His ancestors were forcibly removed in the mid-1800's from their
the Rogue River area of southern Oregon and northern California and
marched to the Government Hill Agency on what is now the Siletz
impact of this forced relocation had a direct influence on his
upbringing and the
way he learned to make decisions about his identity as an indigenous man
place in society.
Born April 8, 1942 in Portland, Oregon and raised mostly in logging
around Siletz, Darelle "Dino" Butler has walked a difficult
path in his lifetime.
He does not romanticize the steps of the journey and discourages young
from emulating his own youth and early adulthood.
At age 13 he was sent to MacLaren Boys School for curfew violations
"wandering" over 100 miles from home. The anger that he
carried within him
further ignited there, and over the next two decades it fueled into a
threatened to become his only identity. Between 1956 and 1970 his
arrests for assaults and related charges resulted in ongoing
longest time he had outside of jails and prisons was six months.
In 1974 he was introduced to the American Indian
Movement (AIM) and attended
some of his first traditional ceremonies. Something within him shifted,
this shift came the stirrings of a spiritual reawakening. His
AIM took him to many Native communities involved in the struggle against
Government's ongoing disregard for indigenous rights and sovereignty.
On June 26, 1975, an FBI attack on
the Oglala, South Dakota spiritual camp
resulted in the deaths of two FBI agents and one indigenous man. Butler
arrested and charged with two counts of murder. The 1976 trial, in
which he and
co-defendant Bob Robideau were acquitted, drew national attention.
In the late 1970's he participated in the Minnesota Citizen's
Committee on FBI misconduct, working towards the release of Leonard
was convicted for the deaths of the two FBI agents. Butler's 1979
political asylum in Canada was denied because he returned to the U.S.
for the defense in Peltier's trial.
En route to ceremony in Canada in 1981, Butler began an unexpected
through the Canadian Corrections system. He and his cousin, Gary
charged with allegedly attempting to murder two Canadian policeman.
pipe was denied entrance into the courtroom, they refused to participate
trial and presented no defense. They were found not guilty. The
journey that he
took through the jails and prisons there from 1981-1984 strengthened his
spiritual resolve as he became actively involved in securing religious
and access to ceremonies for indigenous people incarcerated in Canada.
efforts resulted in the first indigenous ceremonies ever permitted in
Canadian Corrections system.
This pivotal time in his journey brought a new awareness, showing
devastating effects of the hatred that had taken root within him and
him. It opened his heart to a new kind of healing and a commitment to
In the past decade Dino Butler has continued on that healing
1992 he returned with his family to the Siletz area after living in the
camp at Redwind in central California for nearly five years. He and his
companion, Juanita Whitebear, and their family, comprise part of the
Oregon Native Youth Council, a grassroots organization dedicated to
native Youth and their families establish identity as indigenous people
not steeped in confusion and violence.
And his journey continues, relinquishing a legacy of hatred,
respect for all life.
The Why of this
EK: You wanted to make a statement about why you
decided to do an interview.
DB: I would like to start with a story. The way that I was
taught was that in
the beginning Grandfather/Grandmother, the Creator, made this universe
created Mother Earth. Four families were put upon the earth to live in
and respect to life. The Black people. The White People. The Red
the Yellow People. He put each of these People in a different part of
and he gave them a way of life to live upon that land. He also gave
instructions about their way of life and the instruction was that no one
would force their way of life upon another People. No people should
anything that is being forced upon them in that way. That if these ways
followed that the People would become confused and there would be a lot
among the People.
To me, if we tell this story right, all other things will become
people hearing what I say will understand.
The reason I would like to do this interview is that I see a lot
of what I
consider to be confusion that is used to control our emotions and our
Instead of having the truth determine how we conduct ourselves in this
we tend to let the confusion do that for us now. It's getting worse
generation. It all began for our people and our way of life back when
ancestors were brought onto the reservations as survivors. They saw a
their people killed. Too many people died. Then they were brought to
reservations to live as prisoners of war. I don't think that we ever
sat down as
a people and as a nation to deal with what had happened so that it can
released and so we can go on with our lives as a nation. Instead they
passed the bitterness and the confusion on to their children.
EK: You said you would like to dedicate this interview to Anna Mae Pictou
DB: Anna Mae was, and still is, an inspiration to me. Everything
I do in my
life, with my life, is dedicated to people like Anna Mae, who gave up
she had to give to keep her beliefs alive. Her beliefs will always be
long as I'm alive in this world. That's how I dedicate myself to her
and to all
of our people who carry that spirit and pass it on. My greatest desire
is to be
able to pass that spirit on to other people in the next generations so
don't lose the reality of our existence. That's what always kept our
all life alive and surviving in this world. To resist the things that
the physical and spiritual beings. That's why I'd like to dedicate this
Mae, who to me represents the spirit to all of our people.
EK: How would you define the legacy of hatred?
DB: It came with the Pilgrims because that's what they were
running away from
when they came over here. That confusion was brought from another land
since they came here they have taught that. They came and they called
Indians. Then they began to teach us how to act as Indian people and
doing it ever since.
When I grew up in this society, that was one of the strongest
was taught to me. Hate for the white people, the black people, anyone
different than me. This was taught to me by my own family. The hate is
mistake for us to be teaching our children. It is a tool that is used
our spiritual beings. It's not a natural thing for us to hate. The
hate of all
life does not come from the Creator because Grandfather has not created
that's meant to defeat us as human beings or to separate us. When we let
determine our actions, then we're denying our true identity that tells
respect life. And that doesn't mean only the life that we choose to
just forget about the rest. All life is the same life that
Grandfather/Grandmother has created. It all comes from Him, from Her,
and we are
an extension of it. If we choose to separate ourselves from that into
we're letting ourselves represent something other than what is the
We keep getting further and further away from our true identity,
quite evident in the way that most of our people conduct themselves
look back over the generations and go back a thousand years and our
their identity. They knew their relationship to the earth and all life.
respected all life. It was more honor to touch your foe and get away in
than to take that foe's life. You didn't take life unless there was a
purpose for it, not just because you hated. When they had to take life,
offerings to the spirit that life represented to them. We don't have
amongst our people today.
We can no longer base our struggle for liberation from a corrupt
system on hate for an enemy. Our struggle has to be based on something
stronger and more lasting. If we base it on hate, then all of our
struggle is for
EK: How has the legacy of hatred affected the American Indian
Movement (AIM) in
its evolution and where it is today?
