Are Peltier's supporters—or his attackers—the true "merchants of myth"?
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Editor's note: This essay comes in response to an article written by Scott Anderson about Leonard Peltier, the American Indian Movement activist, published in Outside's July 1995 issue. Anderson's controversial feature investigated the events that led up to Peltier's imprisonment for the murder of two FBI agents in 1975—as well as those by which he has now become the symbol of a cause. No work has done more to bring Peltier to the world's attention than Peter Matthiessen's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, a book that received sharp criticism in Anderson's piece. Matthiessen's rebuttal follows here.
The hope of justice for Leonard Peltier, now in his 19th year in prison, has been seriously harmed by Outside's destructive piece about his case, “The Martyrdom of Leonard Peltier.” Leonard Peltier and his supporters have endured vicious attacks before, and the attacks are sure to grow more strident and irresponsible with the growing pressure for his freedom. This one came out just in time to influence the overdue and imminent decision by the Justice Department and the White House on a petition for executive clemency. Ordinarily this magazine would not have such impact in the capital, but the Washington Post took up the article in two separate pieces, doubtless because of its suggestion that a special press release in the summer of 1994 by FBI director Louis Freeh arguing against commutation of Peltier's sentence was a warning to a “possibly wavering White House.” In the process of undermining Peltier, the Anderson article does its best to discredit my book, which documents in great detail how Peltier was deprived of a fair trial, and the easiest way to do that, of course, is to defame the credibility and good reputation of the author. For these reasons, it cannot be ignored, as it deserves, but must be answered.
The article's bias is evident from the opening pages. The dark and sinister photograph of Leonard Peltier selected by Outside to illustrate its story makes him look furtive and menacing at the same time, like some trapped night animal. “He is a powerfully built man, and there is something in his loping gait, in the opaque gaze of his dark eyes, that lends him a vaguely predatory air,” Anderson writes of Peltier on the first page. The dark photograph, the “loping gait,” the “predatory air” set the tone for the whole article, presenting such a distorted likeness of this open-faced and amiable man that any reader unfamiliar with his case is drawn at once toward the supposition of his guilt.
Early on, the writer presents a brief summation of his clever angle on the Peltier story—that Peltier's “martyrdom” has been brought about not by his prosecutors and other antagonists, but by his very own supporters, those “merchants of myth,” as he likes to call them, who “promulgate his martyrdom—and who may be prolonging his imprisonment as a result.”
With seeming objectivity, the skillful Anderson goes on to provide some more or less accurate background on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the American Indian Movement, and AIM's troubles with local authorities on Pine Ridge. But soon strange errors of fact and emphasis start cropping up. Anyone familiar with Peltier's 1977 trial for the murder of the two FBI agents at Oglala will perceive at once that Anderson is dragging forth the same old discredited allegations, all of them tending to create an atmosphere of crime and violence around Peltier.
Anderson begins with Peltier's “attempted murder” of a Milwaukee police officer, a trumped-up charge on which Peltier was speedily acquitted when the cop's own girlfriend testified that the whole episode had been a setup. Next comes the “sniper killing” at Oglala. Despite FBI efforts to implicate him in the death of Jeannette Bissonnette in the spring preceding the shoot-out, Peltier was never seriously implicated, much less charged. Even Duane Brewer, the GOON leader on Pine Ridge, acknowledged a few years ago that Bissonnette's death was probably a “freak accident.”
The Martyrdom of Leonard PeltierRead the original article by Scott Anderson, published in Outside's July 1995 issue.
The third ingredient in this brew of alleged violence is what Anderson calls the “torture and robbery of two young ranch hands,” in which a young AIM supporter who swiped a pair of cowboy boots from a white drinking buddy was charged with robbery and assault with a deadly weapon—a penknife that he claimed never left his pocket. The assault charge was dropped, and he was acquitted on the robbery charge. No one claimed that any torture had been perpetrated or that Peltier was in any way involved.
Why, then, is this paltry episode inflamed by the word “torture”? Is this mere carelessness? Another barefaced error? Or can it be that like “predator” and “sniper killing” and “attempted murder,” the word “torture” is insinuated here to intensify the atmosphere of violence around Peltier? Here and elsewhere, consciously or not, Anderson's use of erroneous and prejudicial terms imitates the unscrupulous case constructed by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office during Peltier's trial to establish a presumption of guilt.
