To free the land, you must first free your mind...

This is a conceptual platform for the expression of ideas and issues initiating discussion and action. The communiqué's are my perceptions, opinions and vision about contemporary issues/causes, people I admire & respect, and my goals for the future. My main focus is on the Chahta People by sharing our past to plan for the future today!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Carter Camp: R.I.P. 2013

"We Decided that our Indian people are more
important to us than long jail terms."

Carter Camp, Ponca Nation, Wounded Knee 1973

Carter Camp painted as a warrior at Wounded Knee
Remembering people of their words and actions has been my way of mourning, as a way to keep their spirit alive in our memories. His words above exemplified what it means to commit to being a true Warrior for the people. He lived this way of life as so many people can attest to. Those words take me back to when I began to understand what the American Indian Movement was about in the early 70's. It began as a civil rights organization in Minneapolis in 68, but through the influences of Henry Crow Dog, it soon evolved into a spiritual based movement as Crow Dog stated that in order for AIM to be successful, it had to have a spiritual foundation.

That foundation inspired a spiritual/cultural revival among Native people across these lands and into the urban areas and the prisons. Carter Camp was one of those who formed multiple AIM chapters in Oklahoma, and Indian people began to stand up, while so many who had assimilated into being an American quickly deplored those actions, such as the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs by the Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972, Wounded Knee 1973, and so many other actions that have taken place around the country.

In 1983 or 1984, I met Craig Camp while I was serving a 12 year sentence for burglary. Craig and I visited often during the time I was temporarily assigned to a medium security facility for use of its core law library. It wasn't too long after that I received a letter written on the back of a poster (that is probably floating around in Canada now) from Carter. One thing he wrote that stuck in my mind is that we have to determine the direction of our struggle, we cannot allow non-Natives determine this for us. Just a few years later when I was litigating Native prisoners right to wear their hair long, Carter, along with Richard Ray Whitman organized a press conference in our support.

Finally, after serving over 7 1/2 years, I was kicked out of maximum security, and then the prison system altogether. The words of strong Indian people like Carter Camp, Steve Robideau and Standing Deer inspired me to to commit to my own way of being "In Total Resistance". The sacrifices of so many people in the movement, including their lives, assured me the ones I made were nothing. I had chosen to remain in prison while our lawsuit was ongoing. I waived my parole for about three years until our case was appealed to the state supreme court. Even though we lost the case in district court, by the time we went to trial, we had forced the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to back up from "No Exceptions" to their repressive grooming code; to acknowledging that wearing our hair long was a spiritual practice and constitutionally protected. When the case went on appeal, I agreed to appear before the parole board. In record time, I was out and on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.

The very next month, I ran into Carter at a pow wow for Dukakis in Shawnee. We were visiting with Karen Koassechony when an Oklahoma-style thunderstorm exploded. Carters ride had left so we ended up at Karen's house for coffee and discussions about the movement and Leonard Peltier. When the storm passed, Carter and I walked to the bus station so he could get a bus to White Eagle. While we were waiting, the cops rolled up on us and asked us for our ID's and what we were doing out so late. Carter said, "Our ID's? Isn't this still America? What do you need our ID's for? We are just waiting for the bus so I can get home I was stranded at the pow wow when the storm hit!" We produced our ID's and had the flashlights in our face before he gave them back and left. Carter said, "I bet you that he won't be asking any white people tonight for their ID's for standing around like we were. He's looking for Indians to bust!

Since that time, we've done benefits, rallies and campaigns together. In November 1999, Peltier sent word to me to ask Carter if he would come to DC for the Leonard Peltier Freedom Month. That was a powerful month as many people came from the Dakota's, I learned so much more about history, true Indian history that many people will never know unless you were there and lived it.

Carter and Linda Camp at Crow Dogs Paradise

I think how fortunate I have been to visit with him and his family at his home or at Crow Dogs, there was always something more to listen to. Maybe I can not recall so much of his exact words, but those were words that have influenced me. And that is why I am reflecting at this time, because there is no more discussions around the campfire. And even more importantly, there is no more for his wife of a lifetime and his family. Their grief and loss is more than immense. My thoughts...prayers go out to them.

