The Sun Dancer

On this day of Thanksgiving, when we supposedly commemorate the Pilgrim’s first successful harvest, we are moved to consider the story of Leonard Peltier, now in his 37th year of incarceration after two FBI agents were killed on the Pine Ridge Reservation in circumstances that remain obscured by flawed and incomplete investigations.

Federal prosecutors in South Dakota have recently initiated a fresh examination of numerous unsolved murder cases at Pine Ridge in the months and years surrounding the siege of Wounded Knee in 1975. Meanwhile Mr. Peltier, now 68 years old, continues to suffer harsh and abusive treatment while in prison, including long periods of solitary confinement.


Peltier’s story touches on several DP themes:

∆     History is a struggle over which bodies are able to retain freedom and fluidity of movement; and which must be subjugated, restrained and immobilized

∆     History is also a struggle over whose story gets to be told; and the competing stories that must be silenced, marginalized or suppressed.

∆     Torture and incarceration are not only punishments and acts of retribution; they are also teachings — a pedagogy intended to keep the immobilized and silenced forever thus. 

∆     The lethal Spirit of Deerslayer is the defining figure within our shining City on a Hill; the Spirit of Crazy Horse offers an antithesis.

∆     Zones of extreme privilege are only sustained through the creation of commensurate sacrifice zones, like Pine Ridge Reservation. 

Below, we assemble a montage of excerpts from Peltier’s extraordinary book, My Life is My Sun Dance, together with art work created while in prison:

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