Vernon Bellecourt
Speech at Kent State
May 4, 2000

VernonBellecourtCrop.jpg (23081 bytes)


Julliette Beck of thy Global Exchange. With a powerful young woman like that, we're in great shape for our leadership for the future. Thank you very much. Even inspired me. (Vernon is commenting on the previous speech.)

Vernon begins his speech with a verse in Chipewa.

First I greet you in the language of the great Ojibwa nations, commonly called the Chipewa. And I greet you very warmly as relatives, friends and I tell you my real name,                 , meaning Man of Dawn. I am known by my missionary, colonial name as Vernon Bellecourt. I'm the national representative and a founding member of the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council. And, of course, I am also the president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media.

First, I would like to read a couple of excerpts from the May 15, 1970 issue of Life Magazine.

When Jeffrey Glen Miller came home at Easter, he told his parents he would never go to Vietnam and kill. "I didn't exactly agree with Jeff," his father said. "I don't beleive in demonstrations." But Jeff's mother backed him. Now he is dead and both parents are united behind their son's actions. "Jeff stood up for what he believed and he didn't beleive in violence," his father said. "He did more with his little life than I or any of my friends have."

Bewildered and angry, Mrs. Miller feels the government shares blame for the killings and finds official reaction callous. "President Nixon wants people to beleive Jeff turned to violence, " she said. "This is not true. What kind of sympathy is this? When four kids are dead he gave no comfort. Nixon acts as if the kids had it coming. But shooting into a crowd of students, that is violence."

Her friends recall that Sandy Scheuer talked a lot about being afraid to die. "She had been adding to her hope chest for several years," a friend says. "She used to say she never wanted to die because she had so many things left in life to do."

Neighbors in Pittsburgh said Allison Krause was a pleasant girl who came around to help with household chores and baby sitting. "She was an honor student and last fall she decided not to join SDS because she said they were a bunch of finks." "She spoke her mind," her father says, "because we taught her to. She resented being called a 'bum' because she disagreed with someone else's opinion. She felt the war in Cambodia was wrong. Is this dissent a crime?" he asks. " Is this a reason for killing her?"

Bill Schroeder was a basketball star at Lorain High School. "At six feet, two inches, he often played against taller opponents," his former coach says, but he made up for it with determination." He was also captain of the cross country team but in his senior year he dropped track to concentrate on his classwork. He graduated 22nd in a class of 453 in 1968.

  And of course we are here today to not only honor the life and the memory of these four young victims of a grievous crime that took place right here on this day in 1970. We're also here to remember the victims at Jackson State. But as we say that, we must also honor the memory of another man that comforted the family, comforted the students here. And I refer to the work of Reverend John Adams of the United Methodist Church who truly walked in the foot prints of his namesake, John. And of course, we have to remember another man we know is here in spirit. An if it weren't for this man, many of us would have been in prison a long time ago for politically motivated prosecutions. And I refer to the life and the work and the memory of our dear beloved, departed brother, William (Bill) Kunstler.

Chief Sealth was a principal chief of the Suquamish nation, in what is now called the state of Washington. He was also a grand chief of the Duwamish Confederacy. Chief Sealth's name has been corrupted and given the city the name Seattle. Sealth was a great orator. And one time he was addressing his people, and in the process of his words, he said, "For the dear are not powerless." He paused. Asked himself  the question, "Did I say dead? There is no death. There is only the passing to another world." So I want to tell the families that are here today that in the words of Seattle, let us understand that the spirit of these young people here on Kent State continues. The spirit of these young people are creating leadership on this campus. And we have never seen this campus being lulled to sleep like we've seen so often across other parts of this country and throughout the world. So the May 4th Task Force, I am honored that you have invited me here today.

I've been here five other time, I think, beginning in 1971. I haven't been here for some time. But I'm back here again in the thirtieth anniversary.  I would like to reflect on a couple of issues that are before the national media. And it's very interesting to see all the talking heads, the good old boys and the good old girls, the Novacs, the Hannities, the O'Riellies and others who have come on television and tried to formulate how we should think about various issues. We've talked about the violence of Kent State and Jackson State. A lot of times we wring our hands. We're frustrated. We're frustrated by the violence of Columbine High School. And again, all the experts come on and try to tell us why there is do much violence in the fabric of the American culture, popular culture. Of course, if we were to talk about American culture...that's another whole issue that would be very hard and very difficult to divine, define, obviously.

