Important current issues: January 1999
As a child Leonard stepped on a nail and got tetanus. This caused him to get lockjaw and he has had problems with his jaw ever since. He also broke his jaw once and it never healed correctly. This is why he was transferred to Springfield for surgery in 1996. Dr. Collins, one of the prison doctors, had recommended that Leonard be treated at the Mayo clinic in Rochester because Springfield did not have the proper facilities. The prison ignored this advice. During this surgery Leonard almost died. He was in a coma for fourteen hours after the surgery and his jaw is now in much worse condition than before he was treated.
Leonard cannot bite or chew his food because his jaw is frozen. He cannot completely close or open his mouth. He must eat by forcing food through a gap in his front teeth and then mashing it against his front teeth with his tongue. The prison will not blend his food. He suffers from excruciating headaches and jaw pain because of this condition.
This is not the only maltreatment he received at Springfield. After the operation he was told that he required radiation treatment to his jaw. He was told that if he did not receive it he would die. After a lot of pressure he agreed despite the fact that he was already weak and in severe pain from the surgery. During this time he was kept in "the hole" which is a cell that is six by eight feet long. It was infested with cockroaches and ants, he was only allowed a one inch pencil to write with, he had to write on the cement floor, and he was only allowed one phone call a month. He was not put in isolation because his behavior had warranted any type of disciplinary action.
After one month it became apparent to Leonard that the surgery was a complete failure. He refused to go back to Springfield because of its inhumane conditions and medical maltreatment. It has been two years and he is still waiting for treatment from the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Keller, a specialist at the Mayo Clinic has agreed to do the surgery but the prison will not transfer him there. Leonard will not sign any transfer papers unless they specifically state that he is going to the Mayo Clinic for treatment for fear of being transferred back to Springfield. Legal remedies are currently being taken in order to get Leonard the care he needs. Meanwhile please help us pressure the BOP, Leavenworth prison, and Congress to allow him to be immediately transferred to the Mayo Clinic.
Leonard has endured the Marion Control Unit, an attempted assassination, harassment, and physical brutality for twenty-three years despite the fact that the government says they do not know who is responsible for the deaths of the agents. It is important now more than ever that Leonard is released.
GETTING CASE BACK INTO COURTS
We need research lawyers, law professors, and law students to try to find ways by which to do this. If you are interested in researching Leonard's case you may want to purchase The Trial of Leonard Peltier, and the trial transcripts. We also have the appeal decisions on disc, but we still need to get other relevant briefs, evidentiary hearings, etc. on the computer-hopefully this will be done soon. If you find a possible strategy to get Leonard's case back into court, we will have you discuss it with trial attorneys Tony Serra, Carl Nadler, and Eric Seitz. Anyone who is able to find a way to get the case back into court will receive international recognition in the legal community. Contact the LPDC for more information.
President Clinton has the authority to look into the status of the "review" and he has the authority to grant clemency whenever he chooses. The Clinton administration has ignored letters and resolutions from foreign governments, letters from many prestigious people, and millions of signatures and letters from the people of the U.S. The government admits that they do not know what involvement Leonard may have had in the agents' deaths. It is an outrage that the Leonard is still in prison. Please continue to write Clinton and the Pardon Attorney- however we must do more than this to show our support for Leonard. We cannot be ignored any longer while an innocent man suffers in prison.
CONGRESSIONAL HEARING INVESTIGATIONS
CANADIAN EXTRADITION REPORT
The review was commissioned by the former Minister of Justice in 1995-1996 & handed over to the Privacy Commissioner in 1997. The Privacy Commissioner was supposed to "deal with privacy concerns" contained in that report (i.e, remove the names of informants, etc). As soon as that was done, according to the statement made by the Minister of Justice in the House of Commons on 11 May, 1998, "... as soon as I am satisfied and the Privacy Commissioner is satisfied that we can release that report I will do so."
There is NO doubt that the report will clearly state that Leonard's extradition was fraudulently obtained by the govt of the USA, & that will mean that under the terms of the extradition treaty between Canada & the USA, Canada HAS NO CHOICE but to present the ambassador of the USA to Canada with a formal note of diplomatic protest & demand Leonard's immediate return to Canadian soil, (where he will be 100% free).
