GENERAL COORDINATORS REPORT
SUBJECT: THE CARAVAN FOR JUSTICE
NATIONAL CALL TO SOLIDARITY
TO: SUPPORTERS AND PLEDGE SIGNERS
DATE: FEBRUARY 11, 1997
I wish to express my sincere appreciation and to thank you for your response in support of the Caravan For Justice and the National Call To Solidarity. By your signature and Pledge as well as your participation at one of our meetings, demonstrations, or support actions, you have clearly put the Earth, your family, friends, and future first!
Like ourselves, you also recognize that a great deal of work must occur if we're going to recall the authority of the current social pyramid and reshape the political agenda on the local, state, national, and even international scene. The Caravan For Justice is heavily focused on bringing our combined forces together to unite as a single smashing force to accomplish these goals. As we gather, we will be working intensive to clarify our objectives and secure our operation.
All of us are committed organizers who choose to volunteer our time, resources, and labor to gather and develop the energy of others. There's strength in numbers, so we must all multiply our efforts to reach our threshold of one-million people (which would constitute a meaningful constituent base.) to represent a mighty and powerful foundation for the National Solidarity Movement. Collaborative work will be absolutely quintessential to our success. There will be rare moments that will transpire as we set forth our strategy, moments that will mark the pages of history. Moments that you, your families, and children can be proud of as we lay the groundwork and foundation for our independence.
The Caravan For Justice (CFJ), now entering its fourth-year of organizing has been we received by many people from every color and hue of the human rainbow. Special thanks to the Community Organizing Center of Colombus, Ohio for donating "Gurti" the bus for the Caravan's crew and their humble journey to cities and communities across the nation. As of this writing, the CFJ has been on the road for more than a hundred-twenty-days and has traversed more than thirteen-states circulating the Pledge.
We bear witness to the spirited-will of many diverse people who proudly dare to stand up in absolute solidarity. The national task-force has grown to near sixty and a growing number of Pledge Signers makes a powerful statement that we stand strong by our conviction and will to carry on the struggle for equality, freedom and justice, and to see to the successful creation of the National Solidarity Movement. We've also witnessed the positive participation of many networks, organizations, activists, and thousands of individuals around our strategy --to form a national solidarity movement-- to become more effective with our common agendas. First, to achieve economic, environmental, and political justice before the turn of the new millenium. Second, to guarantee that there's a rock-solid movement in place to keep the pressure on for fundamental, social, political, and structural justice and change.
The CFJ Crew is a constantly moving team of organizers who are dedicated to this task. They're leading the way in charting a course to tomorrow by travelling community-by-community, state-by-state, touching local bases and offering support for local actions. While at the same time nurturing the growth of the larger confederation of groups and movements that will serve as the cornerstone of the new National Solidarity Movement.
You are one of many brave people that have shown and/or offered your support and solidarity with our efforts to traverse the country gathering pledges and movement-building for the Solidarity Movement that's being born. Each week brings us closer to fulfilling our goal --to create a popular, people's counter-power that could mount an effective challenge and bring to an end this oppressive era of Big Government Business. Many like yourself have accepted this challenge to re-invent community away from the highly fortified walls of the limited, small, divisive-ego and its social form the Sovereign State.
The synthetic labors of bringing together, meeting, and getting to know the many people, groups and movements has been fruitful. More important though, the labors are nurturing the larger community of humanity. Our concentrated efforts have already gone along way in helping us all break down the illusions and artificial barriers that have too often come between us, our movement, and the many community-based group and movements that exist. The approach we've taken has helped us avoid the take-over and control of our movement by statist organizations and politically-correct or ambitious political parties that have always plagued such movements.
Just one-week before our planned Wall St. Action of October 29, 1996, two individuals from two different political groups based out of New York City --the Independent Progressive Politics Network and the New York City Green Party-- both failed in a poorly orchestrated attempt to take-over and control the carefully planned action. But let the truth be known, that both individuals representing these groups locked-horns and engaged one another in a petty squabble over mere details and a viscous competition for control of the permit. To mask-over their political-infighting and in an attempt to justify their actions to their respective memberships, a futile and pitiful effort was made to discredit the CFJ. One of the individuals who works for the IPPN, even went so far as to circulate false information, literature, and electronic-mail communications to try and cancel our action. Information stating that the CFJ was not happening and the October 29 action had been cancelled. Needless to say, the CFJ is happening, we're being very well received, and we now have one of the largest social, political, and structural change movements growing in the United States today.
