Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance
by Leonard Peltier
Now in paperback!
WISCONSIN CAN HELP
FREE LEONARD PELTIER
About Leonard Peltier
Oct. 1999 Letter from Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
July 15, 1999 Amnesty International on Peltier
August 1999 Leonard Peltier, a Victim of the Multinational Energy Corporations
June 22, 1999 Peltier's case back in court!
Apr. 30, 1999 Danielle Mitterrand president of the human rights organization France Libertes is visiting Leonard as this is being posted.
Apr. 16, 1999 Amnesty International Calls for the Release of Leonard Peltier
Feb. 6, 1998 Leonard Peltier's Statement
The Legacy of Wounded Knee
Updates: 2001 Peltier, FBI , parole 2000 Jan.-early Nov. 2000
1999 Mar. 1998
Link to: Caged Warrior Boulder Weekly interviews Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier: Call to the White House
Calls to the White House to tell them what you think can be costly, but not if you know their toll-free 800 number. Just call 800-663-9566 during business hours.
Then hit 0 and tell the operator to connect you with a responsible person regarding your concern. With persistence you might get them to promise to tell it to Clinton or his staff, and let you know when they've done it. You can then write to that person and repeat your concern so they have it exactly. Ask their name and e-mail address if you want. Persistence pays ! "Martha Ture"
We currently have 2190 (07/17/00) signatures supporting the release of Leonard Peltier. How many more can we get?
Leonard Peltier is a Native American who has been falsely imprisoned since 1976 - for a crime he did not commit. He is currently being held in the Leavenworth (Kansas) federal penitentiary.
Peltier's case is known throughout this country and abroad. Among the groups and figures supporting him are Amnesty International, Nobel Peace Prize recipients Rigoberta Menchu and Nelson Mandela, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and parliamentarians from Italy, Canada, and other countries. Peltier's case has become an international embarrassment for the U.S. justice system.
His story has been covered by the movies Thunderheart and Incident at Oglala, and the books In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Agents of Repression, COINTELPRO, Lakota Woman, and The Trial of Leonard Peltier. Support for Peltier's release or new trial has also come from dozens of U.S. senators and congressional representatives.
Leonard Peltier (a Lakota / Chippewa from North Dakotas Turtle Mountain Reservation) was among the many Indian organizers trying to aid Oglala of South Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation during mid-1970s. with traditional when hey faced down heavily armed federal agentsArmy soldiersarmorand jets in 1973 siege Wounded Knee.
Dozens of traditional Lakotas were killed in the aftermath of Wounded Knee, in a 'reign of terror' by Tribal Chair Richard Wilson and his Guardians Of the Oglala Nation (GOON) squad, backed by FBI agents in combat gear. At the same time, Wilson sold uranium-rich parcels of the reservation to the federal governnent.
On June 26, 1975 (the day after Wilson sold one-eighth of the reservation), a shootout at a traditional elder's home left three people dead two FBI agents, and a young Lakota man. Three Native American men were arrested, of which one was released, and two were found not guilty on the grounds of "self-defense." Peltier was then arrested in Canada, and extradited on the basis of false testimony by a Lakota woman who (the government later conceded) had been coerced by FBI agents.
Peltier's trial was marked by the FBI's falsification of evidence, including claims that Peltier's rifle fired the fatal bullets, in direct contradiction to their own (later released) ballistics tests. Peltier was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. (He was, however, later acquitted of similar trumped-up charges of "attempted murder" of a Milwaukee police officer.) The government now admits it has no idea who killed them. A 1993 Appellate Court ruling called FBI misconduct "a clear abuse of the investigative process," yet did not grant a new trial.
Despite overwhelming support for his case, every effort for Peltier's release through judicial means has failed; the FBI remains a powerful force in the federal government. The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC) is calling for all supporters of Leonard Peltier to work for him at this time. We are being asked to write to the Clinton Administration to ask for executive clemency, to commute his sentence or release him from prison and restore him to his family. We are being asked to contact our representatives, and anyone else who can help, and to educate others about the case. February 6, 1998 will be an international day to call for a new parole hearing.
An LPDC representative wrote after one appeal denial: "Leonard needs your help more than ever. I sat with him yesterday and told him the news. I watched him look away, tears in his eyes, I heard his quiet voice uttering hopeless words about dying in prison. I know he will not give up. And we cannot give up on him. It is time now to return Leonard's sacrifice by making him the number one priority in our lives."
Community groups, churches, legal, environmental, and social justice groups are needed to educate the public and turn up the pressure. Peltier's case is symbolic of the wrongs done to Native Peoples on this continent. People of Wisconsin who have successfully defended treaty rights can help to free Leonard Peltier. His case has a special resonance here, as multinational corporations covet the minerals on Chippewa treaty lands in the North.
In his words, "I do not regret that I was one of those who stood up and helped to protect my people.....I have given up over one-third of my life so far. I am tired. Over the years I have hid away my suffering. I have had to stare at photographs of my children to see them grow up. I miss my freedom. Please do not forget that indigenous people worldwide are being oppressed. Please do not forget me tomorrow. I thank you for sacrificing your time to participate in the struggle for justice. Ain't nothing going to change my beliefs, and I hope one day we can all break bread together."
Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional México
October of 1999
From: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Through the NCDM and Cecilia Rodriguez we extend greetings from the men, women, children and elders of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Cecilia has told us about the grave injustice the North American judicial system has committed against you. We understand that the powerful are punishing your spirit of rebellion and your strong fight for the rights of indigenous people in North America.
Stupid as it is, the powerful believe that through humiliation, arrogance and isolation it can break the dignity of those who give thoughts, feelings, life and guidance to the struggle for recognition and respect for the first inhabitants of the land over whom, the vain United States has risen. The heroic resistance that you have maintained in prison, as well as the broad movement of solidarity, that your case and your cause have motivated in the U.S. and the world reveal their mistake.
Knowing of your existence and history, no woman or man if they are honest and conscious can remain silent before such a great injustice. Nor can they remain still in front of a struggle, which like all that is born and grows from below, is necessary, possible, and true.
The Lakota, a people who have the honor and fortune to have you among their blood, have an ethic that recognizes and respects the place of all people and things, respects the relations that mother earth has with herself and other living things that live and die within her and outside of her. An ethic that recognizes generosity as a measure of human worth, the walk of our ancestors and our dead along the paths of today and tomorrow, women and men as part of the universe that have the power of free will to choose paths and seasons, the search for harmony and the struggle against that which breaks and disorders it. All of this, and more that escapes because we are so far away, has a lot to teach the �western� culture which steers, in North America and in the rest of the world, against humanity and against nature.
Probably the determined resistance of Leonard Peltier is incomprehensible to the Powerful in North America, and the world. To never give up, to resist, the powerful call this � foolishness�. But the foolish are in every corner of the world, and in all of them, resistance flourishes in the fertile ground of the most ancient history.
In sum, what the powerful fail to understand is not only Peltier�s resistance, but also the entire worlds, and so they intend to mold the planet into the coffin the system represents, with wars, jails and police officers.
Probably, the powerful in North America think that in jailing and torturing Leonard Peltier, they are jailing and torturing one man.