DB: Some people say that AIM has always been here. Some say it's
of our spiritual being. AIM to me is a spiritual reawakening within
people had to learn them from the beginning, so this evolution has
going on amongst natural people of the natural world.
When we started becoming acquainted with AIM and the teachings,
a lot of us
had come out of prisons, institutions, the orphanages, the bars, and
being oppressed. We brought that hate with us into the Movement.
That's why we
were so quick to pick up the guns and the arms to fight our enemy. Our
that time was the government forces because they were the most visible
were causing pain upon our people and our way of life. We let that
actions at the time. I read this saying one time, "It's easy to
die for a cause;
it's a lot harder to live and work for that same cause." That's
understanding that a lot of us thought we brought to the Movement, but
didn't have the understanding of what it meant to work. But we were all
to die. That was the one thing that we were all willing to do in the
and early 70's, to die for our beliefs - for our People. We didn't
know what it
was to live and to work for those same goals and to continue on. We
that understanding yet.
I think that was the evolution that AIM brought to
our People. To go from
willingness to die for our people to willingness to live and to pass
life on. To
live for another day instead of die. That's how the hate controlled us
spiritually. It changed our need for a life in this world. The
our life was to fight our enemy out of hate, instead of fighting for
love of our
People and respect for life. To me, now, as I look back over the years,
the evolution of AIM and what AIM brought to our people.
We have to go through the things that we go through. Each and
every one of
us goes through our learning experiences, and a lot of those experiences
filled with pain and confusion. In the end, if we survive, we come out
much better understanding of who we are and where we come from. That's
represents to me. The will to continue in this world. The will to
will to live. To pass that on to the next generations and the next
generations ahead of us.
EK: Do you think that because people were young, both
spiritually, that this had a strong influence in AIM and caused
people and how they treated one another?
DB: We had all come from different aspects of this society that
had no respect
for us as human beings and as indigenous people. We carried a lot of
from all the bitterness and that hate had control of us. We had just
learning about spirituality. AIM introduced to me spirituality that
to identify to myself as an indigenous person of this land. I had no
idea what it
meant to be an indigenous person of this land. There was nothing that
society offered that allowed me to relate to myself as that. I had to
myself as something else in order to continue on in this society.
When they brought our people to the reservations in the 1800's,
had to become no threat to the values system that was filled with
our people became what they had to become. They became Christians,
Christians, they were no longer a threat to a values system that taught
their natural identity to the land and to all life. That values system
needed to control all life was a corrupt values system. Another way our
became no threat to this values system was by becoming alcoholics and
the truth about who they were and they denied their responsibilities to
people. They became a part of this corrupt values system through the
I was like a baby and everyone else was like a baby because we
coming back to life, waking up from a sleep that our people had been in
long time. AIM began to teach us those things and about the reawakening
spiritual values. We were just waking up and learning how to walk as
beings. We didn't really know how to represent our true identity in
Since we were all babies, well, then we had a tendency to act like
babies about a
lot of things.
EK: You mentioned that with all these divisions within AIM that
you think the
Movement has "stalled" spiritually. Would you explain that?
DB: In the beginning of AIM, a lot of us brothers and sisters
came together and
we formed a solid bond. We learned how to pick up that pipe and we
to pray again and dance together and sing together. And we grew
started fulfilling some of our responsibilities in this world through
teachings that we were learning. We progressed and we became stronger
became more compassionate as people. One of our responsibilities in
is to continuously learn within ourselves. We were working hard to do
the beginning with AIM. We progressed to a point where we became
pipe carriers, sweat lodge people.
Then we came to a point where I feel like we began to not learn
Because we do carry hate and refuse to let it go, then it still controls
determines our actions. There are other confusions and misunderstandings
have and refuse to let go. That makes us cling to ways that separate
from our physical being, whether that be through hate or through egos or
whatever. I think that knowledge has stopped coming to us because we
willing to release those things. When we become hypocrites, then we
unnatural beings. The spirits are all around us in this world and they
us. For example, if you're an alcoholic and you're always drinking,
an unnatural being, and the spirits cannot help you in the same way
do not recognize you as a natural being. Ego is the same way. Our ego
thing that makes people lie and bring dishonor around them. It is one
unnatural teachings like pride and hate. That's the way the Movement
Until we are able to release these things we carry inside of us that
separate us, we are not going to be able to grow.
When AIM was growing spiritually as a movement, it had credibility
people. Because AIM has stopped its spiritual growth, it no longer has
credibility among the people. That's the whole difference between AIM
yesterday and today. We have to really look at that to understand where
going and look at what we can do to bring that credibility back.
EK: Do you think that the so-called AIM Paper Wars that are going
on are an
indication of this "stalled" spirituality?
DB: I think they are a clear indication of that. This is within
Movement, the AIM people, the AIM Autonomous and this one and that one.
these are diversionary tactics that we allow to happen. What's being
away is the truth of what is really happening to us as a people. I can
we're going to pass on to future generations and it's going to hurt us
our chances to survive as a people into the future because we're not
Some of us have quit drinking. Some of us have been able to
drugs. But that's only a small part of it. There are things that each
one of us can do to strengthen our circle as human beings. When we all
together we meet in a circle because that circle represents life. It
represents the truth of who we really are in that circle. We're not
survive as a people unless we base that circle on respect for all
EK: Do you think that this Grand Jury investigation into Anna Mae's murder
DB: Very much so. All these things like this Grand Jury
investigation and these
Paper Wars and the general suspicion, with people accusing one another
ridiculous things that are untrue, it's all diversionary. It is
the corrupt values system that controls all of us like that. When we
involved in these things, we lose focus of the real issues, and to me
issue we are struggling for is the liberation, not only of our people,
but of all
life, from a corrupt values system that is destroying our natural
Anna Mae Pictou -
the 1975 Shootout - Leonard Peltier's Situation
EK: Do you think that identifying the actual
person(s) that killed Anna Mae will
be of consequence to the true liberation of the People from a legacy of
DB: I don't think that it's the issue here. Certainly the truth
is at issue, but
to me, it's not the truth of who or what killed Anna Mae. The real
issue is a
lot bigger than Anna Mae or anybody. The issue is survival. Anna Mae
life for a reason. Our getting involved with each other fighting about
telling the truth about it and pointing fingers at each other won't
should confront what really happened to Anna Mae, and what really
happened to her
is a corrupt values system that is the enemy to all natural life.
