Published by Viking Press, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse details U.S.-Sioux relations. It focuses in particular on the militant activities of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s and calls for a new trial of Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing two FBI agents in Oglala, S.D., in 1975. The book was pulled from the shelves of stores and libraries after FBI agents and a former governor of South Dakota, William Janklow, sued for libel.
"The FBI agents written about maliciously by Matthiessen, felt they had been slandered, and I fully respect their right to bring lawsuit," said Giago. "But under the First Amendment, Matthiessen's rights also had to be protected."
Bill Janklow "was never a friend of mine," Giago said. "I criticized him often in my paper." But the former governor, who had been convicted in absentia in an Indian court of raping a Lakota woman, "was totally cleared of this charge by U.S. marshals, the Bureau of Indian Affairs police and the FBI," said Giago. "But none of this is mentioned in the book. Janklow certainly had a right to sue."
Giago said he would "support very strongly" a new trial for Peltier if "any impropriety" took place in the original one. But he resents the "tendencies of ultraliberal people to make Leonard Peltier into a hero, a saint." Giago's research showed that Peltier "had a record of petty crime as long as my arm." Comparison of Peltier to Crazy Horse are not only ludicrous, said Giago, but "were an absolute embarrassment" to David Long, Crazy Horse's great-grandson, who is now deceased.
While Peltier was still at large after the FBI agents were killed, "a lot of people on the Pine Ridge Reservation went through hell," Giago said.
"Many of us felt like hunted animals. We couldn't go anywhere without our cars being stopped at roadblocks, without being subjected to harassment."As a result, many people on the reservation were angry at Peltier and had little sympathy for him, according to Giago.
"The biggest fault I find with the book is that the author only talked with members of the American Indian Movement," he says. "Matthiessen never once went out and interviewed the people against whom AIM made many allegations and libelous charges."...Deb Gagnon
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