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Dakota Warrior - The Story of James R. Weddell


Of all the things that the guards, the prison warden, and all his ass-kickers say about me, there's only one that's true: I am an escape artist. In all of South Dakota, there's no one who has escaped from the slammer as much as I have. And every time, as the sequence of events has shown, I had good reasons. This is why the spirits have protected me, helping me go away with their permission and escape punishment that I didn't deserve.

The first time I escaped I was fifteen years old. The reason they sentenced me to juvenile detention was this: I was at home with my siblings minding my business, but someone came to knock on our door telling us that our father was getting beaten up in the middle of the street. One of my brothers and I ran over to see what was going on, and sure enough rumors were right. The typical scene that plays out every time Indians run out of money in a bar was being repeated here. My father had gone drinking in a bar owned by non-Indians, the only one in town. As soon as he ran out of money, they kicked him out but the bouncers got a bit overenthusiastic about making sure he wouldn't come back in. Beating the hell out of drunken Indians was a form of amusement for them. So, by the time we arrived on the scene, they were still hitting him while he was on the ground. We didn't take that too well, and promptly got into a fight with them to defend our father. We pummeled them and threw one of them through the bar windows. The end result? Juvenile detention, here I come. Ironically enough, the detention center was located in the Black Hills--my first experience of my people's sacred land was incarceration!