DEATH PENALTY  [HUNTER GRAY   SEPTEMBER 27 2006]  WITH  ADDED COMMENTS -- AND OTHER POSTS BY HUNTER BEAR

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
 

[Things have been a little tough here on the med front but may -- may -- be on a tangible upswing. Quite functional e mail address is:

hunterbadbear@hunterbear.org

 

It can get wickedly cold in North Dakota where both Eldri and I have "frontier roots". Temps can drop to 35-40 below with wind chills of 100 below.  But we do have a warm spot for the place where we have many friends indeed.

 
However, we are saddened much at what has just happened at Fargo, ND.
 
Following a many weeks Federal capital penalty trial, a Fargo jury of seven women and five men has  issued the death penalty in a highly emotional murder case.  Their deliberations on the final penalty phase lasted close to two days.
 
Dru Sjodin, an attractive and young Scandinavian-American student at University of North Dakota, was abducted at Columbia Mall in Grand Forks in 2003.  Late that year, Alfonso Rodriguez, a middle aged single man and a registered sex offender, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder in the nationally publicized case when her body was found near his rural home across the Red River in Minnesota.  There was uncertainty about which state Ms Sjodin had actually been murdered in -- neither state has the death penalty  -- and the Federal government was very quick to seize jurisdiction.  The trial of Rodriguez -- a pathetic person by all lights -- finally took place at Fargo these past few weeks.  Federal prosecutors, utilizing the Clinton-broadened Federal death penalty coverage, were quick to stridently demand that price. [I should add that all Native tribes within what's called the United States joined forces and fought for and secured an exemption from Federal death penalty coverage.]
 
If I were a gambling man -- money-wise -- I would have bet something that at least a few folks in that jury room would have blocked the required unanimous verdict.  Eldri, my spouse, as opposed to any death penalty as I, was more pessimistic on this one.
 
North Dakota has not had an execution in a hundred years [it never had very many at all] and the same holds true for Minnesota.  Neither state has the death penalty in its own lawbooks.
 
Why the death penalty in the Federal case?  Well, the crime was certainly truly awful and Rodriguez is clearly neither Anglo nor affluent.  But I suspect it was the frenetically hammering pressure by the Federal prosecutors and the Clinton/Bush pro-death legacy that played a key role in leading some thoughtful and normally sensitive people into downright cowardice.
 
North Dakota has its complexities.  Mostly rural [farming and ranching], it stretches for 300 miles west to east -- through rugged, beautiful badlands and range country into farmlands.  The total population of the state is not much more than 600,000 and its very few "cities" could actually be considered large towns.  It's a pretty close-knit place and many people know many others across the expanse..  While there are Bible Belt fringes, most people are mainline Lutherans or Catholics.  The crime rate is relatively low and murders are occasional.  It has its white racist settings -- Anglo bordertowns adjoining or close to the four large Indian reservations [we successfully fought some tough fights in a couple of those bordertowns some years ago] -- but the basic ethos of North Dakota, encouraged by its fierce winters and other extreme climes,  tends toward egalitarianism.
 
In 1915, the state -- then a citadel of the populist/socialist Non-Partisan League -- formally abolished the death penalty.  The NPL eventually faded but its traditions still linger. [North Dakota  has a state-owned bank at Bismarck and a comparable and large grain mill and elevator at Grand Forks.]
 
In 1995, some Democrats in the predominately Republican legislature made a concerted effort to bring the death penalty back. 
 
Some [maybe most] Democrats were quietly opposed to this and the state Republican party -- always pretty moderate -- was cautious.  A number of us sent communications to the Republican leader of the state senate, Wayne Stenehjem of Grand Forks, vigorously opposing the proposed move.  Wayne, who we knew, was quite receptive to our concerns -- and those of others -- and quickly killed the whole thing.  A few weeks later, early in '96, I ran into him at a favorite political/eating/watering hole -- the Westward Ho -- on the outskirts of Grand Forks.  We walked out together and, leaning against my large red Ford pickup in the atypically warm February sun with melting snow, we shot the political breeze. 
 
I thanked him for his forthright work in ending any death penalty possibilities in the state.
 
"I've always been against that thing," said he. 
 
Our family is basically Democratic with an occasional socialist and a now-and-then Green digression.  But we tend to see people and social concerns and justice imperatives rather than flat political labels.  When, several weeks after our congenial visit in the Westward Ho parking lot, he and his wife came knocking at our door and asked for our re-election support, we were happy to oblige.  He won again.
 
Now he's the state AG -- and, although initially surrounded by well meaning assistants -- is now quite directly reachable by us.  Recently he commented to my youngest son, Peter [Mack], a key newspaper editor for the Lee Enterprises  chain, "I've always respected your father."  And he added, "And I always appreciated his allowing me to place my [election campaign] sign in his yard."
 
