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April 4, 2009

ERIC TREISMAN: an Oscar Schindler for Tibetans, Dies in Santa Fe at 64

By Stephen Fox

Reminiscence on the passing of a fine Stanford Lawyer, Tibetan supporter, linguist, and friend of the internationally downtrodden, especially the Tibetans, whose "beachhead" in New Mexico he was instrumental in establishing.


Eric Treisman, Attorney, Tibetan Activist, Linguist, Scholar, and Author, Taken off of Life Support after Heart Attack, Passes On After 4 Day Coma, an Oscar Schindler figure for many Tibetans in the US

Dartmouth undergrad and Stanford Law School Grad, Eric Treisman is with us no longer. A few days after his second divorce was finalized, he had a massive heart attack, went into a coma for four days, and cat scans and MRI's showed little cerebral activity, except for the frontal lobe.

He was well known in many circles, especially the supporters of Tibetan
political causes and in the Democratic party for those who remember his 1996 run for the United States Senate nomination, which he lost to Art Trujillo, who then lost to incumbent Senator Pete Domenici. Treisman was a very early campaigner for the Space Port in Southern New Mexico. He was the personal lawyer for Paljor Thondup, founder of Project Tibet on Canyon Road, and for many years, Eric had his law office there at Project Tibet.

Before coming to Santa Fe in the late 70's, after finishing at Stanford,
he served as legal aide working for DNA Legal Services in Window Rock
Arizona, and he also worked in Alaska to help set up the Native Alaskan
Corporation, a tribal entity that benefits Eskimos and Innuit people.

He leaves behind a son from his first marriage, Zach Treisman, 33, and two young sons from his second marriage, Alexander, 8, and Aaron, 4. These two boys were the object of a fierce custody component in the divorce proceedings; Eric fought hard for the custody at a high price financially, and of course clearly a high price in terms of stress on his already overloaded heart.

His mother, Doris, an 86 year old social worker and psychotherapist, flew from the Bay Area to Santa Fe to be with the family and his close friends during his last moments.

With his sardonic humor, scathing wit, and uncannily high intelligence, Eric Treisman touched many lives as a most untypical lawyer. He took on
immigration cases for Tibetans, many times on a pro bono basis, did commercial litigation, and had one very long case that took almost twenty years regarding a thorough clarification of the fiscal relationship between tribes and the Department of Interior, a case he shared with his friend and colleague, Mike Gross.

Treisman's literary efforts included a stint at being Contributing Editor at Harper's starting when he was about thirty. He also published articles in the Rolling Stone and one in the Wall Street Journal described his ascent of the highest peak in the Caucasus Mountains.

Treisman was the most serious traveler and dedicated polyglot I have ever known; he had a working knowledge of Russian, Navajo, Tibetan, Hindi, Nepali, Chinese, and several European languages. He once hitch-hiked from the farthest outpost in western China, Chengdu, overland to the capitol of Tibet, Lhasa, arriving right in the middle of the 1992 "crackdown" instigated by the present President of China, Hu Jin Tao. He said that journey was something like a "1500 mile stretch resembling Upper Cerro Gordo Road" in Santa Fe; he filmed that adventure and many others, like to Japan, to the Copper Canyon in Mexico, mountain climbing all over the world (I believe he had made ascents of the highest peaks in 5 out of 7 continents). I saw the video and slide show of his circumambulation of Annapurna in Nepal.

Without delving into the irregularities and contradictions of how and why
a serious exerciser, hiker, and mountain climber could not only develop high
cholesterol, but extreme enough stress to have a massive heart attack at home several days after his divorce was finalized, in his own yard, and then be left alone enough long enough to destroy his ultra-fine brain: these are
questions for others to answer.

The Tibetan community lost a deep and important friend last year in the
tragic death by inebriated hit and run driver, with the passing of Lobsang
Lhalungpa. Almost a year later, we have lost another literally towering figure in the struggle to help Tibet: Eric Treisman, who left his birth faith of
Judaism to help another afflicted people, the Tibetans, suffering from the
same kind of genocide, yet much quieter and perhaps more insidious, at the
hands of China. He had several personal audiences with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Santa Fe during his visit in 1992, and in Dharamsala.

He used some connections with the Bush family to arrange an unprecedented meeting in 1991 between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and George Bush I, over fierce objections from the Chinese, and this resulted in an agreement by the US Government to accept in 1992 5000 Tibetans as immigrants to the United States. Virtually all of the 200 Tibetans in New Mexico came in that wave.