We have a pretty good sense of violence. In the name of dominion, in the name of manifest destiny, a peoples fleeing the countries of their origins to escape from spiritual, cultural, social, economic, and political persecution. And rightfully so and correctly so, many people came here as the persecuted peoples in the countries  of their origins. But we have to admit, and it's another good example of the latest wave of riff raff that washed up on our shores recently in Florida,  in Miami, who, for whatever reason, beleive that parental rights are not important. And that they would hold this young guy hostage. And, again, all the talking heads will come on TV and we heard the ex-congressman from the state of Georgia, Newt Gingrich, talk about how this is not America's values to go into somebody's home and wrench the child from their arms. We would like to remind Newt Gingrich and others that they benefit daily, the results of the American Holocaust, ethnic cleansing at its worst, that began when a virus washed up on our shores at Plymouth Rock. And again at San Salvador Island. On San Salvador Island when the colonial pirate, Columbus landed here. And as we talk about a holocaust that we should condemn throughout the world, when we talk and condemn ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Kosovo, Africa and other parts of the world, Americans, daily benefit by the American Holocaust, the American ethnic cleansing that claimed six million here in what is called the United States in 500 years, let us condemn that also. Let's condemn the holocaust that took place in Central and South America and let's condemn the U.S. complicity. The world knows that the United States' Central Intelligence Agency and several presidents, beginning with Eisenhower when he overthrew the democratically elected government in Guatemala of Arbenz. In the last 15 years alone, 150,000 Mayan Indians, men, women and children have been butchered, brutalized, tortured, murdered, raped, buried and burnt alive. And are littered in mass graves throughout the countryside of Guatemala. Why isn't America talking about this continuing holocaust in Guatemala?

You know, after the Nazi holocaust of Europe, Justice Robert Jackson of the U.S. Supreme Court, who was the chief American prosecutor at Nuremberg. In listening to the protests of German Nazi military officers ant the German people, who are, incidentally still paying reparations today, Justice Jackson responded to their protests of innocence in this way, "If certain acts and violations of certain treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether Germany commits them or whether the United States commits them. We are not prepared to impose a code of criminal conduct against others that we would not be willing to have invoked against us."

America is faced with a moral dilemma. America is faced with a dilemma on such awesome destructive proportions. What your government has done and continues to do in Guatemala are crimes against humanity of the worst kind and you must join us in demanding that the World Court in the Netherlands, in the Hague and at the Permanent U.N. War Crimes Tribunal, which incidentally, Jesse Helms and other politicians are opposed to when it comes to trying the United States for crimes against humanity. And the Physicians for Human Rights, out of Boston, who are doing the forensic digs throughout Kosovo, that they can now come home and go to Guatemala so we can show them where 427 native villages used to stand, where there are now mass graves throughout the countryside.

During the height of the Apartheid era in Azania, South Africa, a lot of American politicians, like they often do, went to South Africa, and one such person was Senator Ted Kennedy, who, after some time of preaching to the Apartheid regime, was interrupted by Pik Botha, at that time, the Foreign Minister, Botha correctly challenged the Senator by saying, "Senator, some of us strongly beleive that Americans are the last people that can go around the world preaching morality. What we are doing to the blacks in Africa today is what you have already done and continue to do to the American Indian." True words spoken by this racist.

And as America today attempts to preach morality throughout the world, a very big contradiction looms before the American consciousness. And I can tell you many people throughout the world know the complicity of the United States government's various administrations in this terrible crime in Guatemala. Not only 150,000 Mayan Indians in mass graves throughout the countryside, but since they overthrew the democratic government of  Arbenz. in 1954, perhaps as many as 300,000 Guatemalan students, trade union leaders, democratic candidates, catechists, nuns, priests, Protestant Ministers have been murdered by the brutal government, the death squad government of Guatemala with the support of the United States.

Once we understand that America was founded on force, violence and state sponsored terrorism and we come to the conclusion that it continues today, then we should not be surprised as we were in 1970, when these four young people gave their lives up here on the hill. For us, as I stood there last night on the spot with our candles and I was greatly strengthened and inspired by all of you who were there individually.

My mind flashed back to 1862 at Mankato, Minnesota, which was the traditional homelands of the Mdewkantons Dakota, commonly called the Sioux Nation, and in 1862, 38 men, grandfathers and young men mounted the gallows and were hung in America's worst mass lynching in its history. A mass lynching. We went there about 20 years ago. We ask that they build a memorial on the site where the gallows was a vacant field...and, in there response, such as the response here at Kent State, that they had additional arrogance to build a library on that site and which library we would be hard pressed to find that part of American history, a history, incidentally, that is quite a short, a very short history. They paved over the spot as they have done here. They paved over this spot and that is the added arrogance that we see.