And so they don�t understand how a prisoner can continue to be free, while in prison.
And they don�t understand how, being imprisoned, he speaks with so many, and so many listen.
And they don�t understand how, in trying to kill him, he has more life.
And they don�t understand how one man, alone, is able to resist so much, to represent so much, to be so large.
�Why?� the powerful ask themselves and the answer never reaches their ears:
Because Leonard Peltier is a people, the Lakota, and it is impossible to keep a people imprisoned.
Because Leonard Peltier speaks through the Lakota men and women who are in themselves and in their nature the best of mother earth.
Because the strength that this man and this people have does not come from modern weapons, rather it comes from their history, their roots, their dead.
Because the Lakota know that no one is more alive than the dead.
Because the Lakota, and many other North American Indian people, know that resisting without surrender not only defends their lives and their liberty, but also their history and the nature that gives them origin, home, and destiny.
Because the great ones always seem so small to those who can not see the history that each one keeps inside.
Because the racism that now governs can only imagine the other and the different in jail�or in the trashcan, where two Lakota natives were found last month, murdered, in the community of Pine Ridge. This is justice in North America: those who fight for their people are in jail, those who despise and murder walk unpunished.
What is Leonard Peltier accused of?
Not of a crime he didn�t commit. No. He is accused of being other, of being different, of being proud to be other and different.
But for the Powerful, Leonard Peltier�s most serious �crime� is that he seeks to rescue in the past, in his culture, in his roots, the history of his people, the Lakota. And for the powerful, this is a crime, because knowing oneself with history impedes one from being tossed around by this absurd machine that is the system.
If Leonard Peltier is guilty, than we are all guilty because we seek out history, and on its shoulders we fight to have a place in the world, a place of dignity and respect, a place for ourselves exactly as we are, which is also, very much as we were.
If the Indian people of the North and Indian people of M�xico, as well as the indigenous people of the entire continent, know that we have our own place (being who we are, not pretending to be another skin color, another tongue, another culture), what is left is that other colors that populate the entire world know it. And what is left is for the powerful to know it. So that they know it, and learn the lesson so well that they won�t forget, many more paths and bridges are needed that are walked from below.
On these paths and bridges, you, Leonard Peltier, have a special place, the best, next to us who are like you.
Salud, Leonard Peltier, receive a hug from one who admires and respects you, and who hopes that one day you will call him �brother�.
Vale, and health to you and I hope that injustice disappears tomorrow, with yesterday as a weapon and today as a road.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos M�xico, October 1999
1 Eastern Street, London WC1X 8DJ, UK Ref.: AMR 51/105/99
Tel: (0171) 413 5500 fax: (0171) 956 1157
15 July 1999
APPEAL FOR THE RELEASE OF LEONARD PELTIER
Amnesty International is appealing for the release from prison of Leonard Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota Indian, who is serving two consecutive life-sentences for the murders of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents. The FBI agents, Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, were shot at point-blank range after being wounded in a gunfight with Indian activists on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on 26 June 1975. Peltier fled to Canada. He was extradited to the USA and convicted of the murders in 1977.
Amnesty International has investigated this case for many years. Although Amnesty International has not adopted Leonard Peltier as a prisoner of conscience, the organization remains concerned about the fairness of the proceedings leading to his conviction and believes that political factors may have influenced the way in which the case was prosecuted. Peltier is now in his twenty-second year of imprisonment and has exhausted all legal appeals against his conviction. He was denied parole (early release under supervision of the criminal justice system) in 1994 following a parole hearing in 1993 and his case will not be heard again via a full hearing by the Parole Commission until December 2008. Amnesty International has for some years been calling on the federal government to institute an executive review of the case but there is no evidence of any such action having been taken. In view of Amnesty International�s continuing concerns about this case, and the fact that available remedies have been exhausted, Amnesty International is now calling for Leonard Peltier to be released from prison through an act of presidential pardon.
Background and Summary of Amnesty International�s Concerns
A summary of the case, describing the circumstances in which the agents were killed and Peltier�s trial and appeals, is contained in the attached extract from Amnesty International�s report USA: Human Rights and American Indians (AI Index AMR 51/31/92), entitled "Other Cases of Concern: Leonard Peltier." As outlined in this document, Peltier was a leading activist with the American Indian Movement (AIM) whose members were involved in a campaign to protect traditional Indian lands and resources and had come into conflict with both the Pine Ridge tribal government and the FBI. Two other AIM members, Darelle (Dino) Butler and Robert Robideau, were originally charged with the FBI agents� murder and were tried separately in 1976. They admitted being present during the gunfight but were acquitted on grounds of self-defence, after submitting evidence about the atmosphere of fear and terror which existed on the reservation prior to the shoot-out.
There is evidence that the government intensified its pursuit of Leonard Peltier after the acquittal of Butler and Robideau. Peltier was extradited from Canada partly on the testimony of Myrtle Poor Bear, an American Indian woman who signed a statement saying she had seen Peltier shoot the agents at close range. Poor Bear, who was a notoriously unreliable witness, later retracted this statement as having been obtained under duress and said she had never even met Peltier. The prosecution did not use Myrtle Poor Bear as a witness at Peltier�s trial. However, they introduced ballistics evidence which purported to show that it was Peltier�s gun which killed the agents at close range after they were already wounded and disabled. This evidence effectively prevented Peltier from being able to present the same self-defence argument which had resulted in the Butler/Robideau acquittals. However, serious questions have since been raised about the reliability of this ballistics evidence.
The government has continued to argue that, even if they can no longer prove that Peltier killed the agents, he is still guilty of "aiding and abetting" in the murders through being in the group involved in the exchange of gunfire from a distance. However, Amnesty International believes that the doubts which have been raised about Peltier�s role in the actual killings of the agents undermine the whole case against him, as "proof" that he was the actual killer was a key element in the prosecution�s case at the trial.
Amnesty International�s concerns about various aspects of the case are outlined in a letter to the US Attorney General dated 23 June 1995, which is also attached to this action. These concerns include the following:
a.. The FBI knowingly used perjured testimony to obtain Leonard Peltier�s extradition from Canada to the USA. The FBI later admitted that it knew that the affidavits of Myrtle Poor Bear, an alleged eye-witness to the murders, were false. This in itself casts serious doubt on the bona fides of the prosecution, even though Poor Bear�s affidavits were not used at Peltier�s trial.
a.. Leonard Peltier�s attorneys were not permitted to call Myrtle Poor Bear as a defence witness to describe to the trial jury how she had been coerced by the FBI into signing false affidavits implicating Peltier. The trial judge refused to allow her to appear on the grounds that her testimony could be "highly prejudicial" to the government.
a.. Evidence which might have assisted Leonard Peltier�s defence was withheld by the prosecution. This included a 1975 telex from an FBI ballistics expert which stated that, based on ballistics tests, the rifle alleged to be Peltier�s had a "different firing pin" from the gun used to kill the two agents. At a court hearing in 1984, an FBI witness testified that the telex had been merely a progress report and that another bullet casing tested later had been found to match "positively" with the rifle linked to Peltier. However, the reliability of the government�s ballistics evidence remains in dispute.
a.. The ballistics evidence presented at Peltier�s trial was crucial to the prosecution�s case. It was presented as the main evidence linking Peltier as the actual point-blank killer of the two FBI agents. Without this evidence, the case against Peltier would have been no stronger than the case against Dino Butler and Robert Robideau, who were also charged with the Pine Ridge killings. Butler and Robideau were tried separately and permitted to argue that there was an atmosphere of such fear and terror on the reservation that their move to shoot back at the agents constituted legitimate self-defence. They were acquitted.
a.. The trial judge refused to allow the defence to introduce evidence of serious FBI misconduct relating to the intimidation of witnesses (the testimony of Myrtle Poor Bear). Had such evidence been presented, it may have cast doubt in the jury�s mind about the reliability of the main prosecution witnesses, three young Indians (Anderson, Draper and Brown) whose testimony (that Peltier was in possession of an AR-15 rifle during the shoot-out) was the main evidence linking Peltier to the alleged murder weapon.
