August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Buffy Sainte-Marie -- Backroom Deals, Energy Companies and Hoover's Blacklist in Indian Country

Courtesy Buffy Sainte Marie

Good words from Buffy Sainte-Marie

By Brenda Norrell

Censored News

It is good to read more about how Buffy Sainte-Marie was blacklisted during the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon years, by J. Edgar Hoover, in LA Times. It's a  reminder of all those years ago, when backstage at Dine' College in Tsaile, Buffy told a handful of reporters about being blacklisted out of the music business.

My story, as a staff reporter for Indian Country Today, was censored by the newspaper for seven years. A portion was published just before the newspaper fired me in 2006, but not the part about uranium mining on Pine Ridge and the tribal administration of Dickie Wilson. (The censorship was after Lakota Tim Giago sold Indian Country Today to the owners in New York state.)

Buffy was blacklisted out of the music business in the U.S. because of her stance against the Vietnam War, and her song 'Universal Soldier.' Buffy told us this backstage in Tsaile, at the concert. John Trudell was there at the concert as well.

In this LA Times article, Buffy explains how the energy companies controlled the college concerts and media in Indian country when she was blacklisted, an important point that is seldom written about.

The energy companies were the power plants and coal mines, oil and gas industry, and military suppliers.

Later, when Buffy's words were censored by Indian Country Today in 1999, it was the casino industry that was largely controlling the backdoor deals, along with the energy companies, corporate swindlers, and the U.S. government with its surveillance and covert operators. 

It is all a part of the backstory that people seldom hear, a major part of the system that creates wars, why oil and gas, fracking, and mining still thrive, and why presidents and governments, tribal councils, and the rest, are successful in deceiving the public, and getting what they want of their own agenda.

When I was fired in 2006, I was driving to an Indigenous border summit in San Xavier District on the Tohono O'odham Nation, and Mohawks from the north were en route. The articles on the Mohawks and the border, and Buffy's story, were published, first at the UN Observer and International Report at The Hague by our friend Paul Rafferty.

The censorship and termination, which resulted in widespread blacklisting of my work as a news reporter, is a major reason why there is today Censored News.

Buffy describes how she felt when her lawyer obtained her FBI files and found out that 20 years earlier she was on J. Edgar Hoover's hit list. She tells the LA Times:

It was kind of heartbreaking. It didn’t make me angry because Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were both dead by then. It was very heartbreaking, though, that the messages that I thought people would love to know about had been stopped. I had virtually been gagged, and I didn’t know. I was very famous on the East Coast and on the West Coast, but in Indian Country, none of us got to play. I mean, who was it who was running the college music concert series? Who was it who owned the newspapers? Who controlled television and radio? It was energy companies — very prominent, high up in the social ladder, people. So it was heartbreaking because I really feel as though we could have been more effective if our stories could have been known at the time.

Read the LA Times article:

J. Edgar Hoover and the American Indian Movement

It was Hoover, as director of the FBI, that formalized the covert "dirty tricks" program under the name of COINTELPRO.

Hoover drove writers and activists to their deaths as he probed the Communist Party in the United States. Hoover stalked Hollywood heroes of the time like Charlie Chaplin.

"COINTELPRO's methods included infiltration, burglaries, setting up illegal wiretaps, planting forged documents, and spreading false rumors about key members of target organizations. Some authors have charged that COINTELPRO methods also included inciting violence and arranging murders," Wikipedia states.

In the 1960s and before his death in 1972, Hoover's covert operations focused on the American Indian Movement and Black Panthers.

The surveillance, war spin, control by energy companies, and the targeting of the American Indian Movement did not end with Hoover or the publicized claim by the United States government that COINTELPRO was ended after it was exposed.

COINTELPRO was secret until March 8, 1971, when the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI burglarized an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania. They took several dossiers and exposed the program by passing this material to the media.

More than 30 years later, in Denver, boxes of police intelligence files were discovered. Denver police were stalking the American Indian Movement, Big Mountain and Zapatista supporters, and even an 80-year-old grandmother with a "Free Peltier" bumper sticker on her car.

South Dakota Senator James Abourezk was also stalked by Denver Intelligence Division.

Denver Spy Files: The New McCarthyism

The year was 2002. The revelation was that Denver Police within the Intelligence Bureau, were spying on American Indians, attorneys, at least one senator and peace activists. Not only were they spying on them then, but they had been for decades. The boxes of files were discovered during a search in another court case.

As the secret files were made public, the truth became clear: Police were spying on American Indians and peace activists all over the United States. Before the spy files were discovered, Denver police had already arrested hundreds during the 1990s during Columbus Day protests led by Russell Means.

