Much has been said that the feds as an entity single handedly sued and stalled the publication of Peter Mathiessen’s tome In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse, but the reality is somewhat different.
Something of a simplification to say the feds as an entity filed suit to stop the publication of ITSOCH as it was Bill Janklow who led off, was personal in it’s context, and had nothing to do with the feds.
“Janklow’s suit was based upon one paragraph in the book which has statements by AIM leader Dennis Banks referring to rape allegations made against Janklow by Jacinta Eagle Deer, a young Brulé Lakota on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Banks also noted Janklow’s arrest for driving drunk and nude on the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota in 1973.” Wiki
FBI agent David Price sued in the same context,though it’s quite possible he was “encouraged” to do so by superiors as I’m sure the agency didn’t much like the way they were portrayed in ITSOCH. But I advise people to read the particulars of both suits.
I understand the impact is greater if this is portrayed as being part of a grand conspiracy like the majority of the Peltier presentations but it isn’t entirely factual in doing so is it?
Both suits in my opinion were ill founded,and personally I appreciate the fact that they failed for a couple of reasons.
One being the First Amendment and the second being had the litigants prevailed the public wouldn’t have those onerous Peltier quotes indicting himself or the the Mr. X story-both of which continue to haunt him.
“The two executed F.B.I. agents were gunned down at close range. They were disarmed, helpless and probably begging for their lives. There were no eyewitnesses, or at least none who would testify, to who murdered them. But considerable circumstantial evidence pointed toward Leonard Peltier, one of the most militant AIM leaders. There can be little doubt that the F.B.I. was out to get Mr. Peltier. Nor can there be any doubt that the F.B.I. desperately wanted to bring to justice the murderers of its agents. The real question – and the one that Mr. Matthiessen answers in the affirmative – is whether the F.B.I. framed Mr. Peltier for killings he may not have committed.
ON this issue, Mr. Matthiessen not only fails to convince; he inadvertently makes a strong case for Mr. Peltier’s guilt. Invoking the cliches of the radical left, Mr. Matthiessen takes at face value nearly every conspiratorial claim of the movement, no matter how unfounded or preposterous. Every car crash, every unexplained death, every unrelated arrest fits into the seamless web of deceit he seems to feel was woven by the F.B.I. and its cohorts.
This is not to dispute all of AIM’s complaints against the F.B.I. Some – such as infiltration of the movement for purposes of engendering internal distrust and dissension – carry indications of credibility. These tactics, indefensible though they are, have been commonly used by the F.B.I. against radical groups of all political persuasions. But other allegations, such as systematic beatings and ”contracts” on the lives of AIM leaders, do not seem credible. Mr. Matthiessen surely provides no proof beyond the self-serving claims of the alleged victims and their partisan lawyers. As I was reading Mr. Matthiessen’s ”legal brief,” I found myself wanting to shout at this good-hearted naif, ”Don’t you know that’s the kind of nonsense every convicted murderer tries to get you to believe; I get dozens of these letters every week.” But Mr. Matthiessen seems to have been taken in and to have left most of his otherwise excellent critical faculties at home when he interviewed Mr. Peltier and his followers.
Though the book purports at times to present an objective appraisal, Mr. Matthiessen finally acknowledges – near the end – that his ”account of the Peltier case argued the position of traditional Indians and their allies in the American Indian Movement.” And at the very close of the book, he describes how ”I told Leonard I believed (that he hadn’t killed the agents), and I did, and I do.” And I wonder. Why does Mr. Matthiessen go out of his way so frequently to make disclaimers such as ”my personal opinion of his guilt or innocence (is) of no importance”? And why does he quote one of the AIM lawyers as saying: ”I know Bill Kunstler (another of the AIM lawyers) thought they killed the agents, but he believes that they were innocent whether they did it or not”?
IN the end, Mr. Matthiessen tries to have it both ways. He says that ”from the Indian’s viewpoint – and increasingly from my own – any talk of innocence or guilt was beside the point.” But he insists nonetheless that the evidence ”made it plain that Peltier had been railroaded into jail.”
”In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” documents the imperfection of the American legal system, especially when it is mustered against a political group – even one as violent as the American Indian Movement. It is also a tragic account of the self-destructive quality of many of the self-appointed leaders of that movement. Drawn from among the most vocal, the most violent and the most radical native Americans, many of these leaders exploited their newly discovered heritage for their own personal ends. Some have ended where they belong – in jail. Others have simply drifted away. What remains are thousands of poverty-stricken Indians, first driven by years of neglect to accept false prophets of violence and then shorn even of that ineffective leadership.
THE TRAGEDY OF MR.MATTHIESSEN’S BOOK IS THAT HE FAILS TO UNDERSTAND THAT HIS HEROES – THE RADICALS OF AIM- DID NOT ACT IN THE SELFLESS SPIRIT OF CHIEF CRAZY HORSE, THAT NOBLE 19th-CENTURY LEADER OF INDIAN RESISTANCE, THEY ACTED MORE IN THE VIOLENT SPIRIT OF CUSTER.BY DOING SO, THEY HELPED TO DESTROY THE DREAMS AND HOPES OF AMERICAN INDIANS.(CAPS MINE)
Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard Law School.