The Martyrdom of Collins Catch the Bear (Paperback)

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The search for justice for a Lakota Sioux man wrongfully charged with murder, told here for the first time by his trial lawyer, Gerry Spence.

This is the untold story of Collins Catch the Bear, a Lakota Sioux, who was wrongfully charged with the murder of a white man in 1982 at Russell Means’s Yellow Thunder Camp, an AIM encampment in the Black Hills in South Dakota. Though Collins was innocent, he took the fall for the actual killer, a man placed in the camp with the intention of compromising the reputation of AIM. This story reveals the struggle of the American Indian people in their attempt to survive in a white world, on land that was stolen from them. We live with Collins and see the beauty that was his, but that was lost over the course of his short lifetime. Today justice still struggles to be heard, not only in this case but many like it in the American Indian nations.

About the Author

Gerry Spence is legend among the trial bar, recognized to be one of the greatest trial lawyers of our times. His civil and criminal practices have gained him an international reputation for his high profile cases and record results. His trials have been celebrated in books and on television. Author of nineteen books, a poet, artist and photographer, Gerry Spence received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Consumer Attorneys of California. In 2009 he was inducted into the American Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame. In 2013 he received the Lifetime Achievement award presented by the American Association for Justice. He is the founder of the nonprofit Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming, founding member of The Spence Law Firm, LLC, and practices in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Spence served as one of Collins Catch the Bear’s lawyers on the Yellow Thunder case.

Praise For…

*"Renowned defense attorney and activist Spence casts a long look backward at a haunting case.
       "As a prosecutor,” said Spence’s opposite in a trial four decades ago, “you do the best you can with the witnesses you’ve got.” That trial concerned a murder charge against a young Lakota man named Collins Catch the Bear, who had been raised with every disadvantage: alcoholic parents, foster families, juvenile detention, low self-esteem, and a quickness to cry tears of rage and act out, a tendency that sent him to a mental hospital, where “a psychiatrist…concluded that he suffered from a ‘behavior disorder of childhood with unsocialized aggressive reaction, moderate to severe.’ ” Adds Spence, “in short, this fourteen-year-old boy was pissed to the max.” The boy was a Lakota who did not speak the language or know much of his people’s history; when he came into the orbit of Russell Means and the revived American Indian Movement of the early 1980s, he was eager to join. Collins was soon swept up in trouble, accused of killing a white man who had threatened him and several other Sioux. The facts didn’t add up. As Spence writes of the victim, “his right hand was completely covered with blood, but not a drop of blood was on the pistol. Someone had put the pistol in the man’s hand after he was dead.” Furthermore, the key witness for the prosecution was “a professional liar,” but the case went on. Collins was convicted and sentenced, though a sympathetic judge lightened his sentence, an act of kindness that did no good. The young man was soon in and out of jail for other offenses and came to a bad end, in Spence’s view “a modern-day martyr” whom life had dealt nothing but bad hands.
A fine work of true crime and a lesson in how justice can be poorly served despite good intentions.
     “A fine work of true crime and a lesson in how justice can be poorly served despite good intentions.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Spence (Court of Lies) relates the circumstances surrounding the 1982 arrest and subsequent trial of Collins Catch the Bear, a young Lakota Sioux accused of killing a white man in the Black Hills. Before discussing his own involvement in Catch the Bear’s defense, Spence describes the bleak childhood that Catch the Bear—born to impoverished, alcoholic parents on the Standing Rock Reservation—spent in foster care and boarding schools, a peripatetic existence that led to struggles with alcohol, drugs, and crime. Spence lays out the scanty evidence against the defendant, the conflicting stories of the eyewitnesses, and the political climate surrounding Catch the Bear’s involvement with Russell Means’s controversial American Indian Movement (AIM). As Spence takes readers through the defense team’s investigations, he shares the thought processes that shaped his conviction of Catch the Bear’s innocence, along with his suspicions of a deeper conspiracy. ... thoughtfully portrays justice both manipulated and denied in this sharp indictment of the treatment of indigenous people." Library Journal

"Trial lawyer Spence (Police State: How America’s Cops Get Away with Murder) unveils in this sad, sobering account the horrific and heartbreaking story of Collins Catch the Bear, a Lakota Sioux who became Spence’s client after he was charged with the fatal shooting of a white man in 1982 near the Yellow Thunder Camp outside Rapid City, S.Dak. As Spence meticulously builds his case for Catch the Bear’s innocence, he describes how law enforcement officers manipulated witnesses by preying on their fears of the police, prosecutors focused on their own political goals to the detriment of justice, and activists tried to cover up the death and only succeeded in fueling the flames surrounding the case. He also addresses ingrained discrimination against and systematic marginalization of Native Americans, noting, “In those days (and perhaps today in some quarters of the state), Indians were viewed with approximately the same affection as coyotes, rats, and other vermin.” Spence, who has never lost a case, was ready to go to trial and was certain he would win, but Catch the Bear fired him and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, second degree manslaughter, with a maximum sentence of 10 years. Spence considers Catch the Bear a martyr because he believed his client pleaded guilty to save the encampment; had Catch the Bear been tried and acquitted, Spence suggests, there would have been reprisals from the white community. This frightening work makes clear the ways the justice system can fail to protect the country’s most vulnerable citizens." Publishers Weekly

