Featured

An Invitation from E. P. Dixon

I am an elder and a seeker. I’m an outsider by nature, always looking through cracks in the fences of life just trying to make sense of the world. Being an outsider can be lonely sometimes, but oh, what treasures can be found in most unexpected places. Without question one of my life’s greatest blessings came when I reached out for understanding and came to know a remarkable Native American warrior hidden in a world of his own behind prison walls. For more than eight years, I have been both friend and advocate for Ghost Dancer, a remarkably wise and kind elder in federal prison. Over time Ghost began to reveal details of his life and even asked my assistance in filing numerous pro se legal motions as he continued his fight for justice from within the prison walls. The more I learned, the more I came to understand the full extent of his story and realized the importance that not only his wise teachings but also his life journey and struggles with injustice within the justice system be shared with the world.

Ghost Dancer – Known as a “gentle giant,” a wise elder, teacher, artist, and keeper of the old ways, Ghost has a deep understanding of the spiritual and cultural traditions of the Southeastern Native Peoples, as well as the Lakota Sioux and other western tribal People. Little by little over the course of years of my friendship with him, Ghost has shared bits and pieces of his life story, but much he kept to himself. Then in 2020, at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, with his health in a shambles, Ghost wrote pro se motions to the courts that convicted him asking for compassionate release. A year later, after multiple near-death health crisis episodes, Ghost was finally granted release from prison. Since gaining his freedom in late 2021, Ghost has agreed to tell his entire story. From the very beginning, Ghost’s biographical work, ALL FOR THE RIGHT TO PRAY takes the reader chapter by chapter through the course of this one man’s lifelong struggles to just be himself and live peacefully in a world where he knew even in childhood that he was “out of time, out of place.” Ghost Dancer’s story is both a revelation of the sheer evil that can negatively impact a person’s life as well as testament to the power of Spirit to give them the strength and helpers to triumph over it. From his world behind prison walls, GHOST’S SACRED PATH honors his Muskogee and Ani-Yun-Wiya ancestors as he shares a lifetime of fascinating stories, wisdom and thoughts to uplift us all and help us grow in our understanding of traditional Native beliefs and life ways.

In 2019, Ghost introduced me to another Native American inmate, Walks On The Grass. Walks’ life journey was entirely different but compelling and insightful in it’s own way. What the two had in common was their love of heritage and the practice of traditional Native American religious ceremony as a means of healing, teaching and surviving in the dark and hostile world of the “iron house” where Native inmates are the smallest minority. It is my personal honor to give both these two beautiful people voice to share their stories in “Journeys of the Spirit.”

Walks On The Grass – Readers will be riveted to each Chapter of LONG ROAD HOME as this delightfully warm and talented man shares an honest and compelling account of his amazing journey. From the first line, “I was born broken,” Walks navigates a path filled with bumps, boulders and wrong turns in search of wholeness. Through the grounding of songs, prayers and ceremony in the Inipi, traditional Lakota sweat lodge, and the support of wise elders and teachers, Walks gradually comes home to his true self. You won’t want to miss it. The fascinating story continues in ALONG THE WAY, a post script to Walks’ spiritual journey discussing in short essays experiences, insights & humor on the “Long Road Home.” Finally, as Walks sees his long years in federal prison coming to an end, he shares each step of preparing himself for a new life outside those prison walls in LIGHTS IN THE DISTANCE.

All For the Right to Pray (24)

Part Five – Sweet Freedom

Chapter 24 – Arrested With No Charges

By Ghost Dancer

On May 11, 1995, after a little more than a month of leisurely travels in our motorhome with our wolves and towing Cat’s car, I was arrested at the border as we attempted to cross into Alaska.

Once I arrived in Fairbanks, I was provided a Native American lawyer. This is required under Alaska laws so that Native Americans get someone who truly understands and does their best to protect them and their rights. Also under Alaskan laws, tribal elders and leaders are allowed to come visit every day. This happened for me immediately and the elders made sure I had everything I needed or was allowed to have. I was kept in isolation until the elders and tribal leaders demanded that I be placed in population with the other native prisoners.

My lawyer, Retta Ray Randle, was very good and represented me well when I had my hearing in federal court. The U.S. Attorney stated that there was a warrant out for me as John Doe #3 suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing. The judge or magistrate threw out the warrant and told the U.S. attorney that it was no good, that there is no way I could possibly even remotely have been able to be in that area much less involved because he already knew how I was arrested, where and the reports on my travels.

The U.S. Attorney told the judge that Washington, D.C. would be issuing a new warrant and that U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno would be issuing a mandatory emergency transfer to bring me back state side. The judge told him they had better do a better job of charging me with something that is plausible because this charge is ridiculous.

I was taken back to jail and Cat was allowed to visit me. They had me chained by one leg and one hand to the floor and ceiling and we visited thru plexiglass talking on a telephone. The next day they took DNA samples from me, used infrared lights and black lights checking for explosives residue. Everything came back negative. Cat was allowed to visit me every day for a few days before I was transferred.

Now since Janet Reno issued the mandated transfer under the power of the Attorney General’s office I would be leaving soon. The judge had me brought back to court and explained that it was now out of his hands but he wished me the best and made a court order stating: It is hereby ordered that no one is allowed to question this man without the presence of his attorney. No one should even attempt to question while he is being transported or held in any detention. This is to ensure that his rights are protected and that no claim of any statement can be made by any over-zealous agent or officer. He then wished me the best of luck in being cleared of all this nonsense.

The next day I was taken to the airport and made to wait on the runway in snow and ice with a Windchill far below zero. I stood there for more than an hour wearing only a t-shirt, slippers and a thin pair of khaki pants with planes coming and going blowing the snow and ice all over me. Legged shackled, belly chained, cuffed and black boxed, I was loaded into the cargo hold of a small Cessna airplane. The Cessna did not have a pressurized cargo hold with oxygen. The agents had oxygen but not me so I surely would be tested flying like this with no oxygen.

This was a very rough journey with heavy wind turbulence and air pockets. I was tossed and beaten up by all the bouncing and ups and downs. My nose began bleeding profusely from the altitude and lack of oxygen. My ears felt like thy were bursting and my body went thru pure contortions. Finally the plane landed at Cook’s Inlet and I was taken to the jail in Anchorage. I stayed there for a few days and then was flown to Seattle, Washington with stops in several Alaskan ports to refuel. There I was taken to a federal facility called Sea Tech. Later I was flown to Florence, Colorado and placed in solitary confinement at the maximum security prison there while waiting to be transferred on to Oklahoma.

Finally I arrived in Oklahoma and was taken before agents there who showed me to several different people to determine if they could identify me. Again my DNA and the swab test for explosives residue all came back negative and my finger prints did not match. I was taken to the federal courthouse where a public defender and two U.S. attorneys were waiting to speak with me. They had the public defender talk to me first and he said they are aware that nothing adds up to me being involved in anyway whatsoever, but they would like to ask me questions. I asked why and he said there were questions that I may be involved in other crimes that involved supplying weapons to militia groups in Montana and Arizona. They put me on video so people in Montana  and Arizona could look at me for possible identification. That possible charge was also dropped that day.

I asked to be released but they said there was a call from Washington, D.C. that I be held now on a fugitive warrant. I asked on what charge and was told I was under suspicion of a crime. I asked what the crime was but never given an answer. I was then taken to Texas, and people viewed me there. Still no one said that I was the wanted person and no evidence matched me. Then I was taken next to Tallahassee, Florida. Once again there was no warrant and I was not charged with any crime. At the federal court in Tallahassee, I asked to be released once again and was told now I was being held until another person came. Once again I was viewed but was not identified.

It was now late in the day, and low and behold who walks in the detention area but an old acquaintance from the past, someone who truly hated me. Someone whose passion was going after and persecuting Native Americans, most especially members of A.I.M. (American Indian Movement). His name was Joseph Tierney. He was an FBI Special Agent and a man known far and wide as a person who would do anything and get others to say anything as long as it got a Native placed in prison. He didn’t care what laws he broke or who he threatened or even if you were innocent. If you were Native American and associated in anyway with A.I.M. then he would do whatever he had to do to get rid of you.

As a point of reference, understand this: Joseph Tierney had been working directly with Agent Larry T. Lucky, an ATF agent who came to see me in 1975 when I was first arrested and jailed in Cullman, Alabama. (Ch 14).  Tierney was also behind another FBI agent, Larry Gerard, who was supposedly the brother of Sandy, the woman I was forced to marry. (Ch 15) Gerard was dark complected and worked undercover, using the aliases A-rab or Indian Boy. Gerard attempted to infiltrate the A.I.M. gathering at Pine Ridge but was never allowed among the spiritual leaders and never knew who I was. Tierney was also there in an official capacity as an FBI agent investigating the corruption on the reservation. He tried to butter up the people by telling them he was Native but they never trusted him. All three of these federal agents were personally responsible for putting me in prison every time, both in Alabama and in Florida. All along, Joseph Tierney had been the superior officer ordering these others to do what needed to be done.

When he walked in, I saw Tierney looking heavily and hard at me. He talked to the U.S. Marshals and in a short time I was once again being chained up and this time placed in an SUV with blackened out windows and security bars and screen. Not one word was said about where they were taking me even when I asked them. They never spoke to me. They took secondary roads for about an hour or more. When I asked them again where they were taking me this time they said I’d find out when I got there. Finally we pulled into a jail sally port. I found out later that I was in Panama City, Florida. Here I was placed in a tiny room and later three men entered. One was Joseph Tierney. He was just as sadistic looking as always.

One of the other men said that he needed me to allow them to take DNA samples from me. I reminded them that I was under a federal court order not to speak to any of them until and unless my attorney was present. They ignored me. I refused to let them take DNA. Others had already done this two times since I was first arrested so this time I told them to get a federal court order. They kept trying to question me about all kinds of things. Repeatedly I invoked my rights to have an attorney present and my right to remain silent. Finally Tierney told them they didn’t need anything, that they already have my DNA from other places and they could request it be sent to them.

Then Tierney looked at me and the words he spoke have been forever branded in my memory:
 
Well, Ghost you do know that I'm sick of putting you away and they keep letting you back out. So you know what? This time I will make sure you never ever get free again. You know me, I can do anything I want. No one is going to believe you or anyone connected to you. You are a convicted felon and you are nothing but a headache to a lot of people. We are tired of you and tired of you causing problems. It is over this time. I will find those who will help me do this and say whatever I tell them to say. You are finished being an aggravation to all of us. When are you going to get it in your head that we already defeated you people? You shouldn't be alive and I would never have believed you could still have lived after we sent you to prison in Alabama. Those good old boys promised me you would never get out and here you are again. Don't worry, this time you will never get free. You will die in prison this time. I guarantee it.

The next day, June 7, 1995 I was taken to federal court and before a U.S. magistrate. The magistrate asked Tierney why there was no indictment or anything on me. Tierney told the magistrate that he had been busy but he would be getting on it. The Assistant U.S. Attorney told the judge it would take at least a week before he could get a grand jury to sit for a hearing. So the judge gave them two weeks to come up with an indictment. I asked for a bond. The government objected claiming I was a flight risk and considered to be a very violent man. The judge denied my request.

Two more weeks would pass before the grand jury convened and I was officially charged. Joseph Tierney had no qualms about lying to the grand jury and the U.S. Attorney did nothing to stop him.

People might not remember this now but in late April and early May 1995 all the newspapers and TV news reports were filled with stories about the Oklahoma City bombing. During this time there were both print and network TV reports about the search for John Doe #3 as one of the suspects. Even though these news reports did not mention me by name they gave very specific details about this “person of interest.” He was said to have been a Native American who was former military, lived in Florida, had recently made numerous trips to Oklahoma and was currently in Canada. Later on, news reports after my trial included mention that I had been a suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing.

FBI Agent Joseph Tierney knew from my parole records that I had traveled several times to Oklahoma to visit friends, family, spiritual leaders and tribal leaders. He also knew that I had permission to travel to Canada and that I was an honorably/medically discharged veteran. His biased hatred towards me and any member of A.I.M. or association with A.I.M. drove him to become obsessed with doing anything or saying anything to get what he wanted done. Despite the fact that I had absolutely nothing to do with the Oklahoma City bombing or any of the other incidents, the damage to my character and credibility was done. Even the label “terrorist” would remain on my record.

See, those in positions of power in all levels of government use propaganda, a process as ancient as the human urge for power and control, to turn friends, acquaintances, and the public against anyone who goes against the system, the desires of those in power, wealth, majority, authority. By making statements like this they can successfully cause anyone who calls you friend, family or acquaintance to deny you, stay away from you, or turn against you lest they be persecuted by everyone too.

In the United States the government has used this false media reporting technique for centuries to turn the public against anyone they wish to get rid of or to discredit them from anyone listening to what they have to say. To destroy a person’s reputation is a key factor in destroying the person’s character. This is the main battle. After that they can do whatever they want and nobody will care whatsoever. People will believe what lies have been told and it becomes all too easy to convict this person and throw away any chance for true justice.

