COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS WORCESTER, SS SUPERIOR COURT DEPARTMENT CIVIL NO. 95-0779 RANDALL SHIELD WOLF TRAPP WILLIAM WHITE FEATHER DURFEE ROBERT FISH RUBIN JETT JAMES CROW FEATHER MANLEY BERNARD R. BAILEY, SR. CHRISTOPHER BOUSQUET, Plaintiffs V. LAWRENCE DUBOIS JOHN MARSHALL P.J. CHALAPATAS MICHAEL DORIAN, Defendants
Now comes John Peters, known as Slow Turtle, who being duly sworn does say and depose as follows:
1. I am the Supreme Medicine Man of the Wampanoag Nation. The Wampanoag are indigenous to the portion of the North American continent now called New England.
2. As Supreme Medicine Man, I am charged and empowered to practice the ancestral spiritual teachings of my People. These teachings have been handed down from generation to generation to express our relation to All That Is.
3. Among my responsibilities is the practice of spiritual ceremonies for and with all who come to me as a spiritual teacher. According to our spiritual teachings, all beings are related. The teachings are open to all sincere persons who seek an understanding of the Native Way of Life and what it means to be a human being.
4. I am also the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs, appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth. In this capacity, I am charged and empowered to oversee all matters that bear on relations between Native Americans and the Commonwealth, as well as to facilitate federal-state relations on these same issues.
5. For more than ten years I have been providing spiritual guidance within the penal institutions of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State of Connecticut, and the United States federal government. I regularly conduct Pipe and Sweat Lodge ceremonies and other sacred practices for members of Native American Spiritual Councils and Circles in many of these prisons.
6. I welcome to these Native American Spiritual Councils and Circles all persons sincerely desiring to pray with us and to study Native teachings. I do not require any person to prove any degree of blood of any kind, nor do I require any person to have any form of government registration as an "American Indian" in order to participate in our teachings.
7. I encourage members of the Native American Spiritual Councils and Circles to practice on their own during times when I am not present. To facilitate spiritual practice, our teachings call for use of the sacred Pipe individually and in groups. Our teachings also recognize the significance of headbands and medicine pouches as aspects of an individual's way of recognizing the Creator's presence in Creation.
8. In my experience, and based on my study of other institutions, I observe a strongly positive affect of Native spiritual practice on prison inmates. A sense of balance and a lowering of anger and frustration accompany the spiritual teachings and practices. The result is beneficial to the prison as a whole as well as to the members of the Native Councils and Circles.
9. During the years I have been teaching and conducting ceremonies with the Native American Spiritual Awareness Council at North Central Correctional Institution, Gardner, Massachusetts, I have observed a continuing pattern of administrative disruption of Native Spiritual practices. At various times, sacred items (including Pipes, headbands, drums, sacred tobacco, smudge sticks) have been confiscated and ceremonies have been disrupted or prohibited by the local prison administration. These administrative actions have greatly disturbed the emotional and spiritual balance of members of the Native Spiritual Circle.
10. I have responded to such administrative disruptions on numerous occasions by directly negotiating with the Commonwealth's Department of Corrections, the Attorney General's Office, and other officials. For example, in July, 1993, my expression of concern about the prohibition of headbands at NCCI, Gardner, resulted in an agreement between the Attorney General and the Department of Corrections Legal Department to overrule the prohibition.
11. In my experience at NCCI, Gardner, I have seen that higher-level administrative intervention is insufficient to protect Native American spiritual practices among inmates of that institution. Recisions of administrative burdens are followed by renewed interference and harassment. The result is continuing threat and discrimination against members of the Native American Spiritual Circle.
12. I believe that judicial review and intervention are necessary to effect a permanent resolution of the problems faced by members of the Native American Circle at NCCI, Gardner, and to protect our religious freedom in that institution.
SIGNED AND SWORN to under the pains and penalties of perjury on this date:
___________________________ John Slow Turtle Peters Dated: April 15, 1995
====Affidavit filed: April, 1995; preliminary injunction ordered, May, 1995.====