Why I Am The Wrong Speaker For Today: In Search of My Replacement

James D. Diamond

Address to the International Indigenous Peoples Cultural Conference, Roger Williams University, Bristol R.I. April 17, 2021.

I’m here to tell you why I should not be speaking here today. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m honored to have been invited and included. But as I reflected on the 400 year anniversary of the Treaty made, not far from here, between Ousa-mequin, the Massasoit, with his people and the settlers at Plymouth what I wanted to do was call for a new peace–a new kind of peace agreement between the United States, along with the state governments and the Indians of the Northeast.

I wanted to talk about a new peace agreement among and between the many indigenous people of the Northeast. The indigenous people of the Northeast, 383 years after the Pequot War, are still battling over territory.  And the colonial governments are still benefitting from a “divide and conquer” strategy. 

The battles today end up in the Courts, over who gets to build a casino, for example and where. Who gets to ask for the legal permission from the U.S., its States or local governments, to build and run games of chance?

I wanted to talk about the modern crisis of tribal governments denying tribal people of civil rights and the international human right of citizenship, often after tribal nations realize the benefits of gaming revenues. 

I wanted to talk about all of that that, but I said, “I can’t do that.” (I can’t be the person to do that). I’m not indigenous. I’m not an Indian. What right do I have to weigh in on these subjects? What credibility does a Jewish guy who grew up in the affluent suburbs of New York have with my audience? As a non-Indian lawyer and law professor, what right do I have to even suggest to Native Nations how to govern themselves? I understand that Native Nations need allies. Just yesterday Letitia Stover, District Court Judge for the Navajo Nation, Kayenta District, reminded me of the important role non-Indian “allies” play with Navajo people and played in her life and her career. 

But I wondered, how can I call for these new peace accords when the U.S. has never grappled with or acknowledged the unmitigated failure of the last 400 years of policy toward the indigenous peoples, and all done under the protective guise of the rule of law?

In considering the Treaty whose anniversary we are honoring today let’s examine the way the Indians of the Northeast felt about those early accords. My teacher, Robert A. Williams Jr. wrote about one such treaty, the treaty made in 1613 between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch which would govern how the two peoples would treat each other and live together, in perpetuity.

The Haudenosaunee made a wampum belt to record this agreement, the Gus-Wen-Tah.  The wampum belt has two purple rows running alongside each other representing two boats.

One boat is the canoe with the Haudenosaunee way of life, laws, and people. The other is the Dutch ship with their laws, religion, and people in it. The boats will travel side by side down the river of life. Each nation will respect the ways of each other and will not interfere with the other.

“Together we will travel in Friendship and in Peace Forever; as long as the grass is green, as long as the water runs downhill, as long as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, and as long as our Mother Earth will last.”

The birch bark canoe. Painting by Alfred Jacob Miller. Walters Art Museum Baltimore, MD.

That’s how the Indians felt about the peace treaty. But that’s not what happened. Not only did the two ships NOT proceed peacefully side by side down the river, the European vessel tried to sink the canoe!

Then, as more and more treaties were signed all the way into the middle of the 19th century it became the official policy of the United States to break the treaties. And they didn’t deny it as an official policy. 

When the Medicine Lodge peace Treaties of the 1860’s were abrogated by the U.S., as it satiated its voracious appetite for land and the simultaneous goal of assimilating the indigenous people the Supreme Court, in Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (1903) said:  

“The contention that Congress could not divest the tribes of their lands except according to the terms of the treaty in effect ignores the status of the contracting Indians and the relation of dependency they bore and continue to bear towards the government of the United States.”

and continued:

…“When, therefore, treaties were entered into between the United States and a tribe of Indians it was never doubted that the power to abrogate existed in Congress…”

So, how I thought, can I call for a new peace accord before the U.S. has ever reconciled with that decision, which is still the law of the land, and treaty abrogation as an official nation-to-nation policy? 

And, as I wrestle with being a non-indigenous voice at an indigenous peoples conference I find myself in the awkward position of replicating the non-indigenous practice of thinking I know better.

In 1991 when Canada was examining the history of how its judiciary treated the Metis and other indigenous people of Alberta, the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta said

“Everything that has worked when we’re dealing with natives has come from Natives. I don’t know of anything that has worked that has been foisted upon them from above.”

That astute observation is profound, and it’s even more true here in the U.S. than in Canada. But how would we expect to honor indigenous voices after the trauma U.S. forced the following six policies on the Indians:

1. Quantifying Blood Quantum-the amount of Indian blood as a system for deciding tribal citizenship, like you might for thoroughbred racehorses;    

2. Assimilation of Indians to become Christian farmers;

3. Allotment of parcels of land to farm as Christian farmers—which resulted in the eventual more loss of land to non-Indians;

4. Residential Boarding Schools as tools of assimilation-ended up as dens of mental, sexual and  cultural abuse, tore apart families;

5. Western Rule of Law and Courts: strict rules of evidence where storytelling or testimony of indigenous elders are considered not relevant or hearsay evidence;

6. Patriarchal systems that replaced matriarchal systems with resulting domestic and sexual violence;   

When you consider those failed policies forced on Indians, now consider the impact on indigenous voices on the following failures of U.S. K-12 education policy:

1. Failure of the U.S. to adequately fund education of Indians in school;

2. Taught an incorrect history;

3. Failed to hire indigenous teachers;    

4. Disciplined them at a far greater percentage than Non-Indians;

5. Insulted or demeaned them with stereotyping, and sponsored sports teams with insulting names and mascots;   

If you add in the failure of academia to promote indigenous scholars, PhDs, professors, and fellows, to fund scholarships and make Indians feel welcome on campus, how could we possibly expect to end up with sufficient indigenous voices?

As I reflect upon my own career, the subject of whether I belong where I am has come up over and over again. Take my interview a few years ago for the position as Chief Judge of the Hopi Tribal Court. Wayne Taylor, the Hopi former Chairman who grew up in the traditional Hopi Village of Shungopavi, asked me, “Mr. Diamond, shouldn’t we have a Chief Judge who is Hopi?” I said “yes, you should” and I didn’t get the job. I talked my way out of a good job. But I was honest. So, at Hopi I didn’t get an opportunity to find my replacement; they did it first and they were right.

The search for indigenous voices plays out quite frequently in tribal courts. You see it when tribal court judges are trying to weave tribal customs into a tribal common law. It’s a very challenging task under the best of circumstances, a task some indigenous scholars like Pat  Sekaquaptewa, (Hopi) cautions against attempting at all. But what emerges is a great skepticism of non-indigenous academics, of anthropologists, researchers or scientists. Standing Rock Sioux Scholar Vine DeLoria joked, “Indians are certain that Columbus brought anthropologists on his ships when he came to the New World. How else could he have made so many wrong deductions about where he was?”

Professor and Tribal Court Judge Matthew Fletcher, of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, writing about tribal courts and reliance on non-Indian anthropologists, scientists and researchers wrote: “There is a significant bias of Indian people against the work of these academics.” AndNavajo Nation Supreme Court Justice Tom Tso in a 1983 case said this about tribal courts relying on non-Indian academics:

“The Dine are the most accurate commentators on themselves. Studies of Navajo are incomplete, inaccurate or don’t reflect the current state of Navajo common law.”

So in my previous positions, Director of a tribal law school clinic, a tribal prosecuting attorney, and in my current positions as a law professor teaching indigenous law, dean of tribal trial advocacy college that trains survivors of violence to be victim advocates, and as a tribal court judge I have always trusted that my responsibility was to contribute what I can to right a 400 year historical wrong, to help reverse a 400 years of trauma to raise up an incoming generation of indigenous voices.

I can afford to talk my way out of jobs, as a person of privilege, educated at good schools and with a spouse who has an exceedingly generous corporate employer. I’m cognizant of the luxuries those privileges afford us and that’s why we can afford to volunteer and to give. Not everyone is in my position.

