As the author says, in 1975 the members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) considered themselves, as the indigenous people of this country to be in a war of survival with the U.S. government. That battle took place not only at Wounded Knee, but extended into the highest courts of the land.
Loud Hawk is the story of the longest pretrial criminal case in U.S. history. The case began Portland, Ore. in 1975 and involved weapons and explosive charges against Dennis Banks, the founder of AIM, and members Kenny Loud Hawk, Leonard Peltier, Anna Mae Aquash, KaMook Banks and Russ Redner. It ended in 1988 after four dismissals for unconstitutionality, resurrection by the federal government and argument before the Supreme Court. The case never went to trial.
Kenneth Stern was personally involved in the trial as a first-year law student volunteer researcher and eventually as the lead counsel before the Supreme Court. Stern was awarded the 1995 Gustavas Myers Award from the Gustavas Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America for Loud Hawk. He writes the book intentionally in a style that involves conversational passages and quotes reconstructed from memory, court transcripts and FBI records. The use of legal jargon is kept to a minimum and the countless legal twists and turns of the "historical development" of the case over 13 years keep the book flowing and readable. Loud Hawk includes a well-constructed index. Many references are listed in footnotes, but the book does not include a bibliography, much to the unhappiness of those who forget to look at the italic text at the bottom of the pages.
The malicious prosecution of the case, including the destruction of key evidence, use of secret informants, suppression of evidence, intimidation, death threats, racism and the denial of basic human rights and affronts to the personal dignity of the defendants reeks of Neolithic incompetence and McCarthyism. Legal representatives, including the young Stern, were subject to obtrusive FBI surveillance and an orchestrated fear campaign. Stern tells of one incident early in the pretrial litigation when two unidentified men visited KaMook Banks and her children in Portland at home and asked how they wanted to be buried.
Anna Mae Aquash went underground out of protest ? perhaps fear ? and died under questionable circumstances during the early proceedings. Stern addresses the opinion of some AIM members that she may have been an informant, but does not point fingers at any faction or even the government. Members of her family hotly dispute that accusation but blame her murder on her former associates. To his credit, he connects with the reader and seriously appears to mourn the loss of Aquash as a mother, eventual grandmother and human being.
Loud Hawk should be considered an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the historic aspect of the AIM trials, legal procedure, human rights and civil liberties. It is a first-hand oral history of the events supported by documented evidence that should give it academic merit as well.
Published by University of Oklahoma Press,
Norman, Publishing Division of the University.
1994. Paperback edition;
Red River Books, 2002.
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