Gramma Thundershield proudly watched her 3 sons Sundancing in the night in a
thunderstorm flashing wild white bursts of lightning all around us all all night, and I
proudly sat on the hot dry dirt watching her in her plastic lawn chair and the central Tree
framed in the flashes behind her, towering with red capes of cheap cloth tied to the
branches by long strings of tobacco ties in tiny bundle-offerings to the thunderbirds,
Gramma watched the dance intently, in the storm, and I laid myself out as bait for the
warthog who had betrayed all of us, getting a number of us busted by ratting to the Pigs.
Gramma's sons were good boys, young men who were friends of mine, Paul, Willard, and
Dallas Thundershield, pinned to the pine trees of Pine Ridge like bait, like Prometheus or
Jesus John nailed to his rock-tree waiting to draw in Satan's vulture to eat his liver and
thereby grabbing the scavenger even as he picked our meat, and not letting go. They'd
been pierced by sharp sticks on their breast muscles, after a year of fasting and learning
the right prayers and songs, waiting for elders like Chauncy Dupree, Low Dog, Ed
Clown, and Stanley Looking Horse to teach them how to be worthy to earn, deserve, their
own sacred Canumpa Pipes. Chauncy told me in Green Grass, "That Canumpa, it is a
buffalo bone, the femur leg bone, of the White Buffalo. When we smoke Her, she sings
'With Visible Breath I am walking, I am walking'."
Dallas had already been killed, trying to escape from Lompoc Prison in California
with Leonard, both of them set-up for assassination, but Dallas took the bullet that was
meant for his Brother. Leonard was captured in a nationwide manhunt several days later,
many cops screaming foul curses at him and itching to blow him away. The family was
dancing in his honor at Oglala, where the 2 FBIs had been blown away instead, as part of
the bloody sacrifice. Many of us would be torn, over the years, by loyalty to the warrior
who had defended the Helpless Ones from the police attack that day, and the fact that we
had found out through pipe ceremonies and our own AIM Security investigations that the
real killer, for whom Leonard Peltier was taking the fall, was an FBI double-agent.
It wasn't a pine tree I was pining for, of course, in the course of that cottonwood
Sundance in 1983, but the ceremony of prayerful insights was still a damn good way to
grab a passing demon. Fools Crow often said the thunderbirds laid eggs in the Holy Land
at the point where lightning bolts struck, and he (and I) had just such of those stony eggs
tied in our medicine-bags like the umbilical cords of tobacco offerings in the Tree of Life
to work oracular miracles. They were light little stones that felt hollow, with crystal
chicks inside ready to hatch. They move on their own. I swear to Goddess, when tied to
pendulums of buffalo-gut, like baby gods they wiggle around inside.
Early the next morning, Gramma Thundershield died. She just fell over in her chair,
with a look of the greatest peace on her face, happy, to see her sons returning to their
traditional ways. It was the finest death I ever saw. John and his warrior society played a
drum in their tipi, and Steve took her to the emergency room at the hospital in Rapid
City, praying over her with the eagle fan, and smudging her with sage and sweetgrass
smoke, much to the consternation of the ER nurses with all that oxygen all around about
ready to explode.
Her young grandsons were thinking, "What did we do wrong?" The sundance had
stopped at dawn when the matriarch fell over, at the foot of the Tree. It was a stunning
reversal of the Sun as it Rose in the heavens after the rainclouds (that never rained)
cleared at dawn, promising another scorching day of struggling for your breath. "Visible
breath, walking." When I told Leonard about it, he told the boys not to worry, for it was
no one's fault; they were not to blame for the sacrifice, and that maybe it had been
necessary. "Lela wakan," he said.
and asked, "What's Ward Churchill got against you?"
"What? Nothing, that I know of. Why?"
"He's calling up everybody and saying you're a Fed."
Steve laughed it off nervously. "Sounds like a Provocateur somewhere. Yeah. Bill
Wahpepah in San Francisco called me and said Churchill had called him too, bad-
mouthing you. John called from L.A. and said he's got all the Peltier Support Groups out
there suspicious of you too."
pretty adamant about it."
"I barely even know the guy."
"Don't worry about it. We're all getting bad-jacketed like that all the time. It's par for
"Shit." I knew in my gut we'd found the covert operative posing in our midst.
Unknown to Steve, I'd already set up a trap, with the help of Chauncy and some other
elders I'd known from the old Pedro days, with some of our unconfessed "crimes" that
only a cop would know.
I called an emergency AIM Security meeting at Green Grass, and ended up getting interrogated all day by some bad-asses who'd also heard the rumors from colorado and california, and didn't know whether to believe it or not. I'd been involved in acts of eco- sabotage and political robbery since 1973, and they didn't know what to think about my impending arraignment and major charges of felonies. It was a very tense and terrible time. I'd already learned that jail was death. The loss of freedom, I'd learned, was my greatest fear. It loomed like the blackest cloud of my life.
station and enumerate all the other charges, so they might go easy on me. I pled guilty."
"You didn't confess to this one job?"
"No. No one knew about it but me."
"But Ward Churchill knows it?"
"But how does he know it? How could only a Fed know it?"
"Because they were watching the Peltier House. For criminals or frame-ups or
"And now look at this whole Nicaragua mess he's gotten involved in, along with
"Yeah, they're screwing up the Bros down there, in Central America, big time. I was
going back and forth between the Peltier House and the Black Hills Alliance office all the
time, in Rapid City. You know that. I'm on the BHA board of directors, and editor of both
newspapers 'Paha Sapa Report' and 'Crazy Horse Spirit'. I've also used the stolen money
to publish my book 'The Powwow Highway' because no one else would publish it, to get
out the truth of what we're doing here."
"With contraband. Anyway, I'm also writing a big novel 'Thunder Nation' right now, and this Churchill character up in Boulder, at the University of Colorado I guess, must think he's a bigshot writer or something, and jealous maybe. I don't know."
"He's no one. No one knows him, except Rascal Means."
"Here, read this about Nicaragua, and then I'll show you what Churchill's been writing
During the Somoza era an indigenous organization called
Alliance for Progress of Miskitu and Sumu (ALPROMISU) was
initiated by a Moravian pastor concerned about commercial
opportunities for the Indians. ALPROMISU continued up until
the time of the insurrection and was never considered a serious
threat by the Somoza regime.
After the Sandinista victory the people wanted to retain ALPROMISU
but the FSLN was concerned that it would not fully cooperate with
plans to finally integrate the Atlantic Coast with the rest of the
country. This caused some friction, but it was finally agreed to
change the organization's name to Misurasata (Miskitu, Sumu,
Rama and Sandinistas together). Steadman Fagoth, a young
Miskitu from the Rio Coco area who had studied at the university
in Managua, was elected head of Misurasata. The organization
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