Another son of this region, President John F. Kennedy, recognized the debt of service. As he took the mantle of leadership, leaving Massachusetts, he addressed the judicial conference of Massachusetts saying the now famous words:

            “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”

Then President Kennedy said each of us would be judged “at some future date” when “the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us” our lives would be measured by a series of questions, the second of which was this:

“…were we truly men of judgment–with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past–of our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others–with enough wisdom to know that we did not know, and enough candor to admit it?

When we possess the wisdom to admit our mistakes then we will be ready to begin to confront the painful past and make a new peace. And yes, indigenous voices ARE here in Rhode Island and in neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut.  My friend, Shannon O’Loughlin, the Director of the Association on Indian Affairs (Choctaw) told me: “Native Americans have been made invisible in so many places. Not the kind of invisible where we aren’t there. The kind of invisible where we ARE there – standing right in front of you and you still don’t see us.”

You ARE on the program and in the audience here today. I see you. We see you, and we honor you. Thank you.  

The Trial of The Chicago 7

If you’re watching The Trial of The Chicago 7 on Netflix, here’s a fabulous photo from the trial, courtesy of David Fenton, who took it from the trial at age 17.

I tried a criminal case in 1990 (Danbury) against William Kunstler (far right) who believed no press was bad press. The movie doesn’t do him justice, predictably. Kunstler was as good a natural cross examiner as I’ve ever seen. And he was rather theatrical in our little CT trial. I learned many valuable lessons from that trial and from being opposing counsel.

Photo: From left Lenny Weinglass, Rennie Davis, Abbie Hoffman, Lee Weiner, Dave Dellinger, John Froines, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden and Bill Kunstler. Courtesy of David Fenton

The trial was so colorful, so impactful, it is a real shame Aaron Sorkin didn’t recreate it accurately. I expected more from Sorkin, don’t you?

Photo: Leonard Weinglass, left and William Kunstler, right, after Kunstler was sentenced for contempt. Photo: David Fenton

Lessons I learned from Bill Kunstler:

  1. The trial is not over when the case is presented to the jury. Never stop arguing, advocating. Kunstler beat me during jury deliberations on read-back strategies.
  2. You can’t fight history. The judge was dealing with a legend and was going to give him the benefit of the doubt in every ruling.
  3. There is no such thing as bad press. Kunstler was running out of the courtroom through the whole trial making pay-phone calls to journalists as he read the daily headlines in the NY Times.
  4. A really good cross examiner through a skilled cross will pounce on the exposed weakness of a witness.
  5. Take really good notes during the trial, or have somebody do it. Kunstler took exquisitely detailed notes during the jury deliberations. I asked him why he was doing that. “I once won a case on it,” he said. And his second seat, the famous Ron Kuby, helped with note taking. But not much more.
  6. You’d be surprised how a well delivered line can have an impact on a jury. During his summation Kunstler, in a booming deep voice, warned the jury that if they convicted, ruined, this “pillar of the community” doctor on such flimsy evidence, one day they would “wake up screaming.” What a great and vivid image.
  7. Take the long view on life. There was more at stake in the case than me, a 31 year old rookie prosecutor, winning that one case.

A Prayer For Peace

In 2013, while pursuing my degree in Indigenous Law, I was asked by Navajo Nation Justice and Professor Raymond Austin to preside over a peacemaking session. I did. It was instructive. This is the prayer I wrote and delivered to start the session. I cannot take all of the credit, I arranged the thoughts, but with inspiration from several Lakota, Navajo, indigenous and Jewish prayers and concepts.



By James D. Diamond


Great Spirit, whose voice we hear in the thunder on the mountains.

Today as we sit together in this place let us surround this family with a canopy of peace.

Let the wisdom of our ancestors fill our minds.

Give us sharp ears to hear your voice,
and eyes to see the light and the truth and the wisdom that is hidden in the earth.

Make us wise so can understand how the lessons you taught our ancestors answer the questions of today.

Help us find kindness and compassion owed to our brothers and sisters.

We ask you to restore to strength to anyone who is in pain or who suffers.

And give us the strength not to battle each other but to conquer the monsters that dwell within ourselves.



Copyright 2013: James D. Diamond

Life During the Age of Contagion — April and the Link to Mass Murder

James D. Diamond April 6, 2020 Published in  InsideSources

The month of April will be the among the most challenging months in American history. The physical, mental and emotional well-being of the nation is at hope’s edge, as our nation comes to grips with a global pandemic and dire economic consequences. For many mass shooting survivors and their communities, though, April is challenging for another reason: The five days between April 15-20 have been notoriously marked with the intentional spilling of innocent blood.

On April 15, 2013, terrorists killed six and seriously injured 280 in the Boston Marathon attack. April 16, 2007, was the school shooting at Virginia Tech University. On April 19, 1995, a mass murderer killed 168 innocent victims and seriously wounded more than 680 in the Oklahoma City bombing. And on April 20, 1999, there were the murders of 15 at Columbine High School in Colorado. The connection between the April dates is no coincidence.

Sadly, several killers sought to “outdo” the massacres that preceded their carnage and there exists a link between a series of massacres occurring in April, and the selection of massacre dates to coincide with the massacre anniversaries. It starts with April 19, 1993, the date law enforcement officials raided a compound near Waco, Texas, resulting in a lengthy standoff and 86 fatalities. Next, the two terrorists at Oklahoma City who drove a truck-bomb to the Murrah Federal Office Building selected the Waco anniversary; two years later, on April 19, 1995, they conducted a terrorist assault that killed 168 people. Then, with a goal of killing more people than the terrorists did at Oklahoma City, the two school shooters at Columbine High School picked April 19 for their massacre — postponed by an unknown reason to April 20. On April 20, 1999, the two high school boys murdered 15 innocent students and teachers, seriously injuring many more. The tragedy at Columbine, then, took on great importance for several rampagers who followed them. Killers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and Virginia Tech studied and obsessed over Columbine, as did many others.


Columbine students grieve RMTNews
Anguished students embrace during the rampage at Columbine HS (Photo April 20, 1999 by George Kochaniec Jr Rocky Mountain News)  

How do communities, victims and survivors deal with the aftermath of mass shootings?

In my book, “After the Bloodbath: Is Healing Possible in the Wake of Rampage Shootings?,” I examine the aftermath of mass shootings and compare community and legal responses to responses in indigenous communities, with special attention devoted to restorative and therapeutic justice. I compare the aftermath of several shootings with a fatal massacre that occurred in March 2005 at the Red Lake High School on the reservation of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in northern Minnesota. For example, at Red Lake, in contrast with other massacres like Newtown, the family of the killer did not have any difficulty finding a place to bury the shooter, and the killer was given a traditional funeral and mourning rituals, which were well attended. Just as in Newtown, at Red Lake, a family member, the shooter’s grandfather, was the first victim, and like Newtown, access to the guns used could be attributed to the family member. Yet, at Red Lake the shooter’s grandfather was counted as a victim and, in contrast to many other rampages, not blamed for the killings. The grandfather was given a hero’s funeral which was very well attended.

What was most remarkable, though, was that the tribe included the killer’s family in distribution of victim compensation funds, helping to pay for his funeral expenses. In Red Lake, parents of victims thought the murderer deserved some recognition from the community so he would not, as a human being, be forgotten. A number victims’ relatives forgave the killer and considered the circumstances preceding the massacre.

There are more than 500 American Indian tribes in the United States and more than 200 tribal court systems. Indigenous peoples have a long history of restorative practices and engage in something called “peacemaking courts,” where they invite in elders, relatives and spiritual leaders and move toward restoring social bonds and healing the frayed social fabric. There are more lessons we can take from how indigenous peoples deal with mass shootings. Parents and family members of mass murderers, typically mourning as well, should be given empathy and, at a minimum, not treated as community pariahs.

