|Rapist Gov's Vendetta Against AIM Founder
By Paul DeRienzo
(ONONDAGA N.Y.)-The Onondagas, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois confederacy, have granted American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Dennis Banks political asylum on their 7,300 acre reservation in New York State.
Mr. Banks has been a fugitive from the state of South Dakota since 1975. There are currently two warrants outstanding for him, one issued by South Dakota to all 50 states, and a federal fugitive warrant.
While on the reservation, Indian leaders believe, Banks would be isolated from outside legal action by a unique 1794 federal treaty recognizing a New York State treaty made before the federal government existed, exempting the reservation from federal control. Grand Sachem Leon Shenandoah of the Six Nations said he thought the federal fugitive warrant for Mr. Banks' arrest would be invalid on the reservation, "We are a separate nation and intend to govern our own affairs without outside interference," Chief Shenandoah said.
William Kunstler, attorney for Dennis Banks, stated at a news conference in New York City that South Dakota had decided to seek the arrest of Banks through the FBI to avoid the question of extradition from New York.
Dennis' brother Mark discussed the potential role of the FBI. He said, "We're afraid that they will move in, thereby circumventing the authority and unique sovereign status of the Indian reservations in the state of New York."
South Dakota's case against Dennis Banks began with an incident concerning an Indian man in Buffalo Gap, South Dakota, on Jan. 16, 1973. On that day, Darold Schmidtz, a whiteman, walked into a bar in Buffalo Gap and stated, "I'm gonna kill an Indian tonight." Five minutes later and in front of six witnesses (four white, two Indian), Schmidtz stabbed John Wesley Bad Heart Bull, a young Sioux man, to death.
Schmidtz was arrested three days later and charged with second-degree manslaughter because the sheriff said there was not enough evidence for a first-degree murder charge. Members of AIM called for civil rights hearings on the matter in Rapid City. On Feb. 6, 1973, a meeting was scheduled in Custer, SD, between AIM members and State's Attorney Hobart Gates, Sheriff Ernie Pepin of Custer County and Custer Mayor Gene Reese to discuss the incident.
Custers' Next Stand
A caravan of Indians traveled through a howling snowstorm to Custer, where they were refused entry to the meeting. Sarah Bad Heart Bull, mother of John Wesley, asked that she and the AIM leaders be admitted. They were at first denied, but then four AIM leaders, Leonard Crow Dog, Russel Means, Dennis Banks and Charlie Hall, were allowed to proceed into the back of the Custer County Court House. After a "shouting match," Russell Means went out to get the victim's mother, Sarah Bad Heart Bull.
The sheriff immediately blew his whistle and 90 officers, batons raised, flooded out of the courthouse basement and into the crowd. They grabbed Sarah Bad Heart Bull and started choking her, forcing her to the ground with a nightstick. Several people in the crowd rushed to her defense, and a riot ensued. Sarah Bad Heart Bull was later convicted of inciting a riot, and sentenced to one to five years in prison. She is currently out on bail awaiting her appeal after having served-six months. Darold Schmidtz never served a day in prison; he was acquitted of all charges.
Indian spokespeople believe that a trap had been set at the Custer County Court House. They discovered that dozens of riot police had hidden around the courthouse, with others hiding throughout town.
During the battle outside the courthouse, the police threw a tear-gas canister into the back room. Banks picked up a police billyclub from the floor and smashed one of the windows so that the small group inside could get out. He was subsequently charged with being armed in a riot, as well as conspiracy.
The prosecuting attorney at Dennis Banks' trial was state Attorney General William Janklow, who is now governor of the state. Janklow had run for office in 1974 on an anti-Indian platform and had promised "to put the AIM criminals in jail." Two of Darold Schmidtz's cousins were allowed to sit on the jury. Janklow caused further injustice by verbally threatening witnesses who were to testify in Banks' defense, and arrested people who did testify for perjury. One defense witness was arrested in the middle of her testimony,
Janklow and Dennis Banks were not strangers to each other. Before he became state Attorney General, William Janklow was an attorney for the Rosebud Indian Reservation and director for legal services in the area. In the autumn of 1974, due to an investigation by tribal prosecutor Dennis Banks, Janklow was charged, tried in absentia, and convicted in a tribal court of the 1969 rape of a 15-year-old Indian woman, Jancita Marie Eagledeer, who was later killed in a hit-and-run incident. The last person she was seen with was a known FBI agent.
In the rape allegation, Ms. Eagledeer testified that Janklow forced her to have sex with him at gunpoint. The incident happened when Janklow gave her a ride home after baby sitting the Janklow children.
Ms. Eagledeer's foster parents, a guidance counselor, the tribal prosecutor and others corroborated her account. Medical records from the Rosebud P.H.S, Hospital show evidence of the attack against her and quote her as identifying Janklow as the assailant.
Furthermore, the evidence indicates that an "obstruction of justice followed the rape. When a complaint was being made to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Special Officer, Janklow was there. No relief or representation was possible through the legal services program on the reservation, since Janklow directed the program.
