Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Doc writes Minister of Justice on behalf of John Graham

One of our most respected neighbours has sent this letter, in defense of another Mt. Pleasant neighbour, John Graham, who is in jail pending extradition to the United States. She reasons that the evidence on which he is being extradited is far from sufficient. Here is her letter, unedited:

To The Right Honourable Rob Nicholson
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
105 East Block, House of Commons
Ottawa, Ont, K1A 0A6

October 15, 2007

Dear RH Rob Nicholson;
Re: Extradition of John Graham
An Indigenous Canadian Citizen

I am writing this letter in protest of the United States extradition demand for John Graham (1).

John Graham is a Tuchone Native Canadian born August 13 1955 in the Yukon. He is a residential school survivor. At the age of eighteen he went to the States in search of his sister, another residential school survivor. He did not find his sister at that time, instead found a friend in Anna Mae Aquash, another Canadian Native from Nova Scotia. Anna Mae introduced John to the American Indian Movement (AIM) and encouraged him to finish his high school education at the AIM ‘Little Red School House’ where she taught. When Anna Mae’s life was threatened in 1975 by FBI Agent Price, John helped her by accompanying her to an AIM ‘safe’ house. She was murdered within a year. In the 1990’s, the FBI went to the Yukon several times to coerce John to give them names of AIM leaders who ‘ordered’ her execution, otherwise they would charge him with her murder. In 2003, John was charged with her murder.

The unsolved murder of Anna Mae Aquash (2) remains a mystery. The hearsay accusations and other unreliable evidence presented in the Record of Case (3) by the United States Government against John Graham only compounds this tragedy and undermines the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Justice for John Graham
The principles of Justice in Canada and the United States are symbolized by the Statue of Lady Justice, blindfolded and holding scales and a sword.

The Scales of Justice symbolizes the impartiality with which justice should be served.
The Blindfold is to show that justice should not be subject to influence.
The Sword Lady Justice holds signifies the power held by those making the decision.

Justice Harry S. LaForme (4), the first Aboriginal to be appointed to sit on an appellate court in the history of Canada wrote an article in the Indigenous Law Journal, The Justice System in Canada: Does it Work for Aboriginal People? This letter will clearly show how the ‘justice system’ in both Canada and the United States of America has failed in the case of John Graham.

The Scales of Justice are NOT Impartial
COINTELPRO (5) was a program of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting ‘dissident political organizations’ within the United States of which the American Indian Movement (AIM) (6) was included. Methods of COINTELPRO included infiltration of an organization, psychological warfare using threats, harassment through the legal system, and extralegal force and violence have all been used to disrupt and fractionate the American Indian Movement (7).

There are numerous books and articles (8) about the American Indian Movement and the FBI’s involvement to infiltrate and destroy it using COINTELPRO methods. Attached is Bruce Ellison’s, (the AIM Attorney for Leonard Peltier), Congressional Briefing (9) which succinctly describes this tragic period of American history.

The COINTELPRO was so successful in its disruption and infiltration of the American Indian Movement, that even present day AIM members do not know who they can trust. Their influence and tactics of fabricating evidence have gone beyond international borders with the well know extradition case of Leonard Peltier ( 11),

It is with such COINTELPRO powers that the FBI are able to fabricate a ‘murder theory’ and create ‘evidence’ to implicate John Graham in Aquash’s tragic murder and thus tip the scales of ‘justice’ against John Graham.

The Blind Fold Should be Removed
In his judgment, Justice Donald writes ‘ If there was more that the appellant could have done to impeach the evidence in some effective way or if he left an argument unsaid, it was not brought to our attention’ (3)

The following points provide arguments to impeach the evidence provided in the Record of the Case against John Graham.

The death and discovery of Aquash’s body
• Aquash told many friends, including Graham and Trudell that FBI Agent Price threaten she ‘may not live out the year’ if she did not co-operate with the FBI. (12) Agent Price had been reprimanded by Judge Nichol (13) in the Wounded Knee trials , for his misconduct and has never been investigated for the death of Aquash.
• Her identity and cause of death was told to Trudell by Dennis Bank before it was formally announced to the public (14).
• FBI documentation, recovered through the Freedom of Information Act, report NO evidence of foul play at the site where Aquash’s body was discovered (15)
• The ‘fence’ Arlo Looking Cloud mentions in his ‘confession’, was erected fifteen years after Aquash’s murder(16)
• The discovery of Aquash’s body and her two autopsy’s are accurately described in Hendrick’s book (15) with factual detail retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI’s first autopsy misses an obvious gunshot wound to the head and records her death as natural causes due to exposure. She is buried as a Jane Doe after her hands are severed and sent to an FBI lab for identification. (Since when does the FBI become involved with a Native Indian death due to ‘natural causes’ on a reservation?. At that time over sixty other deaths by violence had occurred at Pine Ridge and yet none of them have yet to be investigated.)
• It is only after Aquash’s family request a second autopsy which discovers an obvious gunshot wound to the head, that the FBI created their theory of murder to suggest Aquash was an FBI informer and that AIM leaders ordered her execution (15)