While the world struggles in April to deal with the very real public health emergency, community cohesiveness, kindness and empathy are at a premium. The festering wounds associated with the still unresolved public health threat surrounding mass shootings, the linked suicide crisis, and a long list of suffering survivors will be painful throughout the month.

We have a lot to do to heal our planet.

After 15 Years, Red Lake Shooting Survivors Are Still Suffering

duluthnewstribune logo

The following National View Column appeared on March 20, 2020 in The Duluth News Tribune 


Duluth News Tribune
The Cedar Creek Singers perform in Duluth at a memorial for the victims of the Red Lake school shooting. Photo: Duluth News Tribune, 2005 

by James D. Diamond 

While the world struggles to deal with a very real public health crisis, community cohesiveness, kindness, and empathy are at a premium. There is a complexity to healing, though, and the newest threat does not eliminate those in the community already suffering — many invisibly. The wounds related to the looming public health threat surrounding mass shootings, the linked suicide crisis, and post-traumatic stress still fester.

Saturday, March 21 marks the 15-year anniversary of the school shooting at Red Lake High School on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. Although occurring somewhat sequestered from the public spotlight and amidst an independent indigenous sovereign, in many ways the 2005 rampage resembled other school shootings. A suicidal male student stole his grandfather’s guns, killed his grandfather and his girlfriend, broke into his own school, and shot a teacher and teenagers before taking his own life. Sadly, it has become a common American narrative and pattern.

At Red Lake there were warning signs. There are always warning signs, which, somehow, if heeded, might prevent tragedy. The warning signs at Red Lake, each taken alone 15 years ago, were not so alarming to make him a likely mass shooter. After the fact, though, they painted a very troubling picture. Not uncommon, the shooter at Red Lake was an obviously suicidal teenager crying for help. And, he had access to guns.


James Diamond’s Interview on Arizona Public Media


From Arizona Public Media: January of 2020 marks the ninth anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson that killed six people and injured thirteen, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Emma Gibson, the tribal affairs reporter at AZPM, spoke with lawyer, professor and author James D. Diamond about his book After the Blood Bath: Is Healing Possible in the Wake of Rampage Shootings?, which compares how Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities cope with the results of mass shootings.

Diamond AZPM Interview (Arizona Spotlight) January 16, 2020

Original link: radio.azpm.org/p/radio-azspot-ep…old-and-the-boys/ 


Can Hate Beget Healing? Looking Back at 2019 and for a Silver Lining in Responses to Rampage Shootings

In 2019, many lives were lost at the hands of mass shooters. These tragedies occur so frequently they have become the new normal. Nobody is surprised anymore. But, as 2019 came to a close, at least one small step was taken to address mass and school shootings—revisiting federal funding for the study of causes of gun violence.

We know so little about why men—and it is primarily men—go on shooting, mass murder rampages. As someone who spent decades teaching and practicing criminal law, my hypothesis is that the crisis is closely associated with suicide. Suicide is now the fourth-leading cause of adult deaths. Consider that in most, but not all, mass shootings, the killer expects to die in the melee in shootouts with responding police, or they actually kill themselves before the police can. Looking at the big picture, if you add in the availability of guns (powerful guns and ammo) plus the prevalent social conditions of depression, hopelessness, loneliness and isolation, bullying at schools, mental health and mental illness and intimate partner violence, the picture becomes slightly clearer.

What’s the best way to find out if mass shootings are really part of the suicide epidemic?  Medical research. Since 1996 the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute for Health were prevented by Congressional legislation from studying gun violence and causation in general. The move to cut the funding arose in response to efforts made in the early 1990s to begin treating gun violence as a public health issue. The 1996 legislation was called the “Dickey Amendment,” named after Congressman Jay Dickey of Arkansas. Dickey led the movement to add language to the 1996 federal budget that said that “[n]one of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.” Of course, medical research is not advocacy, but the language was included in every federal budget since. As a result, medical research became part of the overall gun control battle and fell victim to political gridlock. Some progress was made to clarify the intent of the research and the language in 2018, after the Parkland Marjory Stoneman High School massacre.