Our people use incidents like what happened to Anna Mae like some of
people use alcohol. They use it to hide behind rather than face up to
really happened to her. It's easier for us to accuse each other than to
There was a time I went through learning a lot of hard things.
I was in jail
in South Dakota, accused of murdering two FBI agents from the fire fight
Oglala. I remember when they found this body on the Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation. It was Anna Mae's body. Me and Anna Mae had become real
remember sitting in that jail cell and I wanted to do something for Anna
was so angry that I wanted to hurt somebody. After the anger came this
lonely feeling that comes from feeling helpless in the world. I loved
so much, yet there was nothing I could do but bang my head against that
wall. To me, that was one of the loneliest times of my life.
That's when my life began to change for me, because Anna Mae
came and talked
to me in my sleep. Up to that point I'd been thinking about trying to
from jail. I wasn't willing to spend the rest of my life behind bars
something I did no wrong for, so I was gonna do all these things to stop
from happening, even if it meant making them kill me.
She came and talked to me. I didn't feel sorry for her after that.
she didn't want that from me. There was something more she wanted from
my pity. I didn't have it in me at that time. I didn't have that
understanding within myself about how to give to her and all our people.
when I think I truly began to understand about the sacredness of life in
world. It became more real for me.
EK: What did you learn from what happened at Oglala?
DB: There's a lot of confusion that came out of what happened at
that shoot out
at Oglala. When we learn from our experience, then we cannot say that
this was a
mistake or that was a mistake. What happened to Anna Mae wasn't a
happened at Oglala wasn't a mistake. If we can learn something from it
let it happen again.
When I lived at Oglala I carried a rifle and I was willing to
use that rifle.
Each and every one of us that was there at that time was of that same
keep our hate, I guess, we were willing to die for what we thought was
continuance of our people. When you are willing to give up life like
are consequences. That's not giving something to your people that will
on. I think it's being selfish that way.
The thing that came to me was that my willingness to die out of
the hate was
wrong for me. I hated those people and I thought their form of violence
confront. I hated those people not because they were the enemy, but I
because I was confused and did not understand my relationship to them.
The young men that came there that day to fight with us, they
the same kind of confusion because they hated us. They were confused
victimized by the same corrupt values system that gave both sides the
fight with such deadly force. I don't know what they really believed
in, but I
know what brought them there to fight with us and what brought us there
with them. It was meant to teach us something. It taught me that they
my true enemy. There are those of us who feel compassion for those men
killed at Oglala and for their families.
For me to be able to look at that and admit that today means I
responsibilities now to fulfill. One of the responsibilities is to
people as my relatives. I couldn't do that then, back in 1975. If I
how to respect them as my relatives then, I wouldn't have fought with
tried to kill them and they wouldn't have tried so hard to kill me. We
have fought in a different way. A lot of confrontations that went on in
time were done under those kinds of circumstances. Those of us that
survived all those learning experiences to be where we are today, maybe
understand that a little bit better now and we're not willing to pick up
rifles so fast anymore. We learned to use our minds more and our mouths
And it's not easy.
I think that we haven't progressed as far as we should have. We
unspiritual ways within ourselves that the corrupt values system can use
us and against each other. If we truly understood that and our growth
continuing on, then maybe there wouldn't be all this pettiness that goes
these "paper wars" and accusations of who's doing what to this one and
and who's telling the truth. Our focus would be more on something a lot
enduring for our people. On respect for all life.
EK: Would you like to comment on Leonard Peltier's situation?
DB: I think what's happening with Leonard's case is a real clear
spiritual growth being stopped and being separated from the people.
thing at Oglala came down we were all there together and we were like a
who had been living together for quite a few months. Those of us who
the longest became close and we knew each other. We trusted each other
knew what the person was going to do under any circumstances, whether it
threatening or life fulfilling.
When that whole thing happened and people went to jail and people
our family was still strong and we still believed in each other and
each other. We represented the truth of each other and the truth of our
circle. We wanted to add to the greater circle of life where all life
Over the years Leonard became a prisoner of war.
He is serving two life
sentences for something that he didn't do. I know. I was there. We
there that day. When I speak of our family, I speak of those who were
day. They survived everything up to that point and survived through
of those people are close to Leonard now, and when I say close to
Leonard, I mean
as close as Leonard will let us be. He no longer trusts the people who
him when this all started. It's entirely another group of people now.
Leonard represents a lot of things to the indigenous people of
this land and
all these things relate back to the truth. Leonard represents the
truth. If we
allow Leonard to represent anything other than the truth, then we become
victimized by this corrupt values system that is keeping Leonard in jail
That is the lesson that is there for us to learn. For whatever
doesn't seek advice and he doesn't seek direction from any of the family
with him that day when Oglala came down and people gave their lives for
we're struggling for. I think that there is something there for Leonard
as well as for us to learn.
Leonard is taking direction from other people now. He's a desperate
When you keep a man locked up like that for years, they become desperate
will do anything to get out because they want to end that suffering. So
willing to listen to anybody who comes to him and says they can get him
Then he will turn his back on other people. That's part of that corrupt
system. Because he's insecure and isolated, separated from the people,
for him to give in to it. That comes from loneliness and isolation. In
learning process at this time, he doesn't trust the people who were with
this all happened. He listens to other people. People who are telling
about him and about what really happened at Oglala.
Like this book of Peter Matthieson's, In The Spirit of Crazy Horse,
about that me and Bob Robideau knew about this guy who was coming to the
that day and that he was bringing dynamite to us and that guy now claims
is Mr. X. Well,
there is no Mr. X. There was no man coming to our camp that day
bringing dynamite. Those are all lies created to keep Leonard in jail
When this Mr. X thing first started happening we had a meeting
in California. There were people there who were at Oglala that day. It
was brought up about
creating this lie about Mr. X being there and killing those men to raise
for Leonard's liberation. To create this lie to show that someone else
the trigger. The final agreement in that meeting was that the Mr. X
wouldn't be used because it was a lie. We decided that because
we had done so far was always based on the truth, and that it was the
had liberated us in our trial, that when the truth finally came out that
liberate Leonard and set him free. So it was decided that nobody would
Mr. X theory - that it would be shelved.