It was called the “new McCarthyism” by the editors who would print those stories before the ACLU filed lawsuits in Denver and across the nation.

Under surveillance by Denver police were Russell Means, Vine Deloria, Jr., Wilma Mankiller, Winona LaDuke, John Echohawk, John Mohawk, Glenn Morris, George "Tink" Tinker, Wallace Coffey, Ward Churchill, Dennis Banks, Ward Churchill, Leonard Peltier Support Group, Big Mountain Support Group, Colorado AIM, Indian staff attorneys at the Native American Rights Fund and South Dakota Sen. James Aborezk.

During my interview with Abourezk, who served on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Abourezk said he doesn’t have a clue why he was spied on, even though he now has a copy of the file. The documents simply indicate his name and that Denver police were watching him.

Abourezk said years ago he encouraged the formation of the Anti-Defamation League of American Indians in Denver and supported the formation of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, a civil rights group.

“I haven’t been in Denver in 15 years,” Abourezk said in 2002.

COINTELPRO and Leonard Peltier

The International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee said, "The stated goals of COINTELPRO were to 'expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize' those persons or organizations that the FBI decided were 'enemies of the State.'”

"At its most extreme dimension, political dissidents have been eliminated outright or sent to prison for the rest of their lives. Many more, however, were 'neutralized' by intimidation, harassment, discrediting, and a whole assortment of authoritarian and illegal tactics."

"The FBI used all of the above COINTELPRO tactics against AIM, including the wholesale jailing of the Movement’s leadership. Virtually every known AIM leader in the United States was incarcerated in either state or federal prisons since (or even before) the organization’s formal emergence in 1968, some repeatedly. Organization members often languished in jail for months as the cumulative bail required to free them outstripped the resource capabilities of AIM and supporting groups.

"The full story of COINTELPRO may never be told. The Bureau’s files were never seized by Congress or the courts or sent to the National Archives. Some were destroyed. In addition, many counterintelligence operations were never committed to writing as such, or involved open investigations making ex-operatives legally prohibited from talking about them. Most operations remained secret until long after the damage had been done."

Buffy Sainte Marie: The Change Must Come from Within

Backstage at Dine' College in Tsaile, Buffy described how she was blacklisted out of the music business in the United States by President Lyndon Johnson. Buffy's song Universal Soldier had become an anthem for the 1960s peace movement, the anti-war movement against the Vietnam war. Shipments of her records disappeared.

When a biography was written, Buffy graciously sent me a copy with a note of thanks.

The book is, 'It's My Way,' written by Dr. Blair Stonechild, Muscowpetung First Nation.

In the book, Buffy describes how Universal Soldier came to her, after seeing wounded soldiers at the San Francisco airport in 1963, while waiting for a morning flight to Toronto. As the song became an anthem for draft dodgers, Buffy was targeted.

"I didn't know any better. I assumed that in America you could say what you wanted to say."

Still, things were going well for Buffy at the time. "And then Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson took over and all of a sudden my radio play stopped, and my phone was tapped. I was no longer as welcome in America."

Buffy's efforts were focused on American Indian rights and the environment. She lent her voice to the struggles of the American Indian Movement, and the fishing rights struggle in Washington state was among those. Buffy sent funds from concerts for water for the Occupation of Alcatraz. When Buffy performed at an Alcatraz fundraiser at Stanford University, on Dec. 18, 1969, Richard Oakes presented her with a bouquet of flowers and read the Alcatraz Proclamation.

After the Occupation of Alcatraz, the FBI targeted AIM and other Native activists. FBI infiltrators were exposed.

The momentum grew with the Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972, and the Occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. Buffy said a new world was coming, and she realized that no one was coming to help her.

"It's a do-it-yourself world," Buffy said. "I sang, 'Now that the Buffalo's Gone,' until I was sick of people coming to see the little Indian girl cry."

"The change is going to have to come from within us, the Indian people."

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News. No portion may be used without written permission.


Anonymous said...

News that deserves and needs to be told, not censored.

Yvonne Swan said...

Thank you for the information. My mother gave me a glimpse of political and corporate aggression when I was a child and I later heard more of this in the 1970s and 1980s. It was so disheartening. It also inspired me to do what little I could to help bring about cross-cultural understanding. I knew as human beings, we were all in danger. Friendships are so important. It hurts remembering all the pain people of the world are dealing with. Buffy is so strong. I appreciate the work she does to enlighten people. I so appreciate how she helped me when I was beginning to reach out for support during my first appeal.

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