- Oct 8, 2004
I received this email from Ruth Little Owl Thunderhorse - and I am asking for the help and support of all my friends in the email groups I belong to. Ruth had attached a list of people to her email who may be able to help bring some pressure to bear to alleviate the systematic ill treatment of Native Americans imprisoned within the Polunsky Unit, where Iron is now housed, where he was sent by the "Physically Handicapped Offenders Program" (PHOP). PHOP units are supposed to provide a "sheltered" environment for the elderly and disabled. Polunsky is a maximum security facility, known internationally for the guards' brutality.
I have copied this list to the end of this mail and I ask all of you in the name of humanity to write to everyone on the list, protesting Iron's barbaric treatment at the hands of his jailers. He is one of many Native American prisoners within the state of Texas and because he is fighting the system and preparing a law suit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for the rights of his people to practise their own spiritual belief, is constantly singled out for cruel and unjust beatings and attacks.
I received a testimonial from another prisoner (not a Native American) and his words are chilling - even the carrying of a small token that has meaning to a NA prisoner seems to enrage the guards at the unit, items such as a feather, or a medicine bag - would these same guards beat a Christian prisoner for wearing a crucifix, or a Jewish prisoner who wears the Star of David?
Excerpt from that testimonial:-
"Us here on the row are from DIVERSE racial, ETHNIC and RELIGIOUS BACKGROUNDS, but we are all HUMAN. The least of all are Native American Indians and some of the ones most harassed because of a simple Feather, a Medicine Bag, and small items one may have managed to acquire, because the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Institutional Division does everything it can to prevent any member of the Native Americans from any individuals or group religious activities. Sure TDCJ-ID has instituted a few places they even designated as strictly for Native Americans, however it is impossible to be transferred to one of these units, and at the same time, the ones at those units are being constantly harassed for numerous reasons..."
Whatever your religion, caste or creed, you have the RIGHT to worship in your own way - please help to keep Iron Thunderhorse safe and alive by giving some of your time to protect that right - make time to write to the people who are on the list at the bottom of Ruth's mail. - THEY CANNOT SILENCE ALL OF US!
I will keep everyone informed of Iron's progress and health as and when Ruth writes to me again
Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all related)
love and blessings,
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED TO KEEP IRON THUNDERHORSE ALIVE!
Wonkum (Greetings) friends and family,
Arumshemocke (Thank you kindly) for all of your
letters and emails, faxes and telephone calls, on
Iron's behalf and your correspondence to Iron. Thanks
to you, Iron is still alive. THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS!
Although Iron is still in excruciating pain from his
eyes and his right arm and shoulder, he continues to
read and write by using two magnifiers to enable him
to see. He holds the magnifier in one hand and writes
or holds reading material in the other hand.
By doing this, he is able to continue to pursue his
civil suit in federal court, to gather and submit
evidence, and to respond in a timely manner to every
court order and every attack by the Attorney General's
office. Considering the mail interference between
Iron and me and the severely restricted postage
permitted Iron, this is nothing short of a miracle.
Apparently, at least for the time being, our request
for an FBI investigation seems to have stopped TDCJ's
interference with legal mail to the court.
NOW FOR THE BAD NEWS.
1. Assistant Warden Billy Hirsch refuses to permit
Iron to purchase a pair of reading glasses and sun
glasses at commissary to reduce the excruciating pain
in his eyes resulting from the deliberate destruction
of Iron's glasses and UV shields during the ranking
officers' premeditated attack on Iron on June 7, 2005.
2. Warden Hirsch also refuses to permit me to
purchase prescription glasses for Iron and refuses to
expedite the November optometrist appointment and the
lengthy delay after that in obtaining glasses to
replace those destroyed by his ranking officers.
3. Warden Hirsch also refuses to permit Iron to
purchase enough postage stamps to deal with his legal
mail - since Iron must write large in order to see
what he is writing because of the destruction of his
glasses and the refusal of Warden Hirsch to permit
Iron to have his typewriter.
4. The wardens (perhaps Hirsch) refuse to permit mail
from and visits by Native American spiritual advisors
who write or ask to see Iron.
5. The wardens continue to limit my visits to twice
per month and, since mail between Iron and myself is
being delayed (apparently when it is legal mail),
this, too, hinders the legal work. I do research for
the case and the copying necessary to send copies of
evidence, etc. to the court and the AG.
6. In August some guards tormented a mentally ill
inmate in the cell next to Iron until the man threw
excrement at them. The man was too mentally ill to
bathe or be sanitary, apparently from drug abuse, and
is quite probably infected with one or more of the
virulent diseases running rampant in TDCJ prisons
(HIV, hepatitis, etc.). The excrement thrown by the
tormented man accidentally hit Iron in the right eye.
He requested medical help. The nurse asked, "Was
there any blood in it?" Iron replied, "Ma'am, I am
blind. I could not see." The nurse told Iron, "Well,
if you couldn't see any blood, there is nothing I can
do." So no check was made about communicable
diseases, such as would have been a matter of urgency
had a guard been hit in the face by excrement.
7. We received an email from Lynne in England, with
copies of emails from Amnesty International in which
AI said, "We are aware of the Iron Thunderhorse case
and received the information you sent us from a number
of people.... Unfortunately, as an volunteer-based
human rights organization, our resources are limited
and we are therefore rarely able to take on individual
cases, but we monitor all prison abuse cases and the
information helps us to document patterns of abuse....