I came back from South Dakota that year
from the Sun Dance and was told that
the writer from the movie Oliver Stone was considering making about what
at Oglala had come to Portland. He was picked up by a member who was
there at the
shootout that day and was taken to a phone. He talked to the guy who was
to be Mr. X who had shot and killed those agents. He supposedly drove
in that red pickup after the shooting was going on. His shooting was
reactionary thing that happened when this agent looked up. Like it was
less an "accident" or something. That is all totally false. Totally
That never happened.
We have always maintained that those agents who were killed were
the crossfire. That red pickup had nothing to do with any dynamite
delivered that day or any Mr. X. The truck was operated by a man in
who heard the gunfire and was worried about the safety of a family whose
was inside the compound. He checked the house, found no one home, and
It is totally false that I had knowledge of who that person was
and knew that
person was going to come into our camp that day to deliver dynamite. I
me and my family were put in danger. I lost a lot of respect for Peter
Matthieson as a writer and as a person I could trust because he didn't
this, and it put me and my family in jeopardy. He never made any effort
contact me and ask me if this was true.
I'm not going to go out of my way to cause a scene over this because
divert my attention away from what is the real truth here. Peter
victimized by that too. Whatever made him do that separated him from
the truth. That's the important thing to me, not who's telling the
What I represent is what I have to be concerned with and I have to be
the direction I am going in all the time. I cannot allow myself to
distracted by other things that do not represent the truth.
It's sad what's happening to Leonard today. Like I said, there's
to be taught there and something to be learned there for all of us. I
doubt that Leonard could be a free man, but it has to start within him.
to believe in himself first instead of believing in all these lies and
who are wanting to bring these lies to him. He has to believe in
he is the truth of what he represents in this world. He represents a lot to his
people and to all our people. He represents the agreements between the
States government and the indigenous people of this land. And all the
of the treaties between two sovereign nations. Like them being there
(the U.S. government) and causing that fire fight and the aftermath of
it on that
reservation, terrorizing the people to get what they wanted, which was a
conviction of Leonard.
They also wanted a conviction of me and Bob Robideau and fortunately
to have a fair jury. I never have believed that we had a fair trial,
only kind of fair trial we could have gotten from the U.S. government
trial at all. We weren't guilty of anything. But they did put us on
they told their lies. Enough of the truth was allowed to be presented in
courtroom by a fair judge that the jury would not convict us.
Leonard wasn't given that recognition at his trial - he wasn't
present any truth. He has been separated from the truth that he
that courtroom. The jury wasn't allowed to see or hear or feel the
he's been separated from it now. He's not lost, though. There's a way
to the knowledge and there's a way of not going to it. We all have to
difference and that's what he's learning now and that's why he's where
today. Until he learns the difference, he's always going to be a
war, whether it be physically or within himself. Right now I think he's
prisoner all the way because he's allowed himself to become separated
spiritual being and has become confused enough to believe the lies. He
get back the truth. The truth that Leonard represents to all of us.
that's the lesson he's there to teach. He's not there just for the heck
you know. The corrupt values system of those who put him there is
him in there.
EK: Would you summarize the effects of the corrupt values system
that is the true
enemy of the people.
DB: It's the values system that does not respect all life. It
teaches us to hate
each other and it confuses us and separates our spiritual and physical
It's a values system that done Annie Mae under; it took her physical
us. It didn't take her spiritual being, though. It's the values system
forced our people onto reservations in the 1800's. It's the values
drove the Pilgrims out of England and brought them into our homeland.
our enemy. It's not our relatives. It's not the two leggeds or the
or the ones that live on the land or the ones that live in the water.
aren't our enemies. The values system that separates us from the
is the true enemy.
The Struggle for
Indigenous Prisoners Rights
In North America freedom of religion is supposedly a guaranteed
Consitutional right. For indigenous people those guaranteed rights have
been continually violated. Of the many diverse groups inhabiting North
America, indigenous people are the only group that has been forced to
seek specific legislation to protect traditional spiritual practices and
religious freedoms. Native people imprisoned in North American penal
institutions have had and continue to have an especially difficult time
in securing their right to pray in the ways of their ancestors. The
dominance of Christianity is particularly evident in corrections systems
throughout the U.S. and Canada in its standard practice of establishing
paid positions for Catholic and Protestant chaplains. even when
indigenous religious practices become a part of a corrections system
policy, they are typically under the supervision of Christian chaplains.
This inherent conflict of interest is rarely acknowledged. In many cases
when indigenous prisoners pursue their religious rights they become
targeted within the system for negative repercussions. Darelle Dino
Butler is a man intimately aware of these struggles. During his
incarceration in Canada early in the 1980s he became actively involved
in pursuing religious freedom for Native prisoners. In this third
conversation in our series, he discusses his involvement in that
EK: In the time you spent in prison in Canada, you
spoke about having to understand why you were really there. Why were you
DB: I was facing two life terms for the alleged attempted murder
of two Canadian policemen. I remember walking into that prison in Canada
and hearing that cell door close. I began to question Grandfather's
wisdom. By then I had fulfilled my commitment to become a Sun Dancer for
our people. I was a pipe carrier, and things were supposed to be
happening to me in my life and changing in a good way. None of these bad
things were supposed to be happening to me. I said, "Grandfather,why?
Why is this happening? Did you just want to keep me alive to be cruel to
me and make me go through these things or what?" I began to feel sorry
for myself and blame other people for my predicament. I was doing all
the wrong things. At some point, something happened inside me and I was
taken away from all the distractions around me. After I got over the
self pity and the anger, I was able to look at myself and see some of my
own weaknesses. Once I was able to do that, I was able to start changing
and to form some strength for myself with honor and dignity.
One of the things that helped me to do that was the guards that were
guarding me. They gave me very "special treatment" there in the prison.
