Jan. 28, 2003
American Indian Parolee
By DALE LEZON
Standing Deer, who
spent about a quarter century in prison, turned his life around after
he met the man he said he had been asked to help
"neutralize" nearly 25 years ago.
He became an
activist for inmates and an advocate for American Indians.
work as a free man, however, was short-lived. A little more than a
year after he was paroled, the 70-year-old was fatally stabbed.
"It's been a
tremendous loss," said Jacquelyn Battise, a longtime Houston
peace activist and producer of People of Earth, a radio program
devoted to American Indians that is broadcast on KPFT-FM. Battise is
an Alabama-Coushatta Choctaw.
Standing Deer, a
Choctaw Oneida also known as Robert Hugh Wilson, was best known in
the American Indian community for his friendship with longtime
activist Leonard Peltier and for exposing an alleged plot to
assassinate him. Peltier was imprisoned for allegedly killing two FBI
agents in 1975.
Standing Deer also
worked for inmate rights, especially religious freedoms for American
Indian inmates, his friends said.
One of his two
daughters, Vicki Larsen, 43, of Oklahoma, said she never got a chance
to know her father, who had been in prison much of her life. She said
she loved him and that his friends from all over the world made her
realize how much he was admired.
She said she has
received e-mail from England, Belgium and all over the United States
from people who "were devastated by what happened to him."
have spoken to about him, they all loved him, and they told me he was
a kind, generous man who had a huge smile all the time," Larsen said.
Standing Deer was killed Jan. 20 by Pius Vinton Smashed Ice, 37, who
is being held in the Harris County Jail without bail on murder
charges. Smashed Ice originally said burglars broke into the house
and that he came home to find Standing Deer dead, police said. He
later admitted he had killed him, they said.
Standing Deer had lived alone after being paroled from prison in
September 2001. She said Smashed Ice is a Lakota who had come to
Houston to stay with Standing Deer.
Deer didn't know him before but was very generous, and for whatever
reason trusted him and brought him to his house," Battise said.
Standing Deer had
several robbery convictions, some in federal and state courts. Before
he served time in a Texas prison for a 1975 robbery in Harris County,
he was sentenced in 1976 to 15 years in federal prison for bank
robbery and interstate transportation of stolen property.
He was sent to the
federal prison at Marion, Ill., where he met Peltier. Standing Deer
told his friends that Peltier "saved his life" after
Standing Deer had agreed to be a part of what some have called a
government plan to kill the activist.
In a sworn
affidavit, Standing Deer claimed he was recruited by a prison
official and an unidentified civilian to help them in
"neutralizing" Peltier. He said that if he agreed to the
plan, he would have received medical treatment for his back, and
seven indictments against him in Oklahoma would have been dismissed.
But instead of
carrying out the plan, he befriended Peltier. He told his friends
that Peltier taught him to renounce his criminal past and return to
his American Indian roots. He said Peltier instilled in him so much
pride for his heritage that Standing Deer began using his Indian
name, which had been given to him as a child by his grandfather.
"He told me
that Peltier had saved his life," said James Clark, one of
Standing Deer's close friends and Battise's husband.
transformed from being a kind of hard gangster into a beautiful,
beautiful man -- a Native American," Battise said.
Matthiessen's book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse recounts the plot
In writings from
prison, Standing Deer railed against inhuman treatment of inmates. He
warned that men held in high-security prisons with few privileges
could turn their rage on innocent people when they're released.
these severe terms of confinement do to the minds of the men? Does
living in a cage smaller than your bathroom with constant harassment
from guards reduce men to sniveling, quivering jellyfish -- like the
parole board wants -- or are some of these prisoners harboring a
seething rage, a hatred and lust for revenge so deep that citizens
will have to pay with their lives when these men get out?" he wrote.
however, avoided the rage. Outside prison, "he was a charming
guy," Clark said. "He was easy-going, fun to be around."
He planned to tell
stories of his prison life on Battise's radio program to let people
know about the cruel treatment of inmates, Clark said.
Ray Hill, Standing
Deer's close friend and host of the Prison Show on KPFT, said he had
corresponded with Standing Deer for several years and met him after
he was paroled.
"He was a
sage," Hill said.
Jan. 22, 2003
Houston: Metro Networks
Robert Hugh Wilson Standing Deer
Man's Stabbing Death Probed
70, found stabbed to death in townhouse
arrested in elderly man's slaying