The United States Court of Appeal for the Eighth Circuit ruled in 1986 that the prosecution had indeed withheld evidence which would have been favourable to Leonard Peltier and would have allowed him to cross examine witnesses more effectively. However, it concluded that this had not materially affected the outcome of the trial, and it upheld Peltier�s conviction. However, the judge who wrote this opinion, Judge Gerald Heaney, has since expressed his concern about the case. In a 1991 letter to Senator Daniel Inouye, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, Judge Heaney expressed his belief that "the FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier�s extradition from Canada and in otherwise investigating and trying the Peltier case. Although our court decided that these actions were not grounds for reversals, they are, in my view, factors that merit consideration in any petition for leniency filed". He also stressed the need to take into account the background context to the fire-fight during which the two agents had been killed (see Amnesty International�s letter to the Attorney General of 23 June 1995).
Petition for clemency through an act of Presidential pardon
Peltier�s lawyers filed a petition for a presidential pardon several years ago, urging President Clinton, who visited the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation on 7 July 1999, to use his powers of pardon to commute the sentence. However, they have received no response and are not aware of any recommendation having been passed to the White House from the office of the Pardon Attorney (an office within the Justice Department which reviews the case before making a recommendation to the White House). Amnesty International has received several replies from the office of the Pardon Attorney since 1995, stating that Peltier�s petition for commutation of sentence or clemency is still under review.
The parole Commission decided at Peltier�s last full, formal parole hearing in 1993 that his case would not be formally reviewed again for a further 15 years - setting his next parole hearing for December 2008. Since then there have been several interim hearings at which the Commission has refused to reconsider the decision to deny parole on the grounds that Peltier did not accept criminal responsibility for the murders of the two FBI agents. This is despite the fact that, after one such hearing, the Commission acknowledged that, "the prosecution has conceded the lack of any direct evidence that you personally participated in the executions of the two FBI agents ..." Peltier has always denied that he was involved in killing the agents.
In June 1999 Peltier�s lawyers filed a habeas corpus petition in a federal district court, claiming that the parole board�s decision not to hear the case again for 15 years was arbitrary and unconstitutional, and a violation of guidelines which should be applied to the case. The petition also states that changes in the laws and procedures relating to parole since 1975 have been wrongly applied retroactively in Peltier�s case, meaning that he has been required to serve far longer in prison than was the case at the time of his conviction.
Peltier�s medical condition
Leonard Peltier suffers from a congenital problem with his jaw, which has deteriorated during his imprisonment. At the present time, his jaw is reportedly frozen open at 13 millimetres and he has difficulty in eating as well as pain and discomfort. In 1996 he had two operations on his jaw at the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. However, these operations were not successful and his condition is alleged to have worsened. Currently, his attorneys are asking the federal Bureau of Prisons to allow further diagnostic tests to be made so that an oral surgeon from a prestigious outside hospital (the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota) can review Peltier�s medical history and decide if he is able to provide further treatment. Amnesty International wrote to the federal prison authorities in March 1999 asking the prison authorities to provide the records which have been requested. His attorneys are continuing to pursue his medical concerns.
From: THE NORTHWEST LEONARD PELTIER SUPPORT NETWORK
P.O. BOX 5464
TACOMA, WA 98415-0464 USA
There is a lot of discussion and resistance to the corporate globalization and how it is affecting the environment and the working conditions of working people world wide. These things are very important and the coming together of so many people to resist the corporate globalization is good. For it would seem that the multinational corporations are out seize every bit of natural and human resouces possible for their own benefit at the expense of Mother Earth and the people who dwell upon her.
While much has been exposed about who is being harmed by all this, and a new strong resistance is being organized, very little is being said or done about how these mulitnational corportations are assulting the indigenous people of the world. The alliances of resistance should not only include environmentalists and labor activists, but also indigenous people and their supporters. And as you speak of environmental damage, sweatshops, relocating jobs and so on you should also speak about Leonard Peltier who is in prison for resisting the encroachment of multinational energy corporations on Native land, it is all connected.
The land that the U.S. Government created the reservations that they forced Native People on was, for the most part, land that was viewed as unneeded by the non-Native society. When the non-Nation society became increasingly dependent upon natural resources such as oil, natural gas, coal, uranium and minerals for industrial production, they found that a lot of the resources they wanted was on the remaining Native land. The corporations hatch plans to acquire those resources. Some times by legal means, which some times meant passing new laws (not unlike what they have done in the area of so-called "free trade" laws and treaties), some times they even used illegal means.
In the area of Lakota land (1868 Fort Laramie Treaty land) the corporations found a good deal of gold, oil, coal and uranium. The traditional Lakota people resisted and even refused to take money for land that had already been stolen from them. Through the use of sophisticated NASA satellites, the National Uranium Resource Evaluation Program of the U.S. Geological Survey located major uranium deposits in the Sheep Mountian area of the Pine Ridge Oglala Latoka Reservation. Knowing by pass experience that the traditional Lakoka people would resist the lost of more of their land, the government, acting in the interests of the multinational corporations, sought to suppress the traditional Lakota people and the American Indian Movement (AIM) that supported them.
At the same time that the government orchestrated the the Oglala shootout, 133,000 acres of Pine Ridge was illegally being signed away in Washington. The shootout had followed nearly three years of extreme terrorism against the traditional Lakota people in which over 60 of them and their supporters had been murdered. On the morning of June 26, 1975, two unmarked cars came onto an area, in which AIM had set up a camp, in the same manner as many of the other terrorist driveby shootings had happened. AIM believed that they and the traditional Lakota people who lived there were under attack. A shootout came about and one AIM member and two FBI agents died. It is clear from all the evidence that this was an act by the government to divert attention away from the illegal signing away of Lakota land and to suppress the opposition to it. The government was even willing to place two of it's agents in harms way to carry out their plan.
Three AIM members went on trial for the deaths of the FBI agents. The first two were found not guilty for reason of self-defense. When Leonard Peltier went on trial the government set out to ensure a conviction (thus a coverup of their own responsibility) by fabricating evidence, using coerced witnesses and hand picking a new judge who would not allow evidence of self-defense to be given by Leonard's lawyers. Thus Leonard was found guilty. Over the years Leonard's lawyers have in their appeals disproven the government's case against Leonard.
