Comey Had It Coming: The FBI and Its Destructive History With Native People

Bettmann/Bettmann Archive/Getty Images / Leonard Peltier, American Indian Movement leader, is led across Okalla prison exercise yard to a waiting helicopter. After a prolonged legal battle, Peltier was ordered deported by Canadian Justice Minister Ron Basford to face charges of murdering two FBI agents. Leonard Peltier, American Indian Movement leader, is led across Okalla prison exercise yard to a waiting helicopter. After a prolonged legal battle, Peltier was ordered deported by Canadian Justice Minister Ron Basford to face charges of murdering two FBI agents.

Thing About Skins: There is nothing heroic about James Comey

“Last week, as he was returning the first major shipment of records to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Hank Adams was arrested. The FBI agent who had already accepted two shipments from Hank swore in the affidavit supporting the warrant for Hank’s arrest that Adams intended to use the records for his own personal use. Everyone in Indian country, assistants at the White House, and agent Dennis Hyton knew that Hank was merely acting as a conduit for return of the stolen materials and records.

It is an old story to American Indians. Osceola the Seminole war chief could not be defeated in combat so the United States Army arranged to capture him during a truce and as Osceola stood under a white flag he was taken prisoner and died from the wounds inflicted by his captors. Crazy Horse, undefeated Sioux war chief and the greatest man the Sioux Nation ever produced, was enticed to surrender at Fort Robinson, Neb., and arrangements were made to assassinate him. He died shortly after his surrender, bayoneted in the back as his arms were held by two American soldiers. Sitting Bull, noted Sioux holy man, was assassinated during an arrest by Federal police. Satank, extraordinary Kiowa leader, was killed by soldiers while on his way to an Army prison. It’s an old, old story for American Indians.”

Vine Deloria, Old Indian Refrain: Treachery on the Potomac, February 8, 1973

For some, James Comey is a martyr or a hero right about now. Even though many of those same folks hated him just a few months ago.

Hell naw. Just like the rest of the FBI, there is nothing heroic about Comey—there is plenty of blood on his hands. At least in regard to Native people or people of color. In the words of Native rights superhero and historian Hank Adams, “the modern-day FBI is still anchored in the J. Edgar Hoover tradition, probably identified best by intimidation and blackmailing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” In fact, according to Adams, Comey and (former FBI Director) Louis Freeh are the chief reasons that Leonard Peltier never received a commutation of his sentence.

Good riddance to Comey.

But we’ll get there soon. First, lets talk about what’s going on.

The past couple of weeks have revealed a few of the worst kept secrets in this Nation. First, Donald Trump will, in the words of Angelica Schuyler (as quoted by Eliza), “Do what it takes to survive.” Trump’s firing of Comey while Comey was investigating Trump was hilarious and brilliant and ultimately as predictable as Congress voting to give themselves raises or Kevin Bacon as the Invisible Man robbing banks. Duh. Why wouldn’t he do that if it we gave him the power? The other thing that was revealed is that many Americans will create a convenient narrative about US politics that is 100% false simply to fit their political agenda.

Crawdaddy magazine, November 1976. / “Open Fire, or the FBI’s History Lesson” by Judy Gumbo Clavir and Stew Albert, Crawdaddy magazine, November 1976.

Case in point: I’ve seen so many calls for the FBI to be able to do its job as if it’s the FBI’s job to find justice. I’ve seen those calls from white people, from people of color and from Native people. Let’s be clear: the FBI does not find or work toward justice. It never has. In fact, the FBI has affirmatively and aggressively moved against many individuals and Native and non-Native groups that were working toward justice and thus made justice less accessible.

From AIM to Leonard Peltier to Hank Adams, the FBI has certainly waged war on Native people. It was not a covert war by the way—as Norman Zigrossi the former assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Rapid City office told Rolling Stone magazine in 1977, “They are a conquered nation and when you are conquered, the people you are conquered by dictate your future…If I’m part of a conquered nation, I’ve got to yield to authority… (the FBI) must function as a colonial police force.”

That is largely what the FBI has functioned as for Native people as well as other communities of color: a colonial police force. The agency, and the federal government in general, has been the problem and not the solution and looking for solutions within organizations that have historically been the problem is kind of silly. History tells us that the only place we can look for solutions is within our communities. We have those answers ourselves.

The work of the FBI is inherently inequitable. Native communities have violent crime rates that are more than two and a half times higher than the national average and Native women are 10 times as likely to be murdered than other Americans. Native women are raped or sexually assaulted at a rate four times the national average, with more than one in three having either been raped or experienced an attempted rape. Yet, only about one third of those sexual assault cases are prosecuted. That falls on both the FBI and the US Attorney.

There is no justice to be found there.

Hell, the FBI tried to convince Martin Luther King, Jr. to commit suicide. The FBI tapped King’s phones after the March on Washington. Interestingly, Comey, before his current unemployment, kept a copy of the King wiretap request in his office to remind him of the bureau’s power to do wrong. Yet, that ability to do wrong has been shown over and over again—from the Black Panther Party, to the Young Lords, the Communist Party, Fred Hampton, etc. The list goes on and on. The FBI has consistently hurt communities of color. The agency is no beacon of light or justice.

Screw the FBI. Screw Comey. The FBI is not an agency of justice and Comey is no hero. Both have been screwing over Native communities and communities of color for a very long time.

I suppose if the FBI is able to catch Russia meddling in US elections, cool. But Russia’s alleged meddling and/or Trump’s alleged involvement does not erase the Bureau’s racist and destructive pattern with Native communities. That history does not change simply because Donald Trump is in office or because many white folks and Democrats see the FBI as the last hope to air Hillary’s grievances. That should never cause us to forget where this evil agency comes from or the harm that it has done to our communities.