LAW & CRIME

The Martyrdom of Collins Catch the Bear

Seven Stories. Jan. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9781609809669. pap. $18.95. LAW
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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.
VERDICT At times meandering and lacking the amount of detail about the case some readers might wish for, Spence’s book nonetheless thoughtfully portrays justice both manipulated and denied in this sharp indictment of the treatment of indigenous people.

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