cover image Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance

Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance

Leonard F. Peltier, Arden Peltier. St. Martin's Press, $23.95 (243pp) ISBN 978-0-312-20354-2

Currently incarcerated at Leavenworth Prison in Kansas, American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier assembled these grimly powerful ""journal entries, soul thoughts, political musings and personal recollections"" to bolster his lawyers' request that President Clinton commute the two life sentences imposed 24 years ago at his conviction for murdering two FBI agents (plus seven years for his attempt to escape from prison). In his introduction, former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, once Peltier's lawyer, grounds Peltier's case in the post-Vietnam era of government ""paranoia against dissident groups,"" noting a government prosecutor's 1985 admission that ""we do not know who shot the two agents."" For his part, Peltier describes his stark surroundings and the uncompromising sameness of every day: ""I'm always on edge here, you never let your guard down when you live in hell."" Through moving recollections of a childhood spent on the South Dakota's Sioux reservations and of the Indian culture passed on by his grandparents, he connects his predicament to the ""suffering of indigenous peoples around the world."" Likening himself to Nelson Mandela, Peltier contends that his ""crime"" is that he is an Indian, and says little about the events at Jumping Bull Camp, which occurred ""ninety-nine years and one day"" after the battle of Little Big Horn. Instead, he finds strength in the having participated in the Sun Dance, which ""sends us out into the world hardened against pain the way a charred stick is hardened against fire."" Introduction by Chief Arvol Looking Horse not seen by PW. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.