Letters to the Editor: Predatory U.S. govt. legal policy
Deni Leonard

Editor's note: As the U.S. has become increasingly unilateral on the world stage, many international friends, including individuals, entities, groups, institutions and countries, have also been targeted by the government. This is a letter from Deni Leonard, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon. 

I was born at Celilo Falls our Traditional Tribal Fishery in 1946.

My first violent experience was in the 1950s at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) School located on my reservation at Warm Springs, Oregon. Sticking up or defending my fellow young yribal students, I was attacked by the BIA matron who shoved me toward the basement and at the top of the stairs hit me in the head with her large ring and knocked me to the basement floor and kept me there in the dark all school day.

This happened many times. This memory was a beginning of my relationship with the United States federal government and it would continue into the next century.

This was no isolated event. I would meet people throughout the United States who had been violently attacked by the U.S. federal government both in force and the lethal use of the predatory legal agencies. The individuals were both indigenous tribal and other non-Native American social justice activist.

After the U.S. Army drafted me in 1968, I was sent to training in Fort Lewis, Washington for Advanced Infantry Training. I refused to go to Vietnam and kill people without a national justification based on national security.

After a military court martial, in which I stated that I was fully politically against the Vietnam War and not a conscientious objector, I was imprisoned at the U.S. Army base at the Presidio in San Francisco, California, and sentenced to nine months in the stockade. While in the stockade, I was beaten many times, and they had a threat that they could kill me and ship me to Vietnam and have me designated as a KIA (killed in action) and sent back in a body bag.

I had written a letter to President Nixon from a local television studio in San Francisco. The television producer had produced a show about my life on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation for the Portland ABC affiliate entitled, "Too Many Fathers". The answer came to me when I was incarcerated in the U.S. Army Presidio Stockade from a U.S. Army General.

I was to meet President Nixon when he came to the Presidio Army Base to greet the Korean president. He did speak to me and asked that I stop my Vietnam anti-war activities and he would make me a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army. I responded that I would be very happy to stop the political movement against the Vietnam War when he removed the U.S. troops from that country.

I now know that the major reason he met with me was because he had a very special friend, Mr. Wallace Newman, a La Jolla Tribal member from San Diego, California, who provided him advice on the American Indian people.

The Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., February 13, 2020. /Xinhua

The Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., February 13, 2020. /Xinhua

I wrote a 20-year personal development plan to learn about indigenous tribal right and relations to: the education system/process; business development; government developments and international relations. The U.S. federal government would be involved in each of these areas. I was warned by the McCloud family that the U.S. government would apply all its resources to destroy me and my vision to understand and to stop the social/economic/political/physical genocide and heal the multi-generational trauma inflicted on each indigenous tribal person.

The history of people who seek to know the original cause of discrimination or predatory hegemony by their government has been one which clearly includes an attack on them personally by U.S. federal government agencies using existing laws to stop those voices of social justice and equal protection under the law.

It is important to remember that indigenous tribal people still have very valuable natural resource assets on their, many times, isolated reservation land areas. The U.S. government continues to make laws to acquire these assets (and may now be developing a new legal strategy) "in the national security interests" as the force to seize more resources.

I relied upon the words from my ancestors and their spiritual energy, and it directed me to do proactive work on behalf of the tribal people and to keep my focus positive and think internally of love, faith, hope and charity.

The U.S. federal government's predatory disinformation national campaign and at least four major legal court actions against me did not move me toward ending my life and I remain here still, a tribal individual person retaining my spiritual sovereignty and working toward the vision of Chief Joseph, Nez Perce:

"Let me be a freeman, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachings, free to follow the religion of my father, free to talk, think and act for myself and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty."

Deni Leonard

A member of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon.

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