Leonard Peltier remains in prison a victim of the multinational energy corporations desire to gain what they want by any means needed. The multinational corporations that have operations on Lakota treaty land includes many of the major players in the corporate economic globalization, such as; Chevron, Exxon, Getty Oil, General Electric, Gulf Oil, Mobil, Shell Oil, Union Carbide to name a few.
Leonard Peltier's case needs to be supported by all those that seek to resist world wide domination by the multinational corporations. For his case shows just how far these corporations and the governments that work in their interest are will to go to get what they want. Thus, for all of us who work for Human Rights, the Environment, Labor Rights, Indigenous People's Survival and other such connected struggles, Leonard Peltier is one of us. He has been in prison for over 23 years for us and we need to be out here for him. Please help us end this great injustice and aid us in the freeing of Leonard as soon as possible.
Please fill out the following if you wish to aid this struggle and get updates on Leonard's case.
Please return to: NWLPSN, P.O. Box 5464, Tacoma, WA 98415-0464, USA, or e-mail it to; firstname.lastname@example.org
22 Jun 1999
From: "LPDC" email@example.com
Dear Peltier supporters,
Here is another press release. Please fax it to your local media and pass it on to other supporters. It is extremely important we prepare to mobilize and fill the court room as soon as there is news of a hearing. We will let you know what is happening every step of the way!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 22, 1999
FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL CHALLENGES THE U.S. PAROLE COMMISSION ON BEHALF OF NATIVE AMERICAN POLITICAL PRISONER, LEONARD PELTIER
The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
Law Office-Ramsey Clark
For the first time in any court, a habeas corpus petition challenging the denial by the U.S. Parole Commission of Leonard Peltier�s substantive and procedural parole rights has been filed in federal district court in Topeka, Kansas. This is the first attempt to enter Peltier�s case into the courts since he last appealed his conviction in 1993. Peltier, who is considered to be a political prisoner by Amnesty International who insists he be immediately and unconditionally released, has become a notorious symbol of injustice against Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. Peltier was originally convicted in 1977 for the first degree murders of FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams.
The petition was filed by former Attorney General and lawyer, Ramsey Clark with attorneys Carl Nadler and Lawrence Schilling. It was filed on June 4, 1999 and challenges as illegal, clearly erroneous, arbitrary, capricious, and unconstitutional, the Commission�s denial of parole to Peltier and its decision to schedule Peltier�s next parole release hearing in December 2008 -- 15 years in the future, 17 years in excess of the Commission�s applicable guidelines and 6 years after the date set by Congress for the total abolition of the Parole Commission itself. Peltier�s petition also charges that as a result of changes in federal parole laws, practices and procedures since 1975, Peltier has been imprisoned longer than the law then authorized in violation of the Constitution�s ex post facto clause, as well as Peltier�s right to due process and equal protection of the laws. The Parole Commission is required to substantiate its reasons for denying a prisoner parole beyond the guidelines. Peltier claims the Commission�s stated reasons have been based on discriminatory and erroneous reasoning..
Additionally, the petition points to the dismantling process of the federal parole commission since the Comprehensive Crime Control Act was passed in 1984 and ties this process to the denial of parole to prisoners like Peltier for reasons of self interest. Also challenged is the Commission�s refusal to acknowledge Peltier�s current health condition as a substantial reason to consider his release. Peltier is currently suffering from a condition that, according to prison officials, causes his jaw to be frozen open 13 millimeters.
Although government prosecutors have openly stated that there was not enough evidence to prove that Peltier was responsible for the deaths of the two agents killed during the 1975 shoot out on the Lakota Reservation, the Commission has ignored this and repeatedly refused to reconsider parole, stating that Peltier has not yet taken criminal responsibility for the deaths. After a December 1995 Interim Parole Hearing Review, the Commission stated in its subsequent decision, �The Commission recognizes that the prosecution has conceded the lack of any direct evidence that you personally participated in the executions of the two FBI agents. . . .
Later in the decision they stated that they would not reconsider parole for Peltier because of his, �evident decision not to accept criminal responsibility.� Peltier, who has always maintained his innocence, is now spending his twenty-fouth year in prison.
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
By MARK WIEBE
The Kansas City Star
American Indian activist Leonard Peltier sat Thursday in the paneled visiting room of the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth and pondered what might come from his visit today with the widow of a late president of France.
Danielle Mitterrand, human rights activist and widow of Francois Mitterrand, is president of the human rights organization France Libertes, in Paris. She is coming to investigate Peltier's allegations that the prison has not adequately treated health problems that have stemmed from a tetanus infection. A press conference in Leavenworth is scheduled to follow her visit.
"We'll have to see what happens," said Peltier, 54. As he spoke, the hum from the room's fluorescent lights competed with his soft voice. Rarely did he open his mouth, concealed by a gray mustache, more than a centimeter. Lockjaw, he said, has kept it shut.
"I'm hoping...(her visit) will bring some attention to my case and my health and perhaps get some proper treatment for my medical condition," he said. In 1977, Peltier, who has a Chippewa, Lakota and French bloodline, was convicted in the 1975 slayings of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Although Peltier admits to firing shots that day, he and his supporters, who number in the thousands and include notables such as actor Robert Redford, have long said he did not shoot FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams. "I still maintain my innocence," he said Thursday. "I didn't do it."
At a 1992 appeal, government prosecutors answered charges that Peltier's case was mishandled by claiming that, although no one saw Peltier shoot the agents, there was strong evidence connecting Peltier to the murder weapon. For most of a 45-minute interview on Thursday, Peltier, who contracted tetanus when he stepped on a rusty nail as a child, discussed his health. Three years ago, Peltier began to have trouble opening his mouth, so he asked prison officials to send him to the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield. But, Peltier said, two surgeries he had in April and May that year made the condition worse.
He began to suffer headaches, earaches and watery eyes, symptoms that Peltier said continue. The only foods he says he can swallow are soft and starchy, something he thinks has caused him to gain weight. "Sure been eating a lot of pastries," he said, chuckling.
In October 1996, a doctor at the Springfield medical center told Peltier he thought he could fix his problems. Peltier refused, he said, because he didn't think anything could be done at Springfield.
Every six months since, Peltier said, he has asked officials at the prison if he could seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has another medical facility. Officials have told him no.
Prison spokesman Bob Bennett said Peltier has not submitted an official written request for treatment from Mayo physicians.
A written statement from the Bureau of Prisons says that a "thorough review of inmate Peltier's medical record reveals he is being provided appropriate medical attention addressing both his medical complaints and his medical condition."
The statement says that after a recent teleconference between Peltier and medical officials at Springfield and Leavenworth, Peltier's condition was determined to be "stable," and did not require "prolonged, intensive treatment."
Besides Mitterrand's support, the European Parliament passed a resolution Feb. 11 calling for Peltier to be transferred to a hospital for "appropriate medical treatment." The Parliament restated its plea for the United States to grant Peltier clemency.
The national office of the Bureau of Prisons has received thousands of e-mail messages, faxes, letters and phone calls. Some of the messages claimed to be from people waging hunger strikes to recognize the fact that Peltier has had trouble eating.
