I would say that the spirit of this man, Splitting the Sky, is certainly something in which I firmly believe when I speak of the essential strength and goodness of humankind and the fact that, if we are aware, we do have the wherewithall to fight for what we believe in, what is being stolen from us.
We see this same strength in the people of Bi'lin every week as they walk in peace into the guns of IDF hatred weekly in their struggle to maintain their lives. Here we see that same spirit in a Canadian native man who has been well honed by the fires of adversity.
Please meet Splitting the Sky, a truly honorable Canadian of whom we should all be extremely proud. I remember all of the events he mentions, but as a sheltered white person, I only knew what the mainstream media told us at the time, although I was very sensitive to racial issues. But often the Canadian press never even mentioned these events.
Now, older and more politically savvy, it is wonderful to hear the truth from someone who really was there.
A Radical Interview with
John Splitting the Sky,
Gustafsen Lake Defender
Vol. 3 No. 3 The Radical, October, 2000
By Arthur Topham
(The Radical is most appreciative for having the opportunity to present the following interview with John Splitting the Sky Hill. As readers are about to realize Mr. Hill has led a most remarkable life; one fraught almost from the onset with challenges, dangers and responsibilities that the average person would cringe at the thought of having to endure.
For all of John’s trials though, he has emerged ~ tempered by the fires of life ~ as a leading spokesperson for native sovereignty issues and a living example of the persevering spirit of resistance that has kept the aboriginal people of this continent strong.
It’s a riveting tale with a message as relevant today as it was almost thirty years ago. Ed.)
RAD: John it’s now been almost 10 years since the Oka uprising occurred and 5 years since the stand-off at Gustafsen Lake just west of 100 Mile House, B.C. The incident at Gustafsen Lake in many ways marked a turning point here in British Columbia for the manner in which our provincial government conducted itself toward native disputes.
You and Wolverine, aka William Ignace or Jonesy were to play some major parts at Gusfafsen Lake. Hopefully this interview will allow Radical readers to gain a much clearer insight into what was going on behind the corporate media’s blockade of information that the general public were subjected to back then.
But prior to getting into that I would like to ask you if you could talk about your own personal history and how it was that a native rights activist like yourself, originally from New York state, USA ended up running a Sundance ceremony at Gustafsen Lake.
While in Vancouver for the Under the Volcano festival in mid-August I heard you speaking in a workshop. At that time you mentioned that you had been directly involved in the infamous Attica Uprising in New York back in 1971 and ended up being the only player in that incident that did time. Let’s begin then with some background on how it was that at the ripe old age of 19 you became involved in one of America’s most bloody uprisings of the last century.
StS: Well, at the time of this talk I’m 48 years old and I’ll be 49 next January. I was born in Buffalo, NY. My mother is from the Mohawk Nation in Branford, Ontario and so my roots are basically here in Canada. As well my Grandmother was a Cree woman from Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. So like I said my roots are in Canada but my mother married my father who was from Buffalo, NY.
He passed away though in 1957. He worked for U.S. Rubber and had been commissioned by the company, along with ten other men, to spray paint one of their utility tanks, these massive tanks that they had at the plant there. They had been told by the company that they didn’t need gas masks but all the eleven men ended up dying from toxic inhalation.
RAD: Oh, Christ!
StS: And so eleven of them died and it wasn’t too long after that the child welfare department in Buffalo came and snatched up me and my sisters and put us into the foster care system.
RAD: How old would you have been then?
StS: Well I was 7 years old then and my sisters were like 6, 5, 4 and 3 respectively. And from that point on we were all separated into different foster homes.
I then went through a number of boarding school situations and orphanages. The boarding schools were like the residential schools here in Canada in fact the residential schools pretty much got their ideas from the boarding schools in the states.
So having gone through those schools for a number of years and resisting the kind of abusive treatment and brutality that existed within these joints I began to gain a reputation for being what you would say was an “incorrigible” person. I detail a lot of this information in my soon to be released Autobiography of Splitting the Sky Along With My Wife Sandra Bruderer subtitled: From Attica to Gustafsen Lake.
In any event after a number of years in these reform schools and foster home situations I eventually was on my own at the age of 17 for the first time in my whole life. I’d just gotten out of a reform school called the NY State Agricultural & Industrial School for Boys. I didn’t have a place to stay. I’d been kicked out of this apartment and had been sleeping out in the streets for a couple of months and it was getting really cold.
One evening I decided that I’d had enough. I was hungry and had no money and so out of desperation I tried to stick up a store. I ended up bungling the robbery and being held by two Italian guys who were mob related. They gave me a submarine sandwich to eat while I waited for the police to come and apprehend me and put me in jail for stealing nothing. I got nothing in the robbery but I still got 4 years for attempted robbery. It was my first offense. I ended up in a place called Elmira State Reformatory and that was the beginning of my long sojourn in the NY state penal system.
By this time I was beginning to get pretty big and strong and learning to handle myself quite well and I refused to give in to the rigid authoritarianism that existed within these systems and the abuse that comes with it.
I thwarted off years of these kind of attacks and brutal regimentation against myself and so that’s how I gained this reputation for being incorrigible.
When I went to prison for this robbery I became politically active while in jail. I met a number of people from different areas; people from the Black Panther party, the Puerto Rican Liberation party, a number of people involved in native activism, anti-war activists. So while I was in there gaining all this political knowledge I began to use that time to educate myself and I began to study and talk with people about how the system works and how people have basically been victimized by the economic system that doesn’t meet the needs of the multitude of people but only the oligarchies that control the world.
And so I began to understand that we were essentially victims of this vicious economic system and subsequently everything that we have to do to survive basically creates a prison class type of person.
It’s the working class, grassroots type of people who end up in prisons and it’s usually because of property related crimes. I began to look at various revolutionary ideas and philosophies and began to study these ideas. We began to realize that we were victims of a system that didn’t meet our needs and so we started entertaining a lot of ideas about revolutionary resistance in order to overthrow it.
So being very angry as a result of the years of brutal attack and imprisonment and punitive measures being laid on you within the prison system with the various kangaroo courts and beatings that one is subjected to every time that you challenged authority I began to realize that I just wouldn’t be broken by that system. And so it became one of those abuser/victim situations and I guess it was really a recipe for creating revolutionary ideas for those within the prison system.
RAD: Did you spend the full 4 years in jail for that attempted robbery?
StS: I did just about all 4 years on that one, yes. While I was in there about 2 years later I had been transferred from Elmira Reformatory and I was sent to Attica State prison in 1971 sixteen days before the rebellion happened.
RAD: Could you talk about that rebellion and bring Radical readers up to speed on what really took place during that time?
StS: Sure I could. The conditions at Attica, like all the prisons in New York at that time, were very intolerable, to the point where prisoners were basically living on a per capita of 62¢ per day meaning that all your basic necessities for existence cost the prison administration only 62¢ a day to house you there.
This meant you had a very poor diet which included rancid food for the most part. You had no hot water in your cells. You had to bird bath after working in sweat shops all day long for 2¢ a day while the administration was making millions of dollars profits from prison slave labour. People could only take a shower once a week and your laundry was only done once a month!
Our Latino brothers didn’t have any access to mail. They couldn’t send or get letters because the prison was run by an all white administration and most of the white administrators were affiliated with neo-nazi organizations as well as active members of the Klu Klux Klan.