The CFJ is wrapping up its second bus trip across the country. States that were visited on this latest tour include; South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Washington State, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. We begin this round of organizing in my home state of South Dakota where we held a ceremony at Wounded Knee in honor of the fallen warriors that are buried there. With a children's prayer staff in hand and amidst intense fog and rain, food, fruit, and prayers were offered with hopes for blessing from the Great Spirit for a safe journey. Moments later the Sun burst through the clouds and shone down upon our ceremony. Next, a wondrous and beautiful rainbow, which stretched across the whole community of Wounded Knee, appeared. Then it became clear to all that our journey would be guided by the Great Spirit. Our quest to bring people of every color and hue together within a national solidarity movement also became manifest by the divining powers of the universe and the presence of the rainbow. This is the light that the CFJ found itself in as we left Wounded Knee to begin the long journey across the United States.
There were several reasons why we chose South Dakota to start the CFJ from. After being on the road for more than three-years preparing local-bases of support, I went back home to the Lakota Territory to do additional outreach and to give an in depth progress report to my people about the CFJ. We had just come from the Atlanta--Independent Politics Summit which was a follow-up of the August-95 Pittsburgh Summit that brought hundreds of groups together to map out a response to the bipartisan "Contract On America." In Pittsburgh, the CFJ was unanimously approved and I was placed on their National Continuations Committee (for implementation of the CFJ as a mandated task-force within the IPPN), so I was in Atlanta giving a progress report and seeking the continued endorsement and support of the IPPN for the CFJ leading up to Wall Street. The CFJ was continued as a task-force in Atlanta.
When we finally arrived in Pine Ridge, there was still a little more than a month to go before the launch day of the CFJ --Mother's Day, 1996--so I spent that time organizing a meeting of the Dakota American Indian Movement, doing last minute preparations for the trip to San Diego (where we had originally planned to start the CFJ), and also to do some investigative work on some sensitive social justice issues that were facing the Lakota People.
An increase in the numbers of racially-motivated beatings and murders in and around the many border-towns of the reservations prompted us to set a course for justice in a state where it seems almost invisible. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the years 1972-1976 when the Lakota People found themselves the targets of state-sponsored terrorism and violence that let hundreds dead, many defenders like Leonard Peltier imprisoned, and thousands of innocent people, families, and friends emotionally and physically wounded.
Over the past several years before going home, I'd been working on a local-strategy that would keep me busy once there, while at the same time effectively unite the Lakota Nation around some common themes for action towards our independence. Action--of, by, and for the Lakota People. Equally important, was the need to report on important developments within the independent and progressive movements and other community-based organizations and movements (that are working for progressive unity), and where they stand in relationship to the struggles of indigenous people.
I drafted the Lakota Declaration of Independence to be submitted for approval by the Council Fires as a first step towards our absolute independence. Once approved, we would launch an Independent--Lakota Nation Initiative-- to formally re-constitute and identify ourselves as the Great Lakota Nation. Finally, to join in with one another in an act of solidarity to re-establish and define the Great Lakota Territory. The Declaration was adopted by four of the Tribal Councils almost immediately, along with the following six-point resolution for justice that the Lakota Independence Movement (L.I.M.) put forth for council approval. Be it resolved; I. that the United States Government unconditionally recognize the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the absolute sovereignty of the Lakota People, and authorize a committee to take immediate steps to facilitate the orientation and implementation of the enclosed "Lakota Declaration of Independence" for affected States that exist within the territorial boundaries of the Independent Lakota Nation.
2. that the U.S, Department of Justice begin immediate investigations of all criminal court cases where the Lakota People have been the victims.
3. that the U.S. State Department commission an accounting board to oversee and review the reporting and fact-findings of the Department of Justice in these matters.
4. that the Senate Judiciary Committee convene to conduct full and public hearings in those matters that are found to have demonstrated an obvious and blatant disregard for the equitable administration of justice by State and Federal Law Enforcement officials and implicated --elected representatives.
5. that your non-compliance will spoil forever the hope of peaceful relations between our nations and result in catalyzing an anti-white uprising and add fuel to the fire of racism.
6. that non-compliance to recognize this initiative of the Lakota Independence Movement and investigate these charges will be considered a declaration of war.
