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Book Analysis Prison Writings My Life is my Sun Dance

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BookAnalysis: Prison Writings: My Life is my Sun Dance

The book Prison Writings: My Life is my Sun Dance that iswritten Leonard Peltier captures the experiences of a Native Americanthat is trying to fight against the system. In this case, Peltierpresents the life challenges that he has experienced ever since theFBI agents attacked their reservations. In the process, two agentswere killed, and he was wrongly convicted of the murder of theofficers. His struggle to prove his innocence have been ignored andhe believe that his role as a political activist for the NativeAmericans during the political upheaval in the 1970s. Even he triesto prove his innocence he also highlights the challenges that theNative Americans have to undergo. He pinpoints how institutionalracism works, and the judicial system, and the police force are theones that orchestrated his wrongful conviction. The book alsounearths various themes that are crucial in the scholarship. Forinstance, it shows the challenges that the minorities haveexperienced in the past and the reality in the nation. This essaywill evaluate the thesis for the book Prison Writings: My Life ismy Sun Dance, its symbolism and the various themes thatcontribute immensely to the scholarship.


The book tries to prove Leonard Peltier’s innocence in his casethat involves the death of FBI agents and the suffering that theNative Americans are forced to undergo. In the process, the bookcaptures his life history, and how he struggled to create a livingand a suitable life as well. In fact, he also reveals how his life asan Indian activist during the 1950s might have contributed to hiswrong conviction. The period was characterized by a politicalupheaval where particular groups of the minorities were fighting fortheir civil rights, and they wanted to be recognized too. Peltierreveals that “this is the twenty-third year of my imprisonment fora crime I did not commit. I`m now just over fifty-four years old.I`ve been in here since I was thirty-one” (Peltier, p.8). He keepsasserting that he is innocent and he wishes that the government willlook at the facts and release him since he was not the killer.Instead, his plea to be released does not move the governmentofficials that believe he is still guilty of the killing. However,Peltier believes that his involvement with the American IndianMovement (AIM) made him an enemy of the government and the convictionwas a chance to revenge. He insists that the government used anunfair judicial process to convict him of the crime that he did notcommit. For instance, he reveals that the police even terrorized alady that agreed to give false testimony that justified how Peltierwas guilty of the crime committed. The FBI has been able to get thereal killer of the two agents, and Peltier is held simply because ofthe role that he played as an activist instead.


More important, the book highlights the challenges that the NativeAmericans are experiencing in the nation. In this case, asminorities, they lack the voice that might reveal the suffering thatthey are undergoing. Instead, they want to be recognized and makesure that the government opens up opportunities that will benefitthem. In fact, Peltier insists that the book is “a symbol, a focusfor the sufferings of my people (Peltier, p.9). For instance, heclaims that the government framed him for the murder since he was anuisance together with the members of the AIM. Hence, he wanted toreveal how the institutional racism has been used in intimidating himand preventing him from fighting for the struggle of the NativeAmericans. The government has ignored his people, and they aresuffering because of the poverty. They are even placed on the Indianreservations where life is not great as it might seem. For instance,they are forced to live a life full of challenges and feweropportunities. His life story shows that it was hard to find a propereducation system or even the jobs. He even embraces the mistakes hehad done in the past, and he urges his people to protect theiridentity as the Native Americans. He maintains that “we are notsupposed to be perfect. We`re supposed to be useful” (Peltier,p.10). To some extent, it seems like he motivates in fighting fortheir rights and making sure that the government works towardimproving their conditions in the nation. The book also highlightsthe unfairness of the judicial system and he urges the government tomake the changes that will help in making them fair. All in all, heuses his wrongful conviction as a way of addressing the challengesthat they face in the nation.

Contributionto Scholarship

In this case, thebook highlights the institutional racism and the challenges that theminorities are forced to face in the American society. For instance,Peltier, as a Native American does not have anyone that will revealthe challenges that he is facing under the system. In fact, Peltier’sstory is just one of the many cases in the nation where theminorities are the victims of the discrimination in the system.Peltier even talks about life in the reservation, and he reveals howthey did not have more opportunities to help them succeed. Besidesthat, he also talks about the poverty and the lack of educationfacilities. The story also revisits the history of the NativeAmericans that have been discriminated for a longer period now. Forinstance, they were moved from their lands since they had signed someActs that they did not understand. In the process, they were evictedfrom the land and placed on the Indian reservations where life wasnot appealing (Hall &amp Fenelon, p.155). In fact, the two agentswere murdered at the reservation, and that might capture thefrustrations of the Native Americans based on the challenges thatthey have been forced to experience in the past. The various conceptsthat the book highlights are essential to scholarship since theyreveal some of the themes that help one understand the history of thenation. Some of the concepts from the book such as the institutionalracism capture the reality in most systems in the government. Morespecifically, it will reveal how the minorities are placed in longerprison terms by a flawed judicial system that works based on theracial prejudices. Even the police force seem to work based on thestereotypical notions that define a suspect rather than searching forthe truth before they convict a suspect.


In conclusion, the book Prison Writings: My Life is my Sun Dancereveals the challenges of most minorities, the institutional racism,problems that the minorities have to undergo as well as thediscriminative policies that the government implements. In this case,Peltier is accused of killing the two FBI agents, and he is unable toprove his innocence because of his involvement in the politicalactivism. More important, his participation in the 1970s protests wasto highlight the challenges that most Native Americans are undergoingin the reservations. Instead, the attack somehow gave the governmenta chance to intimidate Peltier that has stayed in prison for a numberof years yet, the government has not found the evidence to convicthim. In fact, his attempts to appeal the judgment have been met withresistance. He believes that institutional racism has played a hugerole in those activities since the government is using the judicialsystem as well as the police force to intimidate him. All in all, thethesis and the symbolism of the book contribute a lot to scholarship.A student is able to understand the challenges that the NativeAmericans have undergone in the past years and how they have beenunable to overcome that.

Works Cited

Hall, Thomas D., and James V. Fenelon. &quotThe futures ofindigenous peoples: 9-11 and the trajectory of indigenous survivaland resistance.&quot journal of world-systems research 10.1(2015): 153-197.

Peltier, Leonard. Prison Writings: My Life is my Sun Dance. CrazyHorse Spirit Incorporated, 1999