Should you have to sue for justice?

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Okiokwinon
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Should you have to sue for justice?


Do you think that after a murder, or a murder for your loved one to be exact, there should be a full out investigation on what happened? I would think, but what if the FBI failed to adequately investigate, or if they just flat out failed to investigate entirely? How would you, as an American citizen, respond?

288 The parents of Steven Bearcrane-ColeOn February 2, 2005 there was a murder in Montana near a Crow reservation. The murdered man, Steven Bearcrane-Cole, was shot in the forehead between the eyes by his co-worker Bob Holcomb on the grounds of self-defense.  Both men worked at the Leachman Cattle Co. as farmhands, but in February of 2005 that would change forever.  According to the University of Montana’s Native News Project in 2009, this is what happened:

The shooting happened on one of Bearcrane-Cole's days off. His girlfriend, Melissa Costas, had dropped him off at the ranch after Holcomb called to ask him to help out for a few hours. After working in a field several miles from the barn and stock pens, the two men, who had been drinking, reportedly got into a dispute over a horse. Holcomb drove back to the barn in a truck pulling a horse trailer, leaving Bearcrane-Cole in the field. Ranch foreman Roger Reitman reported that Bearcrane-Cole rode up bareback on a horse about a half-hour later and headed for the dingy white and yellow trailer that served as a bunkhouse. Holcomb later told authorities that Bearcrane-Cole kicked in the door to the trailer and attacked him with a knife. Holcomb said he grabbed his .22 caliber pistol and, fearing for his life, shot Bearcrane-Cole between the eyes.

The six years that have passed, have passed without justice. The Cole family has sadly learned that they cannot count on the FBI to fulfill the investigation, as well as a second family who has joined the Cole’s fight to get the justice that Steven so deserves. Apparently, the FBI has a bad rep for pursuing cases that involve Indian people. Hmmm…. interesting. What is most intriguing about this story is not that the family is suing the FBI for the justice that they deserve on behalf of their son’s death, but the fact that this story wasn’t published in any other news source. There has been some new evidence found but “

Despite this new evidence, the Coles were unable to get the FBI or the U.S. Attorney’s Office to reopen their son’s case. “We were told to gather more information and we did,” says Jean Bearcrane, Earline’s sister and attorney. “They still did nothing. How many non-Indian families have to do their own investigations and plead with the FBI to do its job?” (ICTMN)

How hard must it be to have to sit and wait for the investigation to begin/continue/end for the case of your loved one, but imagine how hard it must be to sit and wait knowing that the case is never going to be fully investigated? Sadly, this is something thousands of Native American people have to deal with every day. But even sadder is that no one knows. The media fail to pay much attention, if any at all, to the issues that happen within Indian Country. I don’t mean sources like ICTMN, I mean sources like CNN, NY Times, and FOX News; the news sources that we see every day on television or in coffee shop news stands reporting the news that we need to hear. So why don’t we need to hear about the first people that live here? Why don’t these news sources discuss the many issues that go on within Indian Country? Perhaps any one of you can offer an answer, but the only thing that I can think of would be the want for American news media to keep this type of "bad media" out of our minds. That's not to say that is the true reason behind it, but once we start to make it a point to examine these issues, we find that there are more underlying problems than we would have previously expected.

The news coverage follows specific identitifiable patters, based on what is considered news worthy and what is not. Jaap Van Ginneken presents these ideas to us through his discussion of who is news worthy, like celebrities versus every day citizens. But in this case, we have the American grid of selection, where there seems to be this hierarchy of who is news worthy and who is not. Most recently, we have stories like the death of Steve Jobs and Amy Winehouse that take over the news stories for that day, week, month, even year! How important is it to hear that one of the most prestigious and iconic bureaus of the American government is being sued because they didn't do their job? Well, if it were the health agencies that failed to do their jobs we would hear about it, but because it is the FBI we are neglected to have the information presented to us. The question we have to ask ourselves is why aren't we hearing about these issues, what are the other issues that we aren't hearing about, and how can we make the change. Well, the Weave is trying to make that change, or at least make some of them more known, but you as a reader can help too.

289 Where is the justice?

In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.

~Albert Einstein

 

Niawen

Niawenkowa tsi wesewatkahtho tsi nahoten wakien enkiron,

Thank you for reading what I have to say,

Okiokwinon

kepier08
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Re: Should you have to sue for justice?

I agree 100% with your arguments you have made here.  It seems like media is focused more and more on celebratory and political figure heads when deciding what will be published in their next article.  While I do think it is somewhat important to publicize the death of talented actors, actresses and artists, as well as individuals like Steve Jobs, I also think it equally important to release stories like the one that you talk about in this blog.  These type of things happen all the time, and no one seems to know about it.  I feel like the FBI is very specific as to what cases they pick up, correct my if I am wrong, that is the impression I am getting.  I just visited the FBi quick facts page, and while they do protect the United States citizens, it seems to be very specific to what jobs and crimes they take on. 

This is an extremely important issue and raises the question: How are American citizens supposed to feel safe in their own country and have faith in their government if all the "bad stuff" (for the most part) being hidden or skewed in a way that doesn't seem as bad?  Americans, should not have to feel cheated in their own justice system while living in a supposed "democratic" society!  


"An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." - Henry David Thoreau

Okiokwinon
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Re: Should you have to sue for justice?

Very good points Katherine! As much as I'd like to say that the FBI is particular in the cases that they take on, they are actually under the obligation to investigate crimes such as murder that happen in Indian Country. Under the General Crimes Act, the Major Crimes Act, Public Law 280, and in regards to various court cases such as Crowdog, the Unites States took away the capabilities of Tribal nations to investigate and prosecute these crimes. So unfortunately, these cases are placed under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Generally what will happen after a crime, the reservation police will contact a criminal investigator from the Bureau of Indian Affairs who will generally be stationed either on the reservation or nearby. That BIA investigator will then contact the nearest FBI office, which doesn't actually respond for several days, creating a huge time lapse in the investigations. This happens often for Native American communities, and sadly many of the crimes that are committed that call for the attention of federal investigations either never happen or take to long (Vine Deloria, Jr. American Indians, American Justice 182-183).

Because the tribal nations don't have the means, or the power, to investigate and prosecute these crimes it's up to the federal government to do it. It's pretty confusing, especially because there are only certain crimes that can be punished well enough to make sense... But that's only part of what we don't hear about, and especially through the media we can't get a grasp of what is going on within the tribal criminal justice area so we just have to dig deep and dig hard for it.

 

Niawenkowa tsi wesewatkahtho tsi nahoten wakien enkiron,

Thank you for reading what I have to say,

Okiokwinon