Signed, The Lakota Independence Movement
We felt a strong need to put forth this resolution for a number of reasons and all of them speak of injustices that occur again and again. Simply put, there's a pattern of systemic abuse and human rights violations of the Lakota People under the rule of law. Violations against the peace, dignity, trust, and treaties between our nations continue today. It's well known that there's been a history of numerous recorded incidences of unsolved disappearances, racially-motivated beatings, rapes, shootings and murders in and around the border-towns of South Dakota Reservations. Also, these patterns of injusticecontinue despite repeated requests to local, state, and federal Law Enforcement Agencies to investigate the numerous unsolved mimes and murders of our people. In fact none of the afore mentioned Law Enforcement Agencies ever act in "good faith" to assist us in the search for justice, Quite the contrary, instead they display an obvious --deep disregard and outright resentment for the administration of justice when it concerns the Lakota people. This is not justice and is completely unacceptable by our people. The Resolution was sent out to the U.S. State Department, the Department of justice, the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, affected State Senators and Governors within the territorial boundaries of the Lakota Nation, and to the office of the President of the United States.
We arranged a meeting, sent out invitations and announcements to key-people and the press, then did a statewide road-trip to all the reservations posting flyers at all the community buildings, stores, tribal offices, post offices, colleges, and even did some radio announcements to the Indian owned and operated stations in the area about the CFJ and the call to formally launch the Lakota Independence Movement. The meeting was very well attended by Lakota People from just about every reservation in South Dakota. After giving a full report about the CFJ, how it evolved, who its endorsers are, what issues are being presented, and the kind of confederation of community-based movements and groups that the CFJ would spawn, I then gave report on my years of involvement with the Global Green Movement, The Independent Progressive Politics Network, and other community-based movements and networks that are advancing the cause of peace and justice.
During the allotted time for hearing concerns, questions and answers about the CFJ, it became clear to this coordinator that the launch-date and place had to be reconsidered. Local reports on the rise official-tensions and the double standard of justice that's employed by the local judicial systems and law enforcement agencies within the border-towns of the states seven-reservations provided us with the impetus we needed to launch the CFJ from South Dakota. The most important case of many that needed our prompt attention was the State of South Dakota -v- Nicholas Schemer held in Selby S.Dak.. This case describes the all too common scenario of injustice that disgraces many state judicial systems where native people live.
The defendant, Nicholas Scheer, was tried and convicted of second-degree manslaughter for the rape and murder of Candice Rough Surface who was only eighteen-year old at the time of her death. Candice was raped, beaten, shot to death, then dragged behind a pick-up truck through a corn field to a place along the Missouri River where her body was disposed of.. The Co-defendant in this case --James Stroh-- turned states-evidence and his testimony could have helped the state of S. Dak. secure a conviction of first-degree murder. As part of a plea-bargain agreement, in exchange for his testimony, Stroh was given lesser charges for his participation in the murder. The rape charges were dismissed against both defendants because the statute of limitations had run out on the charge and there was no victim to back-up the charge.
This was the same scenario of injustice that played itself out in the courtroom not much more than a-hundred-miles away in the town of Martin, S.Dak.. Both cases were being tried at approximately the same time. In this case --State of South Dakota -v-Knecht-- the same charges were levied even though the victim who was also Native American --Jerry Marshal-- was shot ten times from the back.
Not far to the East, on the Yankton Indian Reservation, in the town of Lake Andes, a young Native American couple were reported missing and believed dead when their car was found totaled along a road near town. The initial search of the crash scene turned up no evidence as to the whereabouts of the couple. Requests of friends and family to have the local law enforcement agencies conduct an investigation went largely unheard. Two-months later their bodies turned-up at the original crash site and there's no investigation being conducted to resolve questions relating to the strange disappearance and then reappearance of their bodies. This was the emotionally charged atmosphere that we begin formal discussions about foundation work far the L.I.M. and how to best advance the CFJ from S. Dak.. The discussions round the proposal to form the L.I.M. were largely positive and it was strongly encouraged that the CFJ consider starting in S. Dak., rather than in San Diego. The decision to do so was made on the spot and the CFJ was dedicated to the living memory of Candice Rough Surface on May 18, 1996. Candy was born October 19, 1961, she died August 2, 1980...
We held a press conference on KILI Radio after our meeting so all of Western South Dakota would be aware of the founding of the Lakota Independence Movement, the itinerary of the CFJ, and our absolute determination to beat-down the beast of racism and injustice using every available means at our disposal. The next day we sent out two-advance teams across the state to lay the groundwork for the Caravan For Justice for Candice to Selby, S. Dak.. Special thanks to Alfred Boneshirt of White River, S. Dak. and
Jennifer Egan of Milford, N.J. for their sacrifice at this crucial time and for the use of their vehicles doing advance work for the CFJ to Selby.