I was always real close to the front in the same cell so they could keep
a close watch on me. Some of these guards would come by and I could feel
it and see it in their eyes that they really hated me. I looked at those
guards and I began to see myself hating them. I never really looked at
it like that before. I could see the loneliness in their eyes and the
pain they had that was coming from the hatred. Hate was in control of
their emotions and in control of their lives. I was being controlled by
my hate, and I had to admit that. I had to decide that I didn't want to
be like that. And it was hard. It still is hard not to hate, but I
understand that the hate separates the spiritual and physical beings of
everyone of us because it is unnatural. It is a hypocrite that uses hate
like that. The number one teaching among all tribal people is to respect
all life. When we hate one another like that, we are not capable of
having respect for all life. To me, if I am separated from my spirit so
much, then it becomes spiritual genocide. The truth tells me that I must
respect all life and not try to destroy it. The hate destroys. It
destroys us from within and it destroys our identity with one another I
began to realize that.
I thought, "Well, here I am, and I've been in jail twice now facing the
rest of my life behind prison. Something's not right here." I see now
that I had to go back to jail because it is real hard for knowledge to
get through my skull because it is so thick with ignorance. So the
spirits took pity on me and put me into those prisons where all this
confusion is not so influential in my life. I was stuck there with
myself. It showed me I needed to look at myself and correct myself and
correct my ways. I realized that I had to go to prison to learn what I
had to learn. I couldn't do it out here at that time.
EK: Did you think that part of why you were there was to help the
Native prisoners get access to ceremonies?
DB: One of the reasons that I was there was to learn that it
wasn't me that was important in this world. What is important is that
pipe and what it represents. I thought that "I" was going to help my
people with that pipe. It was wrong for me to think that I was going to
help my people that way. I had to learn that it wasn't me that was going
to take that pipe where it was needed, but it was that pipe that was
going to take me where it was needed.All I could and can do was to find
the courage in prayer to hang on and stay with that pipe. It didn't need
me. I needed it. It wasn't me that was needed up there. It was that
pipe. All that time there was no respect for Native people's religious
way of life. It was determined in Canada by the warden of each
institution and what he felt. There were no policies that included
Native religion. So people were not allowed to pray as Native people in
the jails there at that time.
My belief was that the power of the pipe was greater than any
pipe in this world and that power would take care of me and my needs in
this world if I believed that way. So I asked to pray with my pipe when
I went into those jails. I asked to pray with the sage and cedar and
prayer feathers and everything that I had been taught to pray with. It
was denied, so that started the whole process.
I remember the first time I was allowed to "officially" pray within the
walls of that institution. They came to my cell and handcuffed and
shackled me and marched me out to the Protestant minister's office. I
was allowed to hold an abalone shell with some sage and cedar in it and
I prayed that way. That was the beginning. In the end we had a sweat
lodge and I had my pipe and could keep it inside my cell and brothers
were fasting inside the prisons. Things that were never allowed before
and never thought of before in their system. It took a lot of different
ways of going to knowledge to achieve that. It brough a lot of brothers
together up there.
When I went to court when our trial was going to start, I told my
lawyers that I wanted them to make a request that my pipe bundle be
allowed to sit on that defense table. I said that the pipe bundle
represents to me what the Bible represents to the Catholics and the
Protestants. I wanted that to be represented in the courtroom. They met
with the judge in his chambers and the judge denied to even hear that
argument in court. He said this was not going to be a "political trial."
He said he was not willing to take that authority and set that
precedent. The lawyers came back and told us, and I said to them, "Well,
we we go back in there, I want you to make that request one more time,
to hear a petition to have this pipe bundle represented in the
courtroom." We went back into court, and the lawyers made that final
request. It was denied.
Then I told the lawyers that since the judge denied that, I asked them
to resign from the case and we would not present a defense. Because to
let that man, that court, that government separate me from my identity,
then I was no longer anything. I would be nothing, and I had been that
enough in my life already. That's what I was when I was in the
penitentiaries all those years, and when I was an alcoholic on the
street, and when I was popping pills. I was nothing.
I knew more than anything else in my life I did not want to be that
anymore. If I allowed that separation in that courtroom from my pipe
bundle, then I would become that again. So, the lawyers walked out of
the courtroom and me and Gary Burler, we sat there and presented no
defense for two charges of murder. We were facing life sentences on each
of them. We understood that we could be convicted very easily and sent
to the penityentiary for the rest of our lives. But we were willing to
take our identities with us and live the rest of our lives inside those
walls if we had to do that. We would not allow that identity to be
separated from us again.
They presented our case and told all these lies against us. The jury
would no convict us of attempted murder, even with no defense. They
wouldn't believe we had tried to kill those officers, because we didn't.
It was them who had tried to kill us. They were trying to assassinate us
and we were defending ourselves. Because we survived that attack, we
went on trial and not them. And that's what it was all about.
The pipe was there to give us courage to go with that pipe on that
journey that we had to take through those jails in Canada.
They tried everything there because we wouldn't allow the separation
from our spiritual being. Kent was a maximum security prison. After
about six months, they took me to a special unit that used to be death
row. There was nobody in any of the other five cells. Then they brought
Gary (Butler) in and put him two cells away from me. Right after lunch
there comes a man with a welding torch and he took chains and brought
them to the doors and they they put this big monstrous padlock on there
and welded those chains together. That's how we spent the next six
In their ignorance they put us through all that, and it helped me to
understand them better. It takes a lot of hate to do that to another
human being. That hate was visible. That's why that pipe was needed up
there. Because our brothers and our sisters inside those jails were
The Indian people came to us and said the policy had been that Indian
people don't ask for religious rights up there because when they do they
get beat down really bad. There was a group of brothers in Saskatchewan
that had tried. What broke them up was that they were strip searched and
sent defenseless into the yard. A group of white prisoners were given
baseball bats and turned loose on them while the guards stood and
watched. After this beating, they took the Indian brothers and shipped
them out to different prisons. That's the kind of things these brothers
told us would happen to us and that we wouldn't find too much support
from the brothers.
I started asking for the right to have my pipe. My request was denied.
It all grew from there. I had a support group outside called The Society
of the People Struggling to Be Free. They started to put word out in the
community about what was going on and started getting some support
There was a brotherhood with all the Indian brothers in the jopint. I
presented to these brothers at a meeting, asking them to support our
request for ceremonies. All the brothers agreed. We put in the request
to have ceremonies and sweat lodges and so forth and they never got back
to us. We waited a year. Then they sent us a notice that told us how we
could pray and when we could pray and what we could do. It was so
distorted that it no longer represented our way of life, the indigenous
way of life. It no longer represented what our prayer ceremonies would
represent when they are done properly. I refused to accept it. Nobody
agreed to accept it and that's when the struggle inside there truly
began. Some of the reawakeningh of those brothers started happening at
Eventually what evolved was a fast to pray for our oppressors because
they were not only doing this to us, they were doing it to themselves.
