Dedicated to the spirit of Annie Mae
This is a second in a two piece series regarding Leonard Peltier and follows in the steps of the News From Indian Country editorial in Late January 2002 entitled, "Leonard Peltier: Now What Do We Do?"
The following narrative from Dino Butler, in his own words, is from an interview with Serle L. Chapman found in We, The People of Earth and Elders Volume II, and represents an excerpt from several lengthy interviews with members of AIM to be published in Blood, Sweat and Tears: Inside the American Indian Movement. We, The People, is to be released by Bear Print International Limited (Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana 1-800-234-5308 ISBN 0-9528607-5-9) in March of 2002 in the U.S. The book, released in Europe in November of 2001, contains interviews with a vast array of Native individuals across the country, including Joseph Medicine Crow, Joanne Shenandoah, Wilmer Mesteth, Mary Kim Titla, Keith Secola, Kevin Red Star, N. Scott Momaday, Vine Deloria Jr., Joy Harjo and others.
Darelle 'Dino' Butler
Peter Matthiessen's book was put on hold for a long time but he eventually won that law suit and then he came out with the second edition [of In the Spirit of Crazy Horse]. In that edition the change in the story was that a Mr X had killed the agents [at Jumping Bull, Oglala, June 26, 1975] and it's bullshit. When David Hill moved out to Oregon that summer he started chumming around with Bob [Robideau] and although I didn't really trust him, I acted civil towards him. Then Bob told me about this story of Mr X; that David told him 'maybe we could help get Leonard [Peltier] out with this story about Mr X'. Bob wanted to know what the rest of us thought about it so I mentioned it to John [Trudell] and Nilak [Butler] and a couple of other people and we felt that there should be a meeting about it, so we called for a meeting to be held at Max Gail's place. Max Gail had a sweat there at his house, so we had a big sweat and after that we all went down in to his yard. Bob was there and we talked about this Mr X story, about all the pros and cons and everything. The meeting lasted at least an hour, maybe even two hours, and when it came down to me I just told everybody that my feeling was that it wasn't the truth and that we'd always based our struggle on the truth, and if we started creating lies to fight the liars then we're no better than them and we'd lose in the end. I said, "I can't support this because it is a lie". So after that we had a vote on it and everybody agreed that we wouldn't use that story.
We all went on our way and it was supposed to be settled; it was unanimous, we had agreed that the story wouldn't be used. I went to the Sun Dance at Green Grass that year and when I came back I went over to Bob's house in Portland and he told me that he wanted to talk to me. He said, "How about if you come back later this evening and we'll send everybody to the movies because I want to talk to you Dino, in private?" I wasn't suspecting anything so I went back that night and Bob sat me down and said, "I called up Oliver's writer and I told him that I had information that nobody else has, but that I wasn't at liberty to say it over the phone and if he wanted this information then he should get on a plane and fly up here and I would pick him up". At that time Oliver Stone was making a movie about Leonard. So this scriptwriter went for it, he took the bait, and Bob brought him to his house. They were there for a couple of minutes and then the phone rang and Bob said that Dave Hill was on the other end of the line and that he talked to this writer for a couple of hours on the phone and give him this whole story about claiming to be Mr X and that he had shot the agents and everything.
The reason Bob now wanted this private meeting with me was because he wanted me to verify this Mr X story that he and Dave had given to this writer. Bob said that after the writer got off the phone with Dave, he sat down with him and he verified his part of the story; he told Oliver's writer that he and Joe [Stuntz] and me were down by the agents' cars and that this pick-up came in and that someone had gotten out of this pick-up and shot the agents and jumped back in and driven off. Since Joe was already dead he couldn't verify it and so he wanted me to verify the story because they had placed me down there with them. "Bob," I said, "that's not true, man. Any way, after we all agreed that we wouldn't use this story?" And he said, "Well, it's a way to help Leonard to get out and you're either going to support this story or you're not and if you don't support it then you're not helping Leonard and that's the way it's going to be taken - that you're unwilling to help Leonard." Then I got really upset at Bob and said, "I'm not going to verify this story. I'm not going to do that. It's going against everybody else and I'm not willing to do that." And he said, "Then as far as we're concerned you're unwilling to help Leonard". So I said, "Okay then, if that's the way it is", and I left his house.
Eventually I ended up back in California. I stayed up in the mountains there for about five years and during that time, I think within a year, I sat down and I wrote a letter to Bob. I told him that because he and Dave had done that against everybody else's advice that I could no longer trust him and as far as I was concerned the Bob Robideau that I knew was dead, and I haven't talked to him since. He just kind of turned against everybody from then on and that's the way that Mr X story came up and I believe that it was just concocted to keep Leonard in jail longer. At that time Leonard's appeal was going before the Eighth Circuit Court and that's when the government changed their story, saying that they knew that they couldn't prove that Leonard was the trigger-man but that he had information about who did kill the agents so that justifies keeping him in jail - and that's exactly what happened. At that time Leonard's lawyers had gotten the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] paper about the FBI ballistics tests to link Leonard's gun to killing the agents and how they couldn't prove anything about that gun, which cast a lot of doubt upon their whole case. The way I see it today, that is why the Mr X story was brought up; they had to change their story and that's how they did it.
Dave Hill is the one that brought that Mr X story up and so maybe he's got a hidden agenda somewhere. I think Robideau sold that story twice for $10,000 each time; first to Oliver's writer and then to [Robert] Redford's scriptwriter. In that letter I wrote to Bob I told him that I would not interfere with the Oliver Stone movie by saying that it wasn't true but I said, "I'm not going to promise that about the other movie and if anybody asks me than I'll tell the truth to them about that". But he went ahead and sold the Mr X story to Redford's scriptwriter anyway. John [Trudell] was in touch with Redford's scriptwriter and he called me up and asked me to come down there and we went and talked to him; we sat him down and told him what that story was all about so they never did use it.
When I made a public statement denying that there ever was a Mr X, Leonard called me up and asked me why I did that and I told him, "Well Leonard, it's a lie, that's why". I said, "Imagine Leonard if I'm the President of the United States and there's this piece of paper on my desk to release this Indian man who was convicted of killing two FBI agents but now he's gotten so much support that people want me to release him; but this Indian man is sitting in prison and he's saying, 'Yeah I know who killed those agents but I'm not saying because it's the warrior way and I don't snitch on my own people'." And I said, "Me, as the President, I'm not going to release you. Nobody is going to release you. You came out after that Mr X story and that's what you said, 'Yeah, I know who Mr X is but I'm not going to snitch on my brother, that's not our way'. So who do you expect to release you Leonard? Don't you see why this story was created?" But he fed right into it and no matter what he says now, he said that and that's always going to come back on him.
Peter Matthiessen also called me and he was pissed-off and asked me, "Why did you say that? Don't you know that just attacks my credibility?" And I said, "Peter, you put my life in jeopardy and you put the lives of my family in jeopardy by putting that bullshit out in your books. Why didn't you call me and ask me if that was true? Everything you said in that first book, you would call me; you would call Nilak; you would call John; you would call all of us that were involved and ask us 'Is this true?' and we would tell you but you didn't do this in the second edition. You went out and you put this Mr X in there when it was all lies." And he said, "Well, I didn't believe Bob would lie to me". I told him that I thought he could repair his reputation if he tried to prove that this was all part of a counter-intelligence program to discredit everything, and that's how he'd get his reputation back, not by calling me and accusing me. I said, "If you really care about your reputation and if you really care about Leonard and our people then that's what you will do."