Ever since my parole, Cat and I had been busy building up our reputations and our character. We had made lots of friends in all walks of life. Everywhere we went. people truly liked us, respected and loved us. This is why they did this to me for without destroying our names and causing people to turn away it would have made it a lot harder for them to ever get a conviction. 

The propaganda did in fact work on many people, some of whom were our friends and even a few family members. Anyone who spoke up for us became a target to be ridiculed, put down and viciously attacked. Some till this day still believe the lies and will have nothing to do with us, even blame us for their own problems. 

Such character assassination effectively destroys everything any reformer or activist says or tries to get done. I wanted to explain all this so you can stop and think about everything you have read to date about my past history and even today, how easily someone gets labeled and ridiculed as being crazy, insane, violent, a monster, a terrorist, an enemy.

~~~

Editor’s Note: Ghost Dancer is currently in the process of undergoing several urgently needed corrective surgeries and will need to put his writing on hold for a while. He thanks everyone who has come this far with him and promises to be back to tell “the rest of the story” just as soon as he is able to sit at the computer and type. We will also be making some changes, additions and updates to the present chapters. Thank you for your patience, love and support.

Would you like to know Ghost better, see what he’s been doing since he was released from prison or follow his recovery progress? You are welcome to request membership in his Facebook group page: Ghost Dancer & Friends.

Leaps And Bounds

Lights In the Distance. . .

Walks’ Outdate – 103 Days and Counting

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

Man, who would have thought that I’m doing as good with the exercise program as I am. When I started on the bikes it was a mile, which then became two miles. Then it was for the duration of an 8-9 minute song off my mp3 player which put me around the 2.5 mile mark. Then one day I forgot my tune machine and got a wild hair to just get on and ride. I did 3 miles and continued that for a week. Then my curiosity kicked in, “I wonder if I could” and I took my first 5-mile ride. Not all at once, first I did 2.5 miles then took a minute standing rest then another 2.5. That was so cool, damn! I rode for 5 miles so I did that a week.

Now, for whatever reason these people did not have an inbound move back to the housing unit after an hour, (moves back and forth from recreation to the units are usually on the hour, 5 minute outbound-then 5 minute inbound) so I said to heck with this just sitting around and went back to the bike. This is when I did my second 5 mile ride! WOW, it was amazing, I had just ridden 10 miles, and was still able to walk and breathe!  All this time I had been thinking I never could achieve that. So I continued this until one day I rode 5 miles straight out, no break – 5 miles in 20:11, then took a standing break of 2 minutes to shock the muscles and drive more lactic acid into them, then did the second half, another 5 miles straight out, but I beat my previous time with 5 miles in 19:47!

This to me was amazing as well as an “A-ha” moment. I’m on to something here, cuz what I haven’t said so far is that from the time I first started to ride the bikes, my sugar levels were changing, going down. I have been on insulin for more than a year, and had recently been struggling with my glucose levels, so these people have been throwing more and more insulin at the problem, but the whole time all that was needed was for me to get off my butt and do some good cardio, nothing crazy but something. Now I’m steadily doing better and better with what I eat and what I do on the bike.

This tells me I can get off insulin, and I AM going to get off it! Maybe it won’t be in here where our food options are so poor. I’ve just got to get out where I can actually do the dietary things I know will be needed as well as the exercise that I have come to love. Already I’m sleeping better, I’m more energetic and my glucose levels are lower. I know why, and what to do to make it even better and I will get off the insulin! This is just another one of those things that I look forward to doing. I’m a firm believer in the precept that if something works then use it, don’t mess with it, and thank the Creator for the knowledge and opportunities that will get it done. Smile.

Now looking back at my life, it’s crazy because I worked out for years. I have never been a small man, but I have always been muscular and “thick” you might say. Guess it’s just the genetic make-up that comes in my tree, so to have allowed myself to get to the point that I need insulin is crazy. For almost all my life I suffered with dangerously low blood sugar levels, so low that I would have difficulty and have passed out from hypoglycemia before. Once I told the pill line nurse, “I don’t feel so good.” She tested me and my blood sugar level was 33. This is called “insulin induced hypoglycemia” where your pancreas produces way too much insulin, so I was constantly craving sweets. I could eat sweets by the handful and the sugar didn’t make me crazy.

There was a time I remember when Bab, my sister-in-law, looked at me and said that was the reason I raided her pantry. Every time I went to her house I’d head for the pantry where they kept the good stuff, the sweets. Sorry, Bab…sheepish smile. Now I even look at something sweet and my sugar goes thru the roof. I was warned by a doctor in 2005 that I would eventually go thru what he called “the flip” where my pancreas just quit producing and I would have to have insulin. Well, the doctor was half right, I need the insulin now, but I’m going to do my best to get myself off of it. It will take a lot of physical exercise and strict diet, but trust me, I will do it! I’m determined and we all know how I can be when I get something in my mind. I told Sings Many Songs I would be off insulin in one year from my release. That’s my goal, so if you see me eating ice cream, it’ll be a cheat day or diet ice cream and if there is no such thing then somebody had better get on the job and invent it cuz I LOVE ICE CREAM!!!!!!!

PS… As of publication date, my bike time is up to 10 miles non-stop 5 days/week… So that means 50 miles per week! Yay! Go Team Walks!

All For the Right to Pray (23)

Part Five – Sweet Freedom

Chapter 23 – Bittersweet Memories

2015 Conversations – Cat Dancing, Ghost Dancer, EPDixon

Cat Dancing & Ghost Dancer 2015 Talladega Prison

EPD: Now I know that at some point Ghost got word that he was about to be arrested and that may be when you went to Canada… Neither of you has mentioned that.

CAT: I’m having trouble finding the words to express myself. Yes, it’s an awesome story there too.

EPD: I don’t really know any details except that they took him away and you had to find your way back home with the wolves.

CAT: That is another story, yes!

EPD: Yep, thought so… we’ll save that one for later….

CAT: I have to tell you on my way back I broke down in the middle of nowhere in Alaska.

EPD: ALASKA? Were you two in Alaska when Ghost was arrested?

CAT: Yes, near Alaska. [at the border] They took him to Fairbanks. After they arrested him I went on into Alaska alone.

EPD: OH MY GOSH…. I know this isn’t funny, but you know that TRUTH is far more interesting than FICTION! And this is a whopper.

CAT: I stayed in the parking lot of Alaskaland, a theme park in Fairbanks. A nice security guard helped me; let me hang out with him in his security booth and let me shower in the showers next to the stage where people perform and sing. Anyway that’s another story.

EPD: Indeed it is…

CAT: I had told him what happened and he felt so bad for us.

EPD: And you drove all the way back to Florida in that old truck all by yourself?

CAT: I drove back by myself with the wolves. Took me 6 days.

EPD: ONLY 6 days?

CAT: It normally takes 10 days. I drove straight thru; stopped where the truckers were on the side of the road and slept an hour and went on again.

EPD: Just driving clear across the continental US like that is amazing all by itself.

CAT: I wish I had kept a diary. It was very emotional; I cried off and on all the way home but was strong too.

EPD: YOU absolutely AMAZE me!

CAT: I never got lost. I hung out there in Alaska so I could visit Ghost there in jail. It’s quite a story. It was an adventure!

EPD: Through some of the most isolated rugged country …

CAT: Not as bad as you think.

EPD: I’m falling out of my chair in amazement.

CAT: On the way back I was in the Snowy Mountains. I wondered if I needed snow chains on my tires, but I got thru it just fine. Then when I got down to the bottom of the mountain there was no snow. A different world! Something told me I’m gonna wish I wrote a diary on my way back.

EPD: Don’t even try to tell it now… just think about it and let the memories come back to you…

CAT: I had to stop in the middle of nowhere in the world to sleep. So the safest place was I would find a couple truckers on the side of the road and I would sleep there then go again.

EPD: Did the wolves ride in the cab with you? And did you have trouble managing them?

CAT: They got car sick after a while. I did fine with them they kept me company.

EPD: What did you feed them?

CAT: Canned dog food. I fed them with a spoon like a human.

EPD: I remember that story about teaching them table manners. LOL

CAT: Yep they were very good eating from a spoon. I didn’t have a doggy bowl.

EPD: And what did you eat on this trip?

CAT: I don’t know what I ate. Good question.

EPD: And did you ever run out of gas?

CAT: No, I made sure I had gas.

EPD: Just looked up the distance between Fairbanks and Pensacola – 4,300 miles!

You have blown my mind girl…

CAT: I blew my friend’s minds; they were amazed I never got lost. I cried off and on all the way back home. The only thing that helped me thru and cheered me up is when Shunka made funny faces in the wind.

EPD: I would never, ever have the courage and gumption for survival that you had!

CAT: When you are alone you have to do what you have to do. I never got lost one time I can’t believe it. I followed the map, kept glued to it.

EPD: Do you remember about when you two left to go up there and how long before Ghost was arrested.

CAT: No, I will have to meditate. See this is the first time I have talked about it in years. I tried not to think about any of it cause it was so tragic losing Ghost the way I did. I went into a horrible depression. I tried to forget everything; the memories so I could pull myself out of depression. I blocked most everything out. It was so hard.

This is when Ghost and I decided to let each other go. I prayed about it, asking if I should let Ghost go. See I was a very loyal type woman. I kept him in my life how can I desert him after what happened to him.

Anyway, after I ended my prayer I heard a voice and looked around. No one was there; the voice said let him go. I felt a weight lift off me; I felt relief. It was a voice of the Great Spirit. Never had I experienced this before. The spirit wanted me to let him go, but it was because I was dying inside. I can’t explain it.

EPD: The future looked so hopeless then… a normal reaction… And it was all so unfair…

CAT: I was young and knew he was going to be in there the rest of his life. They were not going to leave him alone.

EPD: What you were suffering was just as much PTSD as what he suffered. We have a name for it now.

CAT: Where you have flash backs?

EPD: And you are now working through the process of healing…

CAT: Yes, it’s been very painful to talk about even with you.

EPD: All people who suffer traumatic experiences go through all this…

CAT: At first it was painful, but I’m feeling a little better.

EPD: Soldiers in war, people who are tortured or raped, people who experience all that you experienced… working so hard for so long and then have the rug ripped from under your feet…

CAT: Yes!

EPD: You are healing that pain little by little…

CAT: Ghost and I always said Ghost was RIPPED from me!

EPD: And I am SO PROUD OF YOU. BOTH OF YOU…

CAT: Ripped from a life together we dreamed of for 11 years I waited for him.

EPD: Yes! But Spirit is not finished with this story yet…

CAT: Thank you.

EPD: Spirit needs you to be proud of all you have endured… never feel shame… and work to help finish this story as one of the triumph of LOVE and justice. YOU must OWN your story!

CAT: Ghost wanted to let me go because he saw what it was doing to me. I would not let him go. I could not. Then it took its toll on me; that’s when I prayed about it.

EPD: Tragic though it may be, it is your life story and it has not all been in vain.

LOVE TRIUMPHS OVER ALL ADVERSITY!

CAT: Amazing the people who crossed my path along the way. An old man let me stay at his place. He used to be the Chief of a tribe. I met him at the flea market. He was an amazing carver/artist; best I’ve ever seen…Just amazing the people who were put in my path.

EPD: Yes, that is enough for today… Will you start gathering your memories of all this?

Cat Dancing – Travel adventures

CAT: When Ghost and I were together at a psychic show he was doing, this man gave me one sample reading. I never forgot it. He said, I see a pen; you will be writing a book someday. Well books are hard; I don’t think I can do that. Perhaps if Ghost got out we could do that.

EPD TO GHOST: Well another day gone, and Cat really outdid herself relating her memories… She got off on talking about your adventures in BC and Alaska… Now, as she said, that is another whole story, but she told me enough to make my jaw hit the ground. I asked her to think about what actress she wanted to play her in this amazing movie of your lives. True life is always better than fiction. She said when you get out, she wants the two of you to write a book together about your amazing story. I know of a “ghost” writer/editor who works for hugs. LOL

GHOST: Thank you for sharing this with me… Talked to our girl this morning. Just wanted to hear her voice and give her strength. But in truth she always has been my strength. No matter what has been done to me, she has always been my strength to endure, to survive, to push on, and to win. I know I can’t say these things out for others to hear or read but it is the truth… I’m working on my legal stuff this week preparing things to attack soon.

EPD: I’m so glad you are moving forward with your legal preparations. [Note: Legal challenge of two illegal life sentences in Alabama 1983 – See Ch. 16]

GHOST: Did she tell you that we had an old motor home that kept breaking down in the most remote places and that we had to fix it in the rain or in snow? Or that when we were in the Canadian Rockies it was snowing terribly and there was no road and no gas station anywhere and we were pulling her car, so we had to take the car off.  She tried following me and I slung mud all over her and buried her and the car in mud and snow!! LOL And she and I tried off-roading in a motor home LOL and ran out of gas and I had to walk in the snow for hours; left her and the wolves to find gas!

EPD: Now, I’m laughing out loud! Oh Lord! Cat deserves a gold medal for patience with you! No, she didn’t mention the motor home at all or what the heck you were doing up there in the first place. She mostly told of driving back 4,300 miles alone with the wolves! There is definitely a huge story yet to be told… You two have amazing daring do!

GHOST: Hey Cat crawled up under the motor home with me in the mud and helped change the spark plugs! Oh, and don’t forget to ask her about the fox that was a mommy and came to us needing food. She was beautiful. This was in the rez just north of Hazelton, B.C. And ask her about all the wild horses, sheep, elk and all we saw camping out in the wilderness, in such remote places that none of the animals were scared or leery of us. Yeah it was a journey. Be sure to ask her about the beautiful lakes, mountains we saw.

EPD: Yes, I see it all through your eyes… and I know Spirit led you there, no matter what. This was something you desperately needed to do and I’m so glad you can carry these beautiful memories always.

GHOST: I got wind that I was wanted for something later after I had already begun my journey. Remember this, no warrant was issued until In May 1995.  An APB (All Points Bulletin) and a BOLO (Be on the look out) were issued in May. I was warned in Idaho by a deputy sheriff and the sheriff that the Feds were trying to say I was involved in the Oklahoma City bombing. Yes, they even put this in the newspapers in Florida. They listed me as John Doe #3.

It was an elaborate way to get everyone to turn against me. It back fired on them though. But yes, I knew before hand they would try something. I told others they would; the spirits told me they would put me away for a long time till no one would even know me any more! I asked those I thought would be my friends to look out for Cat and help her when this happened. None actually believed this would happen, but the ones I thought would be my friends turned out not to be. They wanted Cat out of the picture; they had motives of their own. Figured they could make a lot off of me. Boy, were they wrong.

EPD: Now in hindsight I am just glad you had a chance to make that trip and enjoy true wilderness freedom for a little while. I remember reading in some of your legal papers that Cat owned the motor home, but she didn’t mention how she acquired it or driving it back home. So what became of it? Did she have to leave it in Fairbanks?

GHOST: Cat bought the motor home from the money I won from the casinos. Before I won the jackpot that had to be reported to the IRS, I had won more than $15,000 in one day as we came back from the mine. Then we also made a good profit at a flea market down below mom’s each day for 2 days selling crafts and crystals. We had put out lots of flyers and had to have Mom, Greg, Aunt Hazel, my step dad, nieces and nephews help us at the flea market that weekend. So we made a lot of money that weekend.

As soon as we got back to Florida, I spotted the motor home at the dealership and made the deal for it. It was a small Winnebago, about 17 years old. Cat paid cash for it. It needed a lot of work and my step dad helped me with that. We planned to use it for our business travels around the country to pow wows and psychic shows.

EPD: Was your plan to return to the little house in the country that Cat spoke about as being a happy place for you all?

GHOST: I had planned on building Cat and me a home after we made enough so I could buy some land for us so that we could live in peace and I planned to build the medicine wheel and inipi areas.

EPD: What became of the truck you loved?

GHOST: The green wolf truck blew the engine in it. I was planning to fix it after we got back home, but I was arrested. Cat had to sell it to survive. She had to sell the motor home in Alaska; that man beat her out the money and she did not get near what he said he would pay. Eventually she couldn’t make the payments on her car so she let it go and bought another old truck and later a van to continue selling crafts at pow wows and such to survive!

EPD: I do not believe Spirit is finished with your stories yet. Cat told me that at one of your gatherings for psychics, she received a free reading and the person told her she would write a book in her future. I don’t know if I ever told you this, but long ago I went to see the psychic, Bobby Drinnon. He told me there would be two Indians in my future. I finished my mission with one, but a lot remains to be seen with the second. I’m keeping my eye on the Red Stick even though I really have no clue what I can do.

GHOST: Just know that Spirit does everything for a reason. Spirit truly blessed me when he put both you and Jack in my path and life. Thank you for being you!