The FBI’s theory is inconceivable and improbable for numerous reasons:
• The heart of AIM is spirituality and to bring back the traditional native ways of the people (17). In Justice LaForme’s article he states ‘Aboriginal people believe justice is about restoration of peace and equilibrium within the community, and reconciling the wrongdoer with his or her own conscience and with the individual or family who has been wronged’(4).
• Even IF AIM suspected Aquash to be an informer, the penalty would not be an execution, but rather restore her back to the community (4)
• Even after thirty years, there is NO evidence to indicate that Aquash was ever an informant, instead her memory is honoured by the AIM community and even John Graham held a ten day International Survival Camp in 1985 in her honour (1)
• Even IF AIM ordered an execution, Why would they give such a task to John Graham, a young nineteen year old Canadian Native, NOT familiar with the AIM leaders, NOT familiar with the area of Pine Ridge, a Canadian friend of Aquash (also a Canadian and who was instrumental for John being there in the first place) (18)
• A known FBI informant, Douglas Durham, was discovered within AIM and yet NO execution order was given him (19).
The ‘Witnesses’ are Impeachable
John Graham is accused of murdering Aquash based on an improbable theory and hearsay ‘evidence’ of what Arlo Looking Cloud supposedly told John Trudell.

Who is John Trudell?
• John Trudell is a poet, writer, eloquent speaker and film maker who has contributed much to his native culture (20). However, he too has been suspected of being an FBI informant (21), perhaps unwillingly. In 1979 after not heeding threats to himself and his family, his wife, three children, and mother-in-law were killed in a suspicious house fire (22).
• At Leonard Peltier’s trial Trudell testified that Aquash told him that her life was threatened by FBI Agent Price (23). Within the year she was killed. It is not inconceivable considering the influence of COINTELPRO tactics and Trudell’s past history with the FBI, that John Trudell may be in FEAR for his life and/or the lives of his current family, believing the FBI will carry out their threats again.
• At Peltier’s trial Trudell also testified that Dennis Banks told him that the unidentified body discovered was that of Aquash and that she was shot in the back of the head (14). This information was NOT officially known or reported at the time.
• John Boy was an alias name given to John Graham by Aquash. Aside from Aquash, Trudell was the only other AIM member who knew him as John Graham. Over the years, Trudell visited Graham’s home in the Yukon on several occasions. To identify a picture of John Graham in 1975 and in 2003 was not difficult for John Trudell.
• Trudell’s hearsay evidence of what he claims Looking Cloud told him concerning the murder of Aquash is denied by Looking Cloud in an interview (24) where Looking Clouds says he was ‘set up’ by the FBI.

Who is Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud? (26)
In his judgment, Justice Donald writes as if Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud ‘actually’ provides evidence and states ‘Mr. Looking Cloud’s evidence is also sufficient to commit Mr. Graham for extradition’. But Mr. Looking cloud does not provide any evidence, but rather the US Government provides a summary of what ‘he is expected to testify’. (3)

In Arlo Looking Cloud’s controversial four day trial (18) he was convicted and found guilty of the murder of Anna Mae Aquash. The ‘evidence’ against him was based on his ‘video taped confession’ in which he is obviously intoxicated, answering to leading questions by FBI Agent Ecoffey (25). A summary of the hearsay evidence against him and his controversial video taped ‘confession’ can be found in his court appeal (27). Looking Cloud received a life term in prison, which is the same John Graham will receive if extradited to the United States.

Arlo Looking Cloud was not allowed to speak soberly at his own defence. It is not likely the US Court will allow him to speak in John Graham’s defence. However, it is probable they will continue to use the ‘video taped confession’ of Arlo Looking Cloud against Graham.