Scott Wolfson, bureau spokesman, said the messages began late last year and continued through March: "He's by far the one inmate who attracts the most attention."Mark Wiebe, Leavenworth County reporter, (913)371-1810, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org All content ) 1999 The Kansas City Star
Amnesty International Webpage press statement link
April 16, 1999
Release of Leonard Peltier
MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- Today Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of Leonard Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota Indian and a leading member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). Peltier is serving two consecutive life sentences in Leavenworth Penitentiary for the murders of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents who were killed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975.
Amnesty International had long expressed concerns about the fairness of Peltier's trial in 1977 and subsequent appeals and evidentiary hearings: the FBI knowingly used perjured testimony to obtain Peltier's extradition from Canada to the USA; Peltier's attorneys were denied the right to call relevant defense witnesses; and prosecutors withheld vital evidence. Amnesty International is concerned that Peltier's political activities and beliefs may have influenced the circumstances of his arrest and subsequent trial.
Leonard Peltier has now spent twenty-three years in prison. Amnesty International considers Peltier to be a political prisoner whose avenues to legal redress have long been exhausted. The US Government has repeatedly denied requests for a special executive review. Amnesty International recognizes that a retrial is no longer a feasible option and believes that Peltier should be immediately and unconditionally released.Source: Amnesty International, International Secretariat
1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom
Contact your nearest Amnesty International office for more information.
|February 6th marks another anniversary of incarceration for Leonard Peltier. Please, Phone the White House Comment Line on this day to demand "executive clemency" for Peltier. Phone: (202) 456-1111 (Hit 0 to avoid the survey!)|
| PLEASE WRITE YOUR SUPPORT:
#89637-132 Box 1000
Leavenworth KS 66048
International Office of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
P.O. Box 583
Lawrence KS 66044
Tel. 785-842-5774 FAX:785-842-5796
HELP THE WISCONSIN EFFORT: 1. Write, call and e-mail Senator Feingold, saying that his excellent global human rights record should be brought home by supporting Leonard Peltier, and calling for executive clemency.
2. Contact the Midwest Treaty Network, P.O. Box 14382, Madison WI 53714-4382 Tel./Fax 608-246-2256 email@example.com
Leonard's powerful memoir--a Native American spiritual testament-- will shake the conscience of the nation...and the world. It's a flaming arrow aimed at the circled wagons of American injustice.
Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls it:
You can catch some extracts from Leonard's book on my
website: Wisdomkeepers.com http://www.wisdomkeepers.com/.
Also search Amazon.com for Prison
Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance (Copy and paste book title
into search) and Barnes&Noble
for availability, synopsis, and reviews.
Leonard Peltier's book now in paperback!
Harvey Arden JTRoad@aol.com
Editor of PRISON WRITINGS: MY LIFE IS MY SUN DANCE by Leonard Peltier
4101 Legation St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20015-2919
[col. writ. 11/11/99]
� 1999 Mumia Abu-Jamal
When one makes mere mention of the Pine Ridge Reservation, another name immediately leaps to mind: Leonard Peltier. Known among his clan as "Gwarth-ee-lass" (He Leads the People) his life and case have become international symbols of the rampant injustice faced by Indians in the United States of America.
For over a quarter of a century, Peltier has been encaged in U.S. dungeons, beaten, framed, and maltreated; but he remains unbroken.
Now, after many long continuing years in hell, Peltier has penned a moving, heart-rending account of his life, showing his growth and development as a political activist, and his continuing faith in the rightness of his cause, and the rightness of the Indian Way. The newly published book is entitled Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance (N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1999). For those who may know his name but know little of the events leading up to his political incarceration. His introduction, as a youth, to the ways of the white man virtually insured his political future of resistance:
After Gramps died of pneumonia when I was eight, life became really hard for us. My grandmother was left alone. She spoke hardly any English, had almost no income, and was trying to raise three small kids-me, my sister, and our cousin Pauline. I tried stacking the table with my slingshot, coming up with an occasional squirrel or maybe a small bird; mostly Gamma used them to flavor the otherwise vegetarian soup. I never could seem to catch a rabbit with my slingshot, like the big fat ones Gramps had gotten now and then with his single shot .22 for Gamma's beloved rabbit stew.
Given the cold North Dakota winters, hunger became a really big problem for us. We had no bread, no milk, hardly anything else. I thought that gnawing ache in my belly was just the way I was supposed to feel.
One day in the fall of 1953, a big black government car came and took us kids away to the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school in Wahpetan, North Dakota. I remember Gamma weeping in the doorway as she watched them take us off. We had no suitcases, just bundles. First thing after we got there, they cut off our long hair, stripped us naked, then doused us with powdered DDT. I thought I was going to die. That place, I can tell you, was very, very strict. It was more like a reformatory than a school. You were whacked on the butt with a yardstick for the smallest infraction, even if you so much as looked someone in the eye. [pp. 77 78.]
For young Leonard, what should have been a school was considered "my first imprisonment." His crime? Being an Indian.
This was a little boy's introduction to the American Way, where he and his people were beaten for speaking the language of their mothers and fathers. Where they were punished for not acting white enough.
Is there any wonder that he would later find the Indian Way a better way of life?
This is a remarkable portrayal of Native American history, and reveals the reasons why there is still so much bad blood between the aboriginal peoples of this country and the Americans.
Peltier's life is a tortured one, and the tactics used by the U.S. government are almost unbelievable in their crudeness, and their cruelty.
Learn about one of the nation's most brutal tragedies, and the spirit that remains filled with hope in the name of Crazy Horse.
There is undoubtedly Indian history written in these pages by a remarkable man; it is also American history, of a kind not taught in the pages of American history books, yet lived by millions.
Every school child should read this book. In this way they will finally begin to learn the truth about the last 500 years in this place we call America.
Perhaps their voices can join the growing, swelling chorus of the many calling for the freedom of this ailing spiritual warrior, guilty only of daring to be Indian in a nation where red people weren't really supposed to survive.
� MAJ 1999
Prison Radio challenges mass incarceration and racism by airing the voices
of men and women in prison. Our educational materials serve as a catalyst for public activism.
P.O. Box 411074
San Francisco, CA 94141
Share this with everyone including President Clinton. Don't forget to write, call, fax!
--ISCO Solidarity List
Nov. 4, 1999
From: JTRoad@aol.com /snip/
ON BEHALF OF LEONARD PELTIER
A concerted attempt is now going on to discredit Leonard and erase him from the public consciousness, just as President Clinton is considering his petition for Executive Clemency.
I plead with every one of you, become an "Army of One"-as Leonard counsels us all-and send his words below to EVERYONE you think appropriate!Let's topple their Wall of Lies and Silence! It up to EACH of us!
THE WORDS of LEONARD PELTIER
From his book PRISON WRITINGS: MY LIFE IS MY SUN DANCE � 1999
IF YOU, THE LOVED ONES of the agents who died at the Jumping Bull property that day, get some salve of satisfaction out of my being here, then at least I can give you that, even though innocent of their blood. I feel your loss as my own. Like you, I suffer that loss every day, every hour. And so does my family. We know that inconsolable grief. We Indians are born, live and die with inconsolable grief. We've shared our common grief for twenty-three years now, your families and mine, so how can we possibly be enemies anymore? Maybe it's with you--and with us--that the healing can begin. You, the agents' families, certainly weren't at fault that day in 1975, any more than my family was, and yet you and they have suffered as much as, even more than, anyone there. It seems it's always the innocent who pay the highest price for injustice. It's seemed that way all my life.