A law student who attended a reception for Janklow in Oct. 1974, testified that Janklow said, "Put a bullet in a guy's head, and he won't bother you anymore," in reference to AIM leaders. He said that it was his feeling that the way to solve the AIM "problem" was to shoot the AIM leaders.
Intimations of Extermination...
In 1975, Dennis Banks was convicted of riot and conspiracy and, in the face of threats that he would be "dead in 20 minutes" made by guards in the South Dakota prison system, he dropped from sight.
Shortly after Banks left South Dakota on June 26, 1975, FBI agents came on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota looking for 'an Indian man.' Those FBI agents then precipitated a shooting incident in which an Indian man, Joe Killsright Stuntz, and two FBI agents were killed.
After the massive military-government reaction to this incident, Leonard Peltier was arrested and framed up for the murder of the
Bank's supporters hang out on two agents.
[Jack Anderson has revealed that when Peltier became a fugitive, the federal government went to the extent of fabricating evidence to secure his extradition from Canada.) -
It was from this atmosphere of terror and genocide against Native Americans in South Dakota that Dennis Banks fled for his life.
Flew to D.Q.U.
In August of 1976, Banks surfaced in Davis, California as a student at Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University. As a student and later as a volunteer teacher, Mr. Banks earned a reputation for defending traditional Indian practices and as a tireless fighter for freedom. In March 1980, he was appointed the first Chancellor of DQ University and represented the school both in California and internationally.
Better known as DQ U, it's one of almost 20 Native American-run colleges in the United States. DQ U covers one square mile of land in Davis, CA, and is the only accredited Native American institution in the state.
DQ U has fulfilled a great need among Native Americans who are rebuilding their traditional culture. Founded in 1971 to serve the cultural and educational needs of both Indians and Chicanos, the school is a learning community that attempts to break down the barriers between students and faculty that exist in most colleges. Besides courses in the arts and sciences, DQ provides an education in traditional Native American practices and spiritual celebrations. This work has won both DQ and its chancellor Dennis Banks acclaim in this country and internationally.
During his tenure, DQ sponsored a revival of Indian spiritual events like the Sun Dance. DQ was also the home of conferences, which led to the Longest Walk, a landmark event in the American Indian Movement.
Last September, DQ U hosted the first international tribunal to investigate crimes against native peoples. Convened in Davis, the tribunal, organized in part by Dennis Banks, brought together dozens of organizations from all over the Western Hemisphere. In response to attacks on Yellow Thunder Camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota, tribunal participants traveled there by car caravan.
As tribunal members crossed the South Dakota state line, they were dragged from their vehicles by state- police and forced to submit to a strip search at the side of the road. This act of intimidation did not prevent them from finding the state of South Dakota guilty of murder and genocide.
Attacks by the government aimed at DQ have stepped up recently, a response to Dennis Banks' attempt to find sanctuary from South Dakota and federal authorities in New York.
The New York Times, echoing conservative claims against Banks and DQ U, ran an article touting "government charges of misconduct in the handling of $8 million in federal funds.
Yet Indian spokespeople, when contacted about these allegations, replied that a recent government audit found no problems with DQ's finances. They went on to say that DQ has been under constant surveillance and harassment by the Feds, including repeated audits, although no irregularities have ever been found.
The spokesperson further countered a charge by a U.S. attorney that DQ U is "an educational sham." He replied by saying that DQ is accredited by the state of California, and, while the school is not in danger of losing its accreditation, it is in danger of losing its campus. It is believed that large deposits of natural gas lie beneath the land DQ is presently on. In April, a federal district judge in Sacramento is to rule on a request by the Department of Justice that DQ return its 643 acres and 20 buildings to federal jurisdiction.
This move has been contested by DQ, but whatever the outcome of the court fight, students and faculty will continue the activities of the school, the spokesperson said.
In 1982, Dennis Banks was forced to leave California, and he has since taken residence on the Onondaga reservation. Banks had been allowed to live in California under Governor Brown. The order, which gave him sanctuary, was won after a 22 month campaign that collected 1.5 million signatures on petitions and presented them to the Governor.
But in 1982, Brown was unable to run for re-election, and was replaced by George Deukmejian, who had promised to return Banks to South Dakota during the campaign.
Suspicion Fire Hits Banks' Supporters
While support for Dennis Banks' bid to gain sanctuary in New York has been building quickly, it has not been without setbacks. On March 5, 1983, an important meeting was held in New York City's Harlem to unite Blacks and Indians behind Mr. Banks' sanctuary appeal. The location of the meeting had to be abruptly changed when a suspicious fire swept through the meeting hall, which doubled as the offices of Harlem Fight Back, a progressive political institution in New York. Coincidentally, the fire broke out at the very time the meeting was to begin.
Undaunted, the event was moved to a near by church, which was made available after a quick phone call explained the situation.
Declaring that Black people in the U.S. and Native Americans both face the same enemy, the participants voiced their determination to win asylum for Banks.
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