Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XVIII Number 4, April 2010


Tuesday, April 20, 7:30 PM. Kalaya'an 
Mendoza, AIUSA Field Organizer, gives talk at 
Caltech, Beckman Institute Auditorium. This 
event is sponsored by the Caltech Y Social 
Activism Speaker Series and co-sponsored by 
AI Group 22. Topic: "Activism v 2.0: 
Technology and Grassroots Organizing".

Thursday, April 22, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. Caltech Y is located off San Pasqual 
between Hill and Holliston, south side. You will 
see two curving walls forming a gate to a path-- 
our building is just beyond. Help us plan future 
actions on Sudan, the 'War on Terror', death 
penalty and more.  

Tuesday, May 11, 7:30 PM.  Letter writing 
meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner of Hill 
and California in Pasadena. This informal 
gathering is a great way for newcomers to get 
acquainted with Amnesty!   

Sunday, May 16, 6:30 PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion group. This 
month we read "50 Miles from Tomorrow: A 
Memoir of Alaska and the Real People" by 
William Iggiagruh Hensley.


Hi everyone
It is a beautiful spring day as I look out the 
window from our office room onto the thicket of 
trees forming a barrier between our place and the 
apartments next door. 
It's spring and time to be outdoors.  Join us for the 
annual City of Pasadena Greening the Earth Day 
and Armory Family Arts Festival Saturday April 
24 from 10am to 4pm as we encourage adults 
(and kids!) to take action for environmental 
causes and activists.  We met some interesting 
folks last year while we were doing our stint at 
the table, including a group of young people fresh 
from a "quince" (quinceanera)!
Spring in New Orleans - I can just imagine how 
beautiful it is.  I have never been there, but our 
intrepid globe-trekkers Joyce and Lucas attended 
the AI Annual General Meeting (AGM) in N'leans 
a few weeks ago.  Read all about it in this 

Con carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting: 
Sunday, May 16, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Boulevard
 In Pasadena

 50 Miles from Tomorrow
A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People 
by William Iggiagruh Hensley

Author Biography

William L. Iggiagruk Hensley was a founder of the 
Northwest Alaska Native Association and spent 
twenty years working for its successor, the Inuit-
owned NANA Regional Corporation. He also 
helped establish the Alaska Federation of Natives 
in 1966 and has served as its director, executive 
director, president, and co chair. He spent ten 
years in the Alaska state legislature as a 
representative and senator, and recently retired 
from his position in Washington, D.C., as 
manager of federal government relations for 
Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

Hensley and his wife, Abigale, live in Anchorage, 
where-now an Inupiat elder-he is the chair of 
the First Alaskans Institute.

From the Washington Post

A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People
By William L. Iggiagruk Hensley

Late in this illuminating memoir, the author 
recounts a transcendent moment. The time is 
1977, the place is Barrow, Alaska, and the 
occasion is a whaling convention that has evolved 
into a momentous gathering of Inuit (the "real 
people" as they call themselves) from the United 
States, Canada and Greenland. As William L. 
Iggiagruk Hensley explains, it's the first meeting of 
these far-flung Inuit groups since they migrated 
eastward from Asia 5,000 years ago. Amazingly, 
given the millennia of separation, they find the 
several versions of Inupiaq, their common 
language, to be mutually intelligible. Powered by 
linguistic euphoria, they talk and dance and, 
above all, sing. "We celebrated as long as our 
bodies didn't fail us," Hensley writes, "and slept 
only long enough to resume the orgy of Inupiaq 
communication that had so long eluded us." 
 Hensley's life story epitomizes the upheavals 
his people have endured. He was born above the 
Arctic Circle, alongside Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, 
in 1941, to a Lithuanian fur trader and an Inuit 
mother. His father deserted them, and his mother 
was a mess. When a cousin discovered the boy 
and his sister (from a different, unknown father) 
living in squalor in Nome, he took them back to 
Kotzebue, apparently with their mother's consent. 
There they grew up in straitened circumstances: 
tiny house, not enough beds, no indoor plumbing, 
no electricity. 
"I think of those early years of my life as the 
twilight of the Stone Age," Hensley writes, but he 
was now among villagers who knew how to get 
the most from the land and sea. High among the 
qualities that sustained them was their awareness 
of having inherited a proven way of life, in which 
older female relatives commonly raised kids who 
turned out just fine despite being fatherless. It 
was a vigorous, outdoorsy existence, though the 
absence of dentists and the Inuit habit of using 
their teeth as tools (to cut animal skins, for 
example) wreaked havoc inside everyone's mouth. 
Most of the defeats inflicted on the children 
had nothing to do with absent fathers or the 
unforgiving natural environment. It was their 
"betters" who relentlessly humiliated and 
punished them: the Christian missionaries, who 
condemned their traditional religion and frowned 
on dancing; the teachers at the Bureau of Indian 
Affairs school, who forbade them to speak 
Inupiaq and saw to it that, in Hensley's words, 
"schoolwork . . . excluded any mention of the 
ancient music, art, dance, and history of their 
own people." 
Hensley's deracination became more severe 
than most: At age 15, encouraged and subsidized 
by a local minister, the boy was sent off to 
Tennessee, where he attended high school at a 
Baptist academy. Like most teenagers, however, 
he was eager to conform, and his intelligence and 
football skills helped him fit in. He went on to 
George Washington University. Being in the 
capital awakened an interest in politics (he 
attended the 1963 March on Washington and 
listened to Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his "I 
Have a Dream" speech); after graduating in 1966, 
Hensley returned to Alaska a budding activist. 
He worked on various phases of the 1971 
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which 
conveyed 40 million acres of federal land in 
Alaska to its natives, to be managed by native-
run corporations set up for that purpose (as a 
young lawyer at the Interior Department, this 
reviewer played a very small part in getting the 
law passed). In 1974, Hensley ran unsuccessfully 
for the U.S. House (he lost to Don Young, who, 
more than three decades later, is still Alaska's 
But as Hensley tells it, the signal event of his 
life was an "epiphany" in Nome, a town where the 
wreckage of native Alaskans' lives was starkly 
visible. Earlier, his greatest fear had been that his 
people would lose their land; in Nome, he became 
saddened by the possible loss of their identity. In 
trying so hard to assimilate, he decided, "we were 
digging our own cultural grave." 
Hensley followed through on this insight by 
helping to develop a camp at which young Inuit 
can learn their folkways. This is an admirable 
initiative, but Hensley says little about what 
success, if any, it and related programs have had. 
Are young Inuit growing up able to speak both 
Inupiaq and English these days? Have hunting 
skills been passed on? Has the incidence of 
chronic alcoholism declined? 
Even without the answers to such questions, 
however, "Fifty Miles from Tomorrow" is an 
entertaining and affecting portrait of a man and 
his extraordinary milieu. 