Well, I thank Wayne again -- and I cross my fingers and trust the State of North Dakota won't be tempted to ever reinstate Death on its books.  On that, Eldri joins me in Optimism.
 
Yours, Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear] -- cold rain and snow here in Idaho.
 
 
HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

COMMENTS:

David McReynolds writes:

Hunter,
A sad story, but one well told.
The death penalty always seems the easiest way out - and then we wonder why
people don't respect human life.
David

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Dale Jacobson comments [from North Dakota]:

Hunter, I am also disappointed (and somewhat distressed) by the verdict in North Dakota. I was hoping, like you, that it would be otherwise. The death penalty has always been the signature of a barbaric society
in my view. It does the state no good whatsoever. Talion law (an eye for an eye , with which Jesus apparently disagreed) is hardly the basis for anything but more brutality. As Gandhi so aptly explained, it is a
policy that leaves everyone blind. Justice is one thing, vengeance and cruelty something else. We must assert humanity and civilization for
the future of our own nation.

From North Dakota, Dale

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From Sam Friedman:

I am concerned about what you said about your health.

You are needed!  I am sure you will fight on to stay healthy.

best
sam

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And from Quebec, Dale Wharton:

Hunter Gray, many thanks for your enormously instructive
commentary on trial by jury, capital offense, etc. May
autumn be kind to you and Eldri!
--
Dale Wharton   M O N T R E A L (Te souviens-tu?)

_______________________________________________________________________

From Judy Collins Cumbee [from SNCC List]:

Gwen, thanks much for forwarding the info about the death penalty case in N.D.

After reading it I wanted to share information about our Nov. event with Hunter Bear and SNCC folk, particularly because Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty is one of our sponsors and their executive director will be a "greeter" for us on the 14th. However, I don't know that my copying to the sncc list will work since I'm not on their list serve.

Of course we'll appreciate your sharing the information with any of your many networks, particularly Native American ones. Sandra Pouncey of Opelika, chief of the Bird Clan of the Free Cherokee who had been on our steering committee, had to get off because of health problems, including surgery. I don't know that she's been able to do the outreach for which we had hoped.

Assistance you can give in any way is greatly appreciated. I'm so thankful you will be with us in Tuskegee on the 15th. Keep plugging away on that tome!
 

Judy

 

OTHER STUFF [HUNTER BEAR]

BOOKS INTO PRISON:

From Hunter:

Just a quick note apropos of Reber's post.  About 1991, an old friend of mine, then incarcerated at Oregon State Penitentiary, asked me for any appropriate books I could rustle up for the Native American Cultural Center he and others were developing.  I quickly assembled a fair number of solid things and boxed them all carefully.  I sent the big box off addressed to the Native Center and, aware it would all be inspected, attached an enveloped letter to it which indicated my intention and my titles [Prof and Chair, Indian Studies, UND].  My friend, as per our regular arrangement, called me collect a few days later and I assured him they would have the box forthwith.
 
And then the Box came back to me, marked "Refused" and Officially Stamped.
 
Mad as Hell, I called the Oregon Gov's office.  Getting a key assistant, I was transferred to the Warden's bailiwick and that worthy's key aide.  I explained the situation, began to encounter a polite stone wall -- and I then said, very sincerely and realistically, "If these books aren't accepted and given to the Cultural Center, my next call is going to the Portland Oregonian." [Major newspaper in the state.]
 
There was a long pause.  The aide left for a few moments in order to consult, then returned and said "Send them again.  We'll have to look them over, quickly, but we will get them to your designated recipient."  The ice broke a little and the aide explained that prison officialdom was concerned that book pages might carry drugs via dried liquids.
 
On that testimonial re an increasingly complicated World, we thanked one another.  I mailed the Big Box yet again -- and all of it got quickly through to the group.  
 
H
 
 
HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

____________________________________________________________________________________________

NOTES ON THE IWW AND NATIVE AMERICANS

From Hunter Bear:

 
A Cherokee Indian, Frank H. Little, is one of the great martyrs of the Industrial Workers of the World and American social struggle.  He was lynched at Butte, Montana in the early morning of August 1 1917 by thugs employed by the Anaconda Copper Corporation.
 
I regularly receive many queries from many places on many matters, most emanating via our large Lair of Hunterbear website, and I answer virtually all of them.  Some are of broad interest and this is one of those -- from a student at a large eastern university.  This is a slightly edited response of mine but first, a little background:
 
The "frontier syndicalism" of the IWW [its high water mark from the 1910s well into the 1930s] attracted a very large following in the United States and had Canadian and Mexican and overseas variants as well.  Its grassroots democratic and egalitarian [race, ethnicity, gender], home-grown and plain-spoken militant radicalism -- laced with élan and humor -- provides into these times inspirational lessons for those many genuinely interested in organizing effective movements of social change and justice.
 