There was so much confusion in them, and in us, that we were both
victimized by this corrupt values systme, pitting us against each other
in that way.
When this fast started, some of the brothers came to me and said,
"Isupport what you're doing and believe what you're doing is right, but
I can't accept starving myself to death. My way of helping is more like
going and grabbing a couple of guards and taking some hostages and
getting the attention this way." And I had to tell them, No, you can't
do that to support this because this is aspiritual fast, praying for
these people because I feel the hate that they have for me is destroying
them, too. And I want Grandfather and Grandmother to have pity on them
and and help them to understand what's happening to them, and what
happens to cause things to be that way between us." I said, "Just pray
for us. That's all you can do is just pray for us."
Gary (Butler) started fasting first. They took him out of the population
and put him in isolation. They separated us because we were organizing.
He sent word out that he was going to start fasting and praying for
these people who were denying us these ceremonies. He was into his
second day by the time I got the note. So I started fasting, too. About
six days went by when Stuart Stonechild, one of the brothrs who had been
at Saskatchewan, joined the fast. It finally ended up there were sixteen
brothers inside that penitentiary who were fasting. Some of those
brothers were some of the same ones who said there was no way that they
would starve themselves.
EK: How long was the fast?
DB: I fasted 34 days that time. Before it was over, Gary ended up
clear across Canada. They ended up taking people out of there to
separate us. That was all right, too, because when we decided not to
accept what the administration was offering us, we decided that no
matter what happened we would continue. If they chose to separate us and
send us to other prisons that we would carry it there and request it
EK: When the end of the fast came, what was the resolution with
DB: During a session of the Parliament, which is like the
Congress down here, their Attorney General for the country was asked on
the floor of the Parliament why Indian people were having to fast to
death for religious freedom in the prison system in Canada. He was
asked, "Don't you think that's kind of embarassing the Canadian people?"
He got asked this two times by different people in Parliament. He got on
the phone to Kent Prison right away and wanted to know what in the hell
was going on because it was putting him on the hot seat (laughs) and he
didn't like it. He wanted it resolved right away and said, "Whatever
they're asking for, give it to them!"
So they came and told us. But we wouldn't negotiate with the prison
officials because we didn't trust them. we knew that as long as we had
to communicate with them that we were gonna get the raw end of the deal.
They brought in a professor of law from the University of Simon fraser
to act as our arbitrator. He had been in to our meetings before, so we
all knew him. He came and explained to us that the prison officials had
been told to settle it and get it over with because it was causing the
We sat down and wrote out that we wanted a sweat lodge regularly; we
wanted Elders and our spiritual advisors to come into the prisons to
consult with us; we wanted our pipes and ceremonies and the right to
fast. We asked that since I was the pipe carrier that I would be allowed
to go into another prisoner's cell to set up his altar to fast because
the only place we were allowed to fast was in our cell. They said no way
that would ever be done because of a long standing policy that no
prisoner was allowed in another prisoner's cell. We asked for it anyway.
When it all came back they had given us everything we asked for because
that's how bad they wanted it to end. Then we had to wait again for
about a year before we actually had our first sweat in there. It took
that long while they dragged through the paperwork.
From there they changed national policies in the prison system by
recognizing Native people's rights to their ceremonies in the federal
EK: Weren't there other fasts also?
DB: There were three altogether. The first two were in Oakalla
Provincial Jails and one was in the federal prison at Kent. It was the
last and the longest. The first one was about ten days. Theytold us we
could have our pipe bundle inside Oakalla, but they lied to us. Then we
went to court and the pipe was denied entrance in the court room. That
was the second fast. It lasted twenty one days. The second fast broke
when they broke my pipe to me in Oakalla and I was allowed to keep it.
We did those fasts tried everything else available to us going through
channels in their system, and none of it worked.
EK: When was the pipe finally allowed into the court room?
DB: It was the second time we went into court in 1984. Our
lawyers appealed the conviction for weapons possession. The appeals
court overturned the conviction and then said they wanted to retry us
again. The lawyers met with the judge in his chambers and the judge
said, " Look, I don't want controversy in this. I expect you people are
going to want that pipe in the court room. You dont even have to make a
motion about it. If it shows up in there, then it shows up in there, and
it's all right." He didn't want to mess with it that time (laughs).
We went back to court, but by that time we had served four years, the
maximum sentence on weapons possession. They wanted to keep us there as
long as they could because we were wanted back in the States on a bogus
murder charge. The States needed more time to work on their case. The
Canadian government was willing to retry us on the same charges on which
we had already served a maximum sentence and in which the guilty verdict
had been overturned in appeal. It didn't make any kind of sense, legal
or otherwise. Except the Oregon officials wanted them to keep us for two
more years. The judge told us he had decided in his mind that he was
going to sentence us to 16 months. When he heard what our lawyers
presented, he changed his mind and sentenced us to one day. They had no
choice but to send us back down to the States. The Oregon offcials knew
they had no case, and we were fully acquitted.
Indigenous Struggle in Oregons Prison System
EK: Earlier in your life, when you
were in the Oregon prison system, had Native prisoners gained any
DB: When I was in there none of that was allowed. But it was the
farthest thing from my mind in those days praying, I mean. By the time
back from Canada, they were allowed to have sweats and grow their hair
EK: The Oregon Corrections Division is supposed to be working on
a systemwide policy for religious rights. Have you been involved in that
DB: One of the prisoners began calling me about some commisssion
being formed to develop a policy about Native religious rights in
Oregon's corrections system. His concern was that Native people were not
being consulted about this. I was kept aware of what was going on
through him and some people in the community. One of the concerns of the
prisoners is that this be not given to the jurisdiction of the
chaplaincy. The concern of the brothers seems to be that if their
religious rights are going to be determined by non Native people who
believe in a different way that a lot things will really change for
them. The Native ceremonies at Oregon State Penitentiary have always
been under the Activities Department. Things have gone good that way
without major interference. It's up to the brothers to make things
happen and not on anybody else because all the organized activities are
up to the group themselves to work out and schedule and all that. If it
goes under the religious department then it will be under the
jurisdiction of the chaplaincy. Then it will be up to them tos chedule
and determine when ceremonies can happen and what can be done. The
brothers can foresee difficulties.