Then there's the matter of the AR-15 rifle. Anderson states that two of the young Indians in Peltier's group “testified to having seen Peltier walking toward the wounded agents with the AR-15 just moments before the fatal shots were fired.” This would certainly be damning evidence if it were accurate and complete. It is neither. One young Navajo told the grand jury that he had seen Peltier, Bob Robideau, and Dino Butler near the agents' cars, that Peltier was carrying what looked like an AR-15, and that “a few minutes later”—quite a long time in a running shoot-out—he heard shooting. The point is that the two events were not tied closely by any “just moments,” which, like “torture,” is Anderson's own contribution. Nor does he trouble to tell his readers that these young Indians recanted all such testimony at Peltier's trial, testifying instead that their earlier statements had been extorted by FBI agents under threats of beatings and indictment for first-degree murder.
The Crumbling Conspiracy TheoryRead Scott Anderson's response to this article, published in Outside's November 1995 issue.
Peltier, who escaped to Canada after the shoot-out, lost his fight against extradition largely because of what Anderson refers to as one of the “troubling details” in the case—the notorious Myrtle Poor Bear affidavits, concocted for the occasion by the FBI. He also speaks blithely of the “smaller inconsistencies” in the government's investigative files, which included a “badly worded ballistics-test telex.” Yet these “smaller inconsistencies” were so critical that in 1984 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ordered a special hearing to investigate the possible need for a new trial.
What was revealed during that hearing was damning indeed, and not to Peltier. There was nothing “badly worded” in that FBI telex of October 2, 1975; it merely stated that the “Wichita AR-15” allegedly used by Peltier during the shoot-out—the weapon on which prosecutor Lynn Crooks had constructed his charge of first-degree murder—could not be linked to the .223 casing found near the bodies, the casing that Crooks had called “perhaps the most important piece of evidence in this case.” Furthermore, this telex—which utterly invalidated the critical testimony of the FBI ballistics expert presented at Peltier's trial in 1977—had been illegally withheld from the defense. Yet Outside's reporter ignores all this, referring to the discredited rifle as the “AR-15 murder weapon.” Apparently Anderson does not know, or does not care, that his “AR-15 murder weapon” was eliminated as the murder weapon 20 years ago.
Anderson's use of erroneous and prejudicial terms imitates the unscrupulous case constructed by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office during Peltier's trial to establish a presumption of guilt.
Furthermore, the .223 casing was not inspected by the ballistics lab until an incredible seven months after the shooting, just in the nick of time, as it turned out, for the preparation of the ballistics affidavit used in conjunction with the bogus Myrtle Poor Bear documents (and the fugitive warrant for the bogus “attempted murder” charge) to effect Peltier's extradition from Canada—an entire extradition case built on bogus evidence.
What sort of investigative reporter, as Outside bills Anderson, would neglect almost entirely these very strong exculpatory elements in Peltier's favor—not as claimed by his lawyers or the merchants of his myth, but as demonstrated in the uneasiness repeatedly expressed by his own judges. Imagine not even mentioning, for example, that Judge Donald Ross, during Peltier's first appeal in 1977, declared that the manipulation of the Myrtle Poor Bear affidavits “gives some credence to the claim of the Indian people that the United States is willing to resort to any tactic in order to bring somebody back to the United States from Canada. And if they are willing to do that, they must be willing to fabricate other evidence.” Yes, indeed. And though the court felt constrained to deny the appeal, it clearly did so with mixed feelings, noting in its decision that “the use of affidavits of Myrtle Poor Bear in the extradition proceedings was, to say the least, a clear abuse of the investigative process by the FBI.”
Judge Gerald Heaney, who sat on the panel of three federal judges that denied Peltier's third appeal in 1986, expressed his doubts about the case three years later on CBS's West 57th: “The FBI withheld from the defense a good deal of ballistics information which might have been helpful” at the time of the trial. For this reason, and also because of the Myrtle Poor Bear episode, Judge Heaney said that his concurrence in the court's decision to deny Peltier's appeal “was the toughest decision I ever had to make in 22 years on the bench.” (The court recognized “a possibility that the jury would have acquitted Leonard Peltier” had the records and data improperly withheld from him been available, but the evidence for ordering a new trial did not meet the strict standards imposed on the appellate courts.) In a June 1990 article in the National Law Journal Judge Heaney went still further, calling the FBI “equally responsible” for the death of its own agents.
