Long Soldier's Claims of Racism


Van Dyken Long Soldier's website's predominate theme is that his conviction and incarceration are a result not of his actions but due to racial prejudice. 

There is no doubt that the Native American community received horrendous  treatment during much of the history of the United States and in many cases is still not treated with the respect and equality that they rightfully deserve. However, Van Dyken Long Soldier's conviction and sentencing are not a result of his Native American heritage. They are the result of a brutal and deliberate crime that he committed on December 6th, 1984. 

Deputy Kimery did not know, nor did he care about the race of the person that he was about to stop for petty theft.

The officers who fingerprinted and photographed Van Dyken when he arrived at the jail were unaware of his Native heritage and entered white or Caucasian on the fingerprint cards.

There was no mention of Van Dyken's Native heritage in newspaper coverage until midway through the first trial. The defense, during Arnold Melnikoff's cross examination (of hair and fiber comparison testimony) stated that Van Dyken was Native American. Melnikoff responded that he was was unaware of the fact until that time. The reporting of that testimony in the September 14, 1985 Missoulian is the only mention of Van Dyken's native heritage that I have been able to find in local newspapers.

The truth is that Van Dyken's Native heritage was largely unknown among the population of Missoula and even within the local law enforcement community.

The claim that his attorney cut his "braids" off minutes before his first trial is not  true. Van Dyken did receive a haircut (he did not have braids) and shave as shown in these photos from the Missoulian newspaper.

Photo taken shortly after arrest
 Dec. 1984

Photo taken April 1985
5 months prior to trial

Photo taken after first trial
Sept. 1985
Sorry about the poor quality of photos - they were scanned from newspaper microfilm.

Van Dyken Longsoldier's characterization of his conviction and incarceration as "ongoing genocide of a race of people, the Native Americans" on his website and petition denigrates the Native American community. 

If you are interested in comparing the Van Dyken case with other incidents in which suspects have attempted to kill law enforcement officers in our area - some similar cases can be found here. His sentence is totally consistent with other criminals who have killed police officers in Montana regardless of race.

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