[Ppnews] FBI harasses Dakota activist Waziyatawin for speech in Minnesota

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jan 8 19:01:39 EST 2011

FBI harasses Dakota activist Waziyatawin for speech in Minnesota

By Brad Sigal

January 8, 2011
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The Twin Cities chapter of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist 
Network initiated a solidarity statement and encourages individuals 
and organizations to sign on. The 
is available here.

Winona, MN - On Jan. 3, an FBI agent contacted Waziyatawin, a 
well-known Dakota activist and scholar. The agent from the FBI's 
Mankato, Minnesota office wanted to question her about her beliefs 
and about the content of a speech she gave in Winona on Nov. 8, 2010. 
Waziyatawin said she declined to talk with the FBI agent about the 
presentation or her viewpoints and instead referred him to her attorney.

According to a statement being circulated by her supporters, 
Waziyatawin's Nov. 8 speech concerned the brutal realities of the 
colonization of this continent's land, its resources, and First 
Nations People. She also spoke of a common need to restore the 
environment and a way of living that is not reliant on capitalism and 
the destruction of nature.

The FBI agent claimed to be investigating her because of the speech, 
which sparked a series of letters in the Winona Post newspaper. The 
first letter in the newspaper, by a college student who attended the 
speech, accused Waziyatawin of making "terroristic threats." He told 
Minnesota Public Radio that the FBI then contacted him three times 
about his accusations.

The accusation of "terrorist threats" seem to revolve around the fact 
that the speech included the phrase "by any means necessary," and 
when responding to questions about violence she also allegedly said 
or implied that violence was likely in the struggle to win justice 
for Native people. Waziyatawin told Minnesota Public Radio, "When I'm 
talking about there will undoubtedly be violence, I'm talking about 
violence against the Dakota people by the state, if we work toward justice."

At the same time Waziyatawin says she is not a pacifist, given the 
history of genocide and ongoing oppression against Native nations and 
peoples by the U.S. government. In a statement on Dec. 2 responding 
to the controversy over her Winona speech (before the FBI got 
involved), she said she does not apologize for her Winona speech, and 
she invoked the words of Little Crow, the leader of Dakota resistance 
in 1862. Her statement pointedly runs through the basic facts of 
genocide and ongoing oppression of the Dakota people:

Our land is still under occupation. Most of our people still live in 
exile. Dakota people are still prevented from practicing basic 
freedoms (even access to sacred sites). All of the systems and 
institutions to which we are subject are colonial in nature and they 
all prevent us from living freely as Dakota people. We hold a 
fraction of 1% of our original land base in Minisota and our 
populations would die if we had to subsist on those small parcels of 
land. Our populations still suffer from high rates of early 
mortality, suicide, and violence. We suffer tremendously from Western 
diseases (alcoholism, cancer, diabetes). We live in a society that 
continues to justify our extermination and non-existence while 
glorifying perpetrators of genocide and rationalizing land theft. 
And, we have largely, silently witnessed the destruction of our 
homeland through extensive mining, logging, manufacturing, energy 
production, industrial agriculture and animal feedlots.

Her statement goes on to quantify the destruction of the environment 
and lands that were stolen from the Dakota people to create the state 
of Minnesota.

Her point of state violence against Native people was driven home in 
a statement put out by her supporters: "At the time she spoke, 
members of the Dakota Nation were holding a Commemorative March along 
the route that nearly two thousand Dakota people were forcibly 
marched in 1862. The march route passes through Winona on its way 
from Lower Sioux Agency to Fort Snelling, where, over the winter of 
1862-1863, those who managed to survive the march itself faced 
confinement, starvation, disease, rape and (for many), death."

Waziyatawin gained public attention in 2007 when she was arrested 
three times for committing civil disobedience to protest the official 
2008 Minnesota sesquicentennial celebration, which didn't adequately 
deal with the fact that the founding of Minnesota as a state came at 
the expense of the Dakota people in the midst of war and horrific 
violence. During the sesquicentennial, Waziyatawin and other 
activists tried to symbolically block a commemorative wagon train en 
route to St. Paul. All charges were dropped against her for those arrests.

Waziyatawin has worked through lectures, speeches and classes to help 
non-Native people learn about the history of the U.S. government's 
brutal treatment of Dakota people, and current Dakota struggles for 
justice. She helped inspire a group of non-Native activists to form a 
Dakota solidarity group, Unsettling Minnesota. Waziyatawin gave the 
keynote speech at the Minnesota National Lawyers Guild's annual 
Social Justice dinner last year.

The FBI's harassment of Waziyatawin doesn't appear directly tied to 
the ongoing case of FBI and grand jury harassment against anti-war 
and international solidarity activists in Minnesota and Chicago. But 
activists involved see a clear connection because in both cases the 
FBI is working to undermine well-known progressive activists with 
allegations relating to 'terrorism' based on their speech and their 
ideas. At their Jan. 6 meeting, the Minnesota Committee to Stop FBI 
Repression endorsed a solidarity statement condemning FBI harassment 
of Waziyatawin.

The Twin Cities chapter of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist 
Network initiated the solidarity statement and encourages individuals 
and organizations to sign on. The 
is available here.

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