~~~

EPD TO CAT: Forgot to mention, Ghost said to ask you about the time he saved you from the Grizzly bear… did you get upset because you thought he was trying to kill it for its claws or something?

CAT: Well, he thinks he saved me from the bear, guess he thought I was gonna go run up and give the bear a hug. lol! I just wanted to toss him a banana. The bear ran away when I tossed it to him…wonder if he ever came back for it. Do bears even like bananas? lol Oh, Ghost wouldn’t hurt that bear, he won’t even hurt a bug.

I remember a little about the problem they were having in British Columbia. We visited that tribal place. Ghost visited with them; me being shy I wondered off walking around enjoying the nature checking things out watching little Canadian Indian kids play…thought what it would be like to have a little Ghost Dancer running around someday. I was fascinated with Canada. It was awesome when we traveled the nature dirt road route. The stores were like little old cabin stores run by the Canadian Indians. Didn’t have a lot in the stores. They looked poor but happy. This was out in the middle of nowhere. You would hope to make it to the next gas station. Good to take an extra can of gas.

In Canada I was amazed how tame the wild moose and deer were there. Oh I saw lots of wild moose on the side of the road. Ghost would say look they are not scared and the Moose know… lol! They were protected in that area and were not allowed to be hunted is what Ghost told me. Ghost went and laid down in the tall grass one night and came back told me how a deer came up to him. He lay there very still. It was a magical time traveling thru Canada. Even though we ran out of gas and I ended up with a busted windshield taking the nature route. I liked it in Canada; I thought the people were so nice there.

Ghost and I stopped at a store in town. I was needing help so I yelled out “Mam, Mam” could you help me find something? She gave me and Ghost a funny look and I didn’t know what I had said wrong. She knew I didn’t know, she said “Did you know you called me “lady of the night?” That’s what “Mam” means. I said I was sorry, but she knew we were not from there. I was amazed cause back home we say mam and sir all the time. I never forgot that.