To the still-grieving Coler and Williams families I send my prayers if you will have them. I hope you will. They are the prayers of an entire people, not just my own. We have many dead of our own to pray for, and we join our sorrow to yours. Let our common grief be our bond. Let those prayers be the balm for your sorrow, not an innocent man's continued imprisonment. I state to you absolutely that, if I could possibly have prevented what happened that day, your menfolk would not have died. I would have died myself before knowingly permitting what happened to happen. And I certainly never pulled the trigger that did it. May the Creator strike me dead this moment if I lie. I cannot see how my being here, torn from my own grandchildren, can possibly mend your loss. I swear to you, I am guilty only of being an Indian. That's why I'm here.
NO DOUBT, MY NAME will soon be among the list of our Indian dead. At least I will have good company--for no finer, kinder, braver, wiser, worthier men and women have ever walked this Earth than those who have already died for being Indian.
Our dead keep coming at us, a long, long line of dead, ever-growing and never-ending. To list all their names would be impossible, for the great, great majority of us have died unknown, unacknowledged. Yes, even our dead have been stolen from us, uprooted from our memory just as the bones of our honored ancestors have been dishonored by being dug up from their graves and shipped to museums to be boxed and catalogued and hidden away in file-drawers, denied that final request and right of every human being: a decent burial in Mother Earth and proper ceremonies of remembrance to light the way to the Afterworld.
Yes, the roll call of our Indian dead needs to be cried out, to be shouted from every hilltop in order to shatter the terrible silence that tries to erase the fact that we ever existed.
I would like to see a redstone wall like the blackstone wall of the Vietnam War Memorial. Yes, right there on the Mall in Washington, D.C. And on that redstone wall--pigmented with the living blood of our people (and I would happily be the first to donate that blood)--would be the names of all the Indians who ever died for being Indian. It would be hundreds of times longer than the Vietnam Memorial, which commemorates the deaths of fewer than 60,000 brave lost souls. The number of our brave lost souls reaches into the many millions, and every one of them remains unquiet until this day.
Yes, the voices of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, of Buddy Lamont and Frank Clearwater, of Joe Stuntz and Dallas Thundershield, of Wesley Bad Heart Bull and Raymond Yellow Thunder, of Bobby Garcia and Anna Mae Aquash... those and so, so many others. Their stilled voices cry out at us and demand to be heard.
My appeals for a new trial will continue unabated. I look forward to my public vindication at an open and honest trial-if the United States government will ever permit one. Meanwhile, our legal efforts have also been focused on seeking parole and/or Presidential clemency. In late 1993, the U.S. Parole Commission rejected my appeal for parole, telling me to apply again in the year 2008. So simple an act by the courts as changing my "consecutive" sentences to "concurrent" sentences would give me my freedom and return to me at least a fraction of my life, if only my old age. I pray that one-word change will be made.
My attorney, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, also submitted in late 1993 a formal appeal for executive clemency from President Clinton, meaning not a pardon but a Presidential order giving me simple release from prison for "time served." This, apparently, is my last best hope of freedom. The request was turned over for review to the Department of Justice, which must make a formal recommendation to the President.I still await that long-delayed recommendation from the Department of Justice as I write these words nearly five imprisoned years later. I pray hard that it will come soon. I pray that an eagle will fly off the flagstaff in the President's Oval Office and swiftly deliver that long-delayed recommendation from the Attorney General's desk to the President's desk. And while the President sits there considering this innocent Indian man's appeal for clemency, I pray that that eagle will stand there on his desk, stare into his eye, and join its cry to the cry of the millions of people around the world who have written to the President, appealing to him for my release. I am an Indian man. My simple request is to live like one.
OUT OF DEATH COMES LIFE. Out of pain comes hope. This I have learned these long years of loss. Loss, yes, but not despair. I have never lost hope nor have I lost my absolute belief in the rightness of our cause, which is my People's survival.
I don't know how to save the world. I hold no secret knowledge for fixing the mistakes of the past and present. I only know that without respect for all of Earth's inhabitants, none of us will survive--nor will we deserve to.
We're in this together, my friends, the rich, the poor, the red, the white, the black, the brown, the yellow. We're all one family of humankind. We share responsibility for our Mother the Earth and for all those who live and breathe upon her. Our work will remain unfinished until not one human being is hungry or battered, not a single person is forced to die in war, not one innocent languishes in imprison, and no one is persecuted for his or her beliefs.
I believe in the good in humankind. I believe that the good can prevail, but only with great effort. And that effort is ours, each of ours, yours and mine.
WE MUST EACH BE AN ARMY OF ONE in the endless struggle between the goodness we are all capable of and the evil that threatens us all from without as well as from within. Yes, we can each be an army of one. One good man or one good woman can change the world. Are you that man or woman? If so, may the Great Spirit bless you. If not, why not? We must each of us be that person. That will transform the world overnight. That would be a miracle, yes, but a miracle within our power, our healing power.
We can do it. Yes, you and I and all of us together. Now is the time. Now is the only possible time. Let the Great Healing begin.
Copies of the book...and the new CD reading of Leonard's words... can be purchased from the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee...785-842-5774 ...firstname.lastname@example.org... or check out their NEWLY LIBERATED (!!) website www.freepeltier.org. Also check out www.wisdomkeepers.com for more info
Hello on behalf of Leonard Peltier.
This is Harvey Arden with a personal request to those who'd like to PRE-ORDER the new Peltier CD of the reading (to blues/Native music) of Leonard's words from his book PRISON WRITINGS: MY LIFE IS MY SUN DANCE.
For orders received by Nov. 30th, we will waive the $4.00 shipping/handling charges. CDs should be shipped in 2-3 weeks. PLEASE send your checks in now to help us manufacture more CDs and get Leonard's message out to the world.Prices for PAID PRE-ORDERS are:
$12.50 each for 5-19
$10.00 each for 20 and over
THE WISDOMKEEPERS PROJECT
4101 LEGATION ST. N.W.
WASHINGTON, DC 20015
THE LEGACY OF WOUNDED KNEE
Testimony of Attorney Bruce Elison on the behalf of Leonard Peltier
MR. ELISON: As I was introduced before, my name is Bruce Elison. I am a criminal defense lawyer that is currently based in western South Dakota, where I have been for 25 years. On behalf of Leonard Peltier, who is now a grandfather, and my own children, I hereby want to thank the members of the Black Caucus, and particularly Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, for conducting this meeting here today. I mean, this is fantastic. Congresswoman McKinney, you have done what the Senate Intelligence Committee under Frank Church decided not to do, and what the Congress failed to do, despite strong recommendations of the necessity of such an inquiry by the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and Amnesty International.
I came to western South Dakota to be a staff attorney with a group called the Wounded Knee Defense Committee back in 1975, and I came from an urban Jewish upbringing in the New York City area. I was raised to believe in the importance of justice for all people. I was raised to believe in the importance of our democracy and our fundamental rights to free speech, freedom of association, and freedom to seek redress of grievances. From what I have seen over the last 25 years, Native Americans have many legitimate grievances, as do others in this country.