FBI’s ‘Impeachable Evidence based on fabricated hearsay and intimidation:
In Judge Donald’s judgement he states:
‘Without his (John Trudell’s) evidence there would not be sufficient evidence to commit Mr. Graham for extradition. Given that hearsay evidence is admissible, Mr. Trudell’s evidence alone is sufficient to establish identification’. He also states: ‘As the extradition judge noted, there were deficiencies in the Record of the Case, but on the crucial issue of whether the person known as John Graham, also known as John Boy Patton, was the same person who committed the murder, …’ (3)

This statement implies that John Graham ‘committed the murder’, simply because John Trudell is able to identify a picture of John Boy Patton in 1975 and John Graham in 2003 as the same person.

Justice Donald also writes ‘even without Mr. Looking Cloud’s evidence, there is sufficient evidence of identification to commit Mr. Graham for extradition’. Is identification alone sufficient evidence to extradite someone for murder as indicated in Judge Donald’s judgment (3)? As mentioned above, Trudell knew John Graham well enough to visit his home several times over the years. Just because he is able to identify Graham, does that make him a ‘murderer’?

Logistically if:
(a) John Trudell’s hearsay evidence is based on what Trudell says Looking Cloud told him, and,
(b) Looking Cloud denies all accusations against him and John Graham (24), then
(c ) John Trudell’s hearsay evidence is impeached (28)

For the Canadian Government to turn a blind eye in John Graham’s case and to accept the Americans Record of the Case on ‘good faith’ would only be another travesty of justice.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom is OUR CANADIAN SWORD OF POWER.
I implore this Government to use its Power of Justice and protect Canadian citizens.
Protect John Graham’s rights as a Canadian and as an Indigenous Canadian.

Section 11 of the Charter states ‘Any person charged with an offence has the right
a. to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence
They (the US government) have charged him for the murder of Anna Mae Aquash which happened in December 1975. John Graham was arrested December 1 2003.
c. not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence
The FBI tried to coerce Mr. Graham several times by threatening to charge him with the murderer of Anna Mae Aquash unless he gave them names of AIM leaders. If he did not cooperate with them they would charge him with her murder.
d. to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal
The ‘evidence’ to extradite John Graham is based on the US government’s THEORY, RUMOURS, AND HEARSAY using COINTELPRO tactics and methods.

By finding Arlo Looking Cloud guilty, the US Government already presumes John Graham is guilty and he will NOT receive a fair trial in S. Dakota (as was the case for Leonard Peltier and Arlo Looking Cloud).

The appellant Judge states the ‘other elements of the offence are uncontroversial. As shown above, it is imperative the Canadian justice system remove its blindfold as this case is completely controversial.

e. not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause
Since his arrest in 2003 until BC Supreme Court rejected his appeal, John Graham was out on bail. Currently, Mr. Graham is in jail awaiting extradition.

Mr. Graham is a father of eight and also a grandfather. He is a leader in the Indigenous communities across western Canada. He was instrumental in the development of the first ‘Survival Schools’ and ‘Street Patrols’ to help Indigenous People who have suffered in Residential Schools, imprisonment, drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness. His programs promoted sobriety and were instrumental in reducing the arrest rate of Indigenous people to zero. John Graham is an educator and advocate, helping Indigenous people who find themselves in trouble with the law. He organized a ten day international gathering in N. Saskatchewan called ‘The Anna Mae Survival Camp”. He is also an environmentalist and International speaker concerning the toxic affects of uranium mining, especially in the Yukon. (17)

John Graham is a soft spoken intelligent, honest and respected person in the community. He has put his faith and trust in the Canadian judicial system, willingly surrendered himself to the court and poses no flight risk. He is without a criminal record. The only ‘record’ he has is for being an AIM member when he was nineteen years old.

Section 15.1 of the Charter states
‘Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and , in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.’