The water there was the color of turquoise. I stopped there and parked in the road on my way back thru (without Ghost) in the middle of nowhere; got out walked the wolves… that should tell you there was no traffic. I was out there all alone in this wilderness with the wolves. I remembered my friends asked me to bring them back souvenirs I thought about them even though I was still devastated that Ghost was arrested. I picked up some pretty rocks size of a golf ball. I cried some while picking them up feeling lost without Ghost. I was bringing them a piece of Canada for souvenirs. Oh and they did let me thru the border with the rocks.

~~~

Feb 3, 2015

GHOST: I feel Cat’s pain, it isn’t just for me it is for her too. No one seems to hear her or sees her as she tries to express how she feels. She feels the world is blocking her because of all the badness that is everywhere. The strands of the web have her entrapped in the gloom of the future which she is uncertain of.

Please share this with Cat

For Those Who Worry

In darkness I still see the light of love which shines from the heart;

No bars, no fence, no guard, no pain, can stop the freedom of love,

I’m free in my mind and heart and always will be.

I’m a spirit which many cannot see or understand.

But the light of love that is in me shines brighter than the sun.

I am always one with everything – my mind, my spirit is stronger than any doubt of the future.

I live each day as maybe my last, each day is precious to me, the future will be as it will be.

I don’t worry because I’m just me! Maybe one day they will see!

Two Kindred Souls

Your kindred soul needs to feel secure and accepted and better understood.

Her life has seen things that come from only truly feeling alone.

Inside, her mind has fears that only a true loving heart will heal

Flying in thoughts of darkness, her spirit soars above and beyond, yet it touches home.

What she wishes to say but can only say when she is alone.

Talking words of sorrows, it strikes deep to the bone

Listen kindred spirit for the calling that you hear from someone who is very near,

Who loves you and understands and always gives you room.

You must open your heart to those around you, so just like a flower you can truly bloom.

That which you are missing will come forth. Your life will be filled with so much joy!

All For the Right to Pray (22)

Part Five – Sweet Freedom

Chapter 22 – Fateful Journey

By Ghost Dancer

In early 1995 word got to me that many of the Sun Dance chiefs, elders and teachers in Canada had been murdered by the authorities in Canada. They had planted explosives on the Sun Dance grounds and sacred ceremonial grounds so that when the Native peoples came to do ceremonies they would set off the explosives. I had friends that lived up there and word came to me that they needed someone to help teach the ancient ceremonies and traditional Sun Dance ceremonies including singing the songs. I was asked to come as soon as I could. My parole officer said I could go, so I went. It was a journey that was a destiny as well. We left Florida on April 5th or sixth and I was arrested on May 11th, 1995 so our trip was a little more than a month. 

Cat and I took a round-about route to get there. We needed to make money to help pay for the trip. As was usual with us, we always found ways to sell things along the way. Plus I could always make extra money reading people and trying to give them the best advice to help them in their paths. First we traveled to my mom’s then on to Arkansas where we stayed and mined for crystals, and I read several people each day. This was making money to pay for travel expenses.

As anyone knows driving an RV, they don’t get good gas mileage especially if you are pulling another vehicle behind it. After we left Arkansas we traveled to Oklahoma to the different rezs where I have relatives, friends, spiritual leaders and elders. I talked to them about what I was fixing to go do. The elders thanked me for doing this but also cautioned that forces would not be happy about it. Some in government and corporation money people had other plans and I would be going against that. 

Spiritual people are harder to defeat than those that don’t have the faith and spiritual strength to withstand persecution, hardships etc. My mentors told me that I must follow my calling and do what is right. But it would come with a cost. We left Oklahoma and went on to Arizona where I met with other spiritual leaders and friends. They advised me basically the same way.

We traveled with three of the wolves having left the pups with my brother Greg, my sister Teresa and some of our friends. We kept the adults and Pejuta, the white one who was born two days before any of the others. In Lakota, Pejuta means medicine. These were all the pups that had been conceived during our day at the Harper ranch in November, 1994 while we were delivering the sacred buffalo stone crystal to Miracle, the sacred white buffalo calf. During the ceremony Montaseetha (Morning star) came into season and Shungamanitou wakan (wolf) bred her. Pejuta was a lot bigger than the other wolf pups and he would become even bigger than his parents before he was even 6 months old.

Anyway these are the ones that stayed with us and traveled with us. We made our way to the Yakama rez in Washington state then on to Idaho and the rez at Coeur d’Elene, just outside the town of the same name and spent some time there. Each place we stopped we bartered, sold and traded. Trading goods is always fun and helps all parties get things they want or have need of. It also opens up doors to new friendships and ventures in learning more. 

From Idaho we drove on into British Columbia crossing the border at a place called East Port on May 1st 1995. I remember this because they said, “Happy birthday tomorrow.” We entered Canada legally; naturally we were screened and they ran a check on us. We were cleared with no problems and allowed to enter with travel permits for 6 months. I was instructed by the border agents, roughly the equivalent of the FBI in the U.S. to stay out of the tribal politics.

We first set up in Cranbrook and stayed there for several days fishing and letting the wolves enjoy the freedom of the Moiye rivers – the big Moiye and the little Moiye – where herds of elk walked everywhere and had no fear of us. We then moved further north to Radium Springs. This was a beautiful place and we camped out there for about three days to enjoy all the wonders of the wilderness and the hot springs also, then continued on with our journey northward. 

When we arrived at Hazelton, we stopped at the restaurant just on this side of the river, with the rez being just on the other side. This was a tribal restaurant with members working there. I had a good conversation with a couple of the young men and women and they started making phone calls. Cat and I then drove over the small bridge to enter the rez and went to the tribal office as proper protocol of tradition requires and introduced us as coming in response to being asked. While I was inside the tribal office, Cat stayed outside at the RV with the wolves. Tribal members came over checking out the RV and  the wolves and Cat too. The people were curious; they had never met anyone from Florida much less Natives from the Southeast. And yeah they were really interested in the wolves too.

The tribal chairman was not there that day. He was in a meeting with other leaders from the other rezs about what was going on. We were given a place to park and set up. Everyone was excited because I would be teaching the Sun Dance ceremony and songs and Inipi ceremony and songs. I had brought with me copies of the songs and their translations so that they could read and study them. While Cat set up the campsite and gave the wolves some much needed play time, I went with others to the sacred grounds.

We first checked the ground to make sure no charges had been set and no cameras were setup anywhere for surveillance  of us doing anything. I was told that no more explosions had happened since the call had gone out to me. They had lost all of their spiritual leaders so they figured the government wasn’t worrying about them now but I wanted to be sure that nothing like this happened again. So I asked them to gather volunteers for patrol duties to watch the grounds and watch for anyone who does not belong here.

We began teaching that night, working with all these people to help bring back the teachings and songs and ceremonies which were taken from them by those who were in power and eliminating all the ones who knew how to teach and conduct these things. I was always taught to share knowledge and not hold it to myself. This allows others to step up and begin teaching as well but many in the old customs didn’t share their knowledge and teachings. They believed this gave them power. I  don’t believe in doing it that way. Knowledge is power but sharing power helps share Beauty and Love and helps others spread these teachings so it is never in danger of being lost again. So many ancient teachings have been lost due to governments destroying, yes, murdering the spiritual teachers, leaders, and elders.

So it is important to pass and share all you can to others. This is what Spirit instructed me to do and so did a few of my spiritual teachers who shared their knowledge with me. We spent every day teaching and sharing knowledge with all who wanted to come and learn. When we left to move on we were asked to stay and live there but we graciously declined and thanked them for the offer. 

We traveled further north thru the Canadian Rockies, Yukon territory and into Whitehorse where we stayed a few days resting. Several times on this journey we ran out of gas due to no gas stations, nope these weren’t roads as you would know them. These were mostly logging trails for log trucks or skidders. Each time I would have to leave, taking plastic cans on a stick walking in deep snow and it 20-30 below zero in these extremely high altitudes to find somewhere to get some gas. Several times it was provided by loggers or log truck drivers to help us out.

While in Whitehorse I kept feeling suspicious of folks like the cops were watching me. This was not being paranoid. I have learned to trust my instincts and intuitions. Later I learned that I was suspected as being John Doe # 3 of the Oklahoma City Bombing. This didn’t even make sense, we were never in Oklahoma City! But I know from experience that there are those in power who will say and do anything to get what they want.

Since we were so close to the border we decided to go check out Alaska and visit some tribes there. When we got to the border crossing all heck broke loose! Men with guns came from everywhere pointing guns at us both. Cat was ordered to gather the wolves and leash them and to exit the RV. I was to remain motionless with all guns on me. I was told not to even twitch or I would be shot immediately. I knew we had done nothing wrong so I just remained calm but did not let my guard down either. Eventually they ordered me to stand up and exit the RV and get down on my knees in the snow. I did as told and asked what they were doing this for. They pushed me down on the snow, handcuffed and leg shackled me. Then I was told I was being arrested for the warrant of being a suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing. At no time then or even the next few days was there ever any mention of any warrants for any bank robberies or money laundering.

I was taken From Alcano, Alaska to Tok, Alaska first. Then suddenly they transferred me to Delta, Alaska. They detained Cat at the border, they said until I was placed in a jail cell in Tok. But they lied to her. They told Cat she could visit me there. But in fact they took me all the way to Fairbanks, more than 200 miles and for a while she didn’t know where I was.

All For the Right to Pray (21)

Part Five – Sweet Freedom

Chapter 21 – A Beautiful New Life

By Ghost Dancer

During these early days our two wolves came into our lives. It was a true blessing that they chose to stay with us and share their lives.

One day after I came home from laying brick for 15 hours, Cat told me that a friend of ours had called to let us know about a wolf that was needing a home. We immediately went to go see him. He had a troubled past and needed help health wise and emotionally too. I was warned that he would attack, but when the big boy saw me he literally jumped up into my arms. Wolves can sense your thoughts and intentions and instinctively, he knew I was a friend and would not harm him. He came home with cat and me that same night. 

He needed cleaning up; wolves don’t like to be dirty. They always clean themselves, but he had been sick and if people don’t truly know them, they can be a handful. I know wolves as I know most who live in our world. I have to, because we are all related and they all have so many things to teach us. All we have to do is pay attention. He sure didn’t like getting in a shower that was for sure. He clawed me up pretty good, but I knew he wasn’t trying to hurt me. Taking a shower was just something different to him. Something he never had experienced. It was late at night when we got home, and he really needed cleaning up. If I could, I would have taken him to a river or creek to bathe him.

Shungamanitou and Montaseetha

That night, I prayed and asked his spirit to speak with me and help me to understand him, so I would be able to help. I began calling him Shungamanitou Wakan Tanka (Big Wolf). He liked me calling him that and let me know it. I had to watch him closely because at this time, just after I got out of prison, we were living in an apartment in town until we found something else out in the country. This was no place for a wolf and a Native to be living, for sure. The town was small and had woods, swamps and places where he and I could run wild and free, so that became our practice. At night we ran for hours letting him have his fun. Yeah, he really kept me in shape. The key thing to remember is that Shunga was a free person. We didn’t own him because we didn’t create him.  He chose to live with us. We took him to the mountains and forests, and if he wanted to take off he could. Yes, he would run wild and have a ball, but he always came back wanting attention. He loved living in both worlds. I could understand him. I lived in three worlds.

Later, Cat and I were told about a female wolf that was being abused and the people wanted to sell her. We immediately started hunting these people. Legally I couldn’t just take the wolf, so we went to see how much they wanted for her. I was sickened in my heart by what I saw. They were trying to force her to obey by starving and beating her. Cat grabbed my arm and said we should try to get the money. We went to friends and borrowed the money to buy her, but I made sure these people knew what I thought of them and if I ever heard of them abusing or selling a wolf person again, I would not be a nice person. This scared little girl was shaking and wary of me as I gently talked to her and led her to my truck where big wolf waited. I told him to be easy and take care of her, that she has been abused. He stared at the people and I could feel his anger. She joined our family and we called her Montaseetha (Morning Star) for the beautiful white star on her forehead. It took a lot of time, care and love to heal the damage, but eventually she chose to stay with us and fell in love with the big wolf. 

Montaseetha

Cat was a real sweet heart. She immediately began gently working with her. Wolves have rules they live by. Even dogs have some remainder of some of the wolf’s instinctive rules.  Montaseetha had a loving heart and just wanted to have fun and belong to a pack. We became her pack. When we would all go walking at night, we all had a good time. I had trouble adjusting to sleeping on a bed, so once Cat went to sleep, I would lay in the floor with the wolves. Later, when we went mining or camping, I also slept outside with the wolves. In the morning, I always snuck back in bed and just watched Cat as she slept and let her snuggle until she woke up.

When we found a place out in country, the wolves had freedom to come and go as they pleased. They learned how to open and close the door. They sometimes lived inside when we were working or sleeping inside. Cat even had them eating at the table. I had never seen such, she even had the big guy spoiled, letting him eat watermelon, corn, and even ice cream. Running in and out of the house playing, they knew Cat would give them a scolding, but just like kids, they would take off back outside and forget about it. When Cat felt they needed a bath, she would tell them it was bath time and they knew they were in for a treat. She would take her time and give them a good grooming. Wolves love attention. It is in their social order to reaffirm their affections all the time.

At the time, I was working as a brick mason, building houses. I got paid by how many bricks I laid, not by the hour, so often I worked around the clock by putting up huge lights using 400-watt bulbs. Sometimes Cat would bring the wolves to stay with me at night while I worked. Sometimes she stayed too and helped me, especially when I needed sleep. To really make good money, the faster I could get a job done, the more money I would make. If it took me longer than two days to finish a 60,000-brick home, then I would be ashamed of myself. While I worked, the wolves would run free and check out everything, but all I had to do was howl and they would come back to me.

Sometimes Cat would work while I curled up in the sand and slept with the wolves. When it rained or was bad weather and I could not work, we stayed home and made Native arts and crafts to sell. When we were at home the wolves ran the woods and played in the spring and rivers. When we were on the road, wherever we stopped, they ripped and romped exploring. Big wolf claimed shotgun seat in the truck. That was his seat and no one else’s unless he wanted to ride in the back. Montaseetha always sat in my lap and wanted attention. When she got in the back of the truck, she had her spot on top of the tool box. If it was very, very cold and bad weather, Cat dressed them in hoodies with socks for their feet. Hey, riding in the back of a truck when it’s 30 below zero is not fun, even for a wolf.

Cat and I loved to play and had fun wrestling. The wolves were not going to be left out of this play time. They always helped Cat and would attack together, nipping and then grasping an arm or leg in their jaws and pulling me in opposite directions. It just wasn’t ever fair. And when Montaseetha had her pups, boy was I in trouble. I became a chew toy for all of them. Cat is strong and fast and when she and both the adult wolves and 9 pups were all attacking me, it sounded like a real war going on.

