DC.
Sharing the sad news of the shooting at a Washington state high school, Dennis said, "We need to be out there."
The commissioners will submit a written statement of their findings to the Tribunal.
On Friday evening, a banquet with Bill Miller and Buggin Malone in concert is underway.
The day began with a Pipe Ceremony.

Boarding School Tribunal coverage 
by Brenda Norrell, Censored News, with French and Dutch translations by Christine Prat and Alice Holemans NAIS
Day 3 Preliminary conclusions and testimony
More Testimony from Day 3:
Day 2
Day 1
Peltier's statement
Livestream videos
French translation by Christine Prat
French translation Leonard Peltier’s testimony
Dutch translation by Alice Holemans NAIS



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