History has shown that Aboriginals in Canada and the USA have been treated unfairly by the Justice system in both countries. I conclude this letter with the following quotes:

Justice Fred Nichol, who was the Judge at the Wounded Knee trials wrote:
‘.I ended [the Wounded Knee Leadership] case with the firm conviction that the Government would go to any end order to convict Mr. Banks... [T]he total disregard of truth and fairness in the Government's attempt to "get" Dennis Banks "by hook or crook" did not stop at the doorstep of the FBI. The U.S. Attorney's office was an active participant. The Court was intentionally deceived... The fact that both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office were active participants in this pollution of justice convinced me there was a systemic, in addition to an individual, desire to convict Mr. Banks by means well beyond those which were ethical and fair. After all, in other cases in my district I had both FBI agents and these attorneys before me regularly. But the willingness to lie and fabricate and withhold evidence was only exhibited against Mr. Banks and his AIM co-defendent. And it was exhibited with a vengeance. If my experience has taught me anything, it is that the past is a good indication of the future. The broad and pervasive nature of the FBI and prosecutors' misconduct in 1973 and 1974 reflected patterns and beliefs that were deeply held. I doubt they would be easily abandoned. (29)

Now re-read the paragraph and re-place John Graham’s name instead of Mr. Banks, and Arlo Looking Cloud’s name for ‘co-defendant’. History is repeating itself.

The following quote is taken from David Cole’s article ‘The New McCarthyism; Repeating History in the War on Terrorism’’;
‘It is understandable that in times of fear, we defer to authority and
close our eyes to the wrongs perpetrated in the name of our protection.
But history reveals that blind faith is wholly unwarranted. Now more
than ever it is critical that we remain true to our principles. There is nothing
wrong with prevention when it consists of protecting potential targets
of attack or stepping up security at borders, airports, and other vulnerable
points. But when prevention translates into the punishment of individuals
for what we suspect they may do, rather than for what they have done, it
cannot be justified in a democratic society. The safeguards of the criminal
process exist for a reason, and whenever we impose punishment or
deprive persons of their liberty without adhering to these safeguards, we
do more harm than good. The success of the war on terrorism, and indeed
of our democratic experiment, requires us to reconsider the shortcuts that
we have all too swiftly and predictably adopted.’ (30)

Justice Harry S. LaForme, himself a Canadian aboriginal, concludes his article The Justice System in Canada: Does it Work for Aboriginal People? with the following:
‘You now have some information to assist you, but it will be for you to answer
the question of whether the Canadian justice system works for Aboriginal people(in this case John Graham). More importantly, if your answer is what it ought to be, then the most important question becomes: What will you do about it?

I trust that you, the Minister of Justice, will do the morally right and just thing and stop the extradition of John Graham and
protect his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom from the irrational fears created in this time of world
terrorism (31). Let the sovereign power of Canada protect its citizens and prevent another ‘Mahar Arar’ incident (32, 33).
Remember Leonard Peltier (11).


Dr. Lyla M. Yip, MT,MSc,Dr. of TCM
203-2256 Brunswick St. Vancouver, BC, V5T 3L7

cc. all MP’s, all parties
cc. RH Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin
cc. major newspapers

Note: referenced linked pages can be downloaded from
Or request at

Linked References:
1. John Graham :
2. Biography of Anna Mae Aquash; The Anna Mae Pictou Aquash Story
3. BC Supreme Court Judgement :
4. The Justice System in Canada: Does it Work for Aboriginal People?
Author: Justice Harry S. LaForme
5. COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program); COINTELPRO Revisited; COINTELPRO the Untold Story
6. History of AIM; History of AIM and the Governor of S.Dakota
Infiltration – Doug Durham was an FBI informant disguised as a Native
It was Aquash who discovered he was dyeing his hair black to look like a Native
Psychological warfare – Aquash’s life was threatened by Agent Price
- Trudell and his family were also threatened
Harassment through the legal system – John Graham was targeted by the RCMP
because of information given by the FBI
Extralegal force and violence – The BIA police or GOON’s with authority and
weapons provided from the FBI, evoked a ‘reign of terror’ at Pine Ridge
8. COINTELPRO PAPERS by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Hall,M1
9. Bruce Ellison, AIM Attorney’s Congressional Briefing for Leonard Peltier, May 17 2000
10. The United States Government War Against the American Indian Movement
11. Leonard Peltier’s Case is Debated in Canada’s House of Parliament Nov.2002
12. Aquash tells Aim Lawyers of threat by Agent Price
13. Agent Price reprimanded by Judge Nichol for polluting waters of Justice
14 Looking Cloud Transcripts, Trudell testifies Banks tells him of
Aquash’s Death before news is in media (pg 385)
15 The Unquiet Grave (pg. 13) – Steve Hendricks
16 Looking Cloud Transcripts, Amiotte testifies re fence, Pg.27
17. John Graham: Organizer, Speaker, Advocate, Environmentist
18 See Arlo’ Trial
19 Review of ‘Unquiet Grave’ by R. Robideau