The Warden of the prison himself was known to be the Grand Imperial Wizard of the local klavern. His name was Vincent Mancusi. And so subsequently you had a very white, racist regime that made it a prison policy to beat you to death if you were incorrigible. There were a number of people that were brutally beaten right to death; smashed to death with what the guards called their “nigger sticks” if anyone challenged their authority.
So the stakes were much higher because once you were raised up to a state prison like Attica it was well known that I wouldn’t be able to get away with the sorts of behaviour that I’d been getting away with up to that point. Before then I was used to getting severe beatings but now in Attica I was facing the possibility of getting beat to death for having what they referred to as a militant attitude.
There were a number of murders that were committed and a number of killings that went unreported. People were being buried in unmarked graves, in prison walls and under cement foundations in new wings of the prison. This sort of stuff was a known fact amongst the inmates which basically kept everyone pretty much in a state of fear and panic all the time.
But like I was saying we were going through an era where people everywhere were becoming very anti-social and were challenging these regimes within the prison system as well as the government itself. People on the outside as well were no longer prepared to tolerate all the bullshit from the system per se.
So there were a lot of people coming into prison who were challenging issues about racism and sexism and taking part in the resistance against the anti-imperial, ant-colonial movement. They were bringing these issues in with them to the joint and so there was a lot of unrest within the prison and militancy on the rise. It seemed like most of us that had that sort of an attitude ended up at Attica and all in all it made for a very explosive situation.
Oka warrior at standoff.
Well what happened that set off this explosion was that there was a guy by the name of George Jackson who was a really powerful black writer and he was writing on the black liberation movement. He’d written two books, one called Blood In My Eyes and one called Letters From George. He was also a close friend of Angela Davis.
And she was involved with the shoot out with his brother Jonathan Jackson at the courthouse in California and that’s what she was on the run for during that time. He had become so known for his writings, all over the prison and he was basically saying destroy the system, tear it apart brick by brick and challenge the authorities who are upholding this capitalist structure. If governments had been meeting the needs of the people there wouldn’t be no need for prisons in the first place.
StS: So anyway, because he had such a powerful, militant voice I guess what they did was set him up. They said that he went into the visiting room at the prison and that when he came out of the visiting room he had a .38 tucked away in his asshole which was outright bullshit. And so they took the opportunity to start beating him up and then they killed him by pumping 20 to 30 slugs into him.
Bob Dylan wrote a song about him. “He only went to jail for a $75 robbery, Lord, Lord, they shot George Jackson down.” I don’t know if you remember that song but it was about George.
Anyways when all the different brothers and sisters across the country heard about what they’d done to George everybody had a national day of solidarity and mourning for the brother and everybody just kind of united and had a prayer ceremony for him. And then the next day everybody was planning a major food fast. Nobody was going to take food. It was going to be a food strike coupled with a work stoppage as well.
At Attica it was like about 100% of the whole prison population of around 1200 men. That kind of solidarity amongst the men of course scared the living shit out of the police in the prison even to the point where you could hear their chains rattling out of fear and nervousness. In fact in the mess hall there was complete silence. You didn’t hear the clattering of the plates of a thousand men eating at the same time mixed with all the talking. There was just complete silence. Everybody had white shirts on with black arm bands around them and nobody was taking food or saying anything, just going in and going out. That sort of solidarity scared the living shit out of the Beast.
Then, a couple of days later there was a football scrimmage going on and there was a white guy and a black guy scrimmaging and I guess this one lieutenant came out with a couple of the guards and thought that he’d seen the black guy hit the white guy in the scrimmage and so the lieutenant told the guards, “Lock that fuckin’ nigger up!”
The white guy told the lieutenant that they were just scrimmaging and that he ain’t no nigger and if they were going to lock up the black guy then they should lock him up too. So the lieutenant told the guards, “Lock that nigger lover up too.” And when the guard went to grab the black brother he smacked him in the mouth and that was it.
Everybody converged and just dropped what they were doing and surrounded him and showed him their support. That day the lieutenant promised not to lock him up but that night after everybody was locked back up they went around looking for people that were involved in that mutiny, including myself, because I ended up smacking the same lieutenant in the face because I’d said that he was a liar and that he was going to end up locking these guys up and throwing them into solitary confinement.
But he didn’t recognize who I was at that point because I’d only been there 16 days. I kinda just came out of the crowd and gave him a smack across the side of the head, a slap. So that night they pulled two guys out of their cells. These guys had thrown some cans of soup and broken bottles at the guards when they were walking down the hall and the one guard had got hit in the head with a can of soup.
The next day after everybody was coming out after breakfast the administration decided they were going to do a prison lock down. They had the doors locked where everybody usually went out into the yard before going to work. I was walking down the corridor with a guy by the name of Sam Melville. He was a guy that belonged to a white organization that was a revolutionary group called the Weathermen Underground. He was known as the Mad Bomber and he was sorta like a political mentor to me at that time. He was in prison for blowing up a number of different corporate buildings in the US along with a number of other sisters like Marilyn Buck, Lisa Van and Linda Horn who were also involved with the Weathermen.
So Sam asked them how come they locked those brothers up. There was a black brother there too with us who was part of the liberation army and I was right there standing next to them. The captain told Sam that he didn’t know why but that he’d check on it. Then the black guy told the captain, “Yah, well you’re full of shit” and he punched the guy and as he knocked the captain down. Sam Melville started stompin’ him in the ribs. I saw this happening and I just turned around and said well, this is it. Let’s take the goddam place. This is it. Let’s riot. The next thing you know there were 1200 men rioting all over the place.
It spread like a spark in a prairie fire. There were four sections to the prison and where the four hallways met in the centre there were four independent gates with locks controlling access to each hallway. Without getting through those other gates you couldn’t get to the other sections of the prison.
There were about four guards who were in the middle of that area that we called Times Square. They had the keys and so they locked all the gates leading into the different sections so that nobody could get through. There was about 30 or 40 of us in this one section and so what we did was start shaking the bars. It was a cast iron gate that was about 20 feet wide and we just kept shaking on it and pulling on it and rocking it back and forth and eventually we just ripped that gate right off the wall.
As the gate went down it hit one of the cops on the head. We got the keys and opened the other gates. There were 1200 men just coming from all over the place and grabbing prison guards and holding them. They put these guards into inmate garb and took them to holding areas where they were then held as hostages to be used in negotiations with the state of New York.
At that time Nelson Rockefeller was the Governor of New York. Anyways, one of the guards that had been in the Times Square area when the gates went down died two days later from his injuries and in 1971 I was charged with having killed this guy.
This cop that died his name was William Quinn. He was the determining factor in the 28 demands that we made to the state. The international press was allowed to come in. The Commissioner of New York state parole was a guy by the name of Russell G. Oswald. He actually had enough nerve to come into the prison and negotiate with us. We had state Senators John Dunn and we had Tom Wicker from the New York Times and a number of other people, Clarence [?] from the Amsterdam News and William Kunzler the constitutional lawyer.
RAD: Oh yes. William Kunzler the lawyer for the Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial.
StS: Yes. So all these people came in as observers and William Kunzler was our lawyer and he eventually became my trial lawyer. So what happened was we had fifty hostages and we held them for about five days. And we had set up a negotiating team to maintain control of the prison day and night and these 1200 men basically formed and became a real tight, democratic process of negotiating with the state and our observers there and with the national and international media and so our situation was heard all around the world. For the very first time people around the world were starting to finally hear about what was really going on within America’s penal system.
