Leonard Peltier Writes about His Years in a US Prison: <i>My Life Is My Sun Dance</i> as a Literary Text

  • Márgara Averbach Temple University Press


This article analyzes Leonard Peltier’s book about his years in prison as a literary work from my perspective as a nonindigenous scholar in Argentina who studies the US racial order. It tracks the author’s concept of prison in the book, a concept which Peltier attributes to his worldview as a Lakota. The concept and the worldview are omnipresent in My Life Is My Sun Dance, not only in the ideas but also in the structure, the mixture of genres, the idea of political struggle and its consequences, the relationship depicted between the author-character and the world inside and outside prison, the idea of language and communication, and also the relationship with nature and the need and building of community inside and outside prison. From the title onward, the “Indian Way” is presented as the center of life for Leonard Peltier, a tool to survive in a panoptic prison and to use in writing—another weapon in the fight for freedom, understanding, and survival. The book itself is one way to not disappear from the world, one way to struggle against the invisibility of prisoners in general and Native American prisoners in particular.