“In a story chock full of vengeance, treachery, racism, tragedy, and despair, Gerry Spence recounts the torments endured by his young client, Oglala Lakota Collins Catch the Bear, before, during, and after his court room battles in 1982-1983. The trials occurred near the end of a period of intense Indigenous activism spearheaded by the American Indian Movement. Catch the Bear was unjustifiably prosecuted for events that had taken place when he was living at the Yellow Thunder Camp of Native activists in the Black Hills of South Dakota, lands held as sacred by the Lakota and other Tribal nations. Over those years, Spence witnessed, fought, and chronicled the personal and institutional racism that continues to typify the experience of Indigenous peoples living in the U.S. There are no heroes in this intimate, unvarnished account, and Spence spares no one, not even himself. He has thus managed to evoke the dark and lonely struggle that will be all too familiar to Natives and is critical reading for those non-Natives who seek to understand more about Indigenous experiences and history.” —David Wilkins (Lumbee), professor, University of Richmond
Product Details
ISBN: 9781609809669
ISBN-10: 1609809661
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
Publication Date: October 6th, 2020
Pages: 240
Language: English

How to read more
( Birmingham Museums Trust’s Digital Image Resource shares thousands of images that span decades of Birminghams vibrant past)

How To Read More

If you love reading, but for some reason you read less and less, know that everything is fine. It happens.
Our lives today have so many things that distract us - how can we not put books away when all these movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, social networks and endless surfing in online stores are around ...
Yes, it's really hard to resist, but you certainly can!

In this article, we want to share with you some tips to read more often and more successfully.
These are some notes and some practices that we have collected for our SUNDOG BOOKS readers club.
And maybe it will bring more books into your life!

Why do we want/need to read more?

To start reading more, you have to understand why you need it.
And you will be surprised, but your goals can be quite varied:

- for work
If you read a lot on duty, then you definitely need to speed up the process. The logic here is simple: read faster → work faster → more time for books for yourself.

- for education
you need this for your educational career or sometimes you just want to read to learn. And, with all the new alternative ways to gain knowledge (podcasts, online courses and videos), the book still does an excellent job of this task too.

- for self-development
all exercises for increasing speed, one way or another, improve cognition and memory.

- for fun
because good books always = fun!

Book lovers have an additional special goal for reading more often. If you love literature, you will understand what we mean: you want to catch everything - to follow modern literature, and not forget about the classics, look into non-fiction and children's publications. And there’s so much you want to reread! The goals are ambitious, but attainable if you read a lot.


And so - How to read more:
We will tell you about the methods that we use ourselves. Perhaps some will suit you as well.


15 minutes a day

You've probably already heard this rule: if you want to start a healthy habit, devote 15 minutes a day to it. Once upon a time, we all read irregularly, in jumps and starts. Sometimes we cannot open a book we have begun weeks ago. Therefore, you should decide to create a rule: devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading. Try reading before bed, or maybe during lunchtime, or even when you are having your morning coffee.

You will see progress immediately. You will notice that almost always your 15 minutes will grow into half an hour or more. But the most remarkable thing is that in three weeks your hands themselves will be looking for a book.


50 First Pages
This method advises - If the book hasn't hooked you from the first 50 pages, put it aside! Life is too short to read uninteresting books.

It is necessary to change the approach to books. At first it will be hard for you to stop and put the book down. Even if we put the book away, it will seem to reproach us from the shelf, mocking us as quitters. But in the end we should come to one simple thought: if it doesn’t hook your attention, you should not force yourself to read it.

***Fifty pages is not a bad test. Not the most objective, but definitely effective. It helps to determine whether it interests you or not, and whether to spend time on things that do not excite.


Reader's Diary

This should be used to improve the quality of reading - to make it more conscious. For starters, it can be a simple notebook with headings:

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • Main characters
  • Scene
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Quotes

And, yes, a reader's diary is not a thing about quantity, but about quality. But, it can also motivate. When you open your diary and start looking at quotes (especially quotes), you immediately really want to read.


Maybe a Book Bet?
Several people can participate. Members of the betting group can come from friends, family, and also your colleagues. And of course you can set your own rules for participation, but we'll give you a simple example:

Everyone in the group should read and review a book over the course of a month with weekly updates. Anyone who does not finish a review buys the book for all other participants for the next month.


Speed Reading

Another effective way to increase the amount you read is speed reading. The logic here is simple - the faster you read, the more books you can enjoy.

*There are many online courses on speed reading, and you can also study on your own using instructional books. But, it is worth noting that this is a serious learning process that will require some effort on your part.



Reading every day is quite attainable, the main thing is to try to make it a habit.
Sometimes, instead of heading for Facebook, try opening a book and soon you won’t even remember why you needed to wander around social media.
And also - don't forget about audiobooks. They are a cool way to take the load off your eyes sometimes and just immerse yourself in the story. Some books are really strong in voice acting.


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