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  • How it started

    Some may say it all started a very short time ago, but I say it all started long time ago.

    I was just a little girl when I dreamt about a fire in a prison. A terrible dream, I must say. I was one of those inside that prison and I got burnt along with many other men and women. So I was just a little girl when I started asking about all those who were incarcerated.

    All the answers I got where things like: “they are bad”, “never get near someone who has been in prison”, “they may come with good words and then try to kill you”, “they don’t even take care of their kids”, “they are like demons” or “they have done terrible things and if they were outside there you might be suffering them” among many others. I was terribly scared of prisons and much much more scared of those inside a prison. No matter men or women. To me, they all were red and black (like what they told me at school demons look like), and had long teeth and their nails were just like knives they used for cutting kids into pieces and they loved blood. That’s what imagination does when you’re a kid.

    As I grew older and was no longer a 5 or 6-year old kid, I got into the age of 14 to find out the father of my best friend had been in prison. “Impossible, he’s always laughing, he’s a good man, he takes care of his kids and he works hard” was the first thing I gave as an answer. I kept being told he had been in prison. I asked my best friend, she says: “you have to promise you won’t tell anyone”. So, as at that age I still promised, I promised to find out from her it was true and he had been prison. She didn’t know why because she was very little, just a baby when he started doing his time. A part of me accepted what didn’t want to accept, the other, wanted to keep asking questions such as: why? Where? Or: For how long? But just before I did my friend added it was something no one wanted to talk about and she herself couldn’t get any other information than the one I already knew.

    That made a click on my brain. Well… maybe some of those who are or have been in prison change or some aren’t that bad, really… look at him… he’s like a father to me…

    I was 15 when I found a CD on the floor. It had some Native music on it and it was being sold in order to raise money for Leonard Peltier (for some information about him just go to: ). I opened the cd, put it on a cd player and started reading about him and a little bit about the Lakhotas on the papers inside it and on the back cover. I got interested and my search and my learning started. But that’s a whole other story.

    After some years, when I was 16, I decided I wanted to write to Leonard Peltier because I read he needed some support and that he was happy to get letters from people. But then I thought: “wait. A lot of people is going to write to him. He’s famous and well known. He knows people care for him. What about those who are in prison and don’t really have any support or any real contact with outside prison?” I decided I wanted to write to a Lakhota prisoner.

    As I had just started working on my Research Project (here we have to do one in order to finish high school) about the Lakhota and I was working on it in English, I asked my teacher: “What would you think if I write to a Lakhota prisoner and use the experience, if he/she allows me, to talk in the project about nowadays situation in the Reservations?” You should have seen her face. Big eyes. Terror. Open mouth. “What?!” So I repeated the question thinking that maybe my English hadn’t been correct at all because I was nervous and added a “maybe you could help me by correcting my letters?” at the end. Ha! If you had seen her face then!

    “Look. If someone is in prison is for something. If someone is in prison is because they are bad persons. You could be in danger. It really is dangerous and I don’t want to be responsible of it if something happens to you. I’m not going to correct your letters. They can come and find you. They can wait for you at the door of your house, they have your address in the envelopes! And what would you really know from the prisoner? Only the prison where they are! If you finally do it, don’t tell me and don’t use any information in the project. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. And please, think very well about it. Think of how dangerous it is.” That was her answer.

    Shy and with my lack of self-steem, no need to say she talked me out of my idea. She even made me think I was crazy.

    But it comes when I’m 23 and I’ve learnt a bit more. I meet my new older sister, as I call her. She’s not my sister by blood, but she is by spirit. And she tells me she wants to write to a prisoner. And I see I’m not crazy. Or that I’m not the only crazy one, at least. We talk about it, read some pages with information about prisoners who would like to have a pen pal and finally decide to do it. Each of us, at home, chooses a web page and starts looking for someone. She chooses two. I choose other two. We wait.

    She gets a letter. Some time later, she gets another one from the other prisoner. I get none. I change home and decide to have a look at the list of another webpage. There I am looking and looking. Not know how to decide who to write for, how am I supposed to choose from a list of pictures? After all I just click up there without looking. I clicked on the T. And I keep rolling down. Here he is. As soon as I see his picture and read what he’s written, I know he’s the one. I write down his name and his address. I click up there again without looking. I click on the A. I scroll the page without looking. I choose the first one I see just in case the one starting with T doesn’t answer. I get two letters ready and all I have to do now is to wait.
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