We continued negotiating and 28 demands were met by the NY state but one; the demand where we were asking for amnesty from any criminal prosecution. We had all agreed that when the guard had died we were in fact all accessories to the crime and technically that’s how it would have read in the laws of New York state. We had also asked for the removal of Vincent Mancusi because he was the Grand Dragon of the invisible Clavorn over there in Attica.
We had also asked for transportation to a non-imperialistic country and 17 countries around the world had said that they’d receive us if the state would fly us out by helicopter but of course they weren’t going to do that.
Well, you know, you shoot for the moon and you settle for a piece of the rock. You know what I mean? So as far as our demands went we went sky high. We had put it to a vote and it was a unanimous decision of all 1200 men that we wouldn’t give up unless the state granted us a blanket amnesty from any criminal prosecution.
Subsequently we didn’t want to turn it into a reformist struggle. We wanted to keep it a purely revolutionary struggle and not fall prey to the whims of the status quo. But anyway we were caught in a negotiating posture and they wouldn’t negotiate the 29th demand. And so there we were.
They gave us the last ultimatum on September the 13th, 1971 to come out or they were coming in. And it just so happened that morning that during the same time that this was going on with us in upstate New York, in a place called Onondaga Reserve, the Onondaga Nation had called down the Mohawk warriors from Canada and upper upstate New York. About 600 armed warriors had come down to the Onondaga Reserve to help the people there defend their right to stop New York state from expanding a highway through the Onondaga Independent Sovereign territory which was part of the Six Nations confederacy.
That morning Governor Rockefeller had sent about 1000 state troopers to do gun battle with the Mohawk warriors up at Hwy 81 and the Onondaga Reserve just outside of Syracuse when suddenly they were called back to go to Attica. They turned them all around and when they went into Attica they positioned them on the rooftop.
People here were going through psychological warfare holding knives to the hostages throats and pretending that they’d go all the way and kill them if the troopers came in charging. They weren’t thinking that the state would send any gunslingers in while they had hostages in there knowing that their own could possibly be killed. Right? But that wasn’t the case. They’d made a decision to take the prison.
So next thing you know you could see up on top of the prison walls there’s like all these red coats. Not red coats like here in Canada but it had been raining lightly that morning and you could see all these red rain coats on the New York state troopers. Bright fluorescent red raincoats with red hats and they’re up on the roof top and they’re all in the hallways of the buildings that we didn’t take. And you could see them busting out windows and they had every kind of assault weapon you could possibly think of.
Then all of a sudden you could see this army helicopter rising up from behind the prison wall and hovering over the prison and all of a sudden the sound of this massive helicopter flying just directly over head with someone in it yelling over a bullhorn to give up the hostages and you wouldn’t be harmed.
They flew around like that two or three times and then on the third time around they dropped a canister of CN4 gas and when it hit the catwalk it exploded like a bomb throughout the whole prison. Then they dropped about 3 or 4 more canisters of this gas that had been banned by the Geneva Convention in 1906 as a cruel and unusual form of lethal force to be used in times of warfare. But they dropped it in Attica. This was excess stuff that they had tucked away in army bases in NY state.
After they released this canister it caused severe burning of people’s eyes and lungs and their skin was being scorched from the effects of the chemicals. Then, all of a sudden, as soon as the gas hit, the state troopers up on top of the roof started firing guns and for the next ten minutes they let out damn near 15,000 rounds of bullets. All you could see was tracer bullets.
Every 5th bullet was a red tracer bullet that was flying through the air and you would see what looked just like fire spurting out all over the place and you could hear the screams of people just being shot and murdered in cold blood and people just begging man for their lives while they were being shot to death. And so while the troopers on the roof top were still blasting away, the troops in the buildings came storming through.
There were a number of movies that were made about it later that showed roughly what was happening. There was one that was made recently starring Samuel L. Jackson called Against the Wall and another movie with Morgan Freeman playing the lead role called Attica. When I saw the movie I sort of relived it in my head you know. The day that they came in and did this massacre.
RAD: Where were you when all the shooting was going on?
StS: I was up on top of the catwalk. When I got up after the canister hit and took the cloth off my face there were two state troopers that had come over to where I was and this one trooper put a shotgun in my face and he pulled the trigger and the clip fell out of the gun!
Now both him and the other state trooper had gas masks on and when the other trooper saw that the clip fell out, I could see it in his eyes he was thinking, wow that’s not supposed to happen, right?
Then he took the butt of his gun and smashed me across the face and the other cop grabbed me and they threw me over the catwalk and down on to a handball court which was about 40 feet below. The only thing that stopped me from getting killed was this fire hose that we had tied up along side the road and I was able to grab it and break the majority of the fall going down.
But I still busted my leg when I hit the concrete. My head hit as well and I went unconscious. But as I was going down I must have been shot at least three times with pellets of Double O Buck because later I had three pieces of lead buckshot in me, two in one leg and one in the other plus some kind of graze in the top of my head.
So, like I said, I went unconscious for awhile and then when I came to it was almost like my spirit had went outside my body and I could see the murders being committed and at the same time I could see everything happening; the killing and the screaming and the horror and the horrific screaming that was going on. And then all of a sudden I came back into my body and this guard came up and put a gun to me and said, “Crawl nigger crawl.” They called everybody a nigger that day.
What they did then was they started throwing people into ditches that had been used as urinals or places to defecate and just assassinated them at gunpoint. Then after the initial assault they would just go around and randomly pick people out and execute them. They’d put X’s on their backs and mark them for execution.
And so anyways, that day New York state murdered 43 people including 11 of their own and then they tried to justify their actions by saying that the inmates had cut the guards’ throats and castrated them and beheaded them. But in reality a forensic expert in Rochester, NY said that nobody was castrated or none of them had died by inmates knives but had all died as a result of gunfire.
So there was an example of where the press had reported misinformation and subsequently they had to retract all of it. Forty-three people died that day and over 80 people were wounded and maimed for life.
On the same morning by the way, it’s really strange, because native people that were at the Longhouse in Onondaga said that there were these drums hanging on the Longhouse wall and when the massacre was taking place these drums began to play by themselves. They were playing a warrior’s song and it was like the spirit was playing this song for those at Attica who had lost their lives. It was very powerful and when the people saw these drums playing this Warrior song by themselves in honour of those who had died everybody felt that the people who were at Attica gave their lives so that the Mohawk Nation and the Onondaga people would live. So there was great honour there. There was great thanks.
In any event, after being moved around through 16 different prisons, a year later they had indicted 61 of us. We became known as the Attica Brothers, the supposed ringleaders who had started the riot at Attica prison in 1971.
My trial was an international trial heard around the world. It was reported by national and international news. I was on bail for 19 months and during that time I went up and was involved in the resistance takeover in Ganienkeh in 1974 in Mohawk territory in upstate New York.
So anyway, like I was saying, my trial was a pretty celebrated case. William Kunzler was my attorney and my co-defendant was a guy by the name of Charlie Joe Ternasalice and he had Ramsey Clark, the former US Attorney General, as his lawyer. And then four years later I fired Kunzler as my lawyer because he refused to expedite my appeal after I got convicted and after I let him go I also got Ramsey Clark to come on as my attorney and he got me out after six months.