At the end of 2019, finally, $25 million was set aside set aside for the study.

Something else noteworthy happened in 2019. Some progress was made in how communities respond to mass shootings. It’s a subject I cover in a recent book, After The Bloodbath, Is Healing Possible In the Wake of Rampage Shootings? In the book, among other topics, I look at how a community responded on the reservation of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians after a fatal shooting at Red Lake High School. Consider, in 2019, two sisters, Tana and Brooke Risley. Brooke is a student at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, and Brooke is a recent graduate of the school. Last month, there was a fatal school shooting at the high school when a 16-year-old student opened fire with a .45 caliber handgun, killing two students and injuring several others before firing one last gunshot to his head. In the aftermath of the melee, Tina and Brooke created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the mother and sister of the shooter. Similarly, in 2005 the Tribal Council at Red Lake made efforts to support the killer’s family and help them pay for funeral costs.

Memorials in front of Saugus High School, November 19, 2019. Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News

“It is times like this that we must band together,” wrote the Risleys, “not to support the shooter and his actions, but to support his family. It is time to spread love, support kindness … Kindness is unconditional and constant. You are kind even when you don’t need to be, even when it is not convenient to be.”

In showing compassion to the family of the Red Lake school shooter, the people in Red Lake were not looking for recognition. The same goes for the Risley sisters. These days it’s a struggle to find anything upbeat to say about the shedding of so much innocent blood. Yet, Tana and Brooke found a way to light a spark of goodness amid painful darkness. Perhaps more light will be revealed into the causes of this deadly scourge after further federal medical research.

If the sisters in Santa Clarita are the future—as well as the children of Parkland in 2018 and other brave children of 2019—perhaps there is still hope for the rest of us.

James D. Diamond is the author of the book, After The Bloodbath: Is Healing Possible in the Wake of Rampage Shootings? He is dean of Academic Affairs of the National Tribal Trial College, holds a Doctor of Juridical Science degree (S.J.D.) from the University of Arizona College of Law and is the former director of the Tribal Justice Clinic there.



20 Facts About Mass Shootings You May Not Know

Red Lake Jeff May 10 yrs later
Jeffrey May at his home in Redby, MN on the Red Lake Reservation. 10 years earlier May saved countless students who were being shot by jumping the school shooter who paused to reload.  Photo: Jennifer Simonson, MPR News