20. John Trudell
21. John Trudell-Informant
22. John Trudell – suspects FBI murdered his family; FBI memorandum and FBI threat
to his family ;
23 John Trudell – witness at Peltier’s trial
24. Arlo’s Interview
25. Arlo’s Interview with Ecoffey and Alonzo
26. Looking Cloud’s Family Appeals for Help
27. USA v. Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud - Appeal
28. Impeachment of Evidence,+evidence.asp?q=IMPEACHMENT%2C+evidence
29. Letter from The Honorable Fred Nichol to Kenneth S. Stern,
November 17, 1987.] (last para)
30. P.30 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review [Vol. 38
David Cole, The New McCarthyism;Repeating History in the War on Terrorism (last para)
31. The Assault on Reason, Al Gore, 2007, Penguin Press, NY
32. Maher Arar
33. Wrongful convictions in Canada

Congressional Briefing for Leonard Peltier
Washington D.C., May 17, 2000
Bruce Ellison, AIM Attorney
Our final panelist is Bruce Ellison. Mr. Ellison is an attorney who has work with Leonard Peltier since his trial in 1977. He is a member of the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee, and witnessed the Reign of Terror on the Pine Ridge Reservation during the 70’s.
Bruce Ellison: Thank you. ... my name is Bruce Ellison. I have been a criminal defense lawyer based in Western South Dakota for some 25 years. On behalf of Leonard Peltier who is now a grandfather and on behalf of my own children I want to thank the members of the Human Rights Caucus and particularly Congressman John Porter for allowing for this briefing. You have done what the Senate Intelligence Committee under Senator Frank Church decided not to do, and what Congress has failed to do despite the strong recommendation of the necessity of such an inquiry by the Chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights and by Amnesty International.
I came to Western South Dakota to become an AIM lawyer with the Wounded Knee Defense Committee. I replaced a lawyer on the staff of WKLDOC by the name of Roger Finsel (sp) who Mr. McKiernan talked about who was attacked by the GOON Squad and was told that if he ever came back to the Pine Ridge Reservation the GOONs would kill him.
I came from an urban upbringing in the New York City area and Leonard Peltier became one of my early clients. I was raised to believe in our democracy and our fundamental rights to free speech, freedom of association, and freedom to seek redress of grievances. Educated as a lawyer, I was taught that our courts exist to promote and preserve justice, our Congress to enact responsible legislation, and our executive branch to enforce the laws of our country. What I have experienced since my move west has both shocked, amazed, and terrified me as a citizen of this country and more importantly as a father of young children and older children -- and I remain so today.
FBI documents and court records in the thousands together with eyewitness accounts show clearly that beginning in the late 1960’s the FBI began a campaign of infiltration and disruption of the treaty and human rights movement which called itself the American Indian Movement or AIM. FBI operations against AIM reached a magnitude which I submit threatens our democratic system and our way of life, especially if it remains uninvestigated and unexposed. Documents show the involvement as well during this period -- of agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and various departments of Military Intelligence Services.
After the 71-day Siege at Wounded Knee in 1973, our criminal justice system became an improper tool of the Domestic Security section of the intelligence division of the FBI -- under Richard Held who is an associate director in its efforts to destroy AIM.
Citing the case of Leonard Peltier, Amnesty International has urged an independent inquiry into the use of our criminal justice system for political purposes by the FBI. It has never occurred. The FBI concluded after many of the Wounded Knee prosecutions and I quote, “There are indications that the Indian militant problem in the area will not be resolved or discontinued with the prosecution of these insurgents.”
Most of the Wounded Knee criminal cases brought against hundreds of AIM members and supporters were eventually dismissed by various federal judges for the illegal use of the United States Military. The FBI then armed and equipped a group calling itself the GOON Squad on the Pine Ridge Reservation and more than 60 men, women, and children were killed in the political violence which followed. You have heard witnessed of some of this violence today. One woman who was talked about was a woman named Anna Mae Pictou. When her body was found, it was immediately examined at the behest of the FBI by a forensic pathologist; the FBI and the pathologist concluded that she had died of exposure. The FBI then -- as it was mentioned [earlier in the hearings] -- cut off her hands and sent them to Washington ostensibly to identify her. When she was identified, at the behest of the family, we sought an independent exhumation and forensic examination, and very quickly it was found her “death by exposure” was actually the placing of a pistol at the back of her head and pulling the trigger. The bullet was found within moments of the examination by chief medical examiner of Hennepin (sp) County which is Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Most of the violence perpetrated by the GOON Squad on the Pine Ridge Reservation against the Traditional People has never been investigated, despite the fact the FBI, through the Major Crimes Act, has asserted criminal jurisdiction over such matters on Indian reservations. I myself have been personally and directly threatened by agents of the FBI for my efforts to expose what the bureau did on the Pine Ridge Reservation and within the courts of our country.