They began contacting different people in the community for support and
asked to be represented at these committee meetings and the public
hearings in the communities. They wanted to approach all the different
trribes in Oregon, because probably over half the Native prisoners in
there are from outside Oregon. Basically what they wanted to do was to
send a runner to each of the tribes in Oregon to have them bless the
sweatlodge and welcome them there. This is not their home country and
when you are in someone else's home, you have to ask permission to do
these things and be recognized by the Native people of this land to
support their right to pray here. I thought that was a good idea and I
still think it is a good idea. It should be done in a respectful way so
that the people of this land cannot ignore it or look the other way.
When it got to that stage of planning there was some problem with the
unity in there and it caused separation. It gets to the point where
people get more involved with their personality differences instead of
dealing with the real issues. This is a classic thing of becoming
disorganized within themselves instead of being united in their struggle
for religious rights for Native people within the walls. This plays
right into the system wanting to have control over these things. That's
the focus of this whole kind of diversionary tactic to make us lose
focus of the real issue.
I think there were two supposedly public meetings that have been held
in the communities. None of the Native people in the community were
notified through the regular channels of communication like the radio
and local papers. A few people learned about it somehow and went and
stated that these meetings should be rescheduled so more people could
attend them. That request was denied by the corrections people and they
went ahead and had them anyway. There was a protest made by the people
who did attend, but they were ignored in that protest. Corrections was
supposed to use information
gathered in these meetings to make their final decision about this
there really is no community involvement in making this decision.
EK: Were you on that original committee?
DB: There was a committee that had been thrown together. I think
there was a
prison chaplain or priest on there, and a Captain of the guards. The
people on the committee all worked within the system and were picked by
system. The reason I got a call was that the Lakota Club, which is the
brotherhood inside the walls, had wanted to make a request for me to be
I told them to submit my name and I would do what I could do to
help out. I
got a letter from Corrections that I was on this committee. This was
had already been meeting for awhile. They said they would notify me of
The next letter that I got said that all these decisions had already
and blah, blah, blah, you know. I had never been invited or notified to
any of the meetings. Yet my name was listed as being part of this and
these decisions. And I am not the only Native person who was asked for
then not told what was going on until after the fact.
EK: Would you comment on the women's prisoners involvement in
this whole process?
DB: This committee for religious rights has had its focus all on
prisoners. As far as I can tell, there has been very little, if any,
the women. They have not sought the women's perspective.
The women's prison already has the chaplaincy in charge of the
ceremonies and there have been some real problems because of it. That's
the arguments the men are making in their circle. If the chaplain
forgets to put
out a memo about the schedule, then there is not going to be a sweat
ceremony. My understanding is that this happens there more often than
And other things like this will happen. They only allow the women to
a month. If the women were responsible for taking care of this
would happen, because the women want it to happen. Nobody is paying
to them on this commission. They are not having a chance to tell what
and their perspective as women.
EK: Do you think this has to do with how the dominant system
DB: Yes, and I think it's a purposeful effort by the system to
separate the men
and the women whether through the families or through spirituality or
This values system does that.
Respect for the women and our relationship to that power that is
by the women is very sacred to all male life. The values system that
control all of us has to break down that kind of values system that
women and the female power, and that teaches us our identity as males to
Because the sisters are locked away and are so far from us, we
about them enough. It shouldn't be like that. The women should
our main concern for these religious rights because it's really
the women be able to have these ceremonies. Even more important than it
the men, I think, because that's where our power comes from - the power
protect that life that those women represent to our world. Those
a part of keeping that life safe and protected. Our responsibility
should be to
the women first for them to have their rights. We need to be more
the women in prison. If the women are taken care of, everything else
into place. Our place in the circle is to protect that female power.
EK: If it is determined by the policy that it will be overseen by
do you think it will ever really work?
DB: No, I don't think it will work if it is under their
there belief doesn't allow for any way other than their own way.
priests and the ministers in that way of life believe that way, it's the
values system that separates. The indigenous way of life is the oldest
life on this land. It will not be respected by another religious group
thinks their way is the only way. They don't have understanding of our
mostly what they do understand, they disagree with anyway.
EK: What do you think would work?
DB: I think it should be up to the sisters and brothers to
decide. And keep it
under the Activities Department.
EK: Would having a paid Native coordinator to bring in Indian
spiritual leaders and whoever else is needed work?
DB: Yeah. It worked up in Canada. We had a person who was
affiliated with a
Native organization on the outside. He would act as our liaison with the
He took care of the paperwork and the schedules and the communication.
wasn't a good idea to leave it up to the chaplaincy because they didn't
way or the other. I think that it would take someone who is concerned
brothers and sisters inside these places and someone who the community
respects. Someone who can be depended on to carry out their
There are people who would help that have no interest in being part of a
staff, but a coordinator on paid staff could probably do a good job and
people got what was needed.
Our people cannot afford to give up their right to pray. They
ceremonies and this way of life. It shouldn't be denied because they
prison. Because of where they are, they may need it even
Organizations and the Oregon Native Youth Council
EK: You have talked about the Fourth World
prophecies. How do you see us being
affected in this time by these prophecies?
Oregon Native Youth Council can be contacted at:
DB: When I first started walking this path the teachers told me
that the earth is
going to go through four stages of purification and that the people will
through four stages of purification before there is peace and harmony
They told me that the earth was in its third stage of purification and
people are in their first stage of purification. When mother earth goes
fourth stage of purification, a lot of us are gonna perish physically
we're not in our fourth stage. There will be some who are in that
who will survive and for them life will continue on, but that there will
be a lot
who will be lost.
When you walk on the path of knowledge, sometimes you're gonna
find that we
have to leave some of our people behind. Life is a continuous learning
experience. One of the things that slows us down in our spiritual growth
we have people that we care about who are falling down around us. We're
follow this path of going to ceremonies and not add to the confusion and
weakness of our people as a nation. Yet there are many of our people
walk that path. They go through a lot of suffering because of it. We
stop and help them out, so we slow down and try to reach out a hand.
we get stuck there and we're slowing down our learning process for
are weaker and more confused than us and who are refusing to give those
up. Because we love them so much and we are attached to them, we want
walk with us. Sometimes in staying there with them we stop our
of spiritual growth. Once we stop our spiritual learning, we are no
preparing ourselves for the next lesson that's gonna demand more
strength and courage. You can't force this way of life onto someone.
make anybody change.