  1. NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly saw mistaken TV news reporting that his wife, Gabby Giffords was killed in a mass shooting before he jumped on an airplane from Houston, TX to Tucson, Arizona.
  2. Liviu Librescu lived through a Nazi concentration camp in Romania only to be killed by the school shooter at Virginia Tech.
  3. The Marjory Douglas Parkland High School killer took an Uber to the rampage, packing his AR 15, ammunition and smoke bombs in his bag.
  4. When the UT Austin tower killer tried to take the elevator to the top of the tower to perpetrate the murders, the elevator was not working. He found a campus employee who activated the elevator for him.
  5. A significant number of mass shooters, at least 9 killed a family member first before going on a shooting rampage.
  6. While the school shooter at Red Lake High School, MN paused to reload his rifle, fellow student Jeffrey May tried to stop the attack by jumping the killer with a pencil; he was doing his math homework in study hall before the shooting.
  7. The killers at Columbine High School selected April 20th for their killing because it was Adolph Hitler’s birthday and was the anniversary of the Oklahoma City federal building tragedy.
  8. California woman Hannah Sindaha survived the Las Vegas Rte. 91 concert massacre, then a year later survived the Thousand Oaks barroom massacre. The day after Thousand Oaks she had to evacuate her home due to the Woolsey fire that claimed 3 lives.
  9. The F.B.I. does not have an official definition of a “mass shooting,” but Congress defined a “mass murder,” and changed it in 2013 from an incident with at least four fatalities to one with three.
  10. Mass shooters are male, with very few rare exceptions.
  11. Conspiracy theorists waged a campaign to convince the world the twenty children killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School were not really killed, their coffins were empty, and their grieving parents were actors.
  12. In 1977 Stephen King wrote a novel about a fictitious high school shooting titled “Rage” under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The book became associated with school shootings. Finally, after a copy of the book was found in the locker of Heath High School shooter Michael Carneal, King allowed the book to go out of print.
  13. There are often visible warning signs before a mass shooter acts. In one unusual case, the case of the murders at the AME Church in Charlestown, a friend of the killer was arrested and sent to prison for knowing about the planned spree and failing to take action to prevent it.
  14. The mass killer at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado claimed he picked the midnight showing of Batman movie Dark Knight Rises for his killing, thinking there wouldn’t be children in the theater at that hour. There were. He killed a 6-year-old girl.
  15. Because he was such a prolific gambler the Mandalay Bay Hotel gave Las Vegas Route 91 concert killer a free luxury suite that usually cost nearly $600 a night and allowed him to move his luggage containing a vast arsenal in the service elevators. He killed fifty-eight and wounded more than 800 people.
  16. Christina Taylor-Green, the nine-year-old victim killed in the Tucson massacre was the granddaughter of former baseball manager and player, Dallas Green. Green managed the New Yankees and other teams in the 1970’s-1990’s.
  17. Newspaper reporters at the Capital Gazette massacre in Maryland had the difficult assignment of having to write about a shooting they themselves witnessed, one that claimed the lives of their colleagues.
  18. In preparation for the massacre the Columbine killers stored in their bedroom closets the bombs they built and used in the massacre.
  19. After a fatal shooting at Red Lake High School, which is located on the Reservation of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, the Tribe used donations to help pay for the funeral of the shooter. That payment is unprecedented.
  20. The phrase “going postal” is believed to have been originated as a result of the 1986 massacre in Edmond, Oklahoma where a postal employee went on a workplace rampage, killing fourteen and injuring 7. The employee, a former Marine, received a series of negative performance reviews and was reprimanded earlier in the day before the killings. One of the victims of the massacre was the thirty-three-year-old Mike Rockne, grandson of Knute Rockne, the legendary Notre Dame football coach.

[James D. Diamond’s 2019 book, After The Bloodbath: IS Healing Possible In The Wake of Rampage Shootings is now available from the publisher, MSU Press  from your local bookstore, and all major digital booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. ]

“Where Angels Play:” Emilie’s Shady Spot

emilie parker playground 2
Children play as playground opens in New London Connecticut, November 17, 2013. Photo, YouTube

(This post was originally appeared in The Huffington Post on December 13 2017 and was updated in 2019).

They would be 13 or 14 years old now, and in the eighth grade. Maybe they’d be learning in school about American history and slavery and reading the novel Lord of the Flies. But those 20 innocent schoolchildren never made it out of first grade.

It’s been nearly seven years since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The bloodshed attributed to rampage shootings continues at a frenetic pace; to my count there have been more than 30 mass shootings since that unspeakable tragedy. While progress is being made in some related fields—school safety and neurological medical research, for example—the sheer number of incidents and innocent lives lost is so painful that whatever steps forward we are able to take get lost in a tsunami of profound sadness and regression. Sometimes it’s all we can do to brace ourselves for the next.

Rampage murders bear a striking resemblance to another American crisis—that of suicide. In most cases that’s what a rampage is. The murderers know they’ll be killed and often kill themselves before police can. That’s exactly what the Newtown killer did. Suicide is so preventable, but it is now the 10th-most common cause of death in the U.S. and, relevant to rampages, the second highest cause of death among young people. The most notable and striking difference between the rampage and most suicides is the rampager also kills many innocent people.

The motives of rampage killers like the Newtown murderer or the 2017 Las Vegas killer are unknown. Perhaps there’s something to be learned from the rare rampager who survives, like the killer in Aurora, Colorado (the 2012 “Dark Knight” theater massacre), or Tucson, Arizona (the 2011 “Congress on Your Corner” massacre).