When wolves are puppies the females are more curious and assert themselves. As they get older the males take over that role and the females become sneak attackers. They would run full speed and try to knock the back of your knees out from under you, practicing their hunting techniques as they would hamstring a deer or elk. The pups would be battling, asserting themselves to determine their rank and order. Yes, they do that from the time they are born. It may sound like they are killing one another, but they aren’t. They all love to be loved and want reassurances every day; this is the wolf way.

Cat had her hands full with all these pups running around, so we made a fenced in enclosure so we didn’t have to worry about eagles, hawks or owls, dive bombing and snatching up one of them. This way they would be safe. We used chicken wire to go across the top. The house was open to them too, but they had to go by Cat’s rules.

The pups were 4 weeks old when we took them for their first visit to the vets to get dewormed and all their shots, the vet was honored to have them. The vet said we needed to wait until the pups were 6 weeks old to get their shots because wolves are different than dogs and tend to have more distemper and rabies. So after their deworming and physical we brought them all home. I had powdered and killed all the worms on the grounds, making sure this would help the pups as well and the adults.

When Cat and I had somewhere to go during this time, we left the wolves at home. We didn’t worry, the pups had very good parents and even if we were going to be gone for a weekend, we had a friend who came over every morning to check in on them. They knew he was a friend and allowed him to go to the house to get their food and run their fresh water twice a day. Al was his name and he always loved coming over and drinking coffee and visiting. Al had a bad cancer. He was retired; had been a Navy police officer for more than thirty years. 

Al lived down the road and when he needed some help around his place or on his vehicles, I would always go over and help him, just the way I believe and was brought up. Elders need help, you help them. You don’t charge them or anything, you just do it from your heart. It was sad that no one had been helping Al before we met him. Al lived all by himself and he loved Cat’s cooking. We were happy for him to come over and eat with us.

He also helped the cattle rancher who lived next to us by watching his cattle and watering them and such when the cattle rancher was gone. The rancher was leery about the wolves until we proved that they would not kill his cattle. Wolves are very protective of their territory and patrol it regularly. I just had to introduce the cattle as part of our pack, our territory and the wolves would now protect them. Needless to say, the coyote problem ceased in that area and he never had any more problems with hunters driving into the back woods and shooting at his cattle either. For the president of the Cattlemen’s Association in that area to be happy to have wolves around, sent a message to others. We made friends with our neighbors all around. That was an accomplishment.

Wolves are protective of little ones too. It is their nature to protect. If a baby was alone in the woods and the wolves found it, they would protect it. Not harm it. You can’t even scold a baby or child around them, they don’t like you doing that and will let you know it very quickly. When we took them to a school to visit autistic children, the interactions we saw that day were nothing short of remarkable. These wolves were our family and went everywhere with us. They had fun always and loved making us laugh as they loved attention. This is where we reenergized and healed ourselves.

Cat Dancing 1994

These first months were very lean times, but together we made it. We worked together and would take any kind of job we could find. Some were odd jobs, but mostly I worked at construction and historic restoration sites. Beyond this, we worked on developing a business working the circuits and selling our Native crafts at flea markets and powwows.

Though we were always busy, I still did my prayers and was always willing to talk to others about Native American religion. I had been warned that where we lived, many people were not open to people with different religious beliefs. They did not want any other religions other than their brand of Christian and I would have trouble if I said otherwise. I had just come from living in a dungeon, being punished for being who I was and standing up for my peoples’ traditional beliefs. I sure as heck wasn’t going to stop now just because I was out of prison. I would not bow down to the demands and attitudes of small-minded people who hated me for what I believed in. There were many Creek Indian heritage people living in this area of Northwest, Florida and we were open to serve and teach them or any others who seriously wanted to learn Native culture, religion and even crafts.

Working as a team, Cat and I reached out to young people through the schools. Working with all ages of students, we taught them the history and culture of our People and of other Native peoples as well. Many young people came to us to learn. They wanted what had been denied them by others: knowledge, traditional practices, crafts, and culture. I believed that the young must be taught so that these things continue and are not lost.

Springfest, Seville Square, Pensacola, FL 1994

During this time, I returned to my art which I had started teaching myself years before. Working primarily in pastels, my paintings were a significant part of our business. We participated in a weekly meditation group, working with others who wished to progress in their spiritual lives. All the work we did was a real blessing for us and for the people whose lives we touched, and we both looked forward to it. Most people knew that Cat and I would come if we were asked or needed to be anywhere. We trusted Spirit to help us in these things.

Springfest, Seville Square, Pensacola, FL 1994

We worked with the handicapped, disabled, and elderly, and frequently visited hospitals and nursing homes. Cat and I both loved our private lives and time to just commune with nature and Spirit, but whenever we were asked, we would go to the hospitals, nursing homes or any place to work with the ones we had been called to help. Some Sacred Heart Hospital staff were intrigued by the natural medicines we used to help the patients and the doctors there were opened-minded about our work with terminally ill patients. Even folks who were not Native began requesting help from us.

Springfest, Seville Square, Pensacola, FL 1994

I am also a reader of people; a psychic, as some call it. I love people and consider this intuitive ability to be a gift from Spirit. Everywhere we went, people would come to me asking for help with their problems. I’m a simple man; nothing special, but I could and did work hard to earn a good name and an honest living. My spiritual calling required me to follow Spirit, and to do so, many times it took the money from our crafts and jobs to pay for the travel and expenses to do what I’m asked to do or led to do by Spirit. We always made money as we traveled by doing readings, odd jobs, or by selling our crafts, gem stones or crystals. This way everything was as it should be.

Shunga hanging out at Springfest

I received permission from my parole officer to travel which we took full advantage of. We made frequent trips to work the crystal mines in Arkansas for beautiful crystals to sell. Mining is hard physical work, but working as a team, Cat and I found it to be well worth the effort. While I dug in the mine, Cat would sort and clean the crystals I brought out.

Talking crystals with Step-dad 1994

In addition to selling the crystals, I could trade or barter for other things we needed. Often, I traded for stones, some precious, some semi-precious, to make jewelry, or to inlay in wood or leather. Often, I gave away these treasures as gifts to the elders and holy ones when we started making trips to visit the reservations.

Our travels to visit the reservations took us through many states: Oklahoma, Arizona, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Oregon, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and more. We even travelled up through British Columbia, Yukon Territory, and Northwest Territory to Alaska.

Cat and Ghost with a friend made in their travels 1994

Everywhere we went, we always spoke to people and educated them on our Native American struggles and the history that is not taught in schools or colleges. We met with tribal leaders, spiritual leaders and members of tribes and traded with them. They shared ceremonies with us and we shared ceremonies with them. I was always taught it is proper to always bring gifts of tobacco and other items when going to someone’s home, lands, or meeting any respected person, or when asking for help. I still practice that and teach the youngsters this way of giving others their earned respect.

On our visits to meet with respected leaders, we always brought gifts of sabias (natural crystals), and handmade items such as obsidian knives, beaded crafts, and such that I felt they had no access to or they might need. We also brought fresh tobacco leaves, packs of cigarettes, shark teeth, alligator teeth or claws, water bird feathers, or shells as gifts from the heart. When Cat and I set up our crafts to sell, we made sure we educated people on what each item was for, what each color represented, and each symbol meant, because traditionally, there is a story in everything we made. Everything has a spirit, and when making these we were creating with love and beauty always.

Life was not without its problems with authorities. My first parole officer tried to extort jewelry and money from me, with reminders of how easily she could violate me. This woman was reported by someone who witnessed what she was doing, and I was appointed another parole officer. Local deputies were an ongoing annoyance, checking on my every move, showing up at my place of work. Several times I was approached by federal agents and told to shut up and quit talking about all the Native issues and illegal activities involving the government.  Several times they sent in people to try to set me up, trying to sell me illegal weapons or other things. I would tell these people to get away from me and I had no interest. While speaking in St. Louis, MO about Native issues and our struggles, I was approached again by federal agents and told I would be very sorry if I didn’t shut up and mind my own business.

White Buffalo Crystal

Cat and I, along with elder Ria Wolf made a trip to deliver a beautiful all natural sabia or crystal buffalo as a gift to a real life white buffalo calf, named Miracle, that had just been born in Janesville, Wisconsin. The ranchers where she was born gave us special permission to do a ceremony there and to even video tape Miracle. The Harpers opened their home to us and provided us with hot coffee and friendship. They told us that many wicasa wakan had told them we would be coming, and they had been expecting us. We told them that we had taken the stone buffalo to many different tribes first for all their blessing and prayers to be done and it took us longer to get there with all the snow. After we completed the ceremony I was allowed to introduce myself to Miracle who had been watching me the whole time. I introduced her to the stone buffalo and sang a Lakota buffalo song for her. We placed the stone buffalo at her fence. The mother was very protective but knew I would do neither of them any harm. 

While I was doing this, elder Ria Wolf was doing blessing ceremonies and protection ceremonies for the whole place and for the buffalo people there. Cat made a video of the blessing of Miracle to share with all the tribes.  What we didn’t know was that we were being blessed too. The two wolves that lived with us were there as well. Shungamanitou Wakan Tanka (Big Wolf), the male, and Montaseetha (Morning Star), the female, were dancing. Her dance was coming into season. The two mated, and months later, blessed us with the first wolf pup we named, Pejuta, which means, medicine. He was born all by himself and a day later, eight more pups were born.  All were so beautiful and so full of love. The mother pushed the pups out of her den and the father let us meet each one before he pushed them all back inside.

During those 15 months of freedom, I was happy as could be! I had my beautiful wife, and we had a beautiful wolf family living with us sharing their beauty and love. My family was so supportive and loving, and when Cat and I set up near my mom’s home selling native arts and crafts, my entire family was there helping; even my grandmother helped. We were living the beauty of our traditions, teaching and sharing with all.

But the government would not leave me alone. Soon I would be hunted again and thrown back in prison for crimes I did not do and never would have even dreamed of doing. There was absolutely no proof ever given that I was the guilty party, and plenty to show my innocence. Even the FBI forensic expert would be a witness in my behalf, and the key witness who identified me from a photo at the scene of the crime, was none other than the same parole officer who tried to blackmail me. But the lack of proof did not matter. If the government wants you gone, they get you gone, and that is exactly what happened.

All my family, my loving wife, Cat, and even the wolves’ lives were turned upside down and destroyed again. Why? Why did this keep happening? I had not hurt anyone. I had committed no crimes. I had made sure I had witnesses and kept records of all my movements. Then I realized that I had been warned by the feds to stop speaking out about injustices. Well, just as I told the judge, he could put me away, but I will not be silenced. I will only get louder in speaking out against injustice. I just wish all those I loved and cared about did not have to suffer as well. After I was sentenced, I told my sweet loving wife that she deserved a better life than with me. I told her to leave me, that she did not deserve this, and being with me would only cause her to suffer. So, I told this dear lady to go find someone to love and enjoy life. I have another battle to fight, but I will always love you.

Cat Dancing 2003

Though plagued by heartbreak and depression, Cat would continue the business she and Ghost started together. For the next seventeen years, Cat worked the circuit of powwow’s and festivals as a vendor selling handcrafts she designed and made.

Cat Dancing Native American Crafts 2003

The School I Wish I’d Learned From

Lights In the Distance. . .

Walks’ Outdate – 110 Days and Counting

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

Well, we all know I want to go to school, and sometimes as I’m lying in bed thinking about the days to come once I leave this iron house, I imagine myself walking into the community college, on my way to a class in sociology. I’m deep into the semesters I need to get certified to mentor or counsel the youngsters or addicted people who need to know there is a way out of addiction, there is a way out other than spending 37 years in prison and walking out an old man.

It’s really simple, pay attention and I’ll tell you, crime don’t pay! No, actually it does, it pays the people who guard the people who commit the crimes. Period. You may think that it’s all good to make a thousand dollars on some dope, but if you get caught, divide that money into the amount of time you will get or the cost of the lawyer if you can get one, or the heartache to the mother, or wife or sister or whomever. See, that’s what you’re selling your life for, a couple dollars and a whole lot of heartache and shame to those that care for you. I feel positive that there is always someone who cares! Hell, I care! I care enough to want to spend the rest of my years going to school so that I am qualified (academically) to tell you what to expect and to offer solutions to the problems or the situations that are so fundamental in making people make the mistakes I made and thinking they are going to get a different result.

I see myself sitting in those classes, where the students are all 40 or more years younger than me, trying to make it to where I want to be, where I can make a difference, or at least try. I see me with a backpack full of books and a laptop after a full day of classes, knowing I’ve got to study for a big test to come, and an even bigger one in being able to help someone. That’s the biggest test, all my bit for these past 22 years since I decided I was going to be part of the solution, not the problem. And if I have to wrack my brain I’m willing to do that. If I’ve got to be looked at by a bunch of college kids as a weirdo old man in the class, ok there as well. I’ve lived thru the B.S. that causes us to end up in here, I’ve been thru it and I can sure as hell speak on the fact that nothing is worth a life in here!

I can see me standing at a bus stop waiting for the bus to take me to the college, and I can see me walking to the halfway house from the same stop at the end of the day, knowing I still have to take care of my personal things like laundry and a shower, and studying for the tests to come in the weeks to come. All these things I think into my life; I literally am living thru this to get to that. I’m walking thru each of these last days, considering the tasks to come and living their needs and planning for the eventualities that I can foresee. At the same time I know full well that there will be just as many speed bumps in the way, just as many trials and tribulations in getting to what I have set as my life’s goal. If I have to work part time in order to eat, so be it. I’ll go to school full time and work part time, but I will do what needs to be done in order to fulfill my dreams. These are the very things that have given me the will and the fortitude to go through the past decade’s worth of hell.

I have a dream as well as you; I have wants and needs and desires to succeed just as you do. I don’t know why I had to go down the road I went down in order to get here, but I am here and I am capable of speaking on what it means to be here at this juncture in life. I am capable and qualified to talk as an expert on the beauty of wanting and in doing the right thing, as well as the hell of being the horrible person I once was and how to NOT be that! I can speak about how to be a success and finally, give testament to just how resilient we as humans really and truly are. What we can accomplish is amazing! What we can overcome is monumental, and what we can see when we look in the mirror after it’s all said and done is someone the Creator has loved enough to help see the error of their ways and to change.

So yes, I’m afraid, and yes, actually, I’m scared to death of you and your world. I don’t know the problems I am facing, but I assure you I will prevail and I will be at that bus stop, in that class, and finally in the solution to someone else’s problems, because I care enough to face the fear and just get the hell on with it. No one can say I’m a coward; scared, o.k., but not enough to not make my dreams come true. I will help. I want to help, and I will do whatever it takes to do that, even 37 years in prison.

