In the Spirit of Crazy: The Story of Leonard Peltier
And the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement
By Peter Matthiessen
Penguin Books | 646 pp | $14.60
Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Entertainment. Join the Discussion of this Book »
It was gray, damp and foggy last Sunday morning, one week before Christmas, aboard the ferry boat taking Dennis Banks and other American Indian Movement warriors to Alcatraz Island. The mood was almost celebratory aboard the boat on the San Francisco Bay as they drummed and sang the American Indian Movement anthem. The old guard of warriors was joined by a new generation of American Indians who are convinced it is now time to "Free Leonard Peltier."
The mood was celebratory because one more time here was Dennis Banks, now in his seventies, still strong, fighting to free Leonard Peltier. Banks, the co-founder of the American Indian Movement, led the drumming and singing in the circle on board the ferry boat.
So, the two hundred American Indians and supporters went to Alcatraz Island with Dennis Banks to launch yet another chapter to "Free Leonard Peltier" called the Leonard Peltier Walk for Human Rights. The walk will take the long walkers from San Francisco to Washington.
The walk was the idea of Dorothy Ninham, a 70 year old Oneida woman, who once worked with Leonard Peltier in a substance abuse program in Milwaukee. She remembers a conversation she had with him decades ago where they said to each other, if one of them goes to jail because of their Indian activism, the one who remains on the outside will not leave the other one behind. Ninham, a strong Indian warrior, is taking her efforts to a new level.
Even with the enthusiasm among the American Indians who want Leonard Peltier free, many Americans simply do not know who Leonard Peltier is or why so many American Indians are interested in his freedom.
In America, there is a concept referred to as the 15 minutes of fame phenomenon, which usually applies to those who quickly gain celebrity status and fade just as quickly from the public's eye. The key to remaining in the public's eye is to remain relevant.
He has been in prison for 36 years. In a sense, he has been the poster child for abuses against American Indians for decades, yet, quite clearly, many Americans do not know who he is. So, it is up to his supporters to keep Leonard Peltier relevant among all the other problems that trouble the United States.
That brings us to "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement" written by Peter Matthiessen. It is a lengthy book that is true to its title; it tells the story of Leonard Peltier in a powerfully gripping fashion.
The story of Leonard Peltier is a poignant story that needs to be told again. "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" is a great source for those who do not have time to read all of the lengthy court documents that have kept Peltier imprisoned for 36 years. It will also make the reader question why he is still in prison.
"In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" was first published in 1980, but its release was held up due to litigation by those who never wanted the story told. Matthiessen won in court and the book, soon after its release, became a national bestseller.
"The New York Review of Books" comments on the "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse": "One of the most dramatic demonstrations of endemic racism that has yet been written - a powerful, unsettling book that will force even the most ethno-pious read to inspect the limits of his understanding."
"In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" will make the reader "who gets it" angry; it will make the haters discredit it.
Anger is an emotion given to human beings by the Creator to funnel into making better the wrongs in the world.
This is the time for Americans to relook at this book. This is a time for those who have never read it to now read it.
Hopefully to the new reader of "In the Spirit of Crazy" it will become evident why the long walkers are angry enough to take five months from their lives to walk across the United States to free Leonard Peltier.
Hopefully to the new reader of "In the Spirit of Crazy" it will become evident why it is time for the fog to lift for Leonard Peltier, just as it did last Sunday afternoon after his supporters got back to San Francisco.
Hopefully, someone will send President Barack Obama a copy for Christmas so he too will know why it is time for the fog to lift for Leonard Peltier. President Obama can do it; Yes, he can!
posted December 24, 2011 6:00 am est
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