When I did go to trial and was convicted I was facing the electric chair but they ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 1973 and so my conviction was dropped down to 20 years to life and Time magazine had said that unlike most murder cases the case of John Hill’s was unique in that it was totally bereft of evidence.
Basically they had put up a fabricated incident saying that they’d seen me swinging a club and hitting this guy over the head which, of course, was bullshit. It really was. If anything happened it was the gate falling down on him and he was killed in the melee. There were 500 people running up and down through that hall when it happened.
In any event the long and the short of it is that I got 20 years to life and I went back into prison. And while this was going on Rockefeller was vying for Vice-President under Gerald Ford and he was acting Vice-President and waiting for Senate confirmation. And as he was waiting for Senate confirmation his political record was so blemished by Attica that he tried not to make the state look so bad for what they’d done in the massacre.
So what he did was Rockefeller basically did jury tampering with the head of the jury of criminal investigation of New York state with a guy by the name of Anthony B. Simonetti and he had told Simonetti that he wanted him to suppress all evidence of any murders that were committed and were being presented to a second Grand Jury that was hearing the murders that were committed by the state troopers, that is, the executions that were committed after the initial assault.
There was a guy by the name of Malcolm Bell who was working as part of that Attica prosecutorial staff and Malcolm Bell said he refused to be a part of this jury tampering. And he wrote a whole statement about it and submitted it to the New York Times and the New York Times knew about it before I even got convicted by the jury and they said that they would not release that statement about their knowledge about Rockefeller trying to tampered with the second Grand Jury hearings through this bureau of criminal investigation until after my trial was over. And only then did they run that piece and broke the story in the New York Times about a month afterward I was in jail.
Well, that created a big scandal. The succeeding Governor was Hugh Carrie and his Lieutenant Governor was Mario Como and what they basically did was they commissioned a former judge by the name of Bernard Shaw to investigate the allegations and so all the rest of the Attica Brothers’ trials were put on hold for the next two years while this commission went about its work.
Eventually it made a recommendation to Governor Hugh Carrie that the books on Attica should be closed and they also recommended that the New York state troopers be given a blanket amnesty. Remember, they wouldn’t give us a blanket amnesty during Attica but now they were giving the New York state troopers a blanket amnesty from any prosecution. They dismissed all the pending indictments against the rest of the sixty Attica Brothers and in my case they granted me Executive Clemency.
That made me eligible to go to the parole board and on the strength of the Governor’s recommendation I should have been released on parole. I finally went to the parole board after seven attempts by these bastards to kill me in prison including one when they were moving me from Greenhaven State Prison into a halfway house to go to a parole board hearing. There was a car full of cops with guns trying to shoot at the two detectives that were driving me from that prison into New York. If it hadn’t been for those detectives driving down a back road at speeds of up to 120 mph and kicking up all that dust we would have been dead.
I went to this parole hearing and for the first time in the history of New York state, on the strength of a Governor’s recommendation for Executive Clemency, I was given two more years because a state Senator by the name of Dale Vocker and Ralph Marino threatened the acting Chairman of the New York state parole board (who was facing confirmation hearings for a $46,000 job); threatened that he would be denied that confirmation (the first black head commissioner of the New York state parole board) if John Hill was to be released on parole. Subsequently I was given two more years, the only man convicted in the Attica Rebellion/Massacre of 1971.
Then two years later, after being #1 of a hundred political prisoners listed by Andrew Young, Ambassador to the United Nations, in denial of what his own boss Jimmy Carter had said, that there were no political prisoners in the United States, I was finally let go based on the fact that I was the only one convicted and that there was no way that they could really hold me after dropping all the indictments against everyone else.
But if it hadn’t been for Rockefeller trying to cover up and jury tamper I would probably have died in prison because of police vendettas. I finally got out in 1979.
RAD: And so what happened John after your final release from state prison in the US?
StS: I got out of prison in 1979 and then did a number of years of activism. I became highly involved with the American Indian Movement (AIM) all along the east coast. As a matter of fact I was one of the co-founders of the American Indian Movement’s east coast chapter and worked with all the prevalent founders who were active in the 1970’s ~ the Means and the Bellecourts who founded AIM in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Then, after a number of years I was invited up to participate in a conference on native sovereignty in Edmonton, Alberta.
After speaking there in Canada I founded the League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations in 1990. At the same time though I was doing solidarity and resistance work with my brothers and sisters out at Oka. I wasn’t at Oka but at the Mercier Bridge helping out with the blockade in that area.
Rad: Where was that in relation to Oka?
StS: Not too far away. We were blocking the bridge leading from Kahnawake Reserve into Montreal. We had the army surrounding us in that area too but we were there in order to take the heat off of our brothers and sisters around TC (the Treatment Centre) at Kanesatake next to Oka.
So anyway, on my way up to the conference that I mentioned, I met this very beautiful Cree lady called Sandra Bruderer who now has become my wife. We’ve been together for about 8 years. We fell in love and have two beautiful children.
I was also a member of the Sundance Society while I was in New York state and so when I arrived here in Canada I was naturally looking for a place where I could carry on my traditions and so it was around this time that I met Wolverine or William Ignace, “Jonesy” as we all call him. He didn’t get the name Wolverine until a little later on when it was given to him by a medicine man.
While I was with Jonesy and the medicine man, I passed tobacco to a guy by the name of Percy Rosette who since has become a government collaborator. I passed him and Ernie Archie tobacco up at the 100 Mile House area.
RAD: Where were you living then?
StS: At the time I was living with my wife up at Hinton, Alberta. We’d moved up there from Saskatchewan after I met Sandra and it was from there that I was coming out to 100 Mile House to dance at the Sundance Ceremony. In 1994 I danced with a number of the Shuswap dancers and then in 1995 while getting ready for another Sundance the medicine man by the name of John Stevens, who eventually brought everybody out to Gustafsen Lake on September 18th, 1995, appointed me as the Sundance chief which turned out to be the time of the standoff.
RAD: Why was it John that you were chosen to lead the Sundance rather than someone from the local area?
StS: It was in May of that year that I was asked to be the Sundance chief and at the time I reluctantly agreed because I thought that someone from the Shuswap nation should be the Sundance leader. I had already refused the offer three times but I couldn’t refuse it when I was offered the pipe for the fourth time.
So after agreeing we went up there in order to get the grounds ready for the ceremony. When I arrived it was sort of a cultural shock to see just how heavy the racism was in the area and how much fear the local Indians had of the redneck element. Native people kind of walked around with their heads down afraid to deal with the locals.
It was then that I began to hear about a number of instances where Indians were being brutalized and even murdered. People were being killed but nobody was saying anything about it. And so I was beginning to hear these horror stories and it reminded me of places like the deep south in the U.S. But here the identical thing appeared to be happening up in the deep north of Canada!
So I’m looking at the level of racism that’s happening in this area and, you know, I’m the kind of guy who’ll look anybody in the eye, I don’t care who it is. If it isn’t a happy face or one of solidarity and it’s negative I got a way of shooting that negativity back when I look at them and I don’t look down or away but straight in their eyes whether they’re friendly or not.
But apart from the racism there were a lot of good humble people in the area who were members of the Sundance society and we worked together to get prepared for the ceremony.
RAD: When was it that things began to change for worse?
