- "Can you remember the times
- That you have held your head high
- and told all your friends of your Indian
- Proud good lady and proud good man
- Some great great grandfather from Indian
- and you feel in your heart for these
- Now That The Buffalo's Gone
- Buffy St. Marie
- "An injustice anywhere is
an injustice everywhere" -Samuel Johnson
- Who is Leonard Peltier and why
has he spent his last 27 years in prison? Who is Leonard Peltier
and why has he been sentenced to hell on earth?
- According to an affiliate of Physicians
for Human Rights, Leonard risks blindness, kidney failure and a stroke
in the future, given his inadequate diet, living conditions, and health
care. Leonard lives with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart
problems. But..how long will he live?
- Who is this man and why has he been subjected
to such inhuman conditions?
- There are no easy explanations for injustice.
- Leonard Peltier is a citizen of the Anishinabe
and Lakota Nations. He is a grandfather, an artist, a writer
and an Indigenous rights activist. He is a human being.
- Many Indigenous Peoples consider Peltier
a symbol of their history of abuse and repression. The National Congress
of American Indians and the Assembly of First Nations, representing the
majority of First Nations in the U.S. and Canada, have repeatedly called
for Leonard Peltier's freedom.
- According to Amnesty International, Leonard
is a political prisoner who should be "immediately and unconditionally
released." To the international community, the case of Leonard Peltier
is a stain on America's Human Rights record.
- Leonard came from a large family
of 13 brothers and sisters where he grew up in poverty.
When only eight years old, he was taken from his family and sent to
a residential boarding school for Native people run by the US Government.
In that school, the students were forbidden to speak their languages.
In that school, the students suffered both physical and psychological abuses.
- As a teenager Leonard Peltier returned
to live with his father at the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota
which was one of the three reservations that the United States
Government chose to test its new termination policy. This policy forced
Native families off their reservations and into the cities. Protests and
demonstrations ensued and Leonard Peltier was introduced to Native resistance
through activism and organizing.
- During a particularly difficult winter
on the Turtle Mountain Reservation, the people protested to the Bureau
of Indian Affairs over the lack of food. The termination
policy had withdrawn federal assistance from those who remained on their
land and the people had no food. As a result of the protests, B.I.A.
social workers came to the reservation to investigate the situation. Leonard
Peltier and one of the organizers on the reservation went from household
to household, before the arrival of the investigating party, to tell the
local people to hide what little food they had. What Peltier found
was that the people had no food to hide. The situation had grown desperate.
- In 1965, Leonard moved to Seattle,
Washington where he worked for several years as part owner of an auto
body shop which he used to employ Native people and to provide low-cost
automobile repairs for those who needed it. During that period, he was
also active in the founding of a Native halfway house for ex-prisoners. In
addition, he was a community volunteer whose work included
Native Land Claim issues, alcohol counseling, and participation in protests
concerning the preservation of Native land within the city of Seattle.
- In the course of his work, Peltier became
involved with the American Indian Movement (AIM) and eventually joined
the Denver Colorado chapter. In Denver, he worked as a community counselor,
a job in which he confronted unemployment, alcohol problems and poor housing.
He also became deeply involved in the spiritual and traditional programs
- Leonard Peltier's participation in the
American Indian Movement led to his involvement in the 1972 Trail of broken
Treaties which took him to Washington D.C. His AIM connection resulted
in assisting the Oglala Lakota People of the Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation in South Dakota in the mid 1970's. On Pine Ridge, Leonard participated
in the planning of community activities, religious ceremonies, programs
for self-sufficiency, and improved living conditions. He participated in
organizing security for the traditional people who were being targeted
for violence by the pro-assimilation tribal chairman and his vigilantes.
It was here that the tragic shoot-out of June 26, 1975 occurred.
It was this shootout that led to his wrongful conviction.