On April 18, 1991, Judge Heaney wrote to Senator Daniel Inouye, who leads the fight for justice for Peltier in the Senate, authorizing him to show his letter to President Bush. Judge Heaney spoke of the mitigating circumstances in the case, emphasizing his view that “the United States government must share the responsibility” for the fatal gunfight and that “the FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier's extradition from Canada and in otherwise investigating and trying the Peltier case. Although our court decided these were not grounds for reversal, they are, in my view, factors that merit consideration in any petition for leniency….”
Repeatedly, Anderson professes to be “stunned” by his own disclosures. Why isn't he stunned by such developments as the above? Even those in the Justice Department who are sincerely persuaded of Peltier's guilt must be troubled by such massive indication of investigative and prosecutorial abuses, which can only discredit what Indian people know as the Injustice Department. To insist on fairness in this case need not be a declaration of Peltier's innocence but only a long belated recognition that this man was unfairly tried and has spent 19 years in prison as a result.
It is not a matter of Matthiessen's belief in “über-conspiracies” or whatever, as this writer would have one believe. The Justice Department used extraordinary means to convict Peltier, not because he and AIM were threats to “white corporate America”—this, too, is disingenuous—but because, with Butler and Robideau acquitted, the prosecution had no intention of letting its last suspect get away. And this is understandable up to a point, considering the violence done at close range to the two wounded agents.
Anderson speaks knowledgeably of FBI agents' “abiding contempt for the merchants of [Peltier's] myth” and also their fear that “freedom for Peltier means that the propagandists win, that history will judge them and their slain comrades as guilty of all the crimes of which they have been accused.” Why is he pumping up all this bad stuff? The dead agents were never accused of any “crimes” in In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, which on the contrary quoted two friends and colleagues of slain agent Ron Williams to the effect that Williams was an unusually nice guy. (His partner, Jack Coler, had been recently transferred from Colorado and was not known well by local agents.)
Unfortunately, Anderson's main sources against Peltier are U.S. Attorney Crooks and a retired FBI agent named Nicholas O'Hara, who are (in regard to Peltier at least) two of the Justice Department's most intemperate spokesmen. On the same CBS program on which Judge Heaney appeared back in 1989, Crooks actually defended the government's use of the Myrtle Poor Bear affidavits, saying, “Basically…I don't agree that we did anything wrong, but I can tell you, it don't bother my conscience one whit if we did.” His arrogant refusal to repudiate government use of fabricated evidence—and the withholding of exculpatory evidence with the disingenuous excuse that the defense lawyers didn't ask for it—brought sharp rebuke from Senator Inouye: “I was a U.S. Attorney once, and that man is a disgrace to the profession!”
In the Rochester, Minnesota, Post-Bulletin in December 1992, O'Hara referred to “the fact that Myrtle Poor Bear's affidavits were falsely made and were then used to help extradite Peltier from Canada.” Yet, astonishingly, in the very next paragraph he stated, “There never was any fraud in Canada” and “the extradition process remains totally legitimate from a legal and ethical standpoint.” In a subsequent letter to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, O'Hara denied any knowledge of the appeals court's comment on improper FBI conduct in the Peltier case, and a few lines later he concluded happily, “There was no improper conduct by the FBI.”
The next year, in the Star-Tribune, O'Hara called Peltier “a mad dog” who should never be released. Judge Heaney tells me that he protested to FBI Director William Sessions, questioning the propriety of an FBI regional director abusing a man already convicted and serving time in prison. After news of his letter to Senator Inouye became known, Judge Heaney was visited by O'Hara on another matter, and O'Hara upbraided him for his conduct in endorsing clemency.
“Leonard Peltier, the good Lord willing, will never see the light of day as a free man,” O'Hara has said. What a pity it is that more reasonable civil servants permit such intractable people to represent the Bureau. If the Lynn Crookses and Nick O'Haras and their reactionary allies succeed in bullying not only the FBI but the entire Justice Department, their narrow views must certainly prevail, as they do today. But they did not succeed in bullying Congressman Don Edwards (the former FBI agent who, as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, denounced the ballistics abuses in the Peltier case and spoke out for a new trial for years until his recent retirement), Senator Inouye, and Judge Heaney, and I like to believe there are other men and women in the Justice Department who may see it as their duty to stand up and be heard.
Leonard Peltier cannot be helped if he is dead or no one knows about him.
