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Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  1,455 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
Edited by Harvey Arden, with an Introduction by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, and a Preface by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

In 1977, Leonard Peltier received a life sentence for the murder of two FBI agents. He has affirmed his innocence ever since--his case was made fully and famously in Peter Matthiessen's bestselling In the Spirit of Crazy Horse--and many remain co
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 16th 2000 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1999)
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Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Leonard Peltier tells his story and draws from the ritual of the Sun Dance. Regardless of what side you take on his conviction this book will open your eyes to the struggles that Native Americans have endured and continue to endure.
Jan 20, 2009 Adam82 rated it it was amazing
Written by an innocent man placed behind bars because of his strong stand for his people. Every Native brother and Sister should read this book. It is strongly poetic, symbolic in nature, and an opening of the mind and heart.
Jul 07, 2012 Kate rated it it was amazing
A few years ago, I watched a documentary about AIM and the 1970s occupations of Wounded Knee, Alcatraz, and the BIA building in Washington D.C. At the time I felt completely, ragingly angry. In part because of the way that Native peoples have been treated, are still being treated, all over the world. But also because I was 28 years old and I had never learned anything about the modern Native American movement. Why had no one ever taught me about this before? Oh, because ignoring the struggle is ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: native-american
I've always wanted to know more about Leonard Peltier - the first interest being our same last names (I was born a Peltier and adopted a McGinnis). But I thought people were fighting for his freedom because he was wronged or taken advantage of or something other than being totally, completely, obviously, utterly, provably, admitted-by-his-prosecutors-to-be NOT GUILTY! And HOW FRUSTRATING that he is still sitting in prison! I admire his heart (and his really beautiful hair haha) and his determina ...more
May 31, 2010 Anka rated it it was amazing
pg. 10 - "Be thankful you weren't cursed with perfection. If you were perfect, there'd be nothing for you to achieve with your life. Imperfection is the source of every action. This is both our curse and our blessing as human beings."

pg. 54- "Today white man lets his statistics do the killing for him. Indian reservations in South Dakota have the highest rates of poverty and unemployment and the highest rates of infant mortality and teenage suicide, along with the lowest standard of living and th
Jun 13, 2010 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daniel by: Sara
A sun dance is a ritual that includes (among other things I'm sure) self-mutilation. Spiritual awakening occurs at a sun dance when prayer and pain negate the self in service to a higher power, the Great Mystery. The metaphor is poignant. Leonard Peltier is a spiritual warrior for his people, and the massive repression that he and the American Indian Movement have suffered have caused him enormous suffering. But suffering is something he has been prepared to shoulder through these sacred sun dan ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Ani rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance is a collection of thought, poems, memories of Leonard Peltier - all written from inside a prison cell, with a half-chewed pencil, with barely any light. At the time of writing, he had been wrongfully incarcerated for 23 years. That was 15 years ago. He is still in prison.

The book captures Peltier's moments of anger and despair, yet mostly conveys the extraordinary sense of compassion which this man continues to have, in spite of the horrible atrocities
Kyle Aisteach
Jun 15, 2012 Kyle Aisteach rated it liked it
Let me start by saying that I'm going to make no judgment on Leonard Peltier's legal issues or moral righteousness. My personal politics don't belong in a book review, and therefore I'm going to limit this to discussing the literary merits of the writing. But I will say that those of you looking to this book for proof of Peltier's innocence or guilt will be disappointed. Yes, it's mostly about his point-of-view of the events surrounding the various crimes he's accused of, but, ultimately, there' ...more
Feb 05, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it
Great book about the modern Native American struggle. You really don't hear much about it, but the people are still struggling.

Leonard Peltier is a Native that was wrongly accused for the killing of a federal officer during a conflict on a reservation. There is overwhelming evidence for his innocence, but you gotta pin it on someone, right?....

If interested, also see a documentary called "Incident at Oglala" Really good.
This book is a prayer, not just for him but for his people and all peoples and for the earth.

A message to humanity

Our work will be unfinished
until not one human being is
hungry or battered, not a
single person is forced to die
in war, not one innocent
languishes in prisoned, and
no one is persecuted for his or
her beliefs.
~~Leonard Peltier

Read about Leonard Peltier, ask Obama to free him by calling the White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111

Angie Lisle
Apr 22, 2011 Angie Lisle rated it it was amazing
I admire Leonard Peltier and I do believe that he is a political prisoner of the U.S. government. This book gives us Peltier's version of the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee, the events that followed, a brief account of his life in prison, dispersed with poetry and infused with Lakota spirituality. A great read.
Mar 18, 2011 Cindy rated it it was amazing
Amazing spiritual message from a famous political prisoner. Falsly imprisoned for over 1/4 century.
Aug 27, 2012 Christine rated it it was amazing
This book made me SO very SAD. I belive he is NOT GUILTY.
Mar 22, 2011 Keely rated it really liked it
This book is disturbing and powerful. It has left me deeply moved and speechless.
Caleb Jones
Apr 07, 2016 Caleb Jones rated it it was amazing
this book was very good and interesting. the book showed a lot about the struggles of living and having to deal with being in prison. throughout the book he would complain of dealing with his demons and how he got through it. in the book he would "sit in the corner of his bed" to "think" about "the people that put me in here" (pg 56,57). this represents how he is still dealing with being locked up in there unfairly. it also shows how he is constantly thinking about the fear he has of being in th ...more
Oct 13, 2014 Lynne rated it really liked it
This is an important book that details the continuing efforts by government and big business to take more Native American land for various greedy reasons, including its rich natural resources, desire for further commercial development and blatant power grabs. It highlights how this has been done and how it continues to occur through any means possible - mostly illegal, unconstitutional and definitely unconscionable. The author's effort to protect his people from this travesty resulted in his mak ...more
Margaret Killjoy
Jul 24, 2010 Margaret Killjoy rated it it was amazing
I read this in two days. It's light and easy and sad as hell. I've known about Leonard's case for awhile, but this is the first time I've read about it in his own words.

