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Open Letter to the IWJ: alt.native newsgroup archive to Ms. Testerman
An open letter to IWJ, Ms. Karen Testerman; posted on alt.native newsgroup regarding the writing of my first book, Who Would Unbraid Her Hair: the legend of annie mae.
This is a piece written in response to a group called the IWJ....posted in March 2004 on alt.native, here it is in a more visible form.
Elevated Alert Times Ten
by antoinette claypoole
Authors Note: Last March, while in California, gathering info for a freelance gig with KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles, a friend told me that there were some pretty ugly things being posted on the internet about my work. "Well, hell, what else is new. If you're not hated by someone, you're not doing your work as a writer/artist" was my flip it off reply.
I read the big batch of lies, said a prayer for the soul of all the humans whose eyes are blind, whose rants forget peace and wrote the following essay. . Here it is just as it was posted last March. Putting out today, just because I believe in herstoyr.
(BTW the group never posted my reply to their site...no surprise):
response to Karen Testerman & the IWJ
Mar 18 2004, 4:31 pm
From: antoinetten...@yahoo.com (antoinette) -
Date: 18 Mar 2004 16:31:12 -0800
Local: Thurs,Mar 18 2004 4:31 pm
Subject: open letter to IWJ
To the Sisters ( and brothers) of IWJ, (please forward to Ms. Testerman as well),
Elevated Alert times Ten
by antoinette claypoole
There is a time before all of this that some of you may not know about. This letter is to those of you who want to hear about what brought us to this place today. This place of such dark and creeply lies. It is for those longing for some kind of love based reality that I write this letter today.
As you all know, Anne Mae Pictou Aquash was accused of many things in her life. Of being an informant, of being a whore to AIM guys, of being stupid for not returning to Nova Scotia when David Price threatened her life. Annie Mae defied the concept of woman as passive and controllable by living true to her beliefs and dreams. For the People, for her family. She died alive. Living for the People. And so I dedicate this story to her.
Back in the mid 1980's, when I was staying at an AIM house in Flagstaff, Az. assisting with the resistance to forced relocation of Dine, challenging Reagan and his threat to bring in the National Guard to Big Mountain, back then I first had discussions with people about Annie Mae. I was concerned that no one seemed to honor her in a good way.
People still thought she might be an informant. Was she? It might even make sense that she was, that her children and sisters lives were threatened by Feds if she did not cooperate. But after a short time of snooping around it became clear to me that she was NOT. That the Feds had not been successful in scare tactics with Annie Mae. That she NEVER worked for them. And that is why she died.
And so I proceeded to begin doing what I could to honor her memory, her work, her life. Despite threats from People I once called family. Despite old lover shaking me by the shoulders saying "I don't want the same thing to happen to you that happened to Annie Mae". I did all this anyway. For I could not live with the thought of yet another brave woman, and Indian being buried by the lies of time and men.
Then, challenged by my own reverse sexism, in the mid 1990's I met Jordan S. Dill. Through Native L on line searching for people who, like myself, wanted to break the damn silence surrounding the work of Annie Mae. I was writing a book and Jordan DIll was building a website. Both, very serendipitously, for Annie Mae.
WE collaborated and began efforts which lasted until just last month, when IWJ emerged and Dill implied that supporting my work was creating conflicts with his current efforts. ( found out later they included IWJ work). I was at that time falling prey to concept of "being silenced". Once again. No news there.
Today you can go to a website where some of my work once lived, and find a poetic Dillesque line "you have stepped into the sream, but the water is gone" or something close to that. And my trust of men once again wanes.
Still Dill and I had gone through heavier things. We had weathered many creeply internet nights of suspicion and paranoia. And like winter drivers with foggy windows in tiny foreign car with broken defrost button we kept trying to move forward. Kept wiping the windows clear so the journey would be safe. In all these years the one thing that keeps being seen is that somebody, more than ONE somebody, wants division, brutality, threats and silence to prevail. When it comes to the truth of Annie Mae's execution.
Jordan Dill and I were involved in creating a safe and honoring place for Anna Mae's legacy to thrive. He built the FIRST NATIONS pages for Annie Mae. Supported my efforts to write a book which the family knew about and respected, with the help of Robert Pictou Branscombe.
Dill posted Robert's investigations, brave and intense as they were, however manipulated and convaluted they would later become. Still. We worked together to help people feel safe in talking of Annie Mae. Dill published my book. No. There were no justice funds of foundations in those days.
If Ms. Testerman had chosen she could have asked, or found out by reading the cover of my book, that profits of the book were to go to Seventh Generation Fund, earmarked for Native Schools. Annie Mae's family did not, at the time, want to receive proceeds---they were in fact asked about this BEFORE the book was ever printed.
But more more more importantly, there are things which continue to happen. To all of us who wish to honor Annie Mae. In different ways her death represents ALL the deaths during the Reign of Terror. And for that reason a smokescreen, a diversion has occurred.
To focus your attention and hatefulness on me, sisters (and brothers and others) of the IWJ, to do this is to be distracted from your work at large. So yes. We must ALL Ask questions. Be inquistive. From whom do we receive your information. Are your sources real??? How do you know??? Ask around. Talk to the people you wonder about.
Most of all, as Annie Mae seemed to have done, we must remain true to our own sense of knowing.
peace antoinette claypoole