As difficult as it may be for some at this time, we should all give thanks for Indian people like Carter who fought to make a difference. We should pray their sacrifices will not be forgotten, nor should we stand aside to wait for the next warrior to stand up to risk it all by saying "No more!".
Honoring Dance for Carter at White Eagle with brothers and sister
We should all be that voice that says "NO MORE!
NO MORE will I swear blind allegiance to a government that has no honor to uphold its promises to our Indian people!
NO MORE will I allow corrupt tribal governments to grow fat off of the people by selling out!
NO MORE will I accept that our people are defeated nor allow my childrens identity be confiscated!
NO MORE will I accept the illegal national boundaries imposed by European immigrants across the lands of Indigenous Peoples!
NO More will I allow the next sports team, TV fake/reality show or electronic gadgets become more important to me than our Indian People!
Our voices should echo through intent and deed what our departed relative said at Wounded Knee 1973 when surrounded by federal forces who fired tens of thousands of rounds at our Indian people! The same place where in Dec. 29, 1890, the US soldiers fired cannons and rifles killing about 200 women and children and 90 men. When those words were said in such a sacred place, those were a commitment to a way of life!

Achukma and Yakoke for those lessons and your support Brother. Journey well!

Ben Carnes,
Chahta Nation, Indian Territory

Yesterday evening after conclusion of ceremonies at the center, Carter led us in his last caravan to his final resting place at the Ponca Tribal Cemetery. I estimated a two mile procession as vehicles pulled over on both sides of the highway a show of respect. As we turned left towards the cemetery, I saw one Elderly Indian man who had parked on the side of the road and stood beside his truck, a solitary figure wrapped in a blanket with his fist held high in the air giving honor to a warrior. It was a very tearful moment for me seeing this.
At graveside more prayers were offered and written statements were read, including one from Leonard Peltier. Then it was done, families and friends began making the trip home. As I drove home, I reflected upon the past few days. It had ranged from sadness/grief to exuberance and celebration when it was announced that Carter Camp would be receiving a citation from the State of Oklahoma recognizing him for his lifetime of service to Native people.
When I got home, I saw another statement as follows:

Carter is my AIM brother and friend for 40 years. He was not afraid to speak, write or confront the HIDDEN TRUTH or THE BIG LIE [AMERICAN GENOCIDE ON THE NATIVE PEOPLE] that the U.S. tries to HIDE IN THEIR MANIFEST DESTINY POLICY. In the 1973 occupation of Wounded KNEE, he was the first one in and the last one out and then was imprisoned for his heroic actions. THIS DID NOT BREAK HIS SPIRIT and he continued the resistance for 40 more years. I am very honored to have walked with him on the Red Road.I am sure that he received a Honored Welcome in the spirit world by the ancestors. Thank you for your example. Chief Billy Redwing Tayac, Piscataway Indian Nation



  1. Crow Dog, medicine man, I ask you to be who you are and not what I can make you. You stand for truth, involvement and understanding of the true cause of AIM. May we gather together to help Leonard get out of prison. He can't die in prison. Help him become free before he dies. Otherwise, his spirit will roam forever. Great Spirit please help him. Thank you, Crow Dog.

  2. Thank you for putting your wonderful memories out there for us to read. What an incredible loss to not just his family and friends, but to the community and the globe. I'm so sorry for this loss.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I found it through a post from the Leonard Peltier defense committee. I was a teenager in Minneapolis back in 1968 and remember my friends becoming involved in this movement. I remember well "Wounded Knee" in 1973. I just wanted you to know that I remember and that I agreed with you then, and I agree with you now...joni

  4. A fitting tribute, Ben, to a uniquely brave and powerful man. I never met Carter Camp, but you surely help illuminate his character in colorful anecdotal stories, painting with your words images from a life of utter dedication. I know you share his vision along the road of warrior activist. I do know that pretty much everything I have ever read that Carter Camp wrote, zinged me with its bold precision. He was a very eloquent writer, never speaking from the shallowness of the surface, but stating truth accurately from the depths of the matter, with profound insight, with courage and determination. Working from the heart, he saw clearly, he acted on his visions, and by remaining true to himself served all of humanity. His loss is great. May his work be carried on by the many he inspired.