In June of 1989, in the Supreme Court of Canada, the U.S. government admitted that the documents used in their request for extradition of Mr. Peltier were fraudulent. (These fraudulent documents are now referred to as the "Poor Bear Affidavits".)
In their 1989 decision in considering Leonard's extradition, Canada's Supreme Court stated that the USA was "less than forthright" in the extradition application, & that the US affidavits used to obtain the extradition were "...suspect to the point of fraud...". The SCC "strongly urge[d]" the federal govt of Canada to "... seek immediate & effective diplomatic redress...".
Under the terms of the extradition treaty between Canada and the U.S., if the party extraditing a person is shown to have made the request fraudulently, regardless of intent to do so, the person so extradited must immediately be returned to the country they were extradited from.
Needless to say, the US Dept of Just-Us (as it's called in Indian Country) & the Canada-desk at Secretary of State are putting a lot of pressure on the Canadian govt to keep this report under wraps.
YOU CAN HELP-You can help break that report loose, & in the process loosen the bars that imprison Leonard. Call, write, fax and/or email your US Congress/Senate representatives, or members of the Joint House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressing your concern about how morally reprehensible you find the manner in which Canada was duped by the FBI, & how the USA's reputation is besmirched by such callous disregard for justice & diplomatic protocol.
You can also call, write, fax and/or email Canada's Minister of Justice, expressing your interest in the "expedient processing of the report so that it can be made public as soon as possible...," or something to that effect. Ask that her communications staff send you a copy the moment it's available. Mention any group or organization you belong to, & how they are also interested in receiving a copy, ".. within the shortest reasonable time, now that Canada's Privacy Commissioner has cleared it for release..."
Please let the Minister know how you feel about this judicial farce that has cost an innocent man over 23 years of his life. A life as important as yours, mine..., or hers. Her address is listed at the end of this update.
FEBRUARY 6, 1999
JUNE 25, 26, & 27 LEONARD PELTIER ORGANIZING CONFERENCE
Now is a time for unity. Over the years people have had many ideas and strategies on how Leonard's freedom could be obtained. Often times conflicts arise as to what kind of activity is appropriate. While all strategies planned must be known and okayed by Leonard and we must all work on the same page, we feel that we must encourage everyone to do what they do best and we must work on every possible level simultaneously--from grass roots to lobbying to legal strategies. We want everyone who attends this conference to go home better prepared to organize with a feeling of renewed dedication and unity.
The workshops and presentations will include a legal presentation, update, and question and answer session by Leonard's lawyers, a presentation on prison issues, a presentation on the current international campaign to free Peltier, a workshop on lobbying our elected officials to help free Peltier, a work shop on grass roots organizing, and a workshop on the movement to
free all political prisoners. Jennifer Harbury, Irma Muniz for Ramsey Muniz, Helen Felix Baca, Attorney Carl Nadler, Pam Africa, are some of the people who have already confirmed to help give presentations and run workshops. Many more are being invited. Make arrangements now to come to Kansas for this weekend! If you are flying, Kansas City is the closest airport. Many details are being worked out now, so call the Committee for more information.
SAMPLE LETTERS TO CLINTON
Dear Mr. President Clinton,
I am writing you in concern of racism in the United States of America and more specifically, the case of Leonard Peltier. Leonard Peltier has been incarcerated now for twenty-three years despite the fact that the government has conceded on numerous occasions that they do not know who is responsible for the deaths of the agents or what part Leonard Peltier may have had in them. This blatant disregard for justice exemplifies and symbolizes an attitude of racism toward Native Americans by the United States government. I do not believe that relations between our nations can be healed while Leonard Peltier remains behind bars.
Between 1973 and 1976 over sixty Native people were murdered on the Pine Ridge Reservation which was why Leonard Peltier chose to go there and protect those that were being targeted for these killings. NONE of these murders have ever been investigated. What does it say to Native people and conscientious non-Native people when a government shows no concern over the