StS: While we were preparing the actual grounds at Gustafsen Lake we found that there were a number of cattle there that belonged to this rancher in the area by the name of Lyle James. I guess he had had an agreement with the collaborator Percy Rosette (and that’s what I’ll always call him as long as I live because that’s what he turned out to be in the final analysis.
He sold Wolverine and myself out after we had initially responded to his calls for help when attacks were being made against himself and his family up at Gustafsen Lake). But we’ll get to that later.
So here we are preparing for the Sundance. Now bear in mind that this is ranching country and the area was used for grazing cattle. Now rather than let the cows come in and defecate all over the sacred ground like they had the year before we decided to fix up the fencing that was there in order to prevent this from happening again.
There were already three fences there that Lyle James’ men had put up in previous years and there was another old wooden rail snake fence that went right down towards the lake where the gate used to be and it had all fallen apart and was dry-rotted so we decided to repair that section of it rather than spending the whole time of the Sundance, including night time too when you’re supposed to be resting and recuperating from dancing all day long without food or water, out there chasing cows.
You want to be preparing for the time of seeking a vision. So we put up another barbed-wire fence down there and a second gate as well so that we wouldn’t stop access or egress to either the gate or for the cows to get to the lake to drink.
But when we did that I guess Lyle James saw it as an act of territorial imperative or something and probably became leery and decided that he was going to have us evicted off the land.
RAD: So, in reality, the whole stand-off at Gustafsen Lake originated over a bunch of bullshit then?
StS: Yes, I guess you could say that. So at that point James went to Martin Sarich the head of the RCMP in 100 Mile House and tried to get him to send a detachment out and get rid of us. Of course the police told James that they had no legal grounds to go out and evict us and if they did then it could very well turn into a major land claims issue.
In other words if Lyle James wanted to have us removed he would have to initiate a civil action against us and take us to court. Lyle James didn’t want to take the time or go to the expense of paying out large sums of money in court in a civil matter so the RCMP then told him that, apart from going that route, the only other way they could intervene would be if a situation arose in which there was an imminent threat to the public. Then they could go in.
In other words if Lyle James was able to antagonize the people at the Sundance and they were to pose a threat to the public then the police could act, otherwise it was out of their jurisdiction. So what the RCMP were doing in a sense was egging James on into creating a confrontation with the Sundancers at Gustafsen Lake.
RAD: Like so much of the coverage in the mainstream press these seemingly incidental acts were never presented to the public and thus a completely different picture was painted of the situation. So what happened next?
StS: After deciding it would likely be more expedient and cheaper to follow the advice of the RCMP, Lyle James sent twelve of his cowhands up to our camp. One guy jumped out of a pickup with a bull whip and started snapping it and saying it was a good day to string up some red niggers.
Another guy had pulled out a shotgun and had it visibly showing for people to see.
Another guy, Lyle James’ son, (I think his name was Darryl) took a handwritten eviction notice that they had written up and stuck it up on top of one of the sacred eagle spear staffs and in so doing desecrating the staff. Then another one of his sons took a video camera and went up there on the fasting site and was videotaping one of the Sundancers who was in the midst of doing a vision quest.
RAD: Nothing like a bit of good ol’ redneck respect for other people’s religious traditions! Where were you while this intimidation and harassment was taking place at the Sundance site?
StS: Neither I nor Wolverine were there at the time that these incidents took place. It was basically younger people who had been left there at the time and the guy that told us about everything that had happened was the son of the medicine man John Stevens. His name was Harold Stevens. Harold had to sneak past these guys and pretend that he was just a fisherman in the area in order to get away.
Then he went about fifty kilometers into town to make a phone call to me because I was the Sundance leader. When he called me I basically put out a call to Jonesy (Wolverine) and said hey we’d better get some people up there and see what the heck is going on. I was all the way up in Hinton, Alberta at the time.
RAD: The issue of weapons and their presence at the Sundance site has always been one of the factors played upon by the RCMP and the media. How was it that weapons came to be there?
StS: When I heard about the incident from Harold Stevens I told Wolverine that it looked like these guys were being accosted and that the RCMP were putting James’ men up to it. And so Jonesy got a couple of guys and they went up to see what was happening. He had asked me at that time if we should use equipment, basically saying hey if they got guns do we use guns and I, as the Sundance chief said yes we do.
If the RCMP is putting these guys up to it and they’re threatening our people’s lives up there and threatening to evict us then we’re going to challenge the eviction notice. And since the land is basically or technically unceded according to international and constitutional law as well as our own native, national law then we’ll bring the whole land claims issue into it and deal with the issue of the rule of law.
And part of the rule of law, according to our own national identity and our own national right, is the ability and the right to defend ourselves against any other aggressor nation or colonial regime. And so that’s why we made that stance. Technically, I made that decision and took that position as the Sundance chief.
Of course everything that was done at that point was defensive not offensive. Nothing was ever an aggressive, offensive posture on our part; it was always a defensive stance and was meant in that way until the issue of the rule of law had been addressed.
RAD: In what context or framework did you perceive the addressing of this issue taking place?
StS: We certainly didn’t want to address the rule of law in their courts because first off the courts are always going to rule in favour of the colonialists or be biased against us as they have been historically for the past two hundred and fifty years.
RAD: And so what happened next?
StS: What happened then was that there was a number of skirmishes that took place and we went into a defensive posture. Basically we did the Sundance ceremony under a state of siege. For two and a half months we held out strong.
There had been a number of shots that had been fired into the camp by locals and what I believe were reconnaissance teams from the Canadian military as well as the Emergency Response teams who were moving through and firing shots into our camp during the night while they were doing night surveillance on us. Finally, after that two and a half month period, things were starting to quiet down a bit.
RAD: During this time were there any negotiations taking place with the police?
StS: Yes. We had basically gotten into a good rapport with native officers from the local area, George Finlay and Charlie Andrews and Bob Woods, and we were negotiating peacefully. Towards the end of the ceremonies most of the people were heading out and we had about fifteen people left but we were still making our stance and we were still holding our ground and still having negotiations with Lyle James and his lawyer and trying to get the hereditary chiefs in this area and our lawyers together to sit down in a neutral zone and have public hearings on the question of the law.
Charlie Andrews had basically facilitated these negotiations and we were supposed to have this meeting on August 21st. It was around the 7th of August when we’d agreed on this date and so we had about two weeks before anything was going to happen so some of us decided to leave and attend to some of our domestic chores back at our homes.
Wolverine had to go back and check on his garden down in the Shuswap and we had to go back to Hinton to check on our garden as well. My wife Sandra had also just had our daughter Rainbow Rose on June 2nd just before things escalated on the 13th when James’ cowhands had invaded the camp and started making threats and she needed help as well so Wolverine and I decided to sneak out of camp and go home for awhile. The RCMP didn’t realize that we’d left and thought that we were still there.
During this same time my wife’s mother had come out from Manitoba to visit and see her new grandchild and so Sandra decided to take her up to Gustafsen Lake to show her the lake and at the same time bring up some food and supplies for the people who were still camped there.
She left on August the 18th but what she didn’t know at the time (and I didn’t know either because I’d stayed home with the two older kids and my wife’s father in law) was that about two hours after she’d left I would be getting a phone call from Percy Rosette telling me that he and the rest of the people in camp were being surrounded by men in military fatigues and that they were firing shots into the camp.