There is persuasive evidence that rampage killers study the rampagers who came before them, even obsess about them, as the Newtown killer did. They try to outdo their predecessors and achieve a notoriety in death that was unachievable in life. On that point, I believe it would be a significant step toward progress if major news media stopped using killers’ names (as I did here), stopped publishing their pictures, ignored their rants and stopped declaring their murders as “the deadliest.” Why award bloodthirsty murderers with titles and achievements, like trophies on a mantel? The more we make these killers famous, the more we are assuring that there will be someone (or multiple someones) intent on breaking these “records” of infamy.

I went to a very moving ceremony a few years ago to honor the memory of Emilie Parker, one of the little angels murdered in Newtown. The ceremony was the opening of a playground in New London, Connecticut. It’s called “Emilie’s Shady Spot,” a lovely, playful, cheerful, pink playground, with pictures of butterflies. The playground was one of 26 built by a group of New Jersey firefighters and paid for by generous donations. Playing on the sparkling new equipment, the children were running, climbing and playing with bright smiles on their faces. I heard laughter. I fought back tears. More than 200 other people in attendance also fought back tears that morning. Sometimes it seems that’s all a person can do. Or is it? How many more playgrounds have to be built?

[James D. Diamond’s 2019 book, After The Bloodbath: IS Healing Possible In The Wake of Rampage Shootings is now available from the publisher, MSU Press  from your local bookstore, and all major digital booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. ]

Will California Execute A Native American Female Mass Shooter?

Cherie Lash-Rhoades murdered four people and critically injured two others in a 2014 shooting spree in the tribal headquarters of the Cedarville Rancheria, a small American Indian tribe in Northern California. It all happened during a meeting at the Alturas headquarters where tribal leaders were discussing the banishment of Lash-Rhoades. Lash-Rhoades was tried in Modoc County, California, and sentenced to death by Judge Candace Beason on Feb. 20, 2014, for killing her brother Rurik Davis, 50, her niece Angel Penn, 19, her nephew Glenn Calonicco, 30 and Sheila Russo, 47, the tribal administrator who handled tribal evictions.

Cherie Lash-Rhoades 

Lash-Rhoades is awaiting execution at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowville, California, where there are 21 women awaiting execution. But Lash-Rhoades and the other women are among the nearly 750 inmates who have been sentenced to death in California, and California has not executed any inmates since 1992. The status of the death penalty in the state is complicated by a series of voter propositions affirming it, while Gov. Gavin Newsome has imposed a moratorium on executions.

Lash-Rhoades was chairman of the small tribe, a tribe embroiled in a leadership dispute involving her own family, which led to an accusation that she had stolen more than $60,000 in tribal funds. Those allegations led to an eviction, and Lash-Rhoades came to the tribal headquarters where a hearing about the eviction was scheduled. Instead of a hearing, what followed was a harrowing murder spree.

Her conviction will be appealed to the California Supreme Court—an automatic appeal under California law. If her case is like other capital litigation, it is likely the appeal will languish for decades. California’s death row is the largest in the United States and likely the largest in the Western hemisphere.

The Cedarville Rancheria rampage killing should be viewed in the context of a disturbing move, largely on the West Coast of the U.S., where tribes are disenrolling thousands of their citizens. I wrote about the crisis in a friend of the court brief with the United States Supreme Court in the case of Aguayo v. Jewell where I explored the profound psychological impact tribal disenrollment has on native self-esteem. In that brief, I wrote: “Disenrollment thus perpetuates historical trauma by creating a loss of community, culture, tradition and identity that is associated with historical loss. Historic loss has been strongly associated with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and poly-drug use in Native youth.”

Disenrollment is thorny legal and political matter that poses civil rights squarely against the imperatives of native sovereignty. My colleagues Gabriel Galanda and Ryan Dreveskratch wrote a groundbreaking and expansive law review article on the subject in the Arizona Law Review: “Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic, in Search of a Remedy. 

Mass shootings on American Indian reservations are exceedingly uncommon. In light of the death penalty political turbulence in California, and its reluctance to execute anyone, is it possible it will ever execute a woman killer who is an indigenous Native American?