Thursday, June 02, 2005

NDN NEWZ: Hate Crime Shocks Paiute Reservation

I will forever be alarmed, disgusted and deeply, deeply saddened by the horrors racism lets loose upon the Earth. But this...this is beyond your run-of-the-mill racist bullshit: it takes a special kind
of rotten, scum-sucking bastard to threaten to rape, kill and dismember CHILDREN.

Hate crime shocks Paiute reservation

March 9, 2005---Shock, fear and anger rocked the Bishop Paiute reservation recently when letters left at the tribe's education complex threatened to ''kidnap, rape and dismember'' young Paiute girls, aged 5 to 9.

Three original letters, typed in red ink with a cover sheet signed ''KKK,'' were left at the tribe's gymnasium and on the baseball field adjacent to the tribe's Head Start program and daycare center. Other copies were tossed on nearby roadsides, according to the tribe's chief of law enforcement services, Cal Stafford.

The letters sparked a firestorm of outrage and anxiety on the reservation and in the surrounding city of Bishop, a small rustic town in the Sierra Nevadas.

Addressed to the Paiute tribe, the letters promised retaliation for ''your half-witted bucks taking another white life'' and alluded to crimes involving tribal members dating back a decade. The letters were turned over to the Inyo County Sheriff's office, which notified the FBI.

Said Bishop Paiute Vice Chairman Sandra Warlie, who spearheaded efforts to inform and protect tribal members: ''Whoever did this meant to put fear in
our hearts by targeting our children. We are stepping up security measures and we will do everything we can to protect our people.''

The threats are believed to be retribution for the death of a white liquor store manager, Dave Pettet, 48, who was allegedly shot by tribal member Wayne Bengochia in an alcohol-related incident four days before the letters were found. Begochia, 48, was charged with homicide and is awaiting trial.

Stafford said it appeared that the author of the letter was trying to create racial tensions by exploiting Pettet's death as a crime against white people; ironically, Pettet was once married to an American Indian woman with whom he had two children.

At a town meeting, Monty Bengochia, Wayne's brother, confirmed Pettet's death was not racially motivated. In a heartfelt condolence message to the Pettet family, he asked that the tribe not be blamed for the random act of violence committed
by one individual.

''My father would never want anyone to use him as a reason for violence against Indian children,'' said James Pettet, son of the slain man. ''He wasn't racist - just look at us, his half-white, half-Indian children. Whoever wrote those letters
didn't know my dad. We came here today to let everyone know we don't blame the Bengochia family. We all need to get through this together.''

After he spoke, James and his family hugged members of the Bengochia family, setting the tone for good will rather than retaliation.

As the community adjusts to the heightened sense of security, many hope that
this was a one-time incident perpetrated by one individual. But the incident
also raised new questions about the ever-growing presence of white
supremacist groups in rural areas, particularly near Indian reservations.

I applaud the Pettet and Bengochia families, for coming together in the aftermath of their personal tragedies and doing all they can to ensure that no one is hurt in "retaliation." How the racist bastards got the idea that the crime was race-related in the first place is beyond me, but I supose when you have that kind of hate in your heart, you'll see race in everything. And everyone.

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At 7:47 AM, Blogger Ron Southern said...

Sometimes it seems like it's only through you that I am made aware of many of the stories like this. Though you find these stories covered in the media, most of it never filters through to my local area news sources. So, if CNN and other 24-hour news networks don't tell me, it didn't happen. I wonder if they think most Americans can't handle more bad news than they're giving us so far?

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Zen Angel said...

Native American news stories are so rarely covered by any source OTHER than Native American news sources, I'm afraid. I remember asking a journalist why this was, and her reply: "People aren't really interested in Indian stuff."


At 3:23 PM, Blogger Pixie LaRouge said...

I find the phrase used by the journalist to whom you spoke quite telling. Why is it looked at as "Indian stuff?" Hate crimes, any hate crime, diminishes everyone. And until everyone realizes that, well...

Thanks for doing more than your share to create a world of humanity in a society of inhumanity.


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