Educated as a lawyer, I was taught that our courts exist to promote and preserve justice, our Congress to enact responsible legislation, and our executive branch to enforce the laws of our country. What I have experienced since my move West has both shocked, amazed, and terrified me as a citizen of this country and, more importantly, as a father, and I remain so today.
I prepared a written text, since I understand that is what you are supposed to do when you testify in front of a congressional hearing, and I forgot my glasses, so you are going to have to bear with me.
FBI documents and court records in the thousands, together with eyewitness accounts, show clearly that beginning in the late 1960s the FBI began a campaign of infiltration and disruption of the treaty and human rights movement which calls itself the American Indian Movement or AIM. FBI operations were directed towards the destruction of AIM and its grassroots supports in the urban and reservation communities containing the survivors of America's wars against its indigenous population of the last 400 or more years.
Particular emphasis was directed by the FBI towards the descendants of the Lakota, who stopped the campaign of slaughter by General Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry, who now reside on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and some of the surrounding reservations. FBI operations against AIM began with surveillance of peaceful demonstrations of people calling for the enforcement of treaty rights, for human rights, for equal opportunities for jobs and housing and medical care, and for justice in America's courts. It soon led to the infiltration of informants and agent provocateurs, to the manipulation and use of our criminal justice system, and ultimately, out where I live, to state-sponsored terrorism in the Indian communities within this country. Documents show the FBI was assisted in the suppression of domestic dissent by agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the State Department, military intelligence, often enlisting the aid of State and local police and intelligence agencies throughout the country.
It was a period in which the groundswell of people's movements in our communities were regarded as a threat by the Federal Government, perhaps due to its magnitude and intensity and the righteousness of the grievances being aired. The FBI targeted the voices, the members, the supporters, and the funders of those who stood up and visibly tried to obtain fundamental correction of the ills affecting millions of people across America.
The FBI acted as if terrified by any signs of bridges across the barriers of color and ethnicity and the joint recognition of common problems and collective solutions that we could all work together to accomplish. Many of the documents that I have reviewed, that we obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, talk about the concern around the time of Wounded Knee, and between then and the firefight in Oglala, of the connections between the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party, particularly in California.
After the 71 day siege at Wounded Knee in 1973, our criminal justice system became but an improper tool of the Domestic Security Section of the Intelligence Division of the FBI, in its efforts to destroy AIM. The man in charge of the Domestic Security Section at the time, whom others present today are well familiar with, was Richard G. Held.
Based in Chicago, Held secretly came to Pine Ridge during the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973 to directly supervise FBI domestic security operations against AIM in the field. While claiming in documents that AIM members were engaging in acts of sedition, the Bureau sought to arrest hundreds in the aftermath of Wounded Knee, in the hopes that it would tap the strength and resources of the Movement and make it go away. It soon concluded that this approach was insufficient. As one FBI document stated, "There are indications that the indian militant problem in the area will not be resolved or discontinued with the prosecution of these insurgents."
Most Wounded Knee criminal charges brought against hundreds of AIM members were eventually dismissed by Federal court judges for illegal use of the United States Military. The FBI then began to fund and arm and equip a group of more western-oriented Lakota men and women who called themselves the Guardians of the Oglala Nation, or the "goon squad" on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
As many as 60 men, women, and children were killed in the period of political violence which then followed, and this is out of a population of 11,000 people. These were mostly members of AIM, members of their families, supporters, their friends, and sometimes simply people who were neighbors of those people involved in the movement. I remember staying in homes in Pine Ridge during this period where men felt compelled to keep loaded weapons nearby while they and their families, including children and elders, slept, fearful of the real and immediate danger of an attack by the goon squad in the night. People whose families lived for years in fear of immediate serious bodily injury or death in their homes, their yards, or walking in the streets of their community.
And we are not talking at this time of random acts of mindless violence by those who are angry, mentally ill, desperate or lost in this country, but violence directed at them and their families because they believed in the traditional indian ways of their ancestors and belonged to or supported the American Indian Movement.
One instance I personally witnessed involved FBI agents and a Bureau of Indian Affairs SWAT team escorting carloads of goon squad members and their weapons out of the community of Womblee after a day and night of armed attacks on the community. This resulted in the ambush murder of a young AIM member, and the burning and shooting up of several homes.
One of the killers was given a deal by the FBI for five-year sentence in return for his testimony that two goon squad leaders had acted in self defense in their attack on four men who were unarmed in a vehicle. I investigated this murder at the request of the tribal president-elect, and was horrified by this deal, and the main killers went free.
I represented a 14-year-old who was physically handicapped at the time, who was forced to face an adult sentence in adult court, charged with murdering one of three goons who had just threatened to kill him as one of them attacked him. Court testimony revealed that he had previously witnessed his brother being shot in the streets of a nearby town, his obviously pregnant sister being beaten in the stomach by a rifle butt, and his family hugging the floor of their rural home for nearly five hours while members of the goon squad fired semiautomatic and high-powered rifle bullets through the walls of their home.
There was no investigation by the FBI of those responsible, although they were identified in each instance. This child's brother was involved in the American Indian Movement. That was the only connection the family had.
I represented a young mother and AIM member named Anna Mae Pictu on weapons charges. She told me after her arrest that an FBI threatened to see her dead within a year unless she cooperated against members of AIM. In an operation previously used against members of the Black Panther Party, the FBI, through an informant named Doug Durham who had infiltrated AIM leadership, began a rumor that she was an informant.
Six months later her body was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The FBI said she died of exposure. They cut off her hands, claiming that this was necessary to identify her, and buried her under the name of Jane Doe.
We were able to get her body exhumed, and a second, independent autopsy revealed that rather than dying of exposure, that someone had placed a pistol to the back of her head and pulled the trigger. When I asked for her hands after the second autopsy, because she was originally not buried with her hands, an FBI agent went to his car and came back and handed me a box, and with a big smile on his face he said, "You want her hands? Here."
I myself have been personally and directly threatened by agents of the FBI for my efforts to expose what the Bureau did on Pine Ridge and within the courts of our country. They seem to be fearful of what daylight could bring to their conduct in the past, and perhaps their plans for dealing with dissent in the future.
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Heaney, after reviewing numerous court transcripts and FBI documents, concluded that the United States Government overreacted at Wounded Knee. Instead of carefully considering the legitimate grievances of Native Americans, the response was essentially a military one which culminated in a deadly firefight on June 26, 1975, between Native Americans and FBI agents and U.S. Marshals.
While Judge Heaney believed that the "Native Americans" had some culpability in the firefight that day, he concluded the United States must share the responsibility. It never has. The FBI has never been held accountable or even publicly investigated for what one Federal petit jury and Judge Heaney concluded was complicity in the creation of a climate of fear and terror on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
The resulting firefight near Oglala was preceded by FBI documents internally declaring AIM to be one of the most dangerous organizations in the country and a threat to national security. It followed by two months the issuing of a position paper entitled "FBI Paramilitary Operations in Indian Country," a how-to plan of dealing with AIM in the battlefield. It referred, used such terms as "neutralization," which in the document it defined as "shooting to kill." It included the role of the then-Nixon White House in handling complaints as to such military tactics being utilized domestically.