- An injustice anywhere is an injustice
- Mr. Leonard Peltier was one of several
AIM leaders who were present during the shoot out. There were murder charges brought
against him and his two friends and colleagues, Dino Butler and Bob Robideau. Butler
and Robideau stood trial separately from Peltier. Leonard fled
to Canada, where he was arrested, because he was convinced that he
would never receive a fair trial in the United States. At the trial of
Butler and Robideau a key prosecution witness, Mr. Draper, admitted that
he had been threatened by the FBI and as a result had changed his testimony
upon the agents' instructions, so as to support the government's position
. The jury found both men not guilty. They found that there was no evidence
to link the defendants to the fatal shots. Moreover, the exchange of gun
fire from a distance was deemed to have constituted an act of self defense.
- At Leonard's trial, the Federal Bureau
of Investigation provided only 3,500 documents to the defense team
and steadfastly claimed that these were all that existed. Years later,
through Freedom of Information Act , Peltier's legal team acquired
12,000 additional documents. These documents proved that the FBI had
withheld crucial evidence that had not been presented at the trial.
These withheld evidence had been used to wrongfully convict Leonard
Peltier. The FBI continued to withhold an additional 60,000 documents which The
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee has only recently succeeded in
acquiring. The documents are currently under review. The government is
still withholding approximately 100,000 documents concerning Leonard's
- In addition:
- There was no witness testimony that Leonard
Peltier actually shot the two FBI agents.
- There is no witness testimony that placed
Mr. Peltier near the crime scene before the murders occurred.
- Those witnesses placing Peltier, Robideau
and Butler near the crime scene after the killing were coerced and intimidated
by the FBI.
- There is no forensic evidence as to the
exact type of rifle used to commit the murders.
- Several different weapons present in
the area during the shoot out could have caused the fatal injuries. There
was more than one AR-15 in the area at the time of the shoot out. The AR-15
rifle claimed to be Mr. Peltier's was found to be incompatible with the
bullet casing near the agents' car. Although other bullets were fired at
the crime scene, no other casings or evidence about them were offered by
the Prosecutor's office. In conclusion, there is no reasonable evidence
that Mr. Peltier committed the murders. Instead there is very strong evidence
of FBI misconduct. http://www.freepeltier.org/peltier_faq.htm
- During a parole hearing in December 1995,
US prosecutor Lynn Crooks admitted again that no evidence exists against
Peltier. He further stated that the government never really accused him
of murder and that if Peltier were retried, the government could not reconvict.
The Parole Board, however, decided not to grant parole because Peltier
continues to maintain his innocence (they stated that Peltier had not given
a "factual and specific account of (his) actions...consistent with
the jury's verdict of guilt") and because he was the only one convicted.
As ridiculous as this reasoning sounds, it has thus far held up. A petition
for executive clemency after nearly 7 years from the time it was filed
with the Department of Justice, was refused by William Clinton. Clinton
pardoned several of his friends and business partners, but says he never
seriously thought of any such pardon for Leonard. http://www.aics.org/LP/
- "An injustice anywhere is an injustice
- Leonard Peltier has been in prison for
27 years. Despite the harsh conditions, he has continued to lead
an active life. He has made contributions to humanitarian
and charitable causes. He sponsors an annual Christmas drive for
clothes and toys for the children of Pine Ridge. He helped to
establish a Native American Scholarship fund. He assisted programs
for battered women and substance abuse recovery. He was instrumental
in improving medical care on the reservations. He worked to
assist other prisoners in developing a prison art program, and adopted
children in Guatemala and El Salvador through ChildReach. This is
only a partial list. As a result of these outstanding contributions, Peltier
received recognition and acclaim from many human rights groups, including
an award from the Human Rights Commission of Spain.
- Leonard Peltier feels that his spiritual
practices as well as the love and support from family and friends
have helped him to endure his circumstances. But how long will
he endure? He is a sick man who is not receiving
proper medical treatment.
- Will Leonard Peltier die in prison?
- "Never cease in the fight for peace,
justice, and equality for all people. Be persistent in all that you do
and don't allow anyone to sway you from your conscience." -Leonard
- Copyright: 2006