I could hear his wife screaming in the background and I could tell that he was panicking for his life so I told him to get out of view and into a bunker and not to panic and I would see what I could do.
RAD: Being stuck up in Hinton, Alberta what could you do at the time?
StS: Actually, thanks to Ma Bell, lots! I called Ramsey Clarke the former U.S. Attorney General and I called Bill Kunstler my former attorney because he was still alive then and I called international organizations all over the world and numbers of people that I knew in the American Indian Movement. All of them then put out a red alert and began making phone calls to the RCMP detachment in 100 Mile House, B.C. and asking the police what the hell was going on up there.
One has to bear in mind that at this point the RCMP and military still didn’t know who I was personally. They hadn’t gotten a profile on me yet so they didn’t know who I was and so the police up in this little redneck town in the middle of B.C. were suddenly shocked that they were getting phone calls from the international community all over the world wanting to know what was going on and who was in the bush.
RAD: How did they react to this sudden onslaught of enquires?
StS: The RCMP responded by saying that they thought it was just a case of the locals taking the law into their own hands and dressing up in camouflage. They said they would be sending a chopper up to see what was going on. All along though they knew that it was their own Emergency Response Team that they had sent in, ostensibly in order to get the license plate numbers off the vehicles at camp to find out how many people were in there, but that, of course, was bullshit because the native constables had already told them the numbers.
RAD: Seeing as how the native constables were doing such a good job of communicating with the camp it seems rather absurd as you said that they were relieved of their duties so suddenly.
StS: Yes, it was absurd but all part of the overall plan of future attack. These same native constables were pulled off the job that morning on August 18th, 1995 when the shooting began. They were told that they were no longer needed up there because of the fact that the military and police were planning to invade the camp that morning.
Later on we found out through court documentation that on that morning they were planning to go in with the specific intention of killing both Wolverine and myself. That was their job.
It was all part of Operation Iron Horse which was the RCMP’s version of their operational plan which was also a part of the military’s plan known as Operation Wallabie. Along with the two of us they also had instructions to kill another six hardliners who were supposed to be inside the camp. All this was proven in subsequent court documentation.
So when I got this call I started to get a bit panicky too because there I was stuck in Hinton, Alberta (my wife Sandra had taken the only vehicle that we had) and she was heading right into the whole mess.
The RCMP really compromised their mission up there because they didn’t know at the time of their attack that Wolverine and I weren’t even in camp. Wolverine happened to be down doing a sweat lodge ceremony with John Stevens in Calgary, Alberta at the time.
I called him and told him that we were on a big red alert and that he should get up there as soon as possible and bring along anyone else who was with him. On his way up to Gustafsen Lake he stopped in at Hinton and saw me and told me that he was planning to go back in but that I should stay on the outside and alert all the Warrior Societies and the international community in order to get as much support as possible for those on the inside. So that’s what I did from that point on.
RAD: What was the RCMP’s next move after all this unwanted publicity started happening?
StS: Later documentation showed that on August 24th the RCMP were looking to make a kill and that they had already made a request to the army to loan them some APC’s for an attack scheduled to take place the next day on August 25th but General Paul Addy of the Department of National Defense was adamant about not turning Gustafsen Lake into a military operation.
He did not want to be involved unlike some others such as General John de Chastelaine and General Meating, as well as Captain Keith MacDonald and Lieutenant Capstick and a number of other military operatives, including a sniper by the name of Barry Lewis and another one by the name of Iso Kabell.
These were two professional hit men that were affiliated with a special elite anti-terrorist commando squad known as the Joint Task Force Two. This was an elite commando squad that had been used in Belgrade during the war against Yugoslavia but I’ll get back to those people in just a minute.
What happened was that on August the 24th they decided to close the camp down. You could see from the RCMP’s operational plans that they were definitely planning to move in fast and to make arrests and to make kills if necessary. And it was clear that they knew that they were going to have to make a number of kills because they knew that these people just wouldn’t come out peacefully until the rule of law had been addressed.
RAD: What was your next move in terms of preventing such a blood bath?
StS: What you had then on the 24th of August was a situation in which I felt that an imminent kill was coming and that it was imperative I get as much media attention on the area as possible in order to prevent such a thing from happening. So what I did was I got ahold of a guy by the name of Trond Halle who was an independent film maker working with us up there at the camp as an observer.
I showed Trond some tape that we had made up at the camp where we were doing warlike guerrilla theatre in camouflage gear with guns (hunting rifles) and I told Trond that he should take a piece of that film down to the CBC studio in Vancouver and have them look at it knowing that once they looked at it the sensationalism would kick in and they would see a hot story, (another Oka type story) and once they saw the camouflage and the articulation on the question of the rule of law and that if there was a police invasion that there was going to be a war on unceded Indian land that it would just be too sexy for them not to take it and run with it.
Of course once they saw it, just as I thought, that night on the National news you saw Peter Mansbridge announcing it and there you see the tape of the infamous “bam bam” as they come in from this flank and that flank. So that made the National news and all of a sudden you had another Oka story.
RAD: That was rather a brilliant piece of techno-guerrilla theatre!
StS: And so when that particular piece went national, that night they brought in from seventy to a hundred different media outlets. There was a steady flow just calling in. The ironic thing about it was that these guys thought I was still in the camp and they thought that Wolverine was still in the camp and here we’re coordinating the media from the outside while they think that we’re on the inside!
I had my name listed as the media contact and all these media people are trying to find out who I am on the inside when in reality they were talking to me on a daily basis not realizing that they were talking to the person who they thought was on the inside.
So on top of all the heavy stuff there was that was kind of humorous element taking place as well. But in any event a flood of media showed up and that put the spotlight on what the RCMP were doing which was to bring in the APC’s and wipe out the camp so that this issue of the rule of law didn’t start to spread to other reserves across the province.
RAD: During all this media attention our now illustrious Premier, Ujjal Dosanjh was then Attorney-General of the province. I seem to recall that he was an integral part of this whole plot to discredit the native position.
StS: What is really strange is that Ujjal Dosanjh is now the Premier of this province because Wolverine and I basically put him in that seat for quote/unquote “his handling of Gustafsen Lake.” He’s now the Premier because of his law and order position that we initiated in 1995. Mr. Law & Order himself.
But on August 19th, of 1995 Ujjal Dosanjh was meeting with a Major by the name of Sawyer who had an office in 100 Mile House and was part of the army’s special unit known as the Joint Task Force Two.
RAD: Yes, you said you’d get back to that.
StS: I’ll tell you who they are. They consist of a squad of about 50 men who have been trained in anti-terrorist commando tactics. This particular squad was initiated in the early 1990’s to work along with the RCMP here in Canada but because there wasn’t enough demand for them domestically in terms of so-called anti-terrorist activities they deployed them to international situations, predominantly in Bosnia and Croatia. Then they just recently used them in the last war in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
Now what they do is specialize in night time operations using night-vision goggles and gear so that they can penetrate enemy lines. What their specific duty was in the war in Belgrade was to paint various targeted buildings, oil refineries, and all the strategic, major infrastructure in Belgrade with laser technology which in turn allowed the Canadian airforce’s CF-18’s to fly over and destroy the Serb’s infrastructure with their smart bombs.
This is how Canada used this unit and the only way that these people can be called into action is if the Prime Minister of this country sets them into motion. In other words there has to be an Executive Decree to deploy them internationally.