In the 12 years since In the Spirit of Crazy Horse appeared, this book and its author have been attacked hard and often by ideological foes, including a former governor of South Dakota and an FBI agent who sued me and my publisher for a total of $49 million. People familiar with the Peltier case are certainly entitled to dispute In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and to express honest skepticism about its argument, as well as about the politics and competence of its author. I have mostly ignored all such attacks, since being called a bleeding heart and/or boob goes with the territory. But Anderson goes well beyond the usual political tirade against my foolishness and leftward leanings. Not so subtly, he disparages my “veracity,” then the honesty of my research, and finally the sincerity of my intentions. And he does this so unrelentingly and with such mean spirit as to finally call my character and my integrity into question, and with them almost 50 years of what I'd like to think is respected work.
Anderson launches his attack with a swipe at the book's “casualness toward documentation that bordered on the cavalier.” A more objective journalist might have noted that this casual book is 645 pages long and prodigiously annotated, with nearly 50 pages of notes and index.
Anderson goes on to cite two accounts from the book that are contradicted by the “official” reports. The death of James Brings Yellow, widely believed by Oglala people to have died of a heart attack during an FBI helicopter raid upon his house, is so incidental to the story that I couldn't find James Brings Yellow in the index—his name appears just once, in passing, in this immense book. With so many thousands of facts to cover, there seemed small reason to check out Brings Yellow's death certificate (I was not surprised to learn from Anderson's article that it wrote him off as just another Indian dead of drink). As an investigative reporter, Anderson must surely be acquainted with the well-known urge of all officials to cover their own butts, and those of kindred officials, in their reports. And one has only to glance at the numerous coroner's reports described in In the Spirit of Crazy Horse to realize how cynically Indian people, even dead ones, are dealt with all too often by officials. Besides, “official” documents in these AIM cases, which Anderson so dutifully accepts, have turned out with depressing regularity to be politically motivated and unreliable, a sad truth that is demonstrated over and over, and in great detail, throughout the book, where it comprises the main evidence that Leonard Peltier was deprived of a fair trial.
As for John Trudell, he explained to me why he had good reason to believe that his wife and children were killed by arson, since their home in Nevada was destroyed 12 hours after he had burned AIM's upside-down flag on the steps of the FBI building in Washington, D.C., during a vigil for Peltier in 1979. The fire marshal's report of a defective chimney may be accurate enough—indeed, the book itself states that “there is no evidence that the two events were connected”—but I would not have dismissed Trudell's personal account by accepting that “official” report at face value.
At any rate, it seems to be an unwitting tribute to the essential strength of In the Spirit of Crazy Horse that all Anderson can scrape up as evidence of inadequate documentation are two of the most peripheral events in the whole book. He is dead silent on the hundreds of pages of documentation on the crucial issues—AIM, the background of the case, the shoot-out and escape, the trials, and all of the related legal issues and government positions and so forth and so on in between. Or the ballistics farce, or what Anderson calls the “slightly contradictory field reports from various FBI agents” that were criticized repeatedly by the appellate court judges.
Not that the book does not have its mistakes. Every edition of any book about an ongoing investigation is bound to have corrections and emendations. An example might be the matter of uranium, which seemed far more significant in the nuclear-power heyday of the 1970s than it does today. Despite Anderson's dismissal of significant uranium deposits in the Pine Ridge region, his opinion was not shared by my own reference, the November 1979 issue of the Engineering and Mining Journal, which estimated $8 billion worth of uranium in South Dakota, mostly beneath the Black Hills, just west of the Pine Ridge Reservation. However, in hindsight, I would probably agree with lawyer James Leach, whose comments and criticisms I invited and Anderson exploited, that I gave too much emphasis to this factor in the U.S.-Lakota confrontations.
Anderson also hints something fishy in the fact that half of the author's income from In the Spirit of Crazy Horse has been and still is given to the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. Is he implying that I somehow benefitted financially from giving away half of the money? That arrangement was offered spontaneously and of my own accord during the course of the first conference about a potential movie, because I did not wish to profit from Peltier's desperate situation. And of course I have not profited, to put it mildly. Peltier's lawyers, of course, wanted the offer nailed down in writing, but the spirit of the offer was very different from what Anderson struggles to imply.
And on and on—there seems to be no bottom to my duplicity! Anderson bolsters his attack by quoting some belittling remarks by Alan Dershowitz, whose review of my book in the New York Times Book Review, like Anderson's article, was most notable for its defense of the FBI. But Anderson neglects to mention that even Dershowitz, who at least drew the line at questioning my integrity and good intentions, was impressed by the book, which he said “admirably dramatizes the tragic plight of native Americans” and was “one of those rare books that permanently changes one's consciousness about important yet neglected facets of our history.”
