Lee Maracle’s Support Letter for John Graham
I first met John Graham in the living room of the home I shared with my first husband in the semi industrial neighborhood of East 8th Avenue near Main Street in Vancouver some 28 years ago. I had been a social activist, struggling for First Nation’s rights for nearly 10 years by this time. I had seen the inside of a number of First Nation’s organizations, both ‘mainstream oriented’ and radical. I had been and still am an avid Leonard Peltier supporter. I did not believe then and believe less now, that American courts could hand out justice to Peltier. But, by the time I met John I had become jaded: the American Indian Movement leaders were showing themselves to be little better than those they accused of miss treatment of First Nation’s people. One of the leaders had shot another in a alcohol driven brawl; another had physically attacked someone he thought was a communist; still others were rumored to be violent toward their women partners, and still others, were rumored to have raped women supporters.
More significantly, in the aftermath of the siege at Wounded Knee paranoia gripped the activists as it came to light that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Canadian Royal Canadian Mounted Police had used informants and illegal surveillance to disrupt and monitor First Nation’s, Black and Student organizations. During my activist years from 1972 through 1988 accusations of ‘being a cop, a snitch, an informant’ etc. abounded. I too, was accused. Like a good Sto:loh woman I faced my accusers and they backed down. I began to realize that some of the American Indian Movement members were bullies and like all bullies when confronted they turned tail and run.
Not only that, but our communities are plagued with violence, the leftover hangover of colonial besiegement. 90% of First Nation’s women are victims of violence and rape; the majority has been sexually and physically abused as children and adults. First Nation’s children are 40% more likely to be victims of violence in school then any other race of people in both Canada and the United States. I too, have been a victim of violence in public school on a daily basis. I endured 37 attempted rapes beginning as a five year old when a white man whose name I still remember attempted to rape me. My elder brother rescued me. Only one of my perpetrators was a First Nation’s man and 36 white men, one of which was successful by the time I was eighteen.
I had worked on a “Street Patrol” fashioned after the Black Panther Party just as the Minnesota American Indian Movement members did during the late 1960’s. We monitored and reported police abuses of First Nation’s downtown eastside citizens. By 1970, the violence we were struggling to prevent was less and less First Nations versus White violence. More and more it was violence between First Nation’s people. We began the first Native Counseling and Referral Center in Canada as a result. I was barely 20 years old at the time. That Center still operates in Vancouver. But by the mid-1970’s family and a terrible sadness over the state of affairs of First Nation’s people made me withdraw from politics for a brief period. Not only do we have to fight for our very survival, but also we had to fight to end the violence from within. It was disheartening for me as youth.
So, when John entered my living room I was cool and polite. “Show me you are different from the rest” was the foremost thought on my mind. Over the course of 28 years John has shown me he was very different from many of the First Nations men I have known. He showed me not only his own kindness, but he also showed me how to find kindness inside myself, kindness for my children and for other human beings. He taught me that “fighting against the government” is not what justice is all about. Justice is a fight for our very humanity. It is a struggle not so much against someone, but a struggle with the self, a struggle to bring up the best in you and then it is a struggle to share that goodness with everyone, not just First Nation’s people, but people of all races. He taught me to respect myself as a woman, as a mother and as a First Nation’s person.
He was one of the few men in my children’s life who has proven himself to be worthy of their trust. He is respectful, kind, generous and committed to Justice. I can’t believe they have selected John Graham as the patsy for this murder. It makes no sense whatsoever that of all the American Indian Movement members who have a proclivity toward violence, that they should choose the one who had the biggest and kindest heart. Perhaps it is because he is easy pickings, a Canadian will have little support in America and so the trial will be swift and a guilty verdict assured, particularly since the homeless alcoholic who is serving a life sentence already is committed to naming John as the shooter. But that isn’t what scares me most. America is governed by a right wing president who is alleged to have cheated the electoral process both times in the past two elections. As we await John Graham’s fate, there exist laws in the United States which gives the government and the police the right to remove human rights if “terrorism” is suspected and they have been referring to the accused in this case as a terrorist. In fact, the whole history of the American [Indian] Movement activism is being referred to as “domestic terrorism”. America was found guilty of human rights violations as recently as 1998 by the United Nations. All kinds of evidence of torture, abuse and humiliation of prisoners arrested under the new terrorist laws abound. Leonard Peltier still has not received a new trial despite overwhelming evidence that he was wrongfully accused. Why would Canada turn any Canadian over to the United States for a highly charged and political trial in this circumstance?
[Forwarded by the Vancouver chapter of the Native Youth Movement in March of 2005]
[Note: Arlo Looking Cloud plead not guilty at his trial, unsuccessfully appealed his conviction and has said that he will not testify against John Graham]