Anyway, to this student and his particular interest, I wrote -- and his questions are indicated by my response:
 
 
Dear R.:

Thanks for your note. 

I am not aware of any IWW involvement on behalf of AIM during that
movement's high-water period.  We lived in Chicago from 1969 to 1973 and I
continued many Chicago involvements from an Iowa base until late 1976.  All
though this whole period, we were much involved in Native causes --
including close relationships with AIM.  I don't think the IWW, at least at
that time, had any Indian involvements -- at least around
Chicago and its far flung environs. [I, myself, had been an IWW from the
very beginning of 1955 well into 1961.]

Historically, the IWW did have -- for the times --  significant Native
American membership [and support from Indian people ] of various tribes. 
This was especially true in the West -- and the adjoining Oklahoma setting. 
This was certainly very true indeed in the Far West -- lumbering and
sawmill work, hardrock mining, some fishing boats.

The IWW, of course, functioned always in an extremely democratic and
egalitarian fashion -- saw things in terms of worker/employer and, as far as
I know, kept no "racial" or "ethnic" records.
[This was also true, for example, of two other, somewhat more "latter day"
unions, mostly in the West, which did have significant numbers of Indian
members from many tribes:  Mine, Mill and
Smelter Workers and International Woodworkers of America. [Each of these
had a strong Wobbly ethos.]  I don't think Mine-Mill kept many if any
racial/ethnic records and I doubt that IWA did, either.  Few, if any unions,
kept those sorts of records -- at least until relatively recently..

In the winter and early spring of 1955, I was highly privileged to
listen at great length -- many hours on end at a time -- to old-time IWWs
grouped at Seattle.  There were about two dozen with whom I listened [and
visited] at length.  Their rich histories included the whole Pacific
Northwest into Idaho and Montana, down into Northern California, with some
Arizona experience.  Naturally, being a Native person myself, I often asked
about Indian involvements.  And they all indicated the presence, at many
times and places, of Native American fellow workers.  This was very true in
lumbering etc work -- but also in metal mining and fishing boats [this
latter extending up and down from Alaska.]

This was a great experience for me -- hearing their stories -- and this was
ten years before the academic historians began to discover the IWW.  I was
just turning 21.

One of these old timers, C.E. "Stumpy" Payne, gave me an interesting little
pamphlet which he had published some years before:  "Industrial Government",
Usk, Washington, July 1945.  This was an instance where Native  tribalism,
with which C.E. was quite familiar, strongly influenced his vision and view of
the Good Society.  C.E., I should add, was a notable IWW organizer, editor,
writer.  He had been at the founding convention in 1905. And he wrote the
introduction to Walker C. Smith's classic account of a major anti-IWW
atrocity in 1916, The Everett Massacre:  A History of the Class Struggle in the
Lumber Industry [Chicago, IWW Publishing Bureau, 1918.]  [On a purely
personal note, my mother was born at Everett, Washington in 1906.]

Shortly before his death, Ralph H Chaplin [Solidarity Forever and much more]
wrote  his last major work -- a 31 page epic poem:  "Only The Drums Remembered
[A Memento to Leschi]", Tacoma, 1960.
Chaplin had not been a Wobbly since about 1938 but always had a "Wobbly
heart."  He was active in Native rights and this last work honored the
Native leader, Leschi [a Nisqually] who was hanged as a scapegoat by the US govt and
Washington Territorial forces in 1858.

I have much old-time IWW material indeed -- and also much from Mine-Mill.  In the
latter context, I have one of the very rare copies of the oral history given
by Maurice E Travis [for much of his adult life a Communist Party man and,
for a good part of his life, a key Mine-Mill official.] I have a website
page on him -- he was son-in-law of A.S. "Sam" Embree, a major IWW organizer.
http://hunterbear.org/travis.htm

Travis was born at Spokane in 1910 and died in California in 1985.  He did
his massive oral history in 1978 and, on page 18, he writes of
IWW lumberworkers in Northern California about 1928.:

"This was in the days before unions were common and the only affiliation of
any kind which anyone there had was with the I.W.W., the so-called red card,
which by then was pretty common in the west among loggers and miners
particularly. . .I remember several Indian loggers who were fellers, and one
was a hook-tender and one was a bucker, who did belong to the I.W.W."