While preparing his piece, Anderson had a great windfall in the form of another writer's interview with Peltier's former associate Dino Butler, which appeared in the April issue of News from Indian Country. It is from this interview that Anderson takes both of the main pegs of his story. The first of these is Butler's statement that the story of Mr. X, the masked Indian who appeared four years ago on 60 Minutes and claimed to be the man who killed the agents, is “a lie.” Anderson writes: “Even more stunning, Butler pinpoints the origin of Mr. X to a meeting of Peltier supporters in California that he and several veterans of the Jumping Bull shoot-out attended.”
Outside's writer goes on to say that someone present “passed the story along to a writer for Oliver Stone, who at that time was working with Matthiessen.” In a trickily worded paragraph from which winnowing the slur is like trying to nail an oyster to the floor, Anderson leaves the distinct impression that this fraud perpetrated on the public on 60 Minutes and in the film Incident at Oglala was cooked up with the knowledge, if not the participation, of Matthiessen and Stone for purposes of promoting our Peltier movie. At the very least, the reader must infer, we were a party to the scam when Stone filmed my second interview with X.
On the wings of the Butler interview, Anderson sneers at the X account as a “patent absurdity,” yet all he can offer (besides Butler's testimony) to demonstrate its absurdity are (a) that agent Williams was shot at point-blank range, not by “an approaching killer firing randomly,” and (b) that investigators could not find the dynamite that X claimed he brought into the compound. Well, X never claimed he was “approaching” when he fired, much less that he “fired randomly.” As in the skewed testimony attributed to the Navajo boys, as in the “torture” of the ranch hands, nobody said these things but Anderson. In fact, X himself acknowledges in my interviews that he fired “at point-blank range.” And the fact that the investigators never found the dynamite only means that they did not stumble on it, since they had no reason to be looking for it in the first place. (Anyway, the Indians had four hours to move it somewhere else before they left the Jumping Bull location.) The story of X may turn out to be a lie, but it is not patently absurd, not on Anderson's evidence. After meeting with X five years ago on two different dates and in two different places and questioning him for many hours, I could not fault his story; I certainly did not find it “absurd.”
What he has been implying over and over is suddenly explicit: that Peter Matthiessen is, quite simply, a liar.
Dino Butler complained in his interview that X's account somehow threatened his family, and he chastised me for not verifying it with him. But Butler had always been close friends with Bob Robideau, who arranged the interviews with X, and I had no more reason to believe that Robideau or X would compromise Butler by including him in a false story than I had to believe that Robideau would set me up with a big lie after so many years of friendship.
Unlike Anderson, Butler never implied that I was a party to “the lie.” On the contrary, he said, “Peter Matthiessen was victimized by that, too.” Though Anderson quotes every word of Butler's harsh rebuke, he leaves out this part, which might have weakened his exposé of my myth-merchandising nature.
The reality of X—or of this X, at any rate, for there had to be somebody, a Y or Z, who killed the agents—is still obscured in the bitter disputes and contradictions in the ongoing and ugly “paper wars” among Peltier's former associates, which are doing such damage to his hope of freedom. I have taken no sides in these factional disputes, though I seem to have been caught in the cross fire. But if the X story was indeed a lie, as it now appears, I regret that I believed it, because in the end any such dishonesty can only do harm to Leonard Peltier.
The X story is actually a minor part of Butler's long interview, which in the first installments, at least, is mostly concerned with that Indian “truth” that Butler feels Peltier should return to. In Butler's opinion, Peltier has fallen under the bad influence of those around him. And here, unwittingly, Butler provides Anderson with his main angle: the destructive role allegedly played by Peltier's foolish and/or devious supporters.
How we myth merchants who support Peltier have done him so much harm is never made clear enough to support such a reckless charge, and Leonard's legion of supporters, and his faithful defense committee and his fine lawyers, who have worked hard for his freedom for years and years and years, may have trouble accepting these facile dismissals of their efforts. These supporters include many thousands of Indian people, despite Anderson's suggestions to the contrary; the leaders of at least 25 tribes have called on the government to give Peltier a new trial, and the National Congress of American Indians, which represents many more, asked Senator Inouye in December 1993 to “seek an audience with President Clinton for the purpose of securing Leonard Peltier's immediate release.” The Indian people, who never admired the way the two agents were killed, would be very unlikely to come out in support of the brutal cop-killer that the prosecution and now Anderson try so hard to portray.