It followed by one month the build-up of FBI personnel on the Pine Ridge Reservation with mostly SWAT team members from various divisions of the FBI. It followed by three weeks an inspection tour of the reservation by senior FBI officials and the reporting of concern by those officials for the widespread support enjoyed by AIM in the outlying communities on the Pine Ridge Reservation, such as Oglala.
The FBI headquarters document further referred to an area near Oglala which reportedly contained bunkers and would require the use of paramilitary forces to assault. Three weeks later a firefight broke out on the ranch of elders Cecelia and Harry Jumping Bull which lasted for nearly nine hours. FBI documents describe as many as 47 people being involved in the battle with SWAT teams of the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and State police agencies.
Three young men lost their lives that day, each shot in the head, two FBI agents and one AIM member. And one thing, and I will detract from my notes for a moment, that I have always felt was so critical about the way the FBI has looked at that firefight and the way the American Indian Movement has looked at that firefight, is that for AIM people that day, before they left that area, before they were able to escape, they sat and prayed for the three men who died that day, all three. The FBI has always only considered that only two men died that day, their own agents.
One of the agents had in his briefcase a map of the reservation. It had the Jumping Bull ranch circled with the word "bunkers" written next to it. The bunkers turned out to be aged and crumbling root cellars that one wouldn't want to defend in a spitball fight behind.
Leonard Peltier and other AIM members from outside the reservation had come into the Jumping Bull area to help them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They had come in to join other local AIM members because the climate of violence on the reservation had gotten so intense that people felt the need to gain assistance from the outside, so men and women came in, including Leonard Peltier, and they brought with them their single-shot 22's and their rusted shotguns and a few hunting rifles that they were able to get, and they were in a camp on the Jumping Bull ranch.
The government used the incident to increase its campaign of disruption and destruction of the American Indian Movement. FBI agents, dressed and equipped like combat soldiers, searched homes and questioned Pine Ridge residents at gunpoint. Armored vehicles patrolled the reservation, as did SWAT teams and National Guard helicopters.
This was accompanied by a public disinformation campaign by the FBI, designed to make Oglala residents and their guests appear to be the aggressors and, in fact, terrorists. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights would soon report, "It is patently clear that many of the statements released to the media regarding the incident are either false, unsubstantiated, or directly misleading."
You know, we used to think of, during the anti-war days of the war in Indochina, we used to talk about "bringing the war home." Well, I think the FBI kind of thought that that was really a good idea, and many of the tactics that they used in Indochina and Central America and other places in this world, they decided to try out on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Noting Leonard Peltier's regular presence and involvement in AIM activities throughout the country, the FBI targeted him for prosecution from the desks of its agents. According to FBI documents, about two and a half weeks after the firefight, the Bureau was going to, in its own words, "develop information to lock Peltier into the case," and it set out to do so.
The FBI eventually charged four AIM members, including Peltier, with the killing of the agents. No one has ever been prosecuted for the killing of AIM member Joe Stuntz that day. After hearing testimony of numerous eyewitnesses to the violence directed at AIM members by the goon squad and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two of Leonard Peltier's codefendants were acquitted on self-defense grounds by an all-white jury in the conservative town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa--truly a remarkable thing, but people who were willing to keep their eyes and their ears open and listen to the truth, and were able, by a judge who had the courage and willingness to learn himself, to allow this evidence to be presented.
However, after those acquittals, the FBI analyzed why these two men, these two long-haired indian militant men could be acquitted by an all-white jury, and decided a new judge was needed. FBI documents show that a meeting in Washington, D.C. at FBI headquarters, there was a decision made to "put the full prosecutive weight of the Federal Government" against Leonard Peltier.
Evidence shows the government used now admittedly false eyewitness affidavits to extradite Peltier from Canada. This would catch the attention of Amnesty International and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, but only a little bit.
The Court of Appeals would call such conduct "a clear abuse of the investigative process by the FBI" and gives credence to the claims of indian people that if the government is willing to fabricate evidence to extradite a person in this country, it is willing to fabricate evidence to convict those branded as the enemy. Well, absolutely true, but Leonard Peltier remains in prison.
At Peltier's trial the government presented evidence and argued to the jury that he personally shot and killed the agents. To do this, the government presented ballistics evidence purportedly connecting a shell casing found near the agents' bodies with a rifle said to be possessed by Peltier on that day, and the coerced and fabricated eyewitness account of a terrified teenager, claiming that the agents followed Peltier in a van, precipitating the firefight in Oglala.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the ballistics evidence was a fraud; that the rifle could not have fired the expended casing found near the body. Further, the FBI had suppressed evidence showing the agents followed a pickup, not a van, into the compound, and thought someone else, not Peltier, was in that vehicle.
Citing the case of Leonard Peltier as an example, Amnesty International has called for an independent inquiry into the use of our criminal justice system for political purposes by the FBI, other intelligence agencies in this country. Amnesty cited similar concerns for other members of AIM and other victims of the COINTELPRO-type operations by the FBI.
I will submit to you, when the government can select a person for criminal persecution because of their political activity, when they can fabricate evidence against that person and suppress evidence proving that fabrication, and go ahead and prosecute a person and put them in prison for any amount of time, let alone for life, you have a political prisoner.
Upon disclosure of these documents, a renewed effort in a new trial was sought from the courts. While concluding that the suppressed evidence "casts a strong doubt" on the government's case, our appellate courts denied relief. The U.S. Attorney's office has now admitted in court that it had no credible evidence Leonard Peltier killed the agents, and speciously claimed it never tried to prove it did. Under our system, if there is a reasonable doubt, then Leonard Peltier is not guilty, yet he has been in prison for nearly 25 years for a crime he did not commit.
The FBI still withholds thousands of pages of documents in this case, claiming in many instances that disclosure would compromise the national security. In the absence of such disclosure, no further efforts in a new trial are possible. And Leonard Peltier is not alone in his imprisonment for his political activities. We have heard about some of the other people today, and I am hearing more every day. Kind of isolated, out in South Dakota, from some of the things.
Despite congressional interest in an investigation of the tragic events at Ruby Ridge and Waco, the committee of Congress with subpoena power has yet to hold full and formal hearings on what the FBI did to suppress the indian movement in the 1970s, as well as the human and civil rights movements in the black and brown communities of this Nation. This meeting today is an important first step, Congresswoman McKinney, to make sure that we truly have freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the freedom to seek redress of grievances in this country.
I would respectfully submit that the FBI's involvement in the suppression of dissent within our country is a cause for great alarm. Its use of the criminal justice system, disruptive campaigns, and outright condoning and support of terrorism in our communities must be investigated and never allowed to happen again.
On behalf of Leonard Peltier and my own children, we would urge a full congressional investigation, and we would urge the granting of executive clemency to those activists from the '70s, '80s, and '90s who have yet to gain their freedom.
Updates: 2001 Peltier, FBI , parole 2000 Jan.-early Nov. 2000
1999 Mar. 1998