Therefore, we would like to encourage you to take
action and write to the prison and let them know that
you disapprove of the way they treat Iron
Thunderhorse.... Very often, public pressure helps
improve the way inmates are treated." Lynne's friend
wrote back, "may I add my concern to hers for the
unsympathetic attitude displayed by Amnesty
International! If you cannot intervene on this mans
behalf who in Gods name can?" Same reply as before
from AI. THERE IS NO PLACE TO TURN FOR HELP WHEN
PRISONERS ARE ABUSED. Texas ACLU told me virtually
the same thing. TDCJ HAS ENORMOUS POWER AND
TREMENDOUS FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL RESOURCES. Which
probably accounts for the next bad news.
8. The Texas legal help promised by Michael
Sussman in New York totally fell through. Ms.
Rountree, who promised to visit Iron the second week
in August, finally responded to my email about a week
ago and said that she was too busy with another client
when she visited Polunsky that week and all her
friends are too busy to help Iron. She gave me a name
from the Houston Bar Association list of a woman who
MIGHT be able to help, but she had not made any
inquiries or recommendations or forwarded any
background information on Iron's case. In other
words, it's just back to square one for us.
The "good ole boys" network strikes again, evidently,
or tackling the gigantic TDCJ network of malingering
evasive people, secret files, inaccurate and
deliberately false information, plus their ability to
finance legal action indefinitely is just too much for
Ms. Rountree's friends to tackle. This is the reason
given by Advocacy, Inc. in their refusal to get
involved legally on behalf of those covered by the
Americans with Disabilities Act who are being abused
PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR MY HUSBAND'S HEALTH AND
SAFETY AND CONTINUE TO WRITE TO THE WARDENS AND
OMBUDSMAN'S OFFICE AND OFFICE OF PROFESSIONAL
STANDARDS AND TDCJ EXECUTIVE BRAD LIVINGSTON AND TX
GOVERNOR RICK PERRY AND TX LEGISLATORS PLUS SENATORS
IN WASHINGTON, DC, AND ANYONE AND EVERYONE YOU CAN
THINK OF TO HELP KEEP MY HUSBAND ALIVE. THE POWER OF
PUBLIC OPINION IS APPARENTLY ALL WE HAVE RIGHT NOW TO
KEEP MY BELOVED HUSBAND,IRON THUNDERHORSE, ALIVE.
I have recently written to the Native American Rights
Fund to request legal help with the religious suit.
The Texas Native American spiritual advisor, who has
tried unsuccessfully to visit Iron, tells us that the
Native Americans in Texas are uniting to try to undo
some of the damage done by Chaplain Teel (one of the
defendants in Iron's lawsuit). The lawsuit that Iron
has filed will benefit every Native American
incarcerated in Texas and, although no figures are
available because of TDCJ's lack of recognition of any
racial group except white, black, and Hispanic, there
must be at least 15,000 Native Americans incarcerated
If you would also write to the NARF to urge their
participation, the address is
Litigation Management Committee,
Native American Rights Fund,
Boulder CO 90302.
Although they cannot intervene on an individual's
behalf due to their limited funds, they could
intervene to help with Iron's case (in case TDCJ
succeeds in totally blinding Iron) and thus ensure
relief for about 15,000 incarcerated Native Americans.
Although someone else could file another class action
suit on their behalf, this suit is already in progress
and almost ready for trial (probably by January).
Please write to Assistant Warden Billy Hirsch in
regard to Iron's safety and welfare as outlined above
and let him know that you care about Iron and ask him
to do what's right. Be sure to include Iron's TDCJ ID number 624391.
Assistant Warden Billy Hirsch
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351
Iron and I prepared a list of legislators to contact
and I will attempt to attach a copy of that list to
I had waited to update everybody when we found out
about the lawyers and requests to Warden Hirsch. It
now appears that there is no recourse at this point.
I met an attorney in CA who works for Death Row
inmates and, since Iron's life is in danger even
though he does not have a death sentence, he might be
willing to help. Whether or not he could do so pro
bono from CA is another question. PLEASE PRAY FOR
GUIDANCE AND WISDOM.
Although the price Iron has had to pay is astronomical
in terms of suffering and pain, he feels that this
fight for justice is worth the cost. PLEASE SUPPORT
HIM AND HELP KEEP HIM ALIVE.
As Lynne says in her emails, "I will keep on writing
to everyone in authority who will listen - and a few
who seem to be deaf and blind too!....if enough people
complain and care, we CAN actually DO something!"
There is power in a people united. Freedom and justice
are worth fighting for, so Iron and I will fight on
and we hope that all of you will also continue to do
so. Without your support, Iron would be dead by now.
Without your continued support, Iron will not live to
go to trial. WE NEED YOU AND WE APPRECIATE YOU MORE
THAN YOU CAN EVER KNOW.
Ruth "Little Owl" Thunderhorse
Wanishi (May your path be beautiful)!
I ATTEMPTED TO COPY THE LIST OF PEOPLE TO WRITE TO FOR ENSURING THAT IRON'S CASE IS KEPT IN THE PUBLIC EYE BUT IT HAD TOO MANY CHARACTERS FOR THE MESSAGE - SO I'LL COPY IT TO ANOTHER THREAD