But in our experience, in our struggle, which continues today and we continue to work to free Leonard Peltier ho has been in prison of 23 years out of a U.S.  government program that started 2 years before the killings here at Kent State in the Nixon whitehouse. And I heard somebody invoke the names of John Dean, Bob Haldeman, John Erlichman, John Mitchell, the Attorney General. In 1972 we were part of a campaign that   literally took thousands of us to Washington. It was called "Trail of Broken Treaties." And it was built as the last peaceful effort to bring about corrective change. Rather than deal with us in an honorable way...and of course we were not surprised that they had no honor. In the Nixon whitehouse, Nixon ordered John Dean to launch a campaign to infiltrate, misdirect, disrupt, demonize, in order to discredit the leadership of the American Indian Movement. They admitted to recruiting more than 56 extremist informants, Indians and non-Indians masquerading as Indians. And on November 3rd this year, on November 3rd this year, we launched a major campaign to free Leonard Peltier. And what happened? Three individuals held a press conference in Denver, Colorado claiming to be leaders in the American Indian Movement in order to attack the American Indian Movement.

In the interest of time I want to ask you all to visit our website. You know it's pretty hard to talk about 500 years in ten minutes. So visit out website. Very easy, A I M movement with one M, Click on to the Ministry for Information. Click on to the Council for Security and Intelligence. And without having to name some of these turncoats and traitors and agents, you'll  find them on our website. And they have a very big talent of fooling the liberal establishment, the radical left forces and, in fact, the conservative forces in this country.  They launched a campaign on November 3rd, the very day that we were working to free [Leonard] Peltier. So we understand the deceit and treachery of the Nixon administration and other administrations since then.

I want to close with two brief quotes. Whenever we raise the issue of images...and I'm so pleased to look out there. I don't see any Wahoos out there. Our campaign is working. Because people always say, "We're honoring our Indians. What's the matter? Don't you like to be honored?" They ask us that question . And we tell them that in the land that is now called Ohio and Illinois, there was a great leader by the name of Tecumseh of the Shawnee Nation. And here is what he said as he reflected on our experience:

"Where are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohawks, the Pocanit and the many once powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and the oppression of the white man as show before the summer sun."

You see. In this part of the American ethnic cleansing programs, the American genocide, again which claimed about a60 million of us here, perhaps 200 million in Central and South America which is continuing... They drove us from these lands and now they're culture vultures. They want to exploit what we have left, our identity, our spiritual, cultural and intellectual property rights. So it's a very important issue. People say, "Well. Aren't there more important issues?" Well. Let us decide what our more important issues are. Don't lave the additional arrogance to try to tell us what our issues should be and when we should raise them.

I want to conclude on making four points. You have an obligation. You could say, "Well. We didn't know that was going on in Guatemala." You have an obligation now that you know, to join with us in demanding that the various death squad governments and their handlers in the Central Intelligence Agency, the various administrations, including the current one, and the past, and particularly Richard Nixon, because the killings intensified in Central and South America during his reign. You must join with us in demanding War Crimes Tribunals. We must put these war criminals here in the United States and in Guatemala on trial. We know a hundred thousand, at least, were killed by the United States in El Salvador, a hundred thousand in Nicaragua against the Nicaraguan Revolution, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, the American Holocaust continues in Central and South America.

So we want to also ask you to join us in freeing Leonard Peltier, and, of course, join us in eliminating all forms of racism in sports. You know. American, America's favorite pastime, baseball. To give you an example. Cleveland was an unprecedented 22 games out front at the end of the season. Now, wouldn't you think they would have been a shoe-in to win the World Series? Cleveland and Atlanta have been in the playoffs nine years in a row and with the exception of Atlanta winning the World Series of racism against Cleveland, they always lose. Racists are losers. So, we're saying to Cleveland, Atlanta, Kansas City, Washington, "Come out of the dug-out. Come out of the locker room with a new name, a new mascot, a new winning spirit and maybe then you'll become champions."Until then you're always going to be losers."

Finally, and to the families of these four young people whose spirit passed on into the spirit world and the physical remains were taken back into the bosom of mother earth. But Seattle said, "There is no death, There is only passing to the next world."

And with the young leadership that I see developing on the campuses across the country, I know that time is on our side. And in relationship to that , Crow Foot, who was born in 1821, was a great hunter, a brave warrior, an eloquent spokesman. And the following are his last words spoken while dying in 1890,

What is Life?
It is the firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass
And loses itself in the sunset.

That is life.
Time is on our side.
We will prevail.
Victory is guaranteed.

Thank you very much.

For more information on AIM and Vernon, link below:
American Indian Movement Web Site
The Wahoo Trial of Vernon Bellecourt

Other May 4, 2000 Speeches
Barry Levine on Allison Krause | Ramona Africa | Wendy Semon-Introduction | Julliette Beck | Julia Butterfly Hill | Vernon Bellecourt | Noam Chomsky

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