Are Butler and Anderson really saying that Leonard would be better off without those supporters who have made his case well known? Without that notoriety, Leonard might be dead or forever forgotten in a federal prison; Butler, at least, knows this. (In July, I spoke at length with Dino, who repudiates Anderson's article. “I don't know this guy, he never talked to me,” Butler protested, “and he makes insinuations right and left. He makes me look like Leonard's enemy!”)
As Peltier told me in late June, reflecting on the article, “If it weren't for your book, I'd be just another Indian thrown away someplace.” And that is the real truth that is ducked by those who seek to divide him from his supporters: Leonard Peltier cannot be helped if he is dead or no one knows about him.
Having revealed Peltier's supporters as his true enemies, Anderson concludes, “It's hard not to feel sympathy for him…. Even after seeing the death photos of Ron Williams and Jack Coler, even after poring over the thousands of pages of documents and incriminating court testimony, I cannot see Leonard Peltier as anything other than a tragic figure, a victim of the martyrdom that now shackles him.” This profession of sympathy for Peltier—after torturing the evidence to reconvict him just in time for the final decision on his clemency petition, after doing another human being whom he interviewed and seemed to like what may turn out to be serious harm—is one of the most repellent aspects of this clever article.
Because it so well illustrates the true spirit of the piece, I'd like to make a final comment on Anderson's paragraph about an update on the Peltier case I wrote for Esquire in January 1992, in which a passage on the Wounded Knee occupation and another passage on the shoot-out at Oglala are inexplicably intertwined; perhaps my scribbled editing during the galley stage was illegible, or perhaps a copy editor not acquainted with the underlying facts committed this error in the course of “correcting” the text—a frequent experience in the life of writers. Needless to say, this is pounced upon by Anderson.
As this investigator surely knows from his “study” of my book, the Wounded Knee chapter is 40 pages and the material on Oglala at least four times that many; since these two critical locations could scarcely be confused, he must also know that the botch in Esquire was an accident. But instead of ignoring it, he falls all over himself trying to make it worse, accusing this poor old promulgator of relocating the agents' bodies from Oglala to Wounded Knee “while merging the events of 1975 with those of 1973.” But what is truly inexcusable is his final comment: “Such a conflated rendering of events suggests a stunning [!] development. In just 20 years, the Peltier story has so entered the realm of myth that apparently its architects no longer feel the need to adhere to the most rudimentary of facts.”
The pomposity and just plain silliness of this remark might be overlooked, but not what amounts to overt defamation, for Anderson dispenses here with all his hints and insinuations, all his obfuscations and his covert malice. What he has been implying over and over is suddenly explicit: that Peter Matthiessen is, quite simply, a liar.
I am disgusted by the waste of time and energy lost in cleaning up after another man's ill will. Yet I feel that people must be reassured about the case for Leonard Peltier and also about the credibility of my book, knowing even as I write that responses to these hatchet jobs reach only a very small percentage of those people whose opinions were contaminated by the original, and that Anderson may have the last snide say at my expense in Outside's Letters column.
And of course it is discouraging, after so many years of such hard work by so many dedicated people, to see that effort so shabbily discounted, even to the ludicrous claim that it is In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and other protests that have kept Peltier in prison. I can only invite every reader—and especially Justice Department personnel—to compare my book with Anderson's attack on it, applying any standard of accuracy and honesty they like.
There is no statement in In the Spirit of Crazy Horse that I did not believe was true at the time I wrote it, and if and when I am persuaded that any of these statements is untrue, there is not one that will not be removed or repudiated in the event of a new printing. Despite inevitable mistakes of fact and emphasis that no work of this size and scope has ever been without, none of its critics—not even the sincere ones—have made any real dent in the implacable documentation of its argument: that Leonard Peltier was railroaded into prison with the use of fabricated and manipulated and suppressed evidence that dishonors not only the Justice Department but our great nation and its Constitution.
Leonard told me on the phone the other day, “Even if they let me out tomorrow and handed me a million dollars, that could never repay me for the loss of my whole life.” How can those long years behind steel bars—the whole heart of his life—ever be repaid? Nevertheless, as Judge Heaney has said, a healing process must begin. And the only way it can reasonably begin is with justice for a man named Leonard Peltier.