 
Best, Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]


___________________________________________________________________________________

From Hunter Bear:

UPDATE NOVEMBER 7 2007:

 

Almost 30 years after his death in Texas, Forrest Carter can still stir up a bit of public controversy. The latest event -- Beba [John] sent a clipping and Josie saw something on TV -- involves Oprah pulling Carter's Little Tree book from her recommended reading list.  She and her circle were concerned about his earlier Klan-type background -- though apparently some felt the book itself had merit. [I don't share that opinion of the Little Tree book -- though at the worst it's simply confused and essentially harmless.]  I am keeping his Geronimo novel in my large Native bookshelf.  But, of course, I have known something about Forrest "Ace" Carter and his odyssey for a very long time now.  Here is a post of mine from about a year ago on him, his incarnations, and his diverse works.  As I so often say, the South is a very strange land indeed -- more dimensions than the Grand Canyon.   -- H.

 

THOUGHTS ON FORREST [ACE] CARTER:

The several Souths, historically and in this latest version of the New
South as well, make up -- even in the context of our often surreal USA -- a
very strange setting. Even so, Asa Carter, born with some Cherokee
ancestry in northeastern Alabama, stands out as unique. [In addition, of
course, to the major Cherokee bastions in Western North Carolina and
Oklahoma, the widely scattered Cherokees are found [among other places]
sprinkled through Eastern Tennessee, North Georgia and North Alabama,] Beba
and others in our family recall my conversations in 1979-80 with a fine
family friend, historian Duane Hale, a Creek Indian with Oklahoma and some
Texas connections, on a number of mutually fascinating topics, including the
enigmatic Ace/Forrest Carter.

Carter had two basic incarnations. The first, which appears to have begun
in the late'40s at Denver where he had a radio program, was that of a
venomously anti-Black and anti-Semitic racist. Following the Brown
desegregation decision in '54, and the rise of white Southern "massive
resistance" -- e.g ., Klan revivals and the rapid development of the
[white] Citizens Councils of America [which came to be headquartered at
Jackson, Miss.] -- Carter, then "Ace" Carter, returned to Alabama and began
playing a key role as a vociferous seg publicist and sometime organizer.
His public stance in the North Alabama Citizens Council was so poisonously
extremist that even Bill Simmons of Jackson, national administrator of the
Council movement and himself a thoroughly virulent racist, felt obliged to
comment that, "Ace Carter is an Alabama problem." Carter continued in this
vein through the '50s and '60s, eventually working in a changing Mississippi
in an effort to rally die-hard bitter-enders [e.g., the Jimmy Swan
gubernatorial campaign which sought unsuccessfully to bring back the Ross
Barnett days.] Throughout all of this, he apparently made no mention of his
fractional Cherokee ancestry.

And then he was gone -- totally -- from any public eye.

Not too long after that, in the early '70s, Forrest Carter, an essentially
gentle person, a gifted writer, and a man with a Cherokee background,
appeared in West Texas -- pretty much based in the Abilene/Amarillo spread
of turf. For the next several years, he wrote interesting books [only one
of which I, myself, have fully read] -- and in any discussion of Indians
therein, was commendably sensitive to the Native American position, Gone
to Texas and the Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales led to a still well known
Western film, The Outlaw Josey Wales [Clint Eastwood.] The Education of
Little Tree, purportedly autobiographical as the development of a Cherokee
youth in Tennessee, has been rightly criticized by many Native people -- and
certainly many Cherokees -- as flawed and even hokey. His last published
book, Watch for Me on the Mountain [later published in paper as Cry
Geronimo!] is a very readably done fictional depiction of the great Apache
fighter, his valiant band, and to some extent that of the Apache people as a
whole. [That's the one I have read,] Carter contributed substantial funds
to Native scholarship and Indian rights causes.

In the summer of '79, Forrest Carter died of a heart attack in West Texas.
At that point, his life in its full totality became well known. At his
burial at Anniston, Alabama, his relatives attested to the Cherokee strain
in the family. I assembled some retrospective news-story clippings from
Alabama and Mississippi and Duane Hale picked some up from Texas.

If a basic question is, Why did he take an initial -- and lengthy -- racist
career?, an even more fundamental one is, Why the change? He does not appear
as having been at any point a public religious person. Assimilating all of
the factors of which Duane and I are aware, and possible factors involved as
well, it seems to us, simply, that various streams came together and
"Something came over him." His Road to Damascus was long and tangled -- but
it does seem indeed to have concluded in a Hopeful Sunlight,

As Ever, H

 

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

Check out our massive social justice website:  www.hunterbear.org

 
Honored with The Elder Recognition Award by Wordcraft Circle of Native
Writers and Storytellers:
http://www.hunterbear.org/elder_recognition_award_for_2005.htm
 
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]
 

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