[Ppnews] Toture of Chief Iron Horse of the Quinnipiac Renapi
Political Prisoner News
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 9 08:50:11 EST 2006
THE TORTURE OF CHIEF IRON THUNDERHORSE
by Tom Big Warrior
On June 7th, 2005, ranking officers of the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice (TDCJ), at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas,
attacked an elderly and legally blind inmate, Iron Thunderhorse,
while he was attempting to go to the chowhall. They knocked the
glasses and UV shields from his face and sprayed chemical pepper
spray directly in his eyes. They proceeded to spray him all over
with the chemical irritant, kicking him and wrenching his crippled
arm behind his back.
For weeks, Iron had been denied entry into the chowhall, or any
food at all, as the TDCJ was attempting to starve him into
complying with an order to submit to a haircut, despite the fact
that a federal court had recently upheald that his civil rights
were being violated. This was the latest outrage in a struggle that
has been going on for almost thirty years.
After being railroaded by the FBI's COINTELPRO program, along with
many other dissidents and activists around the country, in the
early 70s, Iron went to court to assert his rights as a Native
American spiritual practicioner. He got off the bus from jail to
prison armed with a court order requiring the TDCJ to respect these
rights, including his right to wear long hair. He was met by the
warden and a "goon squad" of inmate "building tenders" armed with
baseball bats and axe handles. The warden tore up Iron's court
order and had his "goons" beat Iron unconscious and then forcibly
cut his hair.
Year after year, Iron has suffered repeated beatings and torture,
including years in solitary confinement in the sweltering Texas
heat. His blindness stems from repeated gassings and being sprayed
in the eyes with pepper spray. His body is covered with scars, only
a few of which he received as a soldier in Vietnam.
Iron is the hereditary chief of the Quinnipiac Renapi, a branch of
the greater Lenape Nation, whose homeland runs along the Quinnipiac
River in Connecticut. His people have the dubious distinction of
being the first North American tribe to be placed on a reservation
by the English settlers at New Haven, in the early 1600s.
Iron's long ordeal began when he stopped at a diner for a cup of
coffee on his way home from work, more than thirty years ago. Some
of the local Connecticut white boys, who saw him pull up on his
classic Indian motorcycle, thought it might be fun to give this
long-haired Indian a hair cut.
After years in the rough and tumble Indian boarding schools, his
muscles now hardened by long hours of construction work, Iron
defended himself well. It was a clear case of self-defense, but the
white boys were sons of the local establisment, and so the cops
arrested Iron. But this was the least of his problems, as the white
boys, enraged by their deserved ass-whipping, began to stalk Iron
waiting for a chance to get revenge. It happened one winter night
when two of them spotted his car and gave chase. They ran the car
off the road, but Iron wasn't in it.
After the highway patrol informed him that his young wife and child
had been killed in the resulting "accident," Iron begain drinking
heavily. Then he donned his war-paint, got on his motorcycle, and
went looking for revenge. He found the boys before the police did,
and when they arrived, they arrested Iron for aggravated assault.
It was then that the Army stepped in, and Iron was released into
the custody of a coloniel recruiting for special service in Vietnam.
Having frequently run away from boarding school, Iron fine-tuned
the woodlands skills he had been taught as a child by living off
the land in wilderness areas. These skills, coupled with the rage
he was going through, made him an ideal candidate for the covert
operations he was groomed for at Fort Bragg and other army training
schools. Placed under the direction of the CIA, Iron was sent to
Vietnam, where he took part in secret operations, as well as
elsewhere in S.E. Asia. But eventually, he and his team refused to
obey an illegal order, and they were sent back to California and
Iron gravitated to the American Indian Movement (AIM) and to others
standing up to the system, and he became a target of COINTELPRO,
the FBIs illegal campaign to infiltrate, entrap, frame-up,
assassinate and otherwize suppress activists in the anti-war and
other movements for social justice that had emerged in the 60s.
Their intent was to lock him up and throw away the key.
Iron went into prison in top physical condition and highly trained
in martial arts. Over the years, he fended off several attempts to
assassinate him, but now his health is precarious and he is
virtually blind. "I suffer from corneal dystrophy and have
cataracts and open angle glaucoma, my corneas no longer produce
tears," Iron wrote in a complaint over the June 7th attack,
explaining the excruciating pain he was in when he was at last
taken to the medical unit. "Lt. Lawrence and Sgt. Sheffield refused
to allow the duty nurse to conduct a proper PHD exam....Officers
refused her admonishment to un-handcuff me due to excruciating pain
in [my] shoulder." Iron had a pass, repeatedly renewed by doctors
since 1992, prohibiting his being cuffed behind his back due to his
crippled arm. This was confiscated after the attack.
"Officers refused to allow the nurse to flush my eyes with water or
otherwise decontaminate my person from the pepper spray. The OC
pepper spray saturated both eyes, face, head, ear canals, neck,
torso, arms, palms, buttocks and thighs. Officers kept saying, 'LET
Iron also suffers from rhinitis and sebhorric dermatitis, both of
which are specifically mentioned on the precautions list for use of
OC pepper spray. This was known by the officers prior to this
premeditated attack, and Iron had reported that he had been
repeatedly threatened with this type of assault. It was obvious
that an allergic reaction was taking place to the pepper spray, yet
Iron was prevented from showering until more than 12 hours later.
This torture is compounded by medical neglect. Iron suffers from
high blood preasure, heart arrhythmia, sleep apnea, recurrent
shingles and only has one functioning lung. All of these conditions
were aggravated by the assault, yet his requests to see a doctor
were not only denied, so were his regular prescribed medications
for these conditions.
According to his wife, Ruth Thunderhorse: "The warden tells me that
Iron's glasses were lost in the property confiscation after the
'assault,' but if they cannot find them, they will get new ones.
Anything to keep Iron from his legal work, I assume. Since the
warden hemmed and hawed when I asked if Iron had his fan, that
probably is not in his possession, either. He also ignored my
question as to whether Iron has his magnifier." Meanwhile, Iron's
glasses, UV shields and his navigational cane, which were
confiscated, have not been replaced, and his typewritter has been
confiscated. Basically, the TDCJ is doing all it can to frustrate
Iron's efforts to defend his civil rights, including deliberately
endangering his health.
President Bush, who was formerly the Governor of Texas, can claim
all he wants that, "We do not condone torture," but the facts show
otherwise. The torture of Iron Thunderhorse continued throughout
his term as governor and it continues today. The federal court had
more than enough justification to put Iron in federal protective
custody while he is litigating against the TDCJ. The very essence
of this case is the suppression of religious freedom for Native
Americans here in the USA, the history of which spans the whole
history of the US.
Ruth asks for letters of support addressed to Iron. His adddress is:
Iron Thunderhorse, #624391
Polunsky Unit, 3872 FM 350 South,
Livingston, TX 77351.
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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