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Day one of the John Graham Hearings
 Dec. 6, 2004  
written as part of coverage for  
KPFK Pacifica Radio, Los Angeles  

"Unsettling Realms of a Friendly Nation"  
by antoinette nora claypoole  


Travelling 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 FBI again".

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 this.

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.


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