PS – Sure hope there will be a bench at the bus stop…

All For the Right to Pray (20)

Part Five – Sweet Freedom

Chapter 20 – Miracles, Cleansing, Healing

By Ghost Dancer

Unheard of parole granted on February 9, 1994

When my parole hearing came up in February 1994, I was already fighting my convictions in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Then a miracle happened. I will share that miracle in Cat’s own words as well as my own:

Cat Dancing:

Cat Dancing

Ghost’s mom and sister, attended the parole hearing along with me and my mom. Ghost put me in charge of speaking for him, though by nature I am not at all comfortable with such situations. Until this day I still wonder who that girl was who got up and boldly made her case before the board. I had waited 11 years for this man I loved so much; for 11 years, we had written letters to one another. I came with positive thoughts and determination that he was coming home. To help bolster my self-confidence, I wore the most sophisticated dress I had and carried a brief case filled with everything I had prepared.

The 5-member parole board sat behind a high desk which I could barely see over as I stood to present my prepared statement and show photos of Ghost’s artwork and the property where we planned to build our home. So I walked around the desk to the person on the end and showed him all the pictures and talked about our plans for how we were going to live and make a living. I just spoke from my heart. I told them he was sorry for what he had done, but I never mentioned the pure hell he was going through, so I was a little surprised when I looked up to see they were all wiping tears from their eyes.

When I had finished, one of the board members came to us and asked, “If I can pull some strings, can you go pick James Johnson up today?”  Now we all broke into tears of joy! Yes! Yes! We can do that today! We drove from Montgomery straight to Holman Prison. We had been instructed to wait in the parking lot in our cars and watch for Ghost to walk thru the gate. What a beautiful sight to see! We all hugged him with tears of joy.

We decided to go to a restaurant to eat and visit a bit before his mom and sister headed back home and Ghost came with my mom and me back to Pace, Florida. I didn’t realize at that moment how very hard it was for him being around people when he had just been in solitary confinement for so long. Ghost came out with white hairs all through his black hair. He looked so thin and pale, and a little scary even. That’s what solitary will do to you. I think I colored his hair brownish black the next day. Wow! He was so handsome again!

Ghost Dancer:

At first, when they told me I was getting out, I thought they were lying to me and just getting ready to attack me some more. When Cat and my family came to the prison to get me and I walked outside, I thought I was hallucinating, but it was a good hallucination! I wanted to go kiss the ground, and hug some trees, but I couldn’t see; my eyes had been in total darkness for a long time. I didn’t want to go around people, everything was happening too fast. It was a shock to go from being in a tiny cell all alone to having people around me all trying to talk to me at the same time. Shock would be a better word than scared. Disbelief, doubts of my own sanity were driving me nuts. I was scared to even touch anyone least they just disappear, and I’d wake back up in my torture chamber.

When we stopped to eat, I was petrified. I knew I looked terrible and I could feel eyes on me everywhere. This was not real and any minute they would come and try to put me back in solitary. I just wanted to get out of there. I had gone so long without food it meant nothing to me! I was even scared of Cat! Yeah imagine that, scared that I would do something, say something, and she would run away from me. I was scared of people and what I could feel them thinking about me! I loved Cat so much and I had dreamed of her all those years in solitary, and when they tortured me I focused on what it would be like to have her in my arms again, to hold her. We had planned on this day and now it was here, and I didn’t know what to do. I just wanted to be alone with my Cat, so I could adjust and get my head on straight.

Ghost & Cat 1994

This wasn’t happening; it couldn’t be, things like this just didn’t happen, ever. But they did! Thanks to Cat and her fighting for me, talking to the parole people, walking around their desk even, to show them where we would live, and showing them my art work, she got me released. Her spirit is what got me released! We went home to begin a new life. Spirit had opened the door for me. Now I must carry this walk and message to the outside again.

Finally free! After all these years, the world had changed a lot by the time my dear wife Cat, along with my mom and sister, Judy, all came and got me that fateful February day in 1994. I was just out on parole and the threat of being sent back for the slightest infraction still hung over my head, so there were many obstacles still to face. How does any human being pick up the pieces and begin to live after years of merely surviving in hell?

It is a documented fact that most prisoners suffer from shock when released from prison: cultural shock and emotional shock. People re-enter the world so mentally traumatized by their experience that most don’t even recognize that their inability to adjust is designed by the very prison system that is supposed to rehabilitate and prepare them to live responsible lives. The system takes away a person’s right to think for themselves or speak for themselves. Prisoners are told when they can get up, when they have to go to bed, when they must work, when they must eat, when they can visit with loved ones. Taking away all responsibility and constantly degrading the prisoner verbally is a pervasive form of abuse that programs the prisoner into believing that no matter what they say or do, it is wrong, or a lie and they will never amount to anything. When this self-defeating message is programmed into a person each and every day of their incarnation, little wonder so many fail on the outside.

When a person goes through solitary, the abuse is a thousand times more severe. I have seen strong men break down and go insane or commit suicide in a short time. It is a proven scientific fact that solitary confinement is, by design, a tool to destroy a person’s mind, body and spirit. Being tortured as I was, starved, kept naked and so much worse, goes beyond any decent person’s idea of how a civilized society treats its prisoners.

No one truly understands the problems such a person faces once they are released. I do! The key I learned, just to survive, was to keep a strong spirit and mind while you are still in. See beauty and love in all around you no matter how dark it is. This would be my focus on the outside as well. Yes, there were doubts, yes, there were fears even. The world changes while you are away, and so have you.

I had to adjust to being around people and things moving around me. I had been in solitary for so many years. I felt I looked like something from a horror movie. This is why a traditional Native Clean-up Ceremony was so important. But having loved ones around who understand that you have to adjust is so important. Encouragement, love, and understanding goes a long way.

I was truly blessed and protected by Spirit; they could not kill me, even when fire bombed, poisoned, shocked with electrical shock devices, scalped, and beaten so badly that no one could recognize my face because I was a renegade who refused to sign a piece of paper saying I was a Christian. Few people have any clue what it is like to be tortured and abused for years just because of who you are and your religious beliefs. It is a mind crushing experience and I had things within myself that I had to deal with. A clean-up ceremony had to be done. Most tribes have distinct types of clean-up ceremonies especially for warriors returning from war or battle.

My war, my battle, had been in prison, but just the same it was a war, and I had things that must be released and cleansed from me.  The traditional way to do a clean-up begins with a fast and purging with the black drink. During my years in prison and after my release I continued to visualize the old ceremony; a pit being dug, longer than me and 4 feet deep. The bottom is lined in clay and my naked body is also covered with clay. I lay down in the pit and a helper places wet palm leaves on top of me. A long section of bamboo is placed in my mouth as a breathing tube, and then dirt is piled on top of me. Last, fire wood is placed on the dirt and lit. The fire will be kept burning for four days. This simulates being back in my mother’s womb. While I pray continuously, the clay will be absorbing all the impurities from my body and the fire will burn up all the bad memories and pain that were trapped inside from my experience. My prayers were for complete healing: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. After four days the pit is dug open. The clean-up ceremony I did physically was simpler, but helpful. I did the fast and the purging. Then with Cat’s help, using an eagle feather, my whole body was smudged. I went to a spring, dove in and stayed submerged at the bottom, letting Mother take away my pain and help release the bad memories.

The emotional and mental release of all the inner pain, is always necessary. It is not natural for a human being to be violent, to take a life or hurt others. No, it is not natural, but sometimes it is necessary. Subconsciously these things are buried inside of us; things we see, or do, or have done to us, cause trauma deep within. So before we can go back amongst our loved ones and live right, these things must be released; we must be cleansed and healed of this pain. Otherwise our family and friends will all have this brought into their lives, not knowing or understanding what is wrong, what you are suffering, and they feel so helpless. You cannot do this alone. Only Spirit can help you release this pain or damage from within.

My loved ones all knew what was done to me too; family members, friends, children, and even neighbors. It was so important to me to spend time with all my family and those who stood by me and suffered with me. It was important to have alone time with Cat, so we could both heal! My Cat helped me to heal and gather my strength back. She needed healing too. The truth is, when a person goes to prison, they are not the only ones being punished. Every person connected to them suffers, especially when they know what their loved one is going through inside of prison. When they come to visit, they can see the cuts, bruises, and bandages. Receiving letters from other prisoners about what is going on keeps your loved ones anxious; never at peace.

Taking time to heal and adjust was not easy. By parole requirements and just to live, I had to go to work immediately. Cat and I started out with nothing; we worked hard just to get on our feet, but we always made time to spend in the woods with nature. This is where we truly came alive.

All For the Right to Pray (19)

Part Four – The Spiritual Warrior Awakens

Chapter 19 – Finally, My Day In Court

By Ghost Dancer

In 1989, after years of mental and physical abuse in the Alabama prison system, I filed suit in federal court in the Northern District of Alabama against the State of Alabama for the right to practice my religion. Now it truly made my day when the judge allowed me to represent the case in court myself because unlike any lawyer, I would not be nice to any of the government’s witnesses or defendants. I would be prepared to question them like they never ever had been. The judge ordered only law enforcement or government officials would be allowed in the courtroom other than my family. Guess he wanted to keep it quiet from the public. But the state had numerous attorneys, plus the attorney general, the Department of Corrections attorneys and all the wardens, prison officials and numerous staff who were all involved.

They brought their so-called experts who were chaplains, a high school history teacher and a college professor. I had Cat and all my family there. My dad and mom both came and testified for the first time of their true nationality and our family history. This was the first time ever that either one of them had admitted this publicly. Remember by law in Alabama and other southern states it was illegal for Native people to be living or working or owning any property in the state. Even today, this is still in the law books of some southern states and still in the law books that it’s legal to kill any Native.

Yet here was my dad and mom both testifying in federal court in Birmingham Alabama about who and what they were and how I was raised and believed. And  even though my maternal grandmother was not physically there she had done all she could. She had sworn an affidavit in front of the Morgan County probate judge and had it notarized to the effect of her marriage to my grandfather, Edgar Beavers who was a full blooded Native American and she knew my dad’s family as well that he was full blooded Native American. My mom had brought her Holy Bible with the recorded marriages and dates and who they were going back to the early 1800s.

My dad and mom both also testified as to me being different and living traditionally and practicing my traditional beliefs and religion all my life. They told how much it meant to me even as to how my medicine forbids me to eat any bird flesh or harm any type of bird. I presented all my disciplinaries and complaints that I had as evidence about my religious beliefs and practices. I also submitted to the court and before the court read all the documents I had received from various wardens from numerous other prisons. I took the stand myself and testified about all the abuses that I had received and had to endure because of my religious beliefs and race.

I read all the amicus curiaes that had come to me from all the expert highly recognized traditional spiritual leaders from various tribal nations and had submitted to the court as friends of the court. Numerous times the defense tried to cross examine me, trying to make me mad or say something wrong but that didn’t happen.

When I was done I rested my case. Then the defense put on their witnesses. After each one testified I was allowed to cross examine them. When I asked them what tribal nation they belonged to or was descended from, they would only say that they were citizens of the United states. Then I asked them what qualifies them to testify as having any knowledge of Native American religion. They could only say that they were qualified because they worked in prison and knew how prisons are.

As for the chaplains, they spoke about all their religious training. When I asked them where they went to get their license to be a chaplain, they were only given that job title by the prisons! I asked them what religion they practice and had they ever practiced or participated for any length of time in any Native American religion. They said they practiced the Christian religion. So I asked what made them think they had any expert knowledge or personal knowledge on Native American religion? All they could say was they didn’t understand what I was asking and their attorneys objected to my questions. The court overruled them and ordered them to answer. They said as chaplains they were testifying as to what is allowed to be practiced by the prisons. “So in other words,” I asked, “You can’t speak on anything you have no knowledge of so you have wasted this court’s time and mine too.

Then they put the college professor on and talked about all the degrees he had and how many years of experience he had. When he finished testifying, I got my turn. My questions followed the same line as before.

“What tribal nation do you belong to?”

“None.”

“What tribe are you descended from?”

“None.”

“Okay, what tribal nation recognizes you as an expert on their traditional beliefs and practices?”

“None.”

“Do you practice any type of Native American religion?”

“No.”

“Have you ever practiced or participated in any type of traditional Native American religious ceremony?”

“No.”

“So, on whose authority are you testifying today as an expert on Native American religion?”

He said he had a degree in Native American history.

“Is history a religion?”

“No.”

“Well, do you think it is fair to say that as far as being an expert on Native American religion you have no knowledge at all.

“Yes, that would be fair to say.”

I let him step down. Next they put the wardens and prison officials on the stand and presented them as experts in security and prison operations. When each was done I got to cross examine them. My questions were simple.

“Since you say that my religion is a security threat because of my long hair, or my ceremonial items such as a sacred pipe, cedar, sage, drum, rattles, tobacco, or snake root, and of course, a sweat lodge…do you have any experience at a prison where this was allowed?”

“No.”

“Okay, then do you have any proof of these things being a security threat or documents proving any incident where they have been a security threat or has  helped anyone escape or threatened the safety of anyone?”

They could only answer “No.”

I asked each one if it is policy that every single inmate must cut their hair. They all testified to the question with an affirmative, “Yes.”

Repeatedly I asked them why this is the policy? Each time they said it was for security reasons. Then I questioned what facts, incidents or documents from anywhere that long hair is a security threat. They had none.

“You only say long hair is a security threat, yet you can’t prove it in anyway. And just because you say it is doesn’t mean it is.”

And then I asked them each again, “Are you absolutely sure you are telling the truth that all prisoners must cut their hair?”

“Yes!” they were telling the truth.

Next they put the prison commissioner on the stand. Finally someone I had been really waiting for. He testified as to all his credentials and how long he had been in the criminal justice system, prison services. They questioned him about how violent all prisoners are and especially me. He testified about how I had attacked all his staff in the prison system and how I was causing chaos in his prisons. He said that every part of my religion was a security threat just as I was. That I had attacked and hurt so many of his officials, guards and I would not obey any of their rules or orders. He concluded that I could not be allowed to practice this religion. 

Then it was my turn. I asked him all the same questions I asked them all. And then I asked him to answer this as his position gave him the authority to answer. “Okay you said that all prisoners must cut their hair correct?

“Yes.”

“Do you and your staff and all the other government witnesses know what perjury is?”

He got pissed and said he knew exactly what it meant.