One instance I personally witnessed was FBI agents and a BIA SWAT team escorting carloads of GOON Squad members and their weapons out of Wanblee, after a day and night of armed attacks on the community, which resulted in the ambush murder of a young AIM member and the burning and shooting up of several homes. One of the killers made a deal with the FBI and received a five year sentence -- for which he served far less -- and returned for his testimony that fellow GOON Squad members acted in self-defense against an unarmed victim and his friends. I investigated this murder at the request of tribal president elect and I was horrified by this deal. The killers were freed.
As US Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Heaney said after reviewing all of the evidence in this matter, “the United States Government overreacted at Wounded Knee. Instead of carefully considering the legitimate grievance of Native Americans, the response was essentially a military one which culminated in a deadly fire fight on June 26th, 1975 between the Native Americans and the FBI agents and the United States Marshals. While Judge Heaney believes that Native Americans had some culpability for the fire fight that day, he concluded “the United States must share the responsibility.” It never has. The FBI has never been held accountable or even publicly investigated for what one federal jury and Judge Heaney concluded was its complicity within the creation of a climate of fear and terror on the Pine Ridge Reservation which precipitated the fire fight that day and terrorized the community.
The FBI refers to the conflict that day as one in which only two young agents were killed. To the American Indian Movement members present that day, that tragic day, it has always been a day in which three young men were shot in the head and lost their lives -- the otherwise forgotten one being a young Native American father named Joseph Stuntz.
The government has used the incident to increase its disruptive campaign against the American Indian Movement. Noting Leonard Peltier’s regular presence and involvement in AIM activities, the FBI targeted Peltier for prosecution of the agents. According to the FBI documents, the Bureau was, within weeks of the fire fight, going to “develop information to lock Peltier into this case” and set out to do so. After Mr. Peltier’s co-defendants were acquitted on self-defense grounds by a federal jury in Cedar Rapids Iowa, the government decided to “put the full prosecutive weight of the Federal Government against Peltier”. The evidence shows the Government used now admittedly false eyewitness affidavits to extradite Leonard Peltier from Canada -- and this would catch the attention of Amnesty International and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals would call such conduct “a clear abuse of the investigative process by the FBI” and gives credence to the claims of Indian people that the government is willing to fabricate evidence to convict those branded as the enemy.
At Leonard Peltier’s trial, the Government presented evidence and argued to the jury that he personally shot and killed the two FBI agents. To do this, the Government presented (1) ballistics evidence purportedly connecting a shell casing found near the agents’ bodies with a rifle said to be possessed by Peltier and (2) the coerced and fabricated eyewitness account claiming the agents followed Peltier in a van precipitating the fire fight. Documents subsequently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the ballistics evidence was a fraud and that the rifle could not have fired the expended shell casing found near the bodies. Further, the FBI’s surpressed evidence showed the agents followed a pickup, not a van, into the compound and thought someone else not Peltier was in that vehicle. The documents also show the FBI was planning a paramilitary assault on that particular portion of the reservation against AIM within weeks preceding this fire fight.
Upon disclosure of these documents, a renewed effort at a new trial was sought from the courts. While concluding that the surpressed evidence “cast a strong doubt” on the Government’s case, our appellate courts denied relief. The US Attorney’s Office has now admitted in court that it has no credible evidence that Leonard Peltier killed the agents. Under our system of justice, if there is a reasonable doubt, then Leonard Peltier is not guilty -- yet he has been in prison for over 24 years for a crime which he did not commit.
The FBI still withholds thousands of pages of documents of its investigation of the deaths of the FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation, claiming in many instances that disclosure would compromise the national security of the United States. In the absence of such disclosure, no new efforts at a new trial are possible.
Despite Congressional interest in an investigation of the tragic events at Ruby Ridge in Waco, this is the first time any member of congress has called for an airing of this issue, and it is with our thanks that we are here. It should only be the beginning of a Congressional effort to explore a threat by our principle federal investigative agency: as this agency is designed, it is supposed to protect our most fundamental freedom. The most recent response by the FBI, however, has been a concerted lobbying and media campaign to stop and interfere with prospects of clemency granted by the President of the United States. The FBI’s involvement in the politics of our country is a cause for great concern and alarm -- and along with all the other matters presented at this briefing here today -- they should be investigated and never allowed to happen again.
Judge Heaney, in a letter to Senator Inouye, urging executive clemency for Leonard Peltier, has urged that the process of healing begin. He stated: “favorable action by the President in the Leonard Peltier case would be an important step in this regard. It is time for America’s wars against the indigenous people of this hemisphere to stop. Freeing Leonard Peltier will be an important start of this process.”
And I thank you.
Transcript from the Congressional Briefing for Leonard Peltier, Washington D.C., May17, 2000

