Comment on this
one of the John Graham Hearings
as part of coverage for
Pacifica Radio, Los Angeles
Realms of a Friendly Nation"
by antoinette nora claypoole
North to British Columbia Canada. Snows slam the mountain passes. A
bitter wild cold. Freezing streets from the East. Travellers stranded
on both sides of a man made border. There are still telephones. This
evening I spoke with Terrance LaLiberte, attorney for John
Graham, Southern Tutchone First Nations man fighting
extradition from Canada to the United States. The reception between
this attorney and myself was like that storm outside this kitchen
window. Crackling, odd interference. We both laugh. "There's that
Good to laugh. But ominous winds persist. This whole brutal
drama written by the FBI against Indians and activists. Has gone
beyond what anyone likes to admit is human. LaLiberte is not so
radical. He is gentle and strong, clear in his resolve-- that in
presenting all the lies he knows about this case to the Canadian
court, he can keep Graham from being sent to South Dakota. Where so
many Indians die.
Still there is a tear in my eye as I listen to LaLiberte
explain the defense was denied access to a hearing that would
challenge FBI "evidence". That ruling came last week from
presiding Judge Bennett, an "intelligent and articulate woman who
understands that the ramifications of this case impact human rights
for all people", as described by Graham supporter Larry Martel.
Bennett would not allow evidence from the U.S. to be challenged.
Something about a treaty the U.S. and Canada signed back in the
1990's. Honoring a friendly nation's request. What about all those
Indian treaties. The tear rests on my lips. How can this country, this
America of so many of my ancestors, ever be seen as friendly??? From
the moment of the white arrival massacres began. The taste of blood is
real. Still. Vision is the sustenance of survival. Crazy Horse knew
I continue listening to LaLiberte. Suggesting today was what
the prosecution sees as procedural. Two Canadian attorneys represent
the U.S. in this. As is part of the treaty of "friendly"
nations. But what that tells me is something about arrogant
confidence. Of the U.S. Big daddy Bush and cronies. Believing, unlike
Mick Jagger, that they WILL get what they want. Still. LaLiberte says
that he will try to arrive at a fact that should throw the courts a
loop. Those are MY words, the LOOP part. LaLiberte--I like that his name means freedom, so
fitting--- explains that part of the prosecution is relying on a
testimony from a man who is NOW dead. It seems the prosecution, on a
particular date last year, threatened to call in a man to testify to
John Graham's guilt. However, come to find out, that particular
witness had died 9 months before the date during which LaLiberte and
the prosecution were discussing the supposed witness. Phew. It still
looks like trying to rely on flim flam to me. Leave it to the U.S. to
claim the testimony of a dead man.
LaLiberte hopes to bring that to the attention of Judge
Bennett. Somehow. And then envisions her knowingness as humane. That
she will begin to sense the darkness, the manipulation in this set-up
and arrest of John Graham. Ah, Canada. The sense of hope abounds.
Canada in some ways holds her innocence as does a young child
wondering at the smoke filled skies. Imagining those mauve and purple
sunsets real. When in fact the "grown-ups" know the clouds
are infused with sulfured industrial greed. Canada's innocence is
beautiful. There is vision there. Us here over the border feel it. We
like believing hues. And stories about the liberalness of heart
"up there, eh?. A place that held safely our conscientious
objector brothers. During the Vietnam war.
Today in Vancouver, a new century, the Canadian
"neighbors" had to prove that they arrested the right man.
That IS a start. That the First Nations man Graham, is who the
arresting officers say he was. But that is not so simple. For the
entire manhunt was a game designed by spies of another time and place.
It's been along time since courts and "justice" understood
any of this. Still Tonight. Despite the storm, a Graham supporter who
sat in the courtroom all day has his version of reality. To share. It
is one of "high spirits" he says.
Another interview. This time, Larry Martel. On the phone he
describes the hope everyone felt today. In the courtroom. AS
"solidarity and camaraderie" came together. Journalists from
many places and activists supporting a man they have never met. Larry
Martel doesn't talk about friendly nations with me. LIke LaLiberte.
Instead Martel describes the courtroom and the Graham hearing as a
place where he believes LaLiberte did a great job of awakening Judge
Bennet. To the corruption of the U.S. Martel mentions that Graham's
arresting officer admitted--on the stand--that he did not tell Graham
his rights when Graham was detained for one crime and then pinned with
another. According to Martel, Judge Bennett was considerate, aware and
questioned case law in many instances where it seemed the U.S. may
have wronged Graham in the arrest. Maretl says it again. "We are
hopeful. In good spirits".
I think about those words. About Spirit.
To some of us words are prayer. Knowing how anything can
happen. With spirit. To swear us out of secrecy.
Spirit. Breathing down the neck of all whose lives are met. In
the destiny of this death. Annie Mae still prevails. Her courage is
not frail. She always called in strength. Where ever she landed. Even
her Canadian husband, Nogeeshik, committed his life to her after she
died. To finding her murderer. He himself perished the very night he
discovered who killed her. He died THAT night in a fire. IN his home.
Nogeeshik Aquash in a wheelchair--a mysterious car
"accident" had paralyzed him a few years earlier-- and not
able to "crawl" out of the house in time. Together they are
fair witness to all of this.
And okay yes. Maybe I DO belong in Canada. The winter snow
won't keep me away. I believe in the high spirits and solidarity Larry
Martel felt in the courtroom this first day of hearings. The chill of
winter aside. Everyone here and on the other side holding the resolve
of truth. This cannot be denied.