I said, “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Then why did you all, including you, get on this stand and commit perjury?”

He said, “I didn’t and they didn’t.”

I asked again, “Are you sure all prisoners must cut their hair?”

“Yes.”

I then asked the court to please accept exhibits of affidavits and photos from the women prisoners at the women’s prison. The court accepted them into evidence. I handed a copy of the women’s grooming policy to the prison commissioner and asked him to please read the highlighted text.

“Women can wear their hair long or in any style they chose.” 

“But you just testified as did all your coworkers and co-witnesses that all prisoners must cut their hair.”

“Well that doesn’t include women.

“Why not, aren’t they are prisoners too?”

“Because they are women, and the Bible says they should not cut their hair.

“Now you admit that you are discriminating against me because of my sex?”

“NO!”

“Well then you are discriminating against me because of my religion. In fact you and all your staff and officials are discriminating against me because of my race, religion and sex.”

“No! It’s because of security threat.”

“Well long hair apparently isn’t a security threat with the women.

“Women aren’t as violent as men.”

I said I would like to submit some documents to the court. The court reviewed them and accepted them. I then asked the witness to please read the documents I put in his hand. He did and said they were from the U.S. Justice Department Bureau of Statistics.

“Now read the actual report on violence in prisons and say who are the most violent prisoners.”

He did and said, “Women”… that more women are in prison for violent acts of murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, manslaughter etc. than men.

I asked him where the document said these figures came from. He read them and it said the figures were reported by each state. 

“So every one of you knew or should have known these basic facts yet you each got up here on the stand and committed perjury in this court.”

I asked the court to charge each one of these witnesses and to exclude and disregard all of their testimonies. I asked the court for a direct verdict. 

The defense objected and asked for a break.

When we came back the judge said he was making a ruling. As for a direct verdict, he granted my Motion for Direct Verdict saying that he only recognized one expert on Native American religion and that it was me, the plaintiff. All other testimony is only hearsay and the witnesses have no knowledge as they admitted. And it was evident to the court that I am entitled to practice my traditional religion and to be free from any and all retaliations against me because of my religion. He said he also recognized the state’s dilemma about what to do with me since this would cause a possible disruption or chaos in the prisons where I was housed. Never-the-less, my religious diet was ordered, my hair was not to be cut, and my freedom to pray according to my religion was won.

I was so proud of my family and my loyal wife, Cat, for all showing up. Even my dad took the stand before many people he had known for decades and shocked them by testifying that he was a Native American Indian and that I was his son. Now this was so uplifting to me. For all these years and decades most of my family had tried to hide who they were. Now on federal records and in public, they all testified on my behalf about me and about my practice of traditional Native American religion. Because of this, along with the letters from Native American spiritual leaders, such as Art Solomon, Lenny Foster, Big tree, Jake Strong, and so many others, the judge ruled in my favor.

Preparing for this case was no small task. I wrote numerous letters to organizations, publications and political leaders to help gather information. Among those who offered their knowledge and insights were Iron Shirt, a detective in California and a Catholic nun, Sister Connie DeNault, as well as the Red Bird Society for whom I served as a spiritual advisor.

Cat Dancing 1991

Now all along, Cat and I had been working to gather important evidence for court.  We legally founded a non-profit organization we called The Buffalo and Turtle Clan Medicine Society Inc.  Through this organization we quietly began gathering materials we would need. I would write letters and Cat would spend hours typing them up and mailing them out. All these materials would be sent back to a Post Office address for the organization.  

We gathered statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice for prisons all across this country and we sent letters of inquiry to wardens requesting copies of their institutions hair/dress code policies, religious groups, and activities provided for all prisoners asking for any and all photos, pamphlets rules etc. We sent out letters to women prisoners in many different prisons asking for their help by writing up affidavits and providing copies of their institution’s hair and dress codes, and religious scheduling at their prisons along with any photos they wished to share.

We wrote letters asking different prison commissioners to address any issues they had concerning safety and security pertaining to prisoners with long hair and asked for any studies, surveys, and documented evidence pertaining to any such security threats or safety issues. 

We also gathered help from spiritual leaders throughout the Native American tribal Nations and they wrote up amicus curiae affidavits or letters to the court as  experts in Native spiritual concerns and explaining the needs for meeting our different religious practices and ceremonies. These were offered as friends to the court with expertise in all these matters.

If it weren’t for Cat’s dedicated support my efforts to present my case in court could not have happened. Though she worked quietly behind the scenes, Cat’s contribution was just as important as anyone elses in our struggle for religious freedoms. There was lots of copy work to be done as well and we didn’t have much money. Cat found someone who had their own business and told him what was going on. This man listened and offered her the use his office equipment as much as she needed. He wanted us to win. We still cannot thank this man enough for his help.

Winning my case in federal court was a huge step forward, but the prison officials were not done fighting. “Officially” they allowed Native American religion in the prison population, but in retaliation, they placed me back in solitary confinement, claiming that I was a threat to security, the well-being and safety of all prisoners, staff and the prisons themselves. This did not discourage me. Spirit had given me strength to overcome all this and pave the way here in the south.

In 1992 I filed an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit against State of Alabama for abuses. Again I submitted the amicus curiae from Big Tree, Nan-ta-shay, Lenny Foster, Jake Snake, and Art Solomon along with my affidavit with exhibits.

Letter written in support of Ghost’s later 1995 federal case references their connection in 1992

By this time I was working almost alone, few other prisoners were willing to commit to the risks inherent in standing up for the rights of Native People. I continued my activist work, writing for many Native publications across the U.S. as well as Toronto and Alberta, Canada. Some that I remember may no longer exist under the same title include, Native Sovereignty out of Washington State, Eagle Wing Press, out of Connecticut, and Indian Country, out of South Dakota, before it was sold to the Iroquois or Mohawk in New York. I also wrote for publications aimed at Native prison populations: Prison Solidarity out of Utah, Coalition of Prisoners’ Rights, out of Arizona, Spirits Behind the Walls, a publication of the University of Wisconsin, working to help anyone seeking the freedom to practice their religious ceremonies. My goal was to help others learn about the Federal Civil Rights Laws and how to file a case in court and to understand the importance of always having a paper trail to show that they had tried to resolve the issue with the prison officials.

I had also been in touch with Senator Daniel Inouye and Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell for years about prison issues. They both sent me inquiries about the loop holes that prison officials were using in courts. I had also been receiving help from the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colorado. John and Walter Echo Hawk had helped me so much over the years. I sent all these people reports that the prison officials and courts were using their own interpretations of what the law meant or was referring to.

To counter this, I suggested the importance of including clear definitions as to the intended meanings of the laws and began by writing a list of definitions of what it means to be an American Indian so as not to leave anything to interpretation by judges and prison administrators. These changes were included in the Amendments to the Native American Religious Free Exercise Law.

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994 passed in congress on October 6, 1994 and were signed into law by President Clinton.

American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994
Oct 6, 1994
Public Law 103-344
108 Stat. 3124
Passed by 103rd Congress
[H.R. 4230]
An Act To amend the American Indian Religious Freedom Act to provide for the traditional use of peyote by Indians for religious purposes, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the "American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994". 
SEC. 2. TRADITIONAL INDIAN RELIGIOUS USE OF THE PEYOTE SACRAMENT. The Act of August 11, 1978 (42 U.S.C. 1996), commonly referred to as the "American Indian Religious Freedom Act", is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new section: 
"SEC. 3. (a) The Congress finds and declares that— "(1) for many Indian people, the traditional ceremonial use of the peyote cactus as a religious sacrament has for centuries been integral to a way of life, and significant in perpetuating Indian tribes and cultures; "(2) since 1965, this ceremonial use of peyote by Indians has been protected by Federal regulation; "(3) while at least 28 States have enacted laws which are similar to, or are in conformance with, the Federal regulation which protects the ceremonial use of peyote by Indian religious practitioners, 22 States have not done so, and this lack of uniformity has created hardship for Indian people who participate in such religious ceremonies; "(4) the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), held that the First Amendment does not protect Indian practitioners who use peyote in Indian religious ceremonies, and also raised uncertainty whether this religious practice would be protected under the compelling State interest standard; and "(5) the lack of adequate and clear legal protection for the religious use of peyote by Indians may serve to stigmatize and marginalize Indian tribes and cultures, and increase the risk that they will be exposed to discriminatory treatment. 
"(b)(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the use, possession, or transportation of peyote by an Indian for bona fide traditional ceremonial purposes in connection with the practice of a traditional Indian religion is lawful and shall not be prohibited by the United States or any State. No Indian shall be penalized or discriminated against on the basis of such use, possession or transportation, including, but not limited to, denial of otherwise applicable benefits under public assistance programs. "(2) This section does not prohibit such reasonable regulation and registration by the Drug Enforcement Administration of those persons who cultivate, harvest, or distribute peyote as may be consistent with the purposes of this Act. "(3) This section does not prohibit application of the provisions of section 481.111(a) of Vernon's Texas Health and Safety Code Annotated, in effect on the date of enactment of this section, insofar as those provisions pertain to the cultivation, harvest, and distribution of peyote. "(4) Nothing in this section shall prohibit any Federal department or agency, in carrying out its statutory responsibilities and functions, from promulgating regulations establishing reasonable limitations on the use or ingestion of peyote prior to or during the performance of duties by sworn law enforcement officers or personnel directly involved in public transportation or any other safety-sensitive positions where the performance of such duties may be adversely affected by such use or ingestion. Such regulations shall be adopted only after consultation with representatives of traditional Indian religions for which the sacramental use of peyote is integral to their practice. Any regulation promulgated pursuant to this section shall be subject to the balancing test set forth in section 3 of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Public Law 103-141; 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-l). "(5) This section shall not be construed as requiring prison authorities to permit, nor shall it be construed to prohibit prison authorities from permitting, access to peyote by Indians while incarcerated within Federal or State prison facilities. "(6) Subject to the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Public Law 103-141; 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-l), this section shall not be construed to prohibit States from enacting or enforcing reasonable traffic safety laws or regulations. "(7) Subject to the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Public Law 103-141; 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-l), this section does not prohibit the Secretary of Defense from promulgating regulations establishing reasonable limitations on the use, possession, transportation, or distribution of peyote to promote military readiness, safety, or compliance with international law or laws of other countries. Such regulations shall be adopted only after consultation with representatives of traditional Indian religions for which the sacramental use of peyote is integral to their practice. 
"(c) For purposes of this section— "(1) the term 'Indian' means a member of an Indian tribe; "(2) the term 'Indian tribe' means any tribe, band, nation, pueblo, or other organized group or community of Indians, including any Alaska Native village (as defined in, or established pursuant to, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.)), which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians; "(3) the term 'Indian religion' means any religion— "(A) which is practiced by Indians, and "(B) the origin and interpretation of which is from within a traditional Indian culture or community; and "(4) the term 'State' means any State of the United States, and any political subdivision thereof.
"(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed as abrogating, diminishing, or otherwise affecting— "(1) the inherent rights of any Indian tribe; "(2) the rights, express or implicit, of any Indian tribe which exist under treaties, executive orders, and laws of the United States; "(3) the inherent right of Indians to practice their religions; and "(4) the right of Indians to practice their religions under any Federal or State law.". Approved October 6, 1994.


“Listen or your tongue will keep you deaf” – Native American Proverb

Coming Soon: Part Five – Sweet Freedom

All For the Right to Pray (18)

Part Four – The Spiritual Warrior Awakens

Chapter 18 – When Love Stepped In

By Ghost Dancer

Ghost 1990

What the prison officials didn’t understand was that by keeping me in this utter isolation, they were truly allowing me to tap into my inner spirit to find the strength and power available to me. When these tactics didn’t work, they eventually tried others. They placed me in a cell block. I noticed how everyone kept staring at me when I came in and went to my bed. I watched from the corner of my eyes as guards called certain prisoners to the cell block gate and talked to them. I felt them all looking at me. The guards opened the gate and passed in a box to these guys. They immediately left and went to their bunks. More and more prisoners gathered around them and I saw them turning their heads to look at me, all grinning and laughing. I saw liquor bottles come out of the box the guards passed to them and the prisoners all drinking and smoking. I was not stupid; I sensed what was to come.

While they drank, I casually prepared myself, softly singing my prayer songs and eventually my death song. If this was to be, it would be a good day to die. I would die as all my ancestors had died, as a warrior. After the lights were cut off for the night, I could hear them getting louder and drunker, building up their courage with the alcohol.  I would be on my own which gave me the advantage that I could strike without worry of hitting any friends or allies. I made my body armor, prison style, from magazines and books in my personal property, using Ace bandages to hold them in place around my body and both my arms. I filled three pairs of socks with radio batteries, so basically, I had a pair of very powerful weapons. I took my shoes off; bare feet are more comfortable and would help keep my balance. They would attack in groups. I could not afford to lose my balance or get knocked down. It would be over if I did. Neither could I let any to get behind me. So, in the dark, I studied everything, planned my strategy, and kept my prayers going. Why these guys would sell their honor to do dirty work for the guards I did not know, but it would cost them dearly.

My religious beliefs do not call for me to just lay there and be stabbed or beaten to death. When they came, I was ready. Out of the bed I rolled and charged them, swinging those socks full of batteries, and knocking heads and faces in. I never stopped; just kept going after all of them, screaming out war whoops, then singing a good day to die song. I kept swinging and beating until none were left anywhere around and screams filled the cell block. I was splattered in blood, but I didn’t think any of it was mine.

I found the two leaders laying there all messed up. I grabbed them by the hair and lifted their faces to look into my eyes. I told them they had sold out their souls for nothing and to be thankful I was sparing their lives. I told them to let everyone know that if they come for me, they better come prepared to die, because I was already ready for death. I slammed their heads back into the concrete floor and was standing there when the guards came and began trying to beat me down, so I fought them too. I woke up naked and back in the hole again. I knew my jaw and nose were broken. My ribs felt like they were broken too; I felt like I had been kicked and beaten from head to toe. I gave thanks to Spirit for protecting me and for my spirit helpers for giving me their courage and strength to battle.

