In 1976 my Portland UU minister, Alan Deale, became involved with AIM, the American Indian Movement. Dennis Banks, Russ Redner and Kenneth Loudhawk (with others) had been arrested while driving a Winnebago loaded with unstable nitroglycerine dynamite in eastern Oregon. They were lucky that this happened in a far different political climate. They were released on bail. Deale had been asked to be the person to whom they reported daily and he wanted feedback about “Indians” from me. My sympathies were with them, though I thought driving around in a hot climate with a load of explosives was pretty ill-advised. In fact, the sheriff of the impounding county was so nervous that he ended up taking it out into the sagebrush and exploding it. This offered a way out of a very “hot” trial, since there was now no evidence and that particular case was dismissed.
However, Banks was still wanted in connection with the death of Annie Mae Pictou Aquash and it was unclear what Oregon would do about extradition to South Dakota. It was certainly clear to the rest of us what South Dakota would do to Banks. Governor Jerry Brown in California would not extradite, so Banks ran for sanctuary. The sympathetic old lady who had put up the sizeable bail lost her money, but Deale managed to get her reimbursed through connections within the UUA realm.
The congregation supported Alan’s role in this legal standoff and he actually quite enjoyed the whole thing. The two law teams treated him as a professional equal and there was a certain amount of glamour.
There were funny blunders in the practicalities. Banks gave a very Vine DeLoria Jr. - type “sermon” one Sunday (jokes about Jesus coming out of the tomb like a groundhog predicting weather) and the Loudhawk and Redner group served fry bread during the traditional coffee hour afterwards. They understood UU’s as “granolas,” so the frybread was whole wheat. When I teased the women -- really little more than kids -- their eyes went big for fear that they had broken some rule. That’s the use of teasing on a rez.
But when there was an appeal for food, I loaded up a box of what I considered to be “pow-wow food” -- hamburger, eggs, oranges and Sailor Boy hardtack -- and they were at a loss. There was too much of it for them to eat in a few days and they had no freezer, so what would they do with all that meat? They were actually urban people created by government relocation and I was used to rural culture. On the rez there would be no problem at all, because everyone’s relatives would be over to share in the feast. But if you live in ghetto apartments, you don’t let people know what you have. Anyway, you might end up living in your truck. No fridge. I should have loaded them up with canned food and packaged cookies.
What impressed some UU people most was that Kenneth Loudhawk’s father showed up and he was one of those solid, grave, intelligent people that every culture depends upon. There would be no monkey business with him around. Alan really enjoyed knowing the man.
There are books, for instance, this one. I haven't read it, but Alan is probably in it:
Quote from Publishers' Weekly: "This is the shocking story of a criminal case that began in Portland, Ore., in 1975 and ended in 1988 after 13 years of pre-trial litigation. Six members of the American Indian Movement--Dennis Banks, his wife KaMook, Kenny Loud Hawk, Russell Redner, Anna Mae Aquash and Leonard Peltier--were charged with possessing dangerous weapons with intent to use them. Stern, a law student at the time, volunteered his services to the defense attorneys and remained with the case until its resolution. Here he charges governmental abuse of the legal system, anti-Indian bias and vindictiveness by the FBI; he also provides examples of judicial and political courage. This riveting account of documented persecution, intensive legal research and vindication when the case was finally dismissed by the Federal District Court in Oregon is a major addition to human rights literature."