My name is Larry St. Laurent. I am a convicted felon awaiting
transfer to San Quentin State Prison in California. During the past
year, as I have been going through the justice process, I have become
quite familiar with Signs of the Times®.
I have a short story to share with you about how your magazine has
influenced me as well as some of my fellow inmates.
I will start by saying that I am a Native American, and I was
raised with a lot of teachings that are different from conventional
Christianity. But I was taught that it's especially important to respect
every person's ways.
One evening a group of my Indian brothers and I were singing
traditional songs in the multipurpose room of our housing unit. One
us, who was fighting a double-murder charge, was filled with anger, and
his eyes carried a fierce intenseness in to them. The rest of us felt
rather afraid of him. I had a copy of Signs magazine with me,
which this brother—I'll call him Bear—kept eying suspiciously, then
looking at me. I could feel his stare burning into me. After we
finished a prayer song, he said, "What are you? Some kind of Christian
Before I could answer, he continued. "That's a white man's
religion. Keepers of that faith have murdered our people for hundreds
He finished by taunting that since I'm not a full-blooded Indian, I'm
doomed to the white man's ways.
I got up and left the room. That night I caught weird glances
from the rest of my brothers. I was dumbfounded. I didn't know what to
say. All I
could think about was that my grandfather had told me to respect
everyone's ways. So that night I prayed that God would give me the
insight needed to show Bear that there's another way. For the next few
days I was like an outsider to my brothers, for in jail people tend to
follow the biggest, meanest guy around, even if he isn't necessarily
A few days later an elder from our tribe came into jail for
pay traffic fines. His name was Donald Snakebites. He was known to our
people as a great medicine man, a singer, and a storyteller. Even Bear
knew of him and was humbled by his presence. To my surprise, the prison
officials moved Snakebites into my cell. I moved my stuff up to the top
bunk so Snakebites could have the bottom one. He was going to be
seventy-two on his next birthday, and he didn't need to be jumping up
and down off a bunk bed, even though he could probably have done it as
easily as any one of us younger inmates. The old guy had fire in his
After he settled in, we had dinner. The way everyone acted
around Snakebites was almost strange. They all argued about who could
sit the closest to him and offer him their food. I was amazed at the
respect shown this man.
After meals there is a lockdown period of about one and a half
hours, during which we were confined to our beds. During this time
Snakebites asked if I had any reading material. I eagerly rummaged
through my stuff, looking for something he might like. I showed him National
Geographic, People, and Time. He wasn't interested in
any of these. Then he saw my copy of Signs magazine and asked if
he could read it. He said that his wife got it for him at home, and he
loved it. He seemed as happy as a school boy when I handed him Signs
of the Times®.
After lockdown was over, Bear came over to invite Snakebites
to the multipurpose room for songs. Snakebites said, "Sure." As he was
getting up, he asked me if I would join them. I explained what had
happened earlier in the week, and he seemed to be a little bothered by
it. He asked me again to join him in the group, and reluctantly I
agreed. Snakebites carried the copy of Signs with him to the
We sat in the circle and began to sing, with Snakebites
leading the songs.
I noticed Bear's eyes were wide and his mouth was open as he looked at
the magazine in Snakebite's lap. After singing the gathering song,
Snakebites spoke, telling the circle where our people came from, how we
are related to all people, and that it's most important to respect
He told stories about your magazine—how people overcame
challenges and temptations and gained new perspectives from it. Bear
listened intently, soaking it all up, especially when Snakebites spoke
about how compassionate and forgiving the Lord is to us all who ask.
Snakebites pointed out the contrast to our Native religion, which
teaches that when you kill someone, you lose your right to participate
in very important ceremonies and traditions that we hold dear.
About this time I noticed Bear starting to tear up. Later that
evening, Bear approached Snakebites and me and asked if Jesus would
forgive him for what he'd done. That evening we prayed with Bear, and
from that day on, he and I have become great friends.
At the time he wrote this article, Larry St. Laurent was an
inmate at the Humboldt County Jail in Eureka, California. He has since been released.