This would begin yet another pattern of force the prison used against me. They started passing the word out to prisoners telling them I was a devil worshipper and all kinds of stuff to rile them up against me. They would beat me terribly and refuse to feed me, then when I was so weakened, they put me in cell blocks where they had made deals with prisoners to try to take me out. I came to look at it as a routine. I knew I would not have much energy or strength, so whatever I had to do, I did quickly to make my point very clear. When these tactics didn’t work, and prisoners began refusing to follow the guard’s orders towards me, back to solitary I went. While I had been out in population I had begun teaching what I had been taught and learned about traditional Native American religion. Guys out there were beginning to see for themselves that my religion was not something evil or anything like what they had been told or had seen on tv or movies. 

Many other inmates began respecting what I was doing, standing up for my people and our religion. I began doing ceremonies in my solitary cell, singing the songs, visualizing doing the pipe ceremony. I prayed for everyone, even the guards and others who had been beating me, and for those who were ordering these things done to me. This isolation and starvation gave me plenty of time to focus on my spirit quest, to find my inner spirit. This allowed me to become more and more connected to all my spirit helpers, by seeking visions and seeking deeper and higher understanding of myself and how everything is connected to us all, as being one with everything.

I reached out for outside help in every way I could and was so blessed to find many wonderful people who came to my aid and touched my life in one way or another.

Bo Lozoff

I heard about Bo Lozoff and the Human Kindness Foundation, so I wrote to him. Bo sent free copies of his books and put me on the list for the HKF newsletter.  Here was a person who for more than 30 years, shared his experiences, knowledge, and friendship with thousands of prisoners around the world. Bo was a practicing Buddhist and he shared with all of us the story of his life journey as he walked and learned his path, from his successes to his failures. His heart was pure and good and full of life. 

Many times, I would be down and so hurting from the beatings or so starved I was thinking of eating my own fingers or toes. I would pick up one of his books and read another teaching. Many times, people can read something and still not see the teaching or understanding what is truly there. For this you must open yourself up to receive it and discover profound lessons. This is what Bo Lozoff’s books did for me.

Bo Lozoff and his wife, Sita, started the Prison-Ashram Project with Ram Dass in 1973. Bo’s first book, We’re All Doing Time, is to this day widely referred to as the convicts’ bible and has been named as one of the ten books everyone in the world should read. I would encourage everyone to read it with the understanding that in some way or other, we all are bound by chains, even if you are not surrounded by walls, guards, fences, razor wire, gun towers, or bars. You are locked up just the same unless you free your own mind and set your true spirit free.

Bo came to see me once, even though I didn’t know it at the time. A guard later told me some Buddhist monk had come to see me, but they wouldn’t let him in, so he stood outside in the parking lot and chanted for me. I was not able to hear him since I was on the other side of the prison, but it meant the world to me to know he had come.

Bo’s books have touched the hearts and spirits of millions of prisoners around the world through the individual stories of people he has worked with. Bo had a gift of getting right down to street level and conversing with even the most hardened hearts in language they could understand. So many prisoners believe they are the only one suffering or experiencing these same thoughts and feelings, and think there is just no hope of things changing. When you read the words of so many others who are going through what you are, you realize you are not alone, that you aren’t the first or even the last who will feel this way. You still have power and Bo helped people see that what you do, how you think, how you see things, will be up to you. Each one has to decide what changes you can make in your own world, your own mind, your own spirit, your own heart. Bo’s words of encouragement to all of us, meant so much.

Bo died in 2012 in a motorcycle accident. His wife, Sita, still carries on their life’s work through the Human Kindness Foundation, now the largest interfaith ministry of its kind in the world. Bo’s spirit is still spread across the universe to help us all. I encourage everyone to read all of Bo’s books and to support the work of the Human Kindness Foundation.

Michio Kushi

Another beloved mentor was Michio Kushi, a man I had only heard of.  Professor Kushi was a Japanese scholar who introduced the concept of Macrobiotics in the USA in the 1950s. He and his wife, Aveline, founded The Kushi Institute in the early 1980s and he served as a director of the East West Foundation for Macrobiotics.

In response to my letter, Sensei (Elder or Teacher) Michio Kushi sent numerous books to help me in my time of need. One was called Budō. I began studying Budō, which is one of the martial arts, while in solitary. He also sent numerous books and instructions on other forms of martial arts and wrote letters of encouragement that helped to lift me. Even while I was being beaten, I could hear his words and block out all the pain and abuse.

Professor Kushi also put me in contact with other people who sent helpful books and wrote to me. None of these people judged me or ever asked any questions about my past or why I was in prison. They only talked to me about the present and the future and what I was going to do. They inquired about my interests and were all willing to provide materials to keep my mind occupied with studies. I devoured everything they sent. Some people may not understand how important this was to me, but let me tell you, when you are kept naked and alone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, week after week, month after month, year after year, in a filthy tiny cell with nothing to do but wait for the times they come to abuse you, this kind of support is life-saving.

These are the people who helped keep my mind busy and active. People placed in solitary who do not have mental stimulation literally go insane, suffer permanent psychological and mental problems, or attempt to commit suicide. My study of martial arts as a kid helped me understand the principles of all the different teachings that Michio Kushi shared with me. Even until this very day, I still practice and use these teachings that helped me so much.

There is no way I could ever thank Sensei Michio Kushi enough for all the help he gave so generously. He didn’t have to do any of this, but his heart was true to be a spiritual person and a real teacher. I recently learned that Michio Kushi passed in 2014, so all I can do is honor and share what he did for me and strive to live as he taught me.

Abused Boys

Sometimes society seems to think boys, teenage boys or even young men should be tough and don’t need that care, that love, that healing.

Often boys will strike out in some way because of the pain, sometimes even long afterward, at things or those around them though they do not mean to hurt those they love and those who love them. Many turn to alcohol, drugs, or become something they are driven to. These are pure cries for help. But no one sees that, no one hears the cry of the boy who suffers this way. Sometimes this leads to more problems, such as rebelling against their parents or society, doing things that could be dangerous, or just wrong. Why? Because they are hurting inside. You can never change a person unless the person wants to be changed . You can never help anyone unless they want help. It is like leading a mule to water but you can’t make them drink.

I knew a boy once who was a promising young mind. Gifted with almost total photographic memory, very talented, hard-working and strong as could be, an amazing athlete who loved to compete. When he was a young boy, he could have grown up to be almost anything he wanted to be. But circumstances and bad things happening, he fell into the habit of holding all his feelings about everything inside himself, becoming confused and injured in the head. Life changed so fast and he found himself cast into a world of concrete, steel and chains. Never again would that boy be the same.

That innocent young man, ripped from his family and life is just one of thousands in this world. He was a boy who lived in four worlds all simultaneously. Oh, but how could that be? Well the boy lived with his mom in one world. He lived with his dad in a different world. He lived in the harmony of nature with all the natural things. And he lived in the spirit world, in which none knew he traveled so easily. He knew things he should not have been able to know. He was given gifts that people would frown upon or point fingers at him if they had only known.

He was hit in the head with a sledgehammer and his worlds all went black. He began blending and mixing up worlds all at the same time and in this confusion someone he trusted came to him and asked for help. The boy who believed in honor, and family could not deny that request. He knew it was wrong – oh yes! he surely did – and it broke his heart to do it, but he did. And he did it again and again. He dreamed something was going to happen and it surely did. He knew it would be bad, but never could imagine so much as this.  How do I know? I know because I was that young boy, a boy who became a man, and suddenly faced life and death every single day.

That young boy was literally beaten, torn and thrown away by society. He was tortured because of his unwillingness to deny his beliefs, beaten and left to starve, naked, in darkness, having to stand in his own human waste. Still, this young boy would not break his faith. Driven by a promise he made when he was just a boy of 9 years old, to bring back to his family the things that were stolen from their lives: their history, heritage and ways of life. Subjected to every means of torture human evilness could dream, those inside the dark place were the only ones who could hear the terrifying screams. He screamed inside of himself, not letting those who were doing this to him win by seeing his pain. Never did a sound leave his lips so they could rejoice or proclaim they won.

The young boy’s mind let go; his body numbed to pain. The tears he let flow, no human would see. BUT SPIRIT SAW AND REACHED DOWN AND WIPED HIS FACE CLEAN. NO OTHER MAY KNOW WHAT WAS FELT ALL THOSE YEARS, BUT SPIRIT KNEW, AND THE BOY’S HEART WAS HEALED.

I share this with you all so maybe one day you will truly understand that all people in here are crying if you just listen and open your heart. In the lodge where it is totally dark, men, who are really little boys inside, can release their pain without fear of anyone seeing them or seeing their tears. We cry always for those in the world that no one hears. I empty my heart each and every time to the One who can heal always, every time. LOVE IS THE ONLY CURE I KNOW THAT WILL HEAL THE MOST BROKEN OF HEARTS AND SOULS.

I cannot speak for all the children who have been abused or done wrong. I can only speak from where I have come, what I have experienced, and what I have grown to be. From out of all that pain came a man who knows only love, who only wants beauty and harmony. In this world we all have hidden places inside ourselves, a place we retreat to and say, if only this could be, or if I had of done this or not done that. But let’s face the truth, we are part of all these things – the good, the bad, the future, the past.

Ghost 2022

We only have to feel love deeply to move on past all the painful memories and tortures within ourselves, to truly come to be more than we can imagine we ever could be! I know, I have done this each and every day for all these years, and so can everyone! Ghost

Beat The Dead Horse

Lights In the Distance. . .

Walks’ Outdate – 117 Days and Counting

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

I hate to feel like I’m doing it, but as I sit here with less than 4 months left to serve before my release to halfway house, I am concerned, and every day of not having answers is even more concerning and stressful. See I have asked for a copy of the rules to the halfway house I am being sent to in Springfield, Illinois. (The Triangle Center) and they have not responded to the query of the prison’s administration or the personal/business letter I sent back in October requesting these rules so that I can be prepared and make a smoother transition.

The things I don’t know are myriad and yet, I’m told, “Oh, you’ll find out when you get there.” Well, that’s really not fair, it’s like trying to navigate your way thru your house in the pitch black of the night and not stubbing your toe on something that you couldn’t see coming.

I want to succeed, I will make it, but I don’t think I should have to try to “weave” in and out of a brand new set of rules within hours of release. I want to be able to know when I will be able to get a photo identification card, what all the department of motor vehicles is gonna need from me – money for sure, $250.00 to be exact at the minimum – then there is the “hearing” I will have to go to with the Secretary of State’s license violation bureau to contend with.

I need to know when I will be allowed to go to the Social Security Administration to start a process that may take up to 18 months to get approved, if at all. See, I have to go to them or the state’s Department of Public Aid, one or the other.  I am an insulin dependent diabetic and I have NO money for insulin, or insurance or a medical card.

All these things are weighing heavily on my mind. I mean it’s getting to the point where I’m going nuts trying to figure out what the possible answers could be. And on top of everything else, I have to apply for housing assistance in order to get out of the halfway house into a place on home confinement. It’s that or pay the rent for a full cost rental every month on top of everything else. I have to go to the local community college and beg for assistance in enrollment and tuition and any and all help I can get there, but still in all its back to this, I feel like I’m beating a dead horse trying to figure these various things out.

It’s not like I don’t need to know; some of these things are enough to affect my life. I know if I don’t get a driver’s license right away it won’t kill me; I can take the bus. I know if I have to I can find a way to pay for the insulin I need to stay alive, I know that I will be able to find a place to live, I have 364 days to do it after all, but if I can’t get assistance, I will definitely have to find a job, something that I can physically handle with my medical condition. Let’s face it, I won’t be up on any roofs doing shingles, I won’t be doing anything that is going to require respirators or whatnot, so painting is out. I won’t be standing 8 hour shifts on my feet. I don’t have the ability to do that anymore without excruciating pain in my lower back and legs the next day.

Now I have been doing everything I can to build up strength in my legs and lower back. I ride the recumbent bike 5 miles a day 5 times a week. That’s not bad really when you think about the fact that I’m an old geezer. Smile. Bottom line, I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do to pay for all these things that I will HAVE to have. These are not wants, these are the basics, medicine, a roof over my head and a way to get to wherever I will need to be, whether it’s a bus (they still cost money last time I checked) or whatever. I dang sure know I won’t be able to afford a car and insurance and fuel, not for quite some time. It’s just that I will be better able to understand the world if I can find out in advance how I’m going to navigate in it and the parameters of my involvement.

Oh, did I mention the halfway house is going to want 25% of any earnings I get if I don’t get accepted as exempt from charge due to being “homeless,” and I don’t know how that is done other than it can be done so I hear. This is just another thing I’m going to have to step into blindly. Let me ask you, have you ever seen the movie, Shawshank Redemption? Well, there is a reason so many men don’t make it when they have served far less time than I have. It’s because they can’t. Everything in the world is stacked against us from the moment we walk out the door and though you would think we have paid our debt to society by serving our sentences, the real cost has just begun. The heavy weight of all these things that I have never had to manage before is weighing on me and I’m scared.

I just want to be able to say, “Debt Paid” and mean it but I feel like I’ve sung this song before to you. I feel like what I am saying can be seen as petty and minor, but it’s not to me! This is the biggest stressor I have ever been under and I’m trying to lessen the pressure on myself by telling you.

So there it is, these are the things that concern me, not this prison world. Here I know how to navigate. Sadly enough, it’s “home.” Prison is where I live and have lived for almost 37 years. Think about that! I am expected to just enter a world I know nothing about and virtually no one in. Say what you want, when I step out the door, even with all the well-wishers and the people who want me to do and be ok, I am still on my own, alone in an unknown existence. Everything you take for granted is alien to me. A 5 year old is more prepared technologically to be able to make it than I am. I know nothing about being free. So here it is folks…ready?

I’m so afraid it makes me cry at night. I’m not proud of that fact, but it’s the simple truth. I have weathered prison riots, gang wars, attempted knifings, stun grenades and tasers, bean bag shotguns and years in solitary confinement, and still talked smack to my oppressors – but now they have come up with a new punishment, they are letting me go in 117 days and I don’t know the first thing about how to be free. I’m scared and I’m afraid and it has brought me to tears to admit this to myself, and now to you.

I was once broken. Now I’m just afraid.

Nevertheless… I’m sticking with my exercise program. I’m up to 10 miles a day on the bike and man, I’m a monster! Yesterday I rode my first clip of 5 miles in 20:11, then 2 minutes standing muscle shock rest, and then did the second clip in 19:47. That’s cruising for real, that gave me 10 miles in 39:58, so that’s right under 4-minute miles, or right at an average of 15 miles and hour. I already got 30 miles in and it’s only Wednesday, gonna try for 50 this series of 5 days… My blood sugar is lovin’ it too and I feel so much better; my back doesn’t hurt as much now either!

“Go Team Walks!”

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