To What Is this Gallery Exposing Us?

On Friday, October 12, as another woman and I were walking to the video store after 8 pm, we noticed a lot of men with drinks in their hands milling around on the street. Turns out it was the opening of a new exhibit of photographs at the Exposure Gallery. In keeping with the name of the gallery, the exhibit was called Nude. When you entered the gallery and turned left you saw a torso shot of a nude black man with his penis pointed towards the door. That was as nude as it got. Aside from a fairly striking print of a head-shot that was being raffled off (a donation by a famous New York artist), most of the printing was a tad less than crisp, and most of the shots were a lot shy of imaginative. Only a few were, to my mind even evocative or energetic. Though, to be fair, I am old and have seen it all before (and better).

It set my teeth on edge when I first noticed last month that this art gallery was moving into 754 East Broadway. Galleries are notoriously the stalking horses for gentrification of neighbourhoods the wealthy dub "dangerous." From what I've seen so far in life, once the rich culture-stalkers start coming and they don't get shot, they start looking around for what they can buy up and "improve" (i.e., control).

According to an article in the Courier, Exposure Gallery has moved here after 18 years on Beatty Street in Yaletown - an area that has notoriously gentrified over that period of time (not, to be fair, that there is any proof that this gallery caused the gentrification). The Yaletown location was also prone to shootings back then. The late founder of Exposure was president of a nonprofit that worked with the city "to establish safe live-work studios for artists in old warehouses," with galleries open to the public on ground level. Exposure was only paying $700 a month when their lease ran out this year, and a beauty salon edged them out with a bid to pay $1900 a month. The article doesn't say what Exposure is paying at the Broadway location, but mentions that they have a lease for 5 years. In an area where storefront operations tend to come and go quickly, that could make them one of the most stable businesses around.

Exposure gallery is actually volunteer-run by the Vancouver Association for Photographic Arts, a nonprofit membership organization for community photographers. Members pay $95 a year to join {$55 for students), and $40 for every shot they enter in a show. If they sell a picture (according to the Courier) they pay the gallery no commission. So, you could call Exposure a starter gallery for budding photographers, or you could call it a vanity gallery for eager amateurs. But in any case, it must be true that the curatorial judgment is subordinate to the self-selected pool of entrants and the self-interest of those who pay the bills.

This was only the first show I've seen there, so I can't really say that there won't be works of genius on the walls in future. And, to be fair, my view was rather jaundiced by my views on galleries as harbingers of gentrification doom, and by seeing a shiny new car replete with two over-coiffed lapdogs parked out front (now that would have made a photo). Most of the celebrants at the opening actually looked not terribly wealthy - maybe $25 an hour city outdoor workers fresh from printing photographs while they were out on strike? They seemed to be having a high time, lubricated by wine, so perhaps there's a rationale after all for calling it high art?

November 5 is the next deadline for submissions, and Friday, November 9 is the next opening.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

view from the 'hood

Looks like the strike might be settled soon. that'll be good, though i've enjoyed the free range-ness of the park near my home. the dogs seem to like it too. more stuff to smell, more things to roll in. The leaves outside my window are turning, and my downstairs neighbour's patio furniture is buried in fluttery brown and orange. seems like i don't pay too much attention to the goings on in the area, but last week, i went to a healing ceremony in honour of a dear friend who died. a teepee was erected on the front lawn of her apartment building, and tables of food laid out in a common area. cedar boughs decorated the entrances and people drummed and sang and told stories of our beloved sister. She lost one battle, but we are left to remember her by the many that she won. mount pleasant reverberated with the music, laughter and sorrow that sent her on her way, and wrapped us with her memory. Now we are responsible for one another, just as we were before. watch out for one another, we need each other.