Saturday, October 3, 2009

John Trudell - Native American activist the FBI couldn't stop speaking out...

Concerning John Trudell - The Native American activist the FBI couldn't stop speaking out.

"Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself...and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty."

Chief Joseph

"When I go around in America and I see the bulk of the white people, they do not feel oppressed; they feel powerless. When I go amongst my people, we do not feel powerless,we feel oppressed."

John Trudell

Recent discussion's re John Trudell noted that he is a "charismatic" speaker. The comment reminded me that, inasmuch as he has passed through the fire, Trudell's charisma is well founded. Accordingly, it is important to keep the following specifics in mind. When you see the man...listen to his music, remember; what we are is where we have been. No one can take that from us.

Trudell and the FBI:

The Peltier assassination effort appears to be only one of several abortive but deadly FBI counterintelligence operations directed at the remnants of AIM during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Another, even grimmer example concerns the death of the family of AIM's last national chairman, John Trudell:
In February 1979, Trudell led a march in Washington, D.C. to draw attention to the difficulties the Indians were having. Although he received a warning against speaking out, he delivered an address from the steps of the FBI building on the subject of the agency's harassment of Indians...Less than 12 hours later, Trudell's wife, Tina, his three children, and his wife's mother were burned alive in the family home in Duck Valley, Nevada - the apparent work of an arsonist.
Further detail:

On the Shoshone-Paiute Reservation of Duck Valley, straddling the Nevada-Idaho border, at 1:30 a.m., February 12, 1979, a fire ripped through the house of Arthur Manning and his family. Manning was a member of the Duck Valley Tribal Council who was actively working for Shoshone-Paiute treaty rights. Opposition to Manning included the local tribal police chief, Benny Richards, a former member of the Wilson goon squad on Pine Ridge [and brother of intended Peltier assassi Chuck Richards; both are of the Pine Ridge 'Manson Family'], and the local BIA Director John Artichoker, also from Pine Ridge. Manning's wife, Leah, was a coordinator for social services on the reservation. Their daughter, Tina, had been working actively in a local campaign to preserve the tribe's water riights at Wildhorse Resorvoir; she was opposed by the local BIA, Elko County [and] Nevada officials, the water recreation industry, and local white ranchers. Tina's husband was John Trudell, national chairman of AIM [from approximately 1974-80]. The Trudell's had three children: Ricarda Star [age five], Sunshine Karma [three], and Eli Changin Sun [one]...The fire [caught] the entire family asleep. Dead were Leah Hicks-Manning, her daughter Tina, and the three young children. Arthur Manning survived the blaze. The BIA issued a statement saying the fire was an accident. Trudell believes his family was murdered.

The basis for Trudell's belief rested in his AIM activities in general, and with regard to the Peltier case in particular.

During the Peltier trial in Fargo, North Dakota, Trudell had returned to the courtroom one day when a marshall informed him that he would not be allowed inside. An argument ensued, and Trudell was evicted. He was later arrested for the incident, charged with contempt of court, convicted before [U.S. District] Judge Ronald Davies, and sentenced to sixty days in jail. He served his time in five institutions in three states [a matter clearly reminiscent of the handling of Leonard Crow Dog]. While in Springfield Prison in Missouri, he was told by a fellow inmate that if he did not stop his Indian rights work his family would be killed.

Of course, as is indicated above, the Mannings had no shortage of enemies at Duck Valley, any one or group of which might have perpetrated the fatal arson (assuming it was arson - despitte the obvious basis for suspicion, and Trudell's repeated allegations in this regard, no formal investigation of the fire was ever conducted by the FBI). However, given the overall contect of apparent illegalities involved in the FBI's anti-AIM operations, and the concomitantly high stakes which would be involved in their disclosure, more than usual heed should be paid to Trudell's contentions:

When I got sent up for sixty days, that time in Fargo, I was approached by another inmate, a guy I didn't know, and he started talking about my public statements. You can't go around talking that shit, he says, you better get out of the country. You don't know these crazy bastards [the FBI] - they could kill your wife and children. Well, I was suspicious of the guy's so-called warning at the time; that was a message John Trudell was supposed to receive. I knwo who did it. What I still don't understand is why; it was so unnecessary. But it was arson, and it was deliberate - an assassination. Those people did a terrible thing; they should think a long, long time about what they did.

Trudell has explained that, in essence, he believes the death of his family was 'set up' by the FBI as part of its strategy to silence his and other AIM members' attempts to draw broad public attention to the Bureau's pattern of abuses concerning AIM in general and Pine Ridge in particular [see earlier post entitled AIM, Pine Ridge, and the FBI]. He attributes the emphasis placed upon himself and his family in this regard not only to his high position within AIM, but to the FBI's assessment of his special talents as a speaker/organizer, repeated over and over in the investigatory documents amassed on him between 1969 and 1979 (some 17,000 pages of which were released in a FOIA suit in 1986):

Trudell is an intelligent individual and loquent speaker who has the ability to stimulate people into action. TRUDELL is a known hardliner who openly advocates and encourages the use of violence [i.e., armed self-defense] although he himself never becomes involved in the fighting...TRUDELL has the ability to meet with a group of pacifists and in a short time have them yelling and screaming 'right-on!' In short, he is an extremely effective agitator.
Said by Trudell in 1980:

When I go around in America and I see the bulk of the white people, they do not feel oppressed; they feel powerless. When I go amongst my people, we do not feel powerless; we feel oppressed. We do not want to make the trade...we must be willing in our lifetime to deal with reality. It's not revolution; it's liberation. We want to be free of a value system that's being imposed upon us. We do not want to participate in that value system. We don't want change in the value system. We want to remove it from our lives forever...We have to assume our responsibilities as power, as individuals, as spirit, as people...

We are the people. We have the potential for power. We must not fool ourselves. We must not mislead ourselves. It takes more than good intentions. It takes commitment. It takes recognizing that at some point in our lives we are going to have to decide that we have a way of life that we follow, and we are going to have to live that way of life...That is the only solution there is for us.

John Trudell biography


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