Well, the Prime Minister Jean Chretien, along with the former Solicitor-General who is now the Deputy Prime Minister, Herb Gray, must have signed them into motion at Gustafsen Lake in order for Dosanjh to be meeting with them as early as August the 19th of 1995.
~ Chief Superintendent Johnston makes a note during a phone conversation with Superintendent Len Olfert that "There are 6 hardliners in the camp WHO WILL REQUIRE KILLING." (Source: Crown disclosures)
And so for Ujjal Dosanjh to be meeting with the head of the Joint Task Force Two and the two snipers who had been given the specific duty of killing Wolverine and myself then this head of the Joint Task Force Two must have been commissioned by Chretien to meet with him before Dosanjh, the Attorney General, officially declared the aid to civil powers provisions of this province and put in a formal application for military assistance to the Department of National Defense.
At that time David Collenette was the minister. But before Dosanjh could go through that legal route for legal assistance on behalf of the RCMP to utilize military operatives and hardware up at Gustafsen Lake he was simply doing everything on a memorandum of understanding. In other words the only three times in Canadian history that the Canadian military has used it’s forces on it’s own citizens was during the FLQ crisis in 1970; then in 1990 when the Canadian parliament declared a national emergency during the Oka crisis; and now at Gustafsen Lake.
But during the Gustafsen Lake standoff in 1995 there was never a parliamentary debate and sanctioning on the question of deploying the military at Gustafsen Lake, there was only a memorandum of understanding. It was analogous to the Progressive Conservative MLA David Price, (who’s now gone over to the Liberals) who, during the war in Yugoslavia exposed that Canada had ground troops - predominantly the JTF Two - operating out of Belgrade in violation of the national sovereignty of the Serbian people according to the sovereignty of international law. It was a scandal synonymous with that of the Somalia affair which Jean Chretien and John de Chastelaine quashed and covered up. These are the same people that brought you the dirty little covert war up at Gustafsen Lake in 1995!
RAD: It appears that the federal government was then breaking it’s own laws?
StS: That’s precisely what they did. The Canadian government was in violation of it’s own domestic laws. They never declared a state of national emergency or introduced the War Measures Act in order to justify the presence of the military in this last situation. What they did do though was deploy 8 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC’s) at Gustafsen Lake with 50 calibre machine guns to be used against 20 Indian people consisting of mostly women and children.
They also authorized the use of C-4 plastic explosives that could be detonated by remote control which they then used to blow up a red pickup truck that was on it’s way to the lake to get fresh drinking water for the Elders who were gathering for negotiations. Had it been one second later when they detonated the explosives they would undoubtedly have killed the two occupants inside the truck.
The Canadian army, with the help of the RCMP, also expended over 70,000 rounds of ammunition into the camp.
In another incident three snipers attempted to murder one of the camp members who had gone down to the lake to bathe. And this was in a no-shoot zone! Then later during an investigation into the shooting by these three snipers in this no-shoot zone Judge Josephson basically covered up for the Canadian government by refused to allow Ujjal Dosanjh or anybody else in the provincial government or federal government to be called in for questioning on their role at Gustafsen Lake and to have their testimony heard in court.
The investigation was put on hold pending the outcome of the trial and then they never resumed the investigation afterwards and thus the attempted murder charges just disappeared.
RAD: I suppose it didn’t help that while all this was going on behind closed doors so to speak there was this ongoing disinformation campaign happening throughout the mainstream media?
StS: That’s right. During the course of the stand-off Peter Montague, RCMP media spokesperson, on September 13th tried to get this guy (also a know collaborator) Antoine Archie to get a message into the camp and one of the messages was that if the people surrendered and came out that they would be treated with dignity.
But the people in camp had never requested that Antoine Archie seek such assurances from the RCMP. This was all concocted by Peter Montague. Peter Montague had apparently called the President of the CBC National radio Jeffrey Dvorkin. Now Jeffrey Dvorkin later reported that Peter Montague had told him in a telephone conversation that the reason that they had to hi-jack CBC’s airwaves was in order to get a message into the camp because all other means of communication had been cut off and that the people inside the camp were holding hostages which they were threatening to kill and this was the only means of getting through to them.
This was all purposely done in order for the military and RCMP to make an incursion into the camp and massacre those inside without any media detection. Well, later Dvorkin said that he found out that this was all a bunch of bullshit lies and so he filed a major complaint to Phil Murray who was the Commissioner of the RCMP at the time. Once again though this information was never presented to the Crown Prosecution because it would have led directly to the testimony of Peter Montague.
Montague, we must remember, was one of the guys who sat in a six minute meeting which was recorded on their own 50 hours of RCMP video training tapes which showed himself, Dennis Ryan, Earl Moulton and a number of other RCMP commanders sitting around talking about manufacturing a consorted smear and disinformation campaign in order to create a criminal profile of Wolverine, myself and others who were up in the camp.
And they in fact did that. They put up our names and our so-called FBI files on the national television. CBC put my name up there for being at Attica and for being an alleged cop killer. But all of a sudden the CBC pulled the plug and Peter Montague was cut off when they were doing that profiling. Somebody at CBC probably realized that they would be liable for a law suit. I mention all of this in much more detail in my upcoming book.
Now what’s interesting is that during the course of the standoff you will see that there were three operations commanders, one known as Len Oldford, one Earl Moltin and Rick Hall. What they did ~ and we have conclusive evidence to prove it ~ is that they falsified documents to the Department of National Defense saying that some shooting incidents happened up at Gustafsen Lake which would have justified their incursion by gaining sympathy from the public by alleging that Indians were shooting at cops and that the only thing that had saved their lives was their flak jackets.
Or another instance where they claimed that Indians had stalked them at night on September 4th and had almost killed some RCMP that were in a suburban but fortunately nobody was. In this last incident the operations commander said that Indians fifteen miles down the road had shot at the suburban when a new team of officers from Victoria was exchanging places with the team from Prince George.
This report from the three commanders to General Addy, which was offered as proof that their members had come under fire and that they therefore needed these APC’s which the army in Chilliwack did not want to release to them, stated that one of their officers had narrowly escaped getting shot in the head only because the 22 bullet lodged itself in the head rest of the suburban.
But the forensic experts, during the course of the trial, testified that there were no bullet holes whatsoever in that suburban and that the one dent in the mirror could have been caused by a tree branch.
In the video, Above the Law: Part Two I say that this shooting never did happen but afterwards, having researched thousands and thousands of documents and testimony given by different investigators, and after sifting through all the reports given by the two Emergency Response teams (ER’s) from Prince George and Victoria who all had said that they had spotted these red lights and these green objects moving through the bush that night before they got fired upon, it suddenly dawned on me ~ hey, wait a minute, yes, they did get fired upon!
The same people that lied to the Department of National Defense to bring in those APC’s, those military Bisons, had also worked with the snipers from the Joint Task Force Two and between the two of them had concocted the shooting incident (only they shot over the heads of the ER’s in order to scare the living shit out of them) so that they could then report it to the Operations commander that they were being shot at.
With the number of witnesses that were there this would justify the military releasing the APC’s. And that’s exactly what they did on September the 5th, 1995. And to top it all off the person that brought in those APC’s the next day was none other than Hugh Stewart, the very same person that had just sprayed the hell out of students up at UBC with pepper-spray during the anti-APEC demonstrations in Vancouver!
