Exclusive to the Two Row Times – part 1 of a 2 part special series on the Three Feathers Casino case in the Akwesasne Kanienkehaka Territory.
The Three Feathers Casino class 2 electronic bingo hall was operated by the Men’s Council of Akwesasne from July 2011 to September 2012. In December 2012, a large federal police taskforce served a search warrant on the shuttered building located on Route 37 near Hogansburg, New York. Five men were charged with operating an illegal casino and with transporting gambling equipment over state lines. A jury trial in Albany, New York has been taking place since October 2013 for four defendants. One defendant, Rarahkwisere, was arrested in the December raid. He remained in federal custody until being released on November 8, 2013 on his own recognizance, by Judge Thomas McAvoy. The trial is continuing as of this issue’s publication time.
This is the autobiographical narrative of Rarahkwisere for the period of time spent in federal custody.
My name is rarahkwisere. I serve as the Wolf Clan representative of the Kanienkehaka Kaianerehkowa Kanonhsesne. I am a grandfather and veteran. I was arrested the morning of December 18, 2012 at 7:00AM by St. Regis Tribal Police under the direction of federal law enforcement. This took place in the parking lot of the Bear’s Den truck stop. I had just pulled up to get a look at the police sweep of the empty building that held the Three Feathers Casino and the tribal police ran up to me. They had been sitting in unmarked cars in the parking lot that morning as watch animals for the feds.
I was blindfolded, stripped of my clothes during a full body search and a gun was held to my head by the agents. The federal police wore black uniforms with facemasks. It was not that cold that morning so they were just hiding their identities. I told them that I was a prisoner of war and I refused to answer their questions. They shackled my arms and legs. My ankle was already swelling up. I had lost feeling in the ankle after an Ironworker accident years ago. I have been on disability since that time. All of the blood drains out of the foot because of the ankle destruction. It also causes horrible headaches.
I was so frustrated that I considered urinating and defecating in my holding cell and smearing it all over myself and then challenging them to come in and get me. I guess that made me laugh enough that I soon fell asleep on the hard steel bunk. When they brought me food I did not trust them so I just let it sit there. That would be the beginning of a twenty-five pound weight loss during my detention period.
Because I refused to sign into their jail, I was transferred to the holding area for refugees. I soon met a dissident from Egypt who was a close associate of Egyptian President Mubarak. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Plattsburgh had decided to hold this man, Magdy Mohamed Elsayed Ibrahim, when he presented himself at the imaginary line from Canada. He is still in there. His was a case of mistaken identity and another of my friends in low places.
Eventually, I was moved five times as a detainee. My iron house journeys began in Clinton County, and then to Rensselaer County. I was then taken to Montgomery County, and finally to Oneida County. I was then returned to Rensselaer County where I spent the duration of my detention.
Federal detainees might sound important but they don’t get any special treatment. The only reimbursement the jailers get is for “room and board” so they don’t do anything but lock us down all of the time. I was able to look at some legal documents to pass my time. The law library person did not have too much to pick from so they had to order out for what I was reading.
There were some definite low points. A hearing was held on my bond. The U.S. Attorney’s Office made a point of disqualifying my home to be put up as an asset so I could not get out. Donations from friends were also going to be disqualified since some of the money might have come from the tobacco trade or elsewhere. The intent was to make it hard to get me out of the federal jail. Which it did.
When Iwas sent to Oneida County, they put me in with a bunch of young murder suspects. Those guys were not too bad to be around. They thought I was some high-placed political prisoner. I told them I was just another Indian who had his land stolen. They nodded and encouraged me to keep fighting.
My ankle and then my entire leg began to hurt me horribly after a while. I thought they might have to cut it off. The nurse said all she had for medicine was aspirin and ibuprofen. I had a dream after that where I cut my own ankle off with the top of a soup can. I was almost done with the job when I woke up. The pain in my leg had awoken me in the middle of the night.
I wanted to write home and to some international embassies but I had no stamps. Those are only myths that you can write a letter on the back of a napkin and they will send it from jail. I had to have my poor wife Jean put some of her last dollars into the jail commissary for me to buy postage stamps. I wrote the embassies of Venezuela, Belize, Columbia, the Russian Federation and Germany but I never got any response. I also wrote to the United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon but never received a response. This made me wonder. Were the stamps and letters just thrown in the trash?
My wife was so upset by my absence that it affected her spirit. She is a traditional singer. Jean had told me that she was so startled by my kidnapping that she considered not singing anymore, until I was released. In her darkest moments, she was comforted by her fellow Longhouse women singers. They actually raised two hundred dollars to help her with household expenses. While I was gone, the electric utility company had shut off the electric service at our home. The electric company did not care that we had grandchildren in our home all of the time. They came under the guard of tribal police and disconnected the power. When she looked into turning power back on, someone told her to contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs
I also took some of the commissary money and started to buy some food. I gained some weight back eating a lot of instant noodles and rice. The jail there had a hot water machine bolted to the counter and they let us burn ourselves getting hot water from it to make the food.
Also, I had to spend my own money to buy soap. In Clinton County, I was infected with scabies, a communicable skin disease. The whole place was lousy with the red skin bumps. It was in the jail soap.
Along the way during the federal detention, I became aware of a legal personality named Tony Serra, a defense attorney. He assisted a member of the Lakota Sovereign Independent Nation who stood without a lawyer (pro se) in a case brought against him by the State of Oregon. Emerson Joe was not convicted of all of his charges as a result of reading Attorney Serra’s book. The book is called Lust for Justice. I could see these visionary men assisting me to gain my freedom and to rejoin my family.
The high point of federal detention was walking out the door after I was released. I posted no bail, bond or the family silverware to get out. My head remains unbowed! Hoka hey!
(Due to the ongoing federal trial over the now-closed Three Feathers Casino, the viewpoints of Rarahkwisere, aka Thomas Angus Square, as a federal detainee are limited to his time spent as a federal detainee and not as a defendant in the on-going proceedings. Any implied views presented are subject to the interpretations of the transcribing journalist. This narrative is provided FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY – a note from the Two Row Times)