AGM 2010 
By Lucas Kamp and Joyce Wolf

Amnesty International USA held its Annual 
General Meeting (AGM) April 9-11 in New 
Orleans. This was the first AGM for me, and I 
picked a good one! It started with a bang (drum) 
and a blast (horns) as a traditional New Orleans 
brass band led us through the streets on a rally for 
Katrina victims. Marchers carried signs bearing 
the AI candle logo and messages such as 
"Returning Home is a Human Right" and 
"Healthcare is a Human Right". At City Hall, 
Larry Cox spoke and Bernice Johnson Reagon led 
us in singing "This Little Light of Mine". See the 
video at

Before the AGM started, I took a post-Katrina 
tour and saw the Ninth Ward and other hard-hit 
areas that had been flooded to depths of 10 to 12 
feet. It's quite different from tourist areas such as 
the French Quarter. The neighborhoods often 
appear superficially lush and green since there 
are so many vacant lots where houses had to be 
demolished. Nearly 5 years later, clinics and 
police and fire departments are still working out 
of trailers. It's very difficult for people to comply 
with all the regulations necessary to get financing 
in order to rebuild or repair their homes, and 
many have not been able to return to New 
Orleans. See

The evening plenary session opened with a video 
tribute to Howard Zinn, author of A People's 
History of the United States. 
AL8w) Unfortunately my hero Gloria Steinem 
could not appear as scheduled, but the highlight 
was an inspiring speech by Bernice Johnson 
Reagon. She reflected on her lifelong involvement 
with the civil rights movement, starting with her 
1961 arrest at a Georgia demonstration. She broke 
into song whenever that suited her better than 
spoken words.

AIUSA Director Larry Cox announced in the 
Saturday morning plenary that he was having "a 
hell of a time in New Orleans, in all senses". 
Reviewing the past year, he said that in spite of 
last year's 25 percent cut in resources, AIUSA still 
managed to set a record in the Write-a-thon and 
conduct effective campaigns. The session 
concluded with a panel on Maternal Health.

Saturday afternoon presented a choice of 
workshops. Lucas went to "Counter Terror with 
Justice." I attended "Individuals At Risk," where 
a former prisoner of conscience from Myanmar 
(Burma) spoke of her ordeal. In 1993 she was 
given a 20-year sentence for the crime of 
"endangering public serenity". Prisoners were not 
allowed to read or write anything at all. She knew 
of Amnesty's support for her and it helped to 
keep her strong, along with her Buddhist faith. 
She was never allowed to receive any cards or 
letters, but after her release in 1999 she learned 
that the Myanmar officials had filed every letter 
from Amnesty about her case in a huge dossier.  
The workshop closed with a request for photos 
for the "Stand with Suu Kyi" campaign. I 
promised Group 22 would do that!

Later in the afternoon Lucas attended the Local 
Groups Caucus and then a workshop on 
Diversifying Our Movement facilitated by our 
own field organizer Kala. I went to a Program 
Session on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights 
(ESCR). The presenters debunked common ESCR 
myths: that they are unenforceable, not well 
defined, incompatible with capitalism. They 
explained the international legal framework of 
Covenants and Treaties, and the oversight and 
enforcement mechanisms implemented by UN 
Committees in Geneva. They handed out flash 
drives containing texts of the Covenants, case 
examples, etc. For me, the presentation did much 
to dispel my uneasy feeling that ESCR were 
somewhat fuzzy and arbitrary. I'm happy to 
share that flash drive with anyone interested.

Saturday evening we attended the Western 
Region reception. The Director for the Southern 
Region, also acting director for our region, 
appeared briefly and said he hoped we would 
soon get our own director. Longest Amnesty 
membership was claimed by a Colorado woman  
35 years! I spoke with people from San Diego, 
Seattle, and New Mexico. Lucas got a chance to 
chat with Isabel, the WRO intern who was so 
helpful with Group 22's presentation to the 
Flintridge school in Feb.

The Resolutions Plenary Sunday morning went 
quite smoothly. We voted on 12 resolutions, all of 
which had been passed by one or more Regional 
conferences. One interesting amendment to the 
Youth Strategy resolution instructed AIUSA to 
establish a mechanism for transitioning student 
members to local groups. Maybe our group will 
get an influx of fresh young folks!

The closing plenary included a panel on the Death 
Penalty. Speakers were a death row exoneree 
(John Thompson), a former death row warden 
(Allen Ault), an advocate for ex-offenders who 
was himself wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years 
(Norris Henderson), and the brother of the 
Unabomber (David Kaczynski).  Thompson and 
Henderson spoke about the difficulties and lack 
of support for the formerly incarcerated, 
especially in Louisiana. Kaczysnski said families 
of victims and families of offenders were united 
in suffering, and mostly middle-class white anti-
DP advocates should reach out to people of color 
and try to connect anti-DP with community anti-
violence work. Ault gave a no-nonsense answer to 
the question of why much of the public is pro-DP: 
Fear, mostly racial, which politicians play on. 

The AGM ended with readings from Howard 
Zinn's "The People Speak" and poetry and music 
by Asia Rainey and Dave Tieff. Wow! What an 
incredible three days of learning, enthusiasm, and 
inspiration, not to mention food, music, and New 

Save the date for AGM 2011: March 17-19 in San 
Francisco, celebrating Amnesty's 50th anniversary. 
I can hardly wait to learn what Kala and our 
Western Region are going to come up with  
maybe not a brass band, but something even 
better? See you there!


I just want to add a few words describing some of 
the sessions that I attended but Joyce didn't.  The 
first (and best, to my mind) one was the Counter 
Terror With Justice session, which featured Tom 
Parker, the AIUSA Policy Director for Terrorism, 
Counterterrorism and Human Rights, who has 
served as a counterterrorist official with the 
British army in Iraq.  He reviewed the progress of 
the Obama government in this area over the past 
year and drew a pretty bleak picture.  To focus on 
just one of the issues, closing down Guantanamo, 
Obama has only released about 50 prisoners, 
whereas under Bush about 550 were released out 
of the original number of approximately 700.  
There is a further issue with the fate of these 
prisoners after release:  90% cannot find work and 
no money or effort is devoted to helping them.  
There are about 100 inmates who have been 
cleared but cannot find any country to take them;  
in all, 11 countries have accepted released 
prisoners, but the US has not accepted a single 
one.  At the end, I went up to one of the 
facilitators and mentioned Paula's objections to 
the name of the campaign, "Counter Terror with 
Justice".  She agreed that it does not send a clear 
message and said that others had also objected, 
particularly to the implication that AI recognizes 
the "War on Terror" that Bush proclaimed, 
whereas AI objects strongly to this.  She also 
mentioned that the name did not originate within 
AI, but was proposed by an outside PR firm.  
Also, it turns out that the name will be changed 
soon, as the campaign is going international, 
which makes the current name even less suitable.

The Local Groups caucus was quite good.  The 
session split up into 6 smaller groups, each of 
which was assigned one question and had about 
20 minutes to brainstorm in thinking up answers.  
Ours was "How do you attract, introduce and 
retain new members" - which is always a burning 
issue for us!  Some interesting ideas were put 
forward.  One very useful point that was made in 
this session was that the AIUSA Country Group 
specialists (the so-called "Co-group") are 
available to come to speak to Local Groups.  It 
might be a good idea for us to invite one, at some 
point.  I will try to obtain a list of these; there are 
apparently about 100 of them.

I also attended Kala's Workshop on Anti-
Oppression Strategies for Activists.  The first half 
was an interactive development of a checklist of 
"isms" (e.g., racism, sexism) which we encounter 
in our work (and in daily life) and need to form 
strategies against.  Then, we split into 3 smaller 
groups and were assigned a sample case of a 
controversial statement about Western aid to 
Africa, of which we were to discuss both the 
contents and our personal reactions to it.  I  found 
the connection to the first part of the session a bit 
unclear, but the discussion was very stimulating, 
so it was worth while.  Finally, we all moved into 
the main hall, formed a giant circle, and did an 
"interactive theater" exercise that was quite 

All in all, this was a very inspiring and 
educational AGM!  I think it was the best I've yet 
attended (three, so far).

- Lucas

UA's    28
Total   28
To add your letters to the total contact                                                                                                        

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code 5-62
Pasadena, CA 91125