As an intellectual and activist committed to social justice, I am writing to articulate not only my solidarity with grand jury resistors, but also my opposition to the unethical and unconstitutional grand jury process. I have been appalled at what passes for legality under this corrupt and troubling system.
Both Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth took a principled stance to uphold their personal beliefs regarding truth and justice, demonstrating the highest level of moral integrity. Rather than participating in a legal process based on tactics of intimidation, few rules of evidence, and no legal representation under grand jury questioning, these justice-minded young people have chosen the more difficult path of noncompliance with injustice. Conversely, this grand jury investigation cannot boast even a veneer of justice. Instead, this grand jury investigation is mired in secrecy and coercive practices while only presenting the flimsiest of evidence. I must question the moral integrity of all those who willingly participate in this unjust process.
As Dakota people, we are familiar with unjust legal proceedings employed by the United States government and its willing collaborators to dispense colonial (in)justice. Scott DeMuth’s ancestors, as well as my own, were subjected to a military tribunal in 1862 for their defense of Dakota homeland, people, and way of life. After sham court proceedings in which over three hundred Dakota men were sentenced to execution by hanging under colonial notions of “justice” (many trials taking as little as five minutes), it was President Abraham Lincoln who ordered the state-sanctioned lynching of thirty-nine Dakota warriors. After one was pardoned, the good Christian colonizers of Dakota homeland hanged our 38 patriots the day after Christmas, 1862. This remains the largest, mass, simultaneous hanging from one gallows in world history. Ironically, the U.S. government sent the Dakota men who were criminally charged, but not hanged, to Camp McClellan in Davenport, Iowa to fulfill prison sentences. While most of our ancestors were imprisoned in Davenport another three years, 120 were killed as a consequence of their mistreatment under the charge of white soldiers. Ironically, it was also in Davenport, Iowa, where Scott DeMuth was handcuffed and arrested in November 2009. Dakota people are too well aware of U.S. (mis)conceptions of justice.
It is no surprise that in the 21st century little has changed. Through the grand jury system, the U.S. government continues to use threats of incarceration to attempt to force individuals to comply with an unjust process, and allows for individuals to be arrested and held in jail under the banner of “contempt of court” without charging them or providing any evidence. In essence, these proceedings amount to little more than witch-hunts that target anyone supporting the end of animal cruelty, unethical research practices, and repression by the state. To attempt to compile evidence which they have been unable to garner by other means, the grand jury investigators seek to harass and coerce testimony instead. No intelligent and moral human being should comply with this unjust process. In the face of these tactics of intimidation, Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth made the courageous choice.
Rather than serving as a collaborator in an unjust and unconstitutional process (even according to U.S. colonial law), it is time for Clifford Cronk, the Assistant U.S. Attorney, to begin engaging in ethical practices. Now that he has been charged formally, Scott DeMuth will finally be able to contest the circumstantial evidence presented against him in standard court proceedings with appropriate legal counsel, but Carrie Feldman remains in jail, unable even to challenge the unjust process to which she is subjected. Carrie Feldman should be immediately released. She is to be congratulated for her morality, not condemned to serve in an Iowa prison as a livingtestament to another U.S. perversion of justice.
In solidarity with grand jury resistors,
Wahpetunwan Dakota, Pezihutazizi Otunwe (Yellow Medicine Village)
Indigenous Peoples Research Chair and Associate Professor
Indigenous Governance Program
University of Victoria