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.