After the trip to Selby for the sentencing of Scheer who will end up serving only thirteen-years for a crime of murder, we held a follow-up meeting and the Caravan was postponed indefinitely while we searched for another bus that would be needed for the long haul across the United States. Word was sent out through the mail to the independent and progressive movements and also posted to the on-line electronic mail networks about our need for a bus. In the meantime, I was hired on as the Peoples Justice Symposium Producer for the "Wounded Knee Creek Concert to Mend the Sacred Hoop" that took place August 8-12, 1996 on the historic battleground where the Lakota and the Seventh Calvary had their last confrontation.
The Concert which was attended by too many famous musicians to mention here, attracted people ham as far away as Germany and Sweden, Some of the scheduled workshops included; The Impact of Western Advancement on the Northern Plains Eco-system; The Indian Child Welfare Act; the 1868 Treaty and Treaty Issues; Lakota Independence and Re-establishing the 1868 Treaty Territory; Proposed Legislation on Fractioned Heirship; The Nuclear Waste Bail-out; Confronting Nuclear Racism; Sweet Grass Hills; The National Caravan For Justice; Civil Disobedience; Unlearning Oppression.
On the first day of the event I conducted a live interview on KILI Radio with representatives from the Prairre Island Coalition Against Nuclear Storage and from GREENPEACE about nuclear racism, waste-disposal storage and transport of radio-active material onto native lands. I delivered the keynote address for the People's Justice Symposium to a crowd of about three-hundred from the main stage in between the legendary Chuck Berry and Yothu-Yindi of Australia. I spoke of the need for a national solidarity movement and the CFJ, gave a case history and update on P.O.W. Leonard Peltier, offered a broad definition of economic and environmental racism, and delivered the Lakota Declaration of Independence on behalf of the Lakota Independence Movement. The response from the audience was great and the event helped catalyze even more participation and support for the issues confronting Indigenous and People of Color today.
About a-week after the Concert and Symposium, our national search for a bus paid off when one of our phone calls were returned by Mark Stansbury of the Community Organizing Center in Colombus, Ohio. He called to let us know about "Gurti" the bus and what would be required to put her back on the road. Basically, the front and rear windows needed replacing, information and paperwork for two-licensed drivers, and five-hundred dollars for the insurance coverage had to be raised before we could pick her up at the Colombus American Indian Center. With the help of our supporters from the Green Justice Council, GREENPEACE, the Prairre Island Coalition, and the IPPN, we were able to raise the money for the insurance and cover expenses to pick up the bus and then head back for South Dakota. Special thanks to Quazi Nknunah, Shawn Bjorah, Eric Carison, Tad Glick, Stanley Janis, and Mary Buffalo for their help in getting the bus on the road and back to the Dakota's.
While in Colombus we made contact with a group of young people that were willing to travel with us and help with the driving. One person from Cincinatti -Dave! Dave!-- became one of our regular drivers and drove Gurti across six-states-- over a period off our-weeks. Another beautiful couple -Josh and Am-- wanted to get to a beet farm in Nebraska so they could earn enough money to supply their local chapter of Food Not Bombs with a van for their work and outreach. They helped drive to S. Oak., hung out with I and my family on Pine Ridge for a few days, then had us drop them off at the railroad tracks in Wall, S. Dak. where they planned to hopp a freight train South into Nebraska. We: later learned that they were caught and that the local Sheriffs department put them up at a motel for the night. While at the motel they met a man who (upon hearing their story), gave them a-thousand dollars for a new-used van for their continued outreach and work with Food Not Bombs! Blessed Be.
After we left Josh and Am we spent the day gathering supplies and making seating and sleeping arrangements for the long haul across the states. Once we had gathered all that could conceivably. be packed on the bus and still have room to seat people, we began our journey West. On our way out of the state we circulated more info about the CFJ in several reservation communities. South Dakota towns we visited were Kyle, Evergreen, Porcupine, Wounded Knee, Manderson, Pine Ridge, and Rapid City. Before we left the state we gave another live interview on radio KTLI about the CFJ and outlined the issues we would be presenting to cities and communities nationwide. We left Rapid City listening to the American Indian Movement national anthem which was dedicated by the station for the CFJ. It was a beautiful send-off, to be remembered, respected, and honored by the independent voice of the Lakota Nation.
We breezed right through Wyoming because we had lost several days from our itinerary while waiting around Colombus for the windows to be replaced on the bus. We still didn't have a whole lot of time at our disposal when we finally arrived into Montana so we set our direction to some areas where we had done some initial outreach on our last bus tour. Some of the cities we visited were Bozeman, Butte, Helena, and Missoula. A lot of the bases we visited at this particular time were empty because our comrades were busy helping our friends out with the Headwaters Forest Campaign in an attempt to stop the destruction of the last remaining old-growth Redwoods in Northern California by the Pacific Lumber Company.
Caravan Statement (Next)