There are parts I stumble over, like the continuing appeals to the constitution, and some of his appeals to nonviolence seem... i don't know. a little contrived. I mean, he carried a gun throughout his life with which to defend his people. that's not pacifism. instead, it's useful.

But this book is amazing and earnest, and I feel
Mar 23, 2011 Justin rated it really liked it
This is a great book that introduces you to a tragic story. It is amazing how many people are ignorant to the crimes of the US government against the Native Americans in the past but even I was surprised at how many of those crimes continue to this day. It is absolutely ridiculous that Leonard Peltier is still in jail and I don't believe he killed those FBI agents. Even if he did, the only thing he is guilty of is defending his people against FBI brutality and abuse. It is a good read and this m ...more
Denton Peter McCabe
A very moving work and reading it marks a beginning for me. I have picked this up for research for a series of musical compositions I am writing at the moment and what I have come to realize is that Peltier has had experiences very similar to my own as a Native American. I think this book should be read along with A Plague of Prisons by Eric Drucker. This will give the reader a renewed perspective on Peltier's claims of being framed by the FBI, especially in light of his claims of being singled ...more
Dec 05, 2015 Bethany rated it really liked it
What a powerful narrative from an extraordinary man. Peltier demonstrates the mistreatment and incarceration of Native men and women through his own testimony. It is well written and forces the reader to see things from another perspective while challenging all of humanity to make a change. Free Leonard Peltier!
Sarah Whitney
"But the fear of pain is much worse than the pain itself. That's what you quickly come to realize. And that's a lesson you'll need to learn if you're going to survive in this world, so you may as well learn it well."
Jul 15, 2008 Andrea added it
A most amazing read. It helped me look beyond my own life. This man should not be in prison and it's a great tragedy that more people/politicians/media are not coming to his aid. Something for Obama to rectify perhaps?
A soul-stirring biography filled with love and hope in the face of gross injustice. A story that deserves to be known and shared, if there is any chance for a better tomorrow.
Dec 19, 2008 Roy rated it it was amazing
This is what the title says -- "Prison Writings," a compilation of reflective pieces, poems, jottings put together by Peltier and his friend, writer Harvey Arden.
Peltier's story should be widely knownn, but it isn't due to many efforts to silence him and squelch distribution of books about him--most famously the suit against Peter Matthiessen's "In The Spirit of Crazy Horse." Peltier is truly a "political prisoner" suffering for his people. His people are the Lakota tribe. His frame-up is well t
A great primer for this book would be for a person to watch the video, Incident At Oglala. Leonard Peltier was given the shaft for the deaths of two F.B.I. agents on the Pine Ridge reservation and at the time this book was written had been sitting in prison for 23 years. The year was 1998. He is still in prison serving 2 life sentences plus 7 years for a crime that the government admits they cannot prove. What is amazing about this case is the amount of documents that have been found that actual ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Aug 17, 2008 Patrick O'Neil rated it liked it
Only one thing’s sadder than remembering you were once free, and that’s forgetting you were once free.” Leonard Peltier, incarcerated now for over twenty years for a crime he didn’t commit, writes about life in prison and what it’s like living as a political prisoner of the government of the United States. Falsely accused of murder, Peltier, a Native American political advocate, embodies the injustices perpetrated against militant activists in this country. Peltier’s writings and poetry conveys ...more
Jan 28, 2016 Andy rated it it was amazing
Five out of five stars! To quote Desmond Tutu "a deeply moving and very disturbing " story of a miscarriage of justice. Although I'm passionately interested in Native American practices, ceremonies and spirituality, my knowledge is less than skin deep. This book is a wonderful, optimistic and uplifting story of a man who has spent most of his life behind bars, is a horrifying prison system. That said, he openly explains his story as well and much of the way of life that was almost snuffed out de ...more
Doris Raines
Apr 14, 2016 Doris Raines rated it it was amazing
Shelves: doris-shelf
This. Is. A. Wonderful. Book. And. Story. It. Do. Not. Matter. Where. You. Are. Convict or. Not. Everybody. Has. Goals. And. Dreams. If. They. Cannot. Do. Any. Thing. Else. In. Prison. What. Ever. Life. Make. Look. Like. Or. How. Life. May. Seem. Still. Cant. Anyone. Take. Away. There. Dream, Doris.
Manveen Khera
Jan 01, 2013 Manveen Khera rated it it was amazing
If limitations are your thing: then read this. Real American culture a deep humility and wisdom we would be wreckless not to replicate daily.
Jun 05, 2013 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
By far one I the best books I've ever read! It's one you would like to read over and over again. Love it! #FreeLeonardPeltier
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Native American politicial activist imprissoned since 1977 accused of shooting two FBI officers.

Peltier is considered to be a political prisoner by amnesty international and the European parlement.

His parole has been denied by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
More about Leonard Peltier...

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“I don’t know how to save the world. I don’t have the answers or The Answer. I hold no secret knowledge as to how to fix the mistakes of generations past and present. I only know that without compassion and respect for all of Earth’s inhabitants, none of us will survive—nor will we deserve to.” 56 likes
“Innocence has a single voice that can only say over and over again, "I didn't do it." Guilt has a thousand voices, all of them lies.” 29 likes
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