An example of that for me was when I was worried that
the pipe was coming
between me and a family member who said I cared more about everybody
else than I
did about them. I went and prayed with the pipe and said that if it was
come between me and my family, then I wasn't sure I wanted it. I
wrapped it up
and put it away. Then I went back down to my family member's home and I
drinking. When I became that confused, my spiritual growth stopped.
I mean when I say we want to help our loved ones, but sometimes we
when we try anyway, then we stay there with them at their level and are
preparing ourselves properly. Then when we can't help anybody.
My teachers told me there are gonna be times in my life when I'm
have to leave these people behind, even though it brings pain to my
heart, if I'm
to continue to fulfill my responsibilities in our circle of life to help
strengthen the future for our people. Leave them behind, but don't
Remember them in my prayers and help them that way.
EK: You're involved with Oregon Native Youth Council (ONYC) in
Oregon. What is
DB: Oregon Native Youth Council, as it implicates, is closely
associated with our
young people, the youth, and the little people. To me the main concern
Native Youth Council is to break this trend of hate that is being passed
generation after generation. We as adults today are doing that to our
Teaching them to hate and to be mean and petty. So, the Youth Council's
is to wake up our people to what we are doing to our children, teaching
hate like that, passing on the confusion that has separated us.
Look at what's happening to our youth today. Our youth are forming
killing each other. It's really sad what is happening today on the
and in the urban areas. I grew up and saw a lot of adults drink
death, knowing they were dying and yet they kept drinking. To me,
been so sad that someone would just give up on life so much. To know
they're dying and do it anyway. And that's what we're concerned about -
giving that kind of life to our children. Because if this keeps on going
another two or three generations,, with our people giving up that spirit
then we will not survive as a people, as a nation in the future. That's
responsibility to our young people today - to not give them that kind of
To show them there is another way to go.
ONYC isn't just for youth who are getting into trouble. We want
and encourage the youth who are doing well because they are
circle. They need to know that we appreciate them and the good things
Anybody who represents Oregon Native Youth Council or works with
ONYC has to
understand that they cannot add to the confusion that is being used to
our people spiritually and physically. We don't advocate the use of
drugs or violence within our circle because we don't want people in our
contributing to the downfall of our people.
Our long range goal is to overcome the hatred and confusion that
all people. But first we need to work with our people and we need a
land base to work from. We want to set up a permanent encampment in
youth can have a safe place to find the balance between the two worlds
ongoing assistance of Elders and adults. It will be a healing place,
for the Youth, but for all Native people. So people can learn to stay
their identity and not be dominated by the values system that is not
respect for all life.
EK: A lot of the young people that are involved in this mentality
of anger and
violence as a way of feeling powerful see themselves as being
you talk about your perception of what being a "warrior" means?
DB: In this world there's two powers that we know. There is the
female power and
the male power. Everything else evolves from those two powers. Female
the power that gives life and brings life into this world and the male
the power to protect that life. Being a "warrior" to me is just one
part of our
responsibility as males in this world. It only represents one part of
complete male power that says that we respect and protect life.
I don't know if there is a word in any of our tribal languages
"warrior". Because the concept of a warrior to me is a person who's
willing to go to war. That's not one of our teachings, always being
war. There are other ways of respecting and protecting life, too. The
of warrior has been corrupted by that values system that comes more from
teaching of fighting out of hate for an enemy rather than out of love
If we're going to look at ourselves as males, as men, as warriors,
we have to
look at the whole being. We don't give up our right to defend ourselves
people. That's true. As men we have to fulfill that part of our
And we have to recognize the difference between a real threat and a
threat. But we also have responsibilities to be fathers to our children,
responsibilities to the female power and to our women to nourish and
power. We have responsibility as men, as males, to our elders and to
generations and taking care of those people, too. We have
our ancestors. They have a place in our circle in this world and it's a
place. We have to take care of those places. To me that's being a
not just always being willing to go to war. There are a lot of aspects
As men we have to learn these things and do these things because the
going to do it by themselves. And those young ones have a lot to teach
EK: Would you talk about what the children and the youth have to
DB: I'm 52 years old and during my life I fathered children that
I didn't even
know. I remember my first daughter. She was 8 years old before I ever
about her or even met her. I had just gotten out of prison and I was
down the street and this car stopped and someone said, "You know you
daughter, don't you?" And I said, "No." She told me she lived right
street and that I should visit her some time. I remember going down
meeting my daughter for the first time.
My whole life has been like that with my children. I have two
four sons. Except for my last two sons, I don't really know any of my
children. That's how confused and separated I was in my hate.
These two boys that I have with me now teach me a lot of things.
Like I have
come to the understanding that our ancestors and our children are
unity these children represent in this world has knowledge for us to
draw upon to
help us understand who we are. The innocence of our children is the
our elders from past generations. If we have the ability and take the
look within our children's eyes, and see what is inside of these
children, we can
learn from that. Because to me, that's one of the ways our ancestors
come to us.
One day I looked over at my boy, Che, and he was just sitting
at me. There was no expression on his face. I thought at first that
was wrong with him. Then I started looking at his eyes, and I started
another world through his eyes. It scared me, because I hadn't
something like that before in a child's eyes. This feeling came over me
saw things in me that I still cling to because I am not strong enough or
enough or courageous enough to let go of them, like maybe some of the
hate that I
still carry and haven't been able to separate from myself because of
those years in prison. I saw that as long as I carry that weakness and
confusion within me, I cannot truly represent the identity that was
meant for me
to represent in this world. He made me think about that. This feeling
me that I had to deal with this. He is here to remind me and to expect
me. It was like my ancestors were looking at me. They were telling me
were willing to help me but that I had to be willing to help myself
admitting to my own weaknesses.
This other boy I have who's about 16 months old now, he has the
innocence. All of our children carry that innocence for us, but we are
thinking that we are the ones who teach these children and that we own
children. Like they are ours only. We don't look at our children and
them like we are supposed to. Because we can't do that we lose our
communicate with our past. We have to start thinking about what it
when we say our children are the future and make sure there is a future
P.O. Box 168
97368 ----- Phone: 503-996-6316.