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Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance Hardcover – June 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Peltier, arrested more than two decades ago on charges stemming from conflict with the FBI on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, has become a symbol of the oppression of Indians and other indigenous people. Indeed, he is perhaps the most famous inmate in the U.S., regarded by many as a political prisoner, with Robert Redford, author Peter Mathiesson, former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, and others calling for his release. He remains incarcerated, often in horrific conditions. As if engaged in the sun dance, in which apparently unendurable sufferings are embraced as a spiritual testimony, Peltier writes of his life, before and behind bars, with anger but not rancor. Since his youth as a warrior, he has become a spiritual elder whose words offer much to Indians and non-Indians alike. "We don't need more prisons," he writes. "We need more compassion. That compassion is our own highest possibility." His own simple, eloquent compassion for his captors as well as himself makes this a remarkable and moving book. Patricia Monaghan

From Kirkus Reviews

Part manifesto, part memoir, a standout collection by the celebrated, long-imprisoned American Indian Movement co-founder and activist. Peltier, a Sioux Indian, has been in federal prison since 1977, convicted of killing two FBI agents during the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee, S.D. Peltier asserts that he did not commit these murders, writing simply, Innocence has a single voice that can only say over and over, I didnt do it. Guilt has a thousand voices, all of them lies. (In his preface, former attorney general Ramsey Clark makes a compelling argument for why we should believe Peltier, a case also made by Peter Matthiessen in his much-litigated book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse). In this anthology, Peltier charts the course of his activism, describing his evolution from a young man on a South Dakota reservation who wanted what other young men in his circumstances wanteda car, a jobto a political organizer keenly aware of the injustices visited past and present on Americas indigenous peoples. Although he too easily falls into sloganeering (We are the voices of the earth. We speak for those who are not yet born. When you exclude us, you exclude your own conscience. We are your conscience!), Peltier has much to say about American Indian politics, a dauntingly complex set of issues; among other things, he insists that the US government follow a Canadian model in offering reparations for historical wrongs. He also advances the plausible view that the siege at Wounded Knee was a sideshow meant to disguise a deal through which a uranium-rich portion of the Pine Ridge Sioux reservation was ceded to the federal government. Writing more personally, Peltier recounts the intricacies of living behind bars. As a houseguest in hell, he writes, you learn that the devil has many mansions, and you keep shuttling between them for no known reason. An important contribution to Native American letters, sure to stir both controversy and renewed attention for Peltiers ongoing quest for freedom. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 243 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312203543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312203542
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #650,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Prison Writings", by Leonard Peltier, is quite an eye-opener. This political prisoner maintains his innocence and demonstrates it through his heart and compassion. At times, each chapter appears to be a stream of consciousness dependent on his mood (he wrote it in prison where he still remains), but he always evaluated his mood and came back full circle and has come to terms that he may never leave but that his hope in humanity might help lift him and thousands of others wrongfully imprisoned.
His words have compelled me to do further research and there are many related books, articles and even a documentary film by Robert Redford titled "Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story". I encourage everyone to read it and watch the film available through rental or purchase.
Whether you believe in his innocence or not is not the point. The point is that our current system remains flawed despite the cold hearts that are too scared to take a serious look into their conscience.
Leonard Peltier has definitely changed my once hardened heart. I am still a cynic and angry often, but thinking about his struggles through unfair justice keeps me focused. It is an easy read if you don't mind the harsh realities of our justice system, or lack thereof!
"Mitakuye Oyasin!" Learn this meaning from his book - it will serve you well in your life.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Having myself been at one time a skeptic of Peltier's fantastic claims, I became convinced of his innocence after poring over the considerable & incontrovertible evidence that clearly proves this man is a victim of political repression. But this book is only secondarily about how Peltier was purposely made a scapegoat by an out-of-control, Gestapo-esque FBI, and by a few unscrupulous scoundrels within Department of Justice [sic]. (That astonshing, disturbing history has been recounted elsewhere, e.g., "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" or "Agents of Repression".)
Instead, in "Prison Writings" Peltier focuses more on the continuing historical struggle of his people to be treated with dignity and equality; offers insights into the realities of contemporary Indian existence beyond the sham portrayals in popular culture; and shows how his perceptions and opinions have been molded by his own experiences, from childhood to the starkness of prison life.
To be honest, I had not expected Peltier's book to be so well written, profound, and powerful; after all, Peltier's involvement with the American Indian Movement was not that of a fiery public speaker, decision-maker, or clever stager of outrageous stunts for the media (like some of AIM's leaders). Instead, Peltier's work with AIM was characterized by his preference to quietly perform the unglamorous yet neccessary tasks to serve his people (e.g., hauling water to homes with no plumbing, making home repairs, babysitting, fixing cars, chastising teenagers to be abstinent from alcohol and drugs, chopping firewood, etc).
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55 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Elderbear VINE VOICE on March 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Whether or not you believe that Leonard Peltier really murdered two FBI agents in cold blood, you must read this book. The United States imprisons more people, *and* more people per capita, than any other nation in the world! Leonard's poignant book gives the reader a feel for *one* story of life behind bars. Not a journal or a story, per se, but a series of reflections, of meditations, of poems about life as a prisoner, life as a *political* prisoner in the Land of the Free.
You, who read this, with access to a personal computer, cannot begin to wrap your life around the experience of being caged. Of having every aspect of your life regulated. You, who grew up white, privileged, cannot wrap your mind around the experience of being beaten up simply because you spoke your native language. You, who grew up on land you "owned," have insulated yourself from imagining the pain of having your people destroyed, your culture outlawed, and your identity trampled into the mud.
So don't buy this book. Your will be able to continue your life comfortably. You'll be able to proceed with that warm fuzzy feeling that things are OK with the world, and that even if agent Fox Mulder has died, the FBI is really on *your* side.
Don't buy this book. You don't want to begin to feel what Leonard feels, caged in Leavenworth. Don't buy this book, it's easier to pretend that *those* people deserve to be locked up, that *those* people are animals, that the *justice* system really works most of the time. Don't buy this book, you don't want to have any inkling about what it feels like when justice miscarries.
Leonard Peltier wasn't (Mark) Rich enough for a Clinton pardon. He has exhausted his legal appeals.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Esther Bradley-DeTally on January 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Somehow, despite being an activist, I managed to shove concerns of who Leonard Pelltier was to the back shelves of my mind. I've stood up for other causes and have Native friends and thought probably, "it's all too much." In December, was it only December, I read Prison Writings which is honestly written, stark, heartbreaking, brave, all of the superlatives. By the time I finished the book, I knew Leonard Pelltier must be freed. An injustice must be righted. I think everyone in the United States should read this book and then take some action to express their voice on behalf of not only Leonard Pelltier, but all Native Americans who have suffered from twisted and distorted justice.
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