RAD: My, my, it certainly is a small world.
StS: So now the APC’s have arrived and the military hardware is on point and they were getting ready to move into the last stages of the operational plan using the Joint Task Force Two which was to go into the camp on September 18th.
On that day they had planned to let the public know that if their last attempt that they made to make an “appearance” of a negotiated settlement failed, then they were going in with the APC’s. And if it weren’t for the fact that I had got John Stevens to come back from the east where he was doing demonstrations in front of the Supreme Court of Canada over the bogus decision to postpone the Delgamuukw Decision on September 12th then the people inside wouldn’t have come out on the 17th.
It was only because John Stevens agreed to go back in on the 17th that we were able to prevent the military from going in with the Joint Task Force Two. Otherwise on the 18th there would have been a number of dead people up there.
RAD: It’s simply mind-boggling that these government agencies would go to such lengths and be willing to commit outright murder of innocent women, children and men in order to stymie public debate on the issue of unceded land. It’s equally amazing how the general public bought into it.
StS: Well Arthur, the general public, believing that the RCMP is very credible and were just doing their job, didn’t realize that they were being taken for a ride. The RCMP though knew that we were very well versed in the law that was being violated there and they were afraid of this law being articulated from an international and constitutional as well as a native natural law perspective because of the fact that most of British Columbia is still unceded land and there are no treaties signed.
This is a major concern to the transnational corporations and government interests who have a big stake in the region’s natural resources. People have been executed for a whole lot less than that and so we were basically targets. And with respect to myself the FBI down in the states would have loved to have seen me snuffed out in such an operation because it would have left them looking clean.
RAD: And so what was it that enabled you to counter all this police and government propaganda?
StS: What became very critical for us in terms of undoing the lies and mis-perception and disinformation and the smear campaign that was being coordinated by the RCMP commanders was the fact that there was a person by the name of Norm Torp who had been commissioned by the RCMP to tape the operational planning sessions of the RCMP at the time of the Stand-off and he had came up with around 50 hours of tape taken behind closed doors.
Now somehow during the course of the trial George Wool was able to subpoena these tapes from Norm Torp because he, being an ex-RCMP, had found out about them from talking to a lot of people who were insiders. They had told him that they’d heard about these tapes and George had subpoena’d them and sure enough there they were. But as soon as they appeared Judge Josephson disallowed the jury from seeing them! This was all in keeping with his continuation of the cover-up for the government that began right at the commencement of the trial.
Eventually the lawyers were given copies of the tapes but the jury was only allowed to view about ten minutes of them and the rest of the tapes were disallowed as being irrelevant. Of course we were able to see, after watching all those tapes, that the RCMP were planning a smear and disinformation campaign as well as concocting incidents that never occurred, for example, the alleged September 27th shoot-out with cops that never happened but which the mainstream press nevertheless reported as fact rather than RCMP allegations.
Doing so was severely libelous on their part yet when you look at the tapes you can see the RCMP sitting there laughing at the fact that they were manufacturing these incidents for the sole purpose of propaganda. On tape you’ve got John Ward who was the French spokesperson for the RCMP laughing about the fact that this wasn’t the first time that the RCMP had to take flak jackets to the firing range because they couldn’t get volunteers from within the department to go along with manufacturing shooting incidents which had never happened.
Then there was the incident that took place on September 4th in order to justify bringing in the military which, by the way, was a reluctant military that didn’t want to be involved in the stand-off to begin with. So not only was the Canadian military duped and forced into an operational plan of activity but so were the Canadian people.
What was really great for us though was to be able to take these tapes and work with specific people like Bill Lightbaum from the Kootenays ~ one of the founders of the United Native Nations ~ and his contact Patrice Wesley who had a show called After Hours and help to descramble them.
And by the way I stole those tapes from one of the lawyers and had them reproduced! They weren’t supposed to be able to be descrambled but we did descramble them after hours and hours of cleaning them up and we finally got all of the visuals to go with the audio and eventually we were able to pull all that information out and get the heaviest indictments that showed where they lied, including the blowing up of the red truck which, according to court documents the RCMP said didn’t exist because the west camera had been cut off prior to that incident occurring.
But that wasn’t the case and in fact they had forgot to shut the camera off and so we had the footage which showed that the statements made by Peter Montague of the RCMP and subsequently reiterated by Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh, that the two men jumped out of the truck with AK-47’s and were shooting at the police and which precipitated the whole shooting incident where thousands of rounds were fired into the camp was nothing but fabricated lies.
What the tapes do show is that the two men jumped out (or were literally blown out) of the truck and then ran into the bush and down to the lake where they swam across for their lives while dodging thousands of bullets that were being fired at them.
RAD: Yes. I recall seeing that on the tape that Glen Kealy had.
StS: Right. So the beautiful thing about these tapes was that we were able to catch them totally off guard and in January of 1997 they were shown on cable TV and about 50,000 viewers saw what had really been going on. So we pulled a major coup by putting that on the airwaves and once the people saw the blowing up of the red truck and the attempted murder of the young man who had gone to bath at the lake in a no-shoot zone and the concocted incident about the August 27th shoot-out; once they saw what the RCMP were really saying the people were justifiably shocked.
Of course this was accomplished at the risk of me going to jail for violating the court ban (I call it the court “cover-up” of the truth) against making the tapes available to the public but I figured that if they tried to arrest me then the tapes themselves would become the issue, all of the tapes. But they never did. What they did do was charge one woman, Sheila Franklin, who they suspected had given me the tapes and they set a trial date for her after the main trial was over but when the time came they drop it because they didn’t want it to become more of an issue.
Now once that tape was shown on cable TV the other networks picked up on it and it was shown provincially and across the country that the RCMP had lied. Afterwards we were able to use it along with additional interviews to produce the video’s, Above the Law: Part One and Above the Law: Part Two which clearly show how the RCMP manufactured their smear and disinformation campaign in order to cover up the issue of the rule of law which was the root issue at Gustafsen Lake. These two tapes truly show a police state in motion and uncover the RCMP’s lies like never before in history.
RAD: I’m sure readers will be most interested in reading the complete story which will be coming out soon in your book, Autobiography of Splitting the Sky Along With My Wife Sandra Bruderer subtitled: From Attica to Gustafsen Lake. Do you know when it will be released?
StS: The book is due to be published in a limited edition in January of 2001. Anyone interested in purchasing a copy of it ahead of time in order to ensure getting one should contact me at the same address as for the video. Just call or write to John Splitting the Sky Hill c/o Box 1492, Chase, B.C. VOE 1MO
Ph: (250) 679-7743
If you order either the book or the tapes please make out the cheque to John Boncore.
RAD: Well, John I certainly appreciate you taking the time to share your side of the story of the Gustafsen Lake stand-off with Radical readers. Anyone reading this extensive overview with an open mind will certainly have a number of very valid reasons to pause and give a second, critical thought to the original presentation of what the mainstream media, the government, the police and the judiciary have been trying to pass off as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
StS: My pleasure Arthur.SPLITTING THE SKY BLOG
911 TRUTH IS "SPLITTING THE SKY" ~ The American Chronicle
SPLITTING THE SKY WEBSITE ~ A lot of good information and speeches
MODERN INDIGENOUS WARS ~ THE COLONIAL BEAT GOES ON!
NO ONE IS ILLEGAL!! ~ Coast Salish Territories