|Rapid City Journal, Tues June 27, 2000, Front Page|
|Forgive, but never forget
by Hugh O'Gara
Journal Staff Writer
|Oglala SD - In the Small Cemetary south of Oglala below the buttes that surround the community on the Pine Ridge Reservation, there was an air of melancholy mixed with the pungent smell of fresh-cut sweet clover.
About 100 people gathered in a circle Monday morning at the grave of 21 year old Joseph Killsright Stuntz, who died 25 years ago during a fire-fight that also killed two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams.
Participants in the June 26, 1975, incident gathered for traditional Lakota ceremonies to heal the wounds from the gunfight at the Jumping Bull ranch, two miles northwest of the cemetary.
Organizers also used the occasion to call for an investigation into the FBI's conduct during the tumultuous times a quarter century ago on the reservation and to demand the release of Leonard Peltier, who is serving two life sentences for the agents deaths.
Coler and Williams each were shot at close range, execution style, after being wounded in a fusillade of bullets when they drove into a pasture below the Jumping Bull ranch outside Oglala to serve a federal warrant.
Stuntz died from a single gunshot to the head during the ensuing firefight with law enforcement officers and was buried in the cemetery south east of Oglala.
|"I won't stand here today and say I'm free of hate, but it no longer determines my actions,...It no longer controls me like it did in 1975...Maybe someday, I will pick up that rifle again, but if I do, it will be because of my love for my people, not my hatred of my enemy."
Darrell "Dino" Butler
June 26, 2000, Stuntz/Aquash Gravesite
| "It just happened so fast," said Norman Patrick Brown, who was at the jumping Bull ranch the day known as the "Incident at Oglala."
"All I know is, I was shot at, and I responded."
The day before Monday's ceremony, Brown went to the field near White Clay Creek, where the two agents died.
"I told them, 'I'm very sorry it happened this way, but you made your own choice'.
"I asked them to leave us alone now. ...Go where you have to go."
He left them the traditional Lakota gift of Tobacco, and "I asked for forgiveness," Brown said.
"It's been a hard, difficult 25 years for us, especially the Lakota people here," Brown told the people at the cemetery. "Things haven't changed for us. They still haven't honored our treaties."
"For anybody I may have hurt, I apologize," Brown concluded. "That's the way things were."
Dino Butler was at the ten camp outside the Jumping Bull ranch and was charged in the agents' deaths. He was acquitted during a trial in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"I won't stand here today and say I'm free of hate, but it no longer determines my actions," Butler told the crowd. "It no longer controls me like it did in 1975."
Today, he has two boys, ages 6 and 11, and said he will not pass on the hatred he felt 25 years ago.
"Maybe, someday, I will pick up that rifle again, but if I do, it will be because of my love for my people, not my hatred of my enemy," Butler said.
In a fiery speech, American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Vernon Bellecourt called on the listeners to remember not only Joe Stuntz, but also Anna Mae Aquash, Buddy Lamont, Frank Clearwater, Pedro Bissonette and "all those martyrs in this cause."
Leaning heavily on a crutch, the aging Bellecourt Called for the release of Peltier and an investigation into the FBI's conduct on the reservation. "We must leave this sacred ground as determined as ever to carry on this fight," Bellecourt said.
Since Peltier's sentencing on June 1, 1977, for the slaying of the two FBI agents, word has circulated on the reservation that th wrong man was in prison. The person responsible was one of the unidentified people (official reports put the number at eight to 10) who fled south into the buttes that morning after the shooting.
"There is only one person who can free Leonard Peltier," Brown said after Monday's ceremony. "It's the person who pulled the trigger. ...It's for that person, who pulled the trigger."
No one said if that person attended the ceremony.
Contact Hugh O'Gara at 394-8415 or email@example.com
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