There were many other efforts on Eric's part to help these disadvantaged people, which made me realize after he passed away the similarities between him and Oscar Schindler.

Treisman was the kind of lawyer, and there are few indeed, who would take
off from work to go for a ten mile run, or a nightly climb up Atalaya and
back, or if he felt like it, a flight with a Dutch prince in a biplane from
St. Petersburg, Russia all the way across 7000 miles of Russia, 200 miles a
day, in a primitive biplane, all the way to Vladivostock. He was proud of his
cameo appearance in Robert Redford's Milagro Beanfield War, his one stint at acting.

He was raised as a liberal Jew, delved deeply into Tibetan Buddhism, and
yet still remained a member of Leonard Helman's Congregation and Synagogue, where his second marriage took place.

The last time I saw him, only an impossibly short two weeks ago, Eric was
so excited about being the point man and host for an anniversary celebration of his graduating class at Dartmouth College.

This is no ordinary obituary, nor was Eric any ordinary person. Please
make a contribution in Eric's memory to Project Tibet to projects to help
immigrants, a cause Eric Treisman would have stipulated as still vital to him,
after 30 years of never abandoning these people. In his memory, please take a few minutes and listen to Itzhak Perlman's performance of the John Williams theme from "Schindler's List"; here are the URLs from

click here>

Stephen Fox, Editor, New Mexico Sun News

Authors Website:

Authors Bio:

Early in the 2016 Primary campaign, I started a Facebook group: Bernie Sanders: Advice and Strategies to Help Him Win! As the primary season advanced, we shifted the focus to advancing Bernie's legislation in the Senate, particularly the most critical one, to protect Oak Flat, sacred to the San Carlos Apaches, in the Tonto National Forest, from John McCain's efforts to privatize this national forest and turn it over to Rio Tinto Mining, an Australian mining company whose record by comparison makes Monsanto look like altar boys, to be developed as North America's largest copper mine. This is monstrous and despicable, and yet only Bernie's Save Oak Flat Act (S2242) stands in the way of this diabolical plan.

We added "2020" to the title.

I am an art gallery owner in Santa Fe since 1980 selling Native American painting and NM landscapes, specializing in modern Native Ledger Art.

I have always been intensely involved in politics, going back to the mid's 1970's, being a volunteer lobbyist in the US Senate for the Secretary General of the United Nations, then a "snowball-in-hell" campaign for US Senate in NM in the late 70's, and for the past 20 years have worked extensively to pressure the FDA to rescind its approval for aspartame, the neurotoxic artificial sweetener metabolized as formaldehyde. This may be becoming a reality to an extent in California, which, under Proposition 65, is considering requiring a mandatory Carcinogen label on all aspartame products, although all bureaucracies seem to stall under any kind of corporate pressure.

Bills to ban aspartame were in the State Senates of New Mexico and Hawaii, but were shut down by corporate lobbyists (particularly Monsanto lobbyists in Hawaii and Coca Cola lobbyists in New Mexico).

For several years, I was the editor of New Mexico Sun News, and my letters to the editor and op/eds in 2016 have appeared in NM, California, Wisconsin, New York, Maryland, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and many international papers, on the subject of consumer protection. Our best issue was 10 days before Obama won in 2008, when we published a special early edition of the paper declaring that Obama Wins! This was the top story on CNN for many hours, way back then....

My highest accomplishments thus far are

1. a plan to create a UN Secretary General's Pandemic Board of Inquiry, a plan that is in the works and might be achieved even before the 75th UN General Assembly in September 2020.

2. Now history until the needs becomes clear to the powers who run the United Nations: a UN Resolution to create a new Undersecretary General for Nutrition and Consumer Protection, strongly supported ten years ago by India and 53 cosponsoring nations, but shut down by the US Mission to the UN in 2008. To read it, google UNITED NATIONS UNDERSECRETARY GENERAL FOR NUTRITION, please.

These are not easy battles, any of them, and they require a great deal of political and journalistic focus. OpEdNews is the perfect place for those who have a lot to say, so much that they exceed the limiting capacities of their local and regional newspapers. Trying to go beyond the regional papers seems to require some kind of "inside" credentials, as if you had to be in a club of corporate-accepted writers, and if not, you are "from somewhere else," a sad state of corporate induced xenophobia that should have no place in America in 2020!

This should be a goal for every author with something current to say: breaking through yet another glass ceiling, and get your say said in editorial pages all over America. Certainly, this was a tool that was essentially ignored in 2016, and cannot be ignored in the big elections of 2020.

In my capacity as Editor of the Santa Fe Sun News, Fox interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev: