I was nineteen years old when I was taken captive and framed for these crimes. I'm forty-one years old today. In all this time, I have been wrongfully deprived of the simplest freedoms and luxuries. I cannot walk outside and breathe fresh air when I want to. Or hike into the mountains and drink or wash in the cold river if I choose to. I cannot provide for and look after those of my most vulnerable and dependent loved ones. I cannot attend sacred and social gatherings with my family, my tribe, or fellow tribes.
The last time I saw my Mother was eighteen years ago when she sat before the jury asking them not to kill me for a crime I didn't commit. I wasn't even allowed to give her a hug that day.
My name is Orlando Dantes Watley. And I am a political prisoner.
Orlando Watley is a Chickasaw Native. He was born and raised in Corcoran, California, a small rural farming community in central California.
He was falsely convicted and imprisoned of a triple homicide. A 1993 triple homicide.
He went to trial in 1995. What came out was that the main criminalist who was involved in taking the DNA evidence that put him away was falsifying the DNA evidence.
And what we have now is a case where he has been wrongfully imprisoned for twenty-two years.
He was picked up on a double armed robbery and a double attempted murder. And they held him in there but he was acquitted for that charge.
While he was facing those charges he was also charged with a triple homicide. It is important to note that during that time, they were trying to close all of these unsolved crimes in this area: Riverside County and three of the most affluent communities of Riverside County. They were targeting people, they were targeting colored people and Native Youth.
He was picked up going to register himself into school. He knew right off the bat that he was targeted.
He fought that initial charge and he was acquitted. He was acquitted of the double armed robbery and the double attempted murder.
When he was in there for the triple homicide, he thought the same thing was going to happen. That the judge and the jury, they would see his innocence.
When you start looking at all of these cases here in the so-called America. And you look at the jail house snitches. And you look at the junk science they use to put people away. And we know that they're targeting the colored people.
Orlando Watley's case is a case for freedom. It's a case to expose the injustice that is happening here in this country.
The judicial system, the prison system that puts our people away. The prison system depends on putting countless numbers of Indigenous and African people away to keep those prisons afloat. Its a business and a moneymaker. And they are still using our people as modern day slaves.
And he is caught up in that. And he is one-hundred percent innocent.
They have sweat lodge in there every Sunday.
We were walking up to the B visiting area there. We heard them, they were singing the AIM song, the American Indian Movement song. They were singing it really loud. That's a freedom song. That's a warrior song. That's what we sing when we fight. I just felt so proud that I started singing with them.
He goes to sweat lodge. He runs those sweats there for the brothers.
He is a very articulate and intelligent man. He studied science. He studied how the system worked, how this judicial system worked to get him in there. Not just the judicial system. But all of these colonial institutions that are forced on us as Indigenous people.
These aren't our ways. We had our own laws. We had our own ways to govern ourselves. And they are snatching our people up.
He sings traditional songs. He teaches the brothers traditional songs. One thing he always says is that 'Every breath is a prayer. Every single breath is a prayer.' If we were all to live our life like that, and taking the sacredness behind every breath we take as a prayer, we wouldn't be living in this type of madness and mayhem in the society.
He never saw his Mom, for eighteen years, like eighteen years. And that touched me. And so I drove up to Corcoran and picked his Mother up, and we drove all the way down to Calipatria, which took a long time. And we went in to go visit her son. But they turned us away on that Saturday, because her California I.D was expired, so she couldn't go in to visit him. And when he came in he was shocked, 'where is she?' I said 'no, they wouldn't let her in because her I.D., it was expired. You could just see in his spirit how that affected him.
As soon as I got back to the hotel room I called the prison, I called the prison directly. I was like 'Let me talk to whoever is in charge of the visits, let me talk to the lieutenant, sergeant, whoever it is.' I just got messages, left a bunch of messages. The next morning I said, 'Ok, I'm going to go early and talk to the sergeant, right there at the visiting,' and they said yeah, they'll accept her visiting that day. So I went and grabbed her and went in. He didn't expect her to be able to get in that second day, so when he came into the visiting area, and he saw her there, yeah, that was...[sigh]. Just being a Mother, you know, just being a Mother I know how she touched, how they touched each others hearts without even saying any words, just the power of a Mother and Son. They just held each other. And she said, 'I don't even know what to say'... He said 'you don't have to say anything, you just sitting here beside me is enough.' And so we all just sat there.
It's happy, because you can be there and you can see your family and your loved ones. But at the same time, it's so inhumane. Who would do that to another human being? But it was one of the most memorable experiences and memories that I'll hold for a lifetime. To be able to be a part and witness that. As a Mother, I would never ever want to see my Son go through something like that.
I was his first non-family visit in all those years he was down. It's pretty powerful energy that's exchanged when you have someone held in a box for that long. I was like, I'll bring freedom with me, I'll bring freedom with me. So one time, after a visit, we were leaving the visiting area, and he had let out a little war hoop. And there was all the gate, fence and high barb wire on there. So I looked over and I was walking with all the women and all the wives and the mothers walking out. My spirit wanted to just war cry. And I was like, I'm not gonna hold it back. So I pumped my fist and war cried. And all those prisoners just looked over. And later I find out they said 'Wow, she did that, she did that. We felt that, we felt that.' They need that in there, they need that.
So we are calling on legal and forensic experts, molecular biologists, that could come forward to help sift through major amounts of case documents. We are looking for law students, activists, anybody that could come and feel it in their heart to be able to help an innocent man be free. We are also looking for prayers, we're asking for medicine people, for spiritual people to share and send prayers for his freedom. We're looking for people to donate. We have a paypal, its under the Orlando Watley Innocence Project. People could contact us if they want to help and volunteer or if they have contacts for people that they think may be helpful for us. We are looking for exposure. We want people to share this with their family and friends. To get this out to the world to free Orlando Watley.
Throughout the whole Americas, they're picking our people up. I was just talking to one of the Mayan sisters from Guatemala, and their whole fight too, they're fighting for their political prisoners. And down in Mapuche Territory, they're fighting for their political prisoners. Up in Canada, here in the U.S.
Their police and their military were formed, and their first operations were against Indigenous Peoples, were against the resistance opposing their colonial institutions. It was our people fighting for the land.
They didn't just pick up Geronimo and the warriors and hold them in the prisons and in the concentration camps. They picked up everybody. Because of the color of our skin, because of what's in our blood, the blood and bones of us and our connection to the Earth.
These prison systems, our ancestors would never do this to our people. There were other ways that we conducted and upheld our laws.
These are major Indigenous and human rights violations, by forcing us into their court system, by forcing us into their prison system... They do not have jurisdiction or authority over us.
When you walk to the top of a mountain, and you look down and you see a complete valley that's untouched. And you see the creeks that are forming into rivers. And you see the glaciers. And you are able to breathe fresh air. And see the deer live free. And the moose live free. And the bears live free. And you can stand at the top of the mountain and shout out a war cry of freedom. That is what we all deserve.
But when you look at all the mining, and the oil pipelines, and the oil and gas industry and the major transportation corridors that are cutting through our lands. And you look at Indigenous People forced on to Indian reservations. And Indigenous People displaced into major urban settings and cities. You see our freedom being taken from us.
I say those prayers outside the prison gates. And I lay my tobacco and my prayers down. And I see it. I see him walking out of there.
It's connecting us because it's connecting out spirits with each other for something so great as to be able to stand at the top of a mountain and shout those cries of freedom. Not just for Orlando Watley, but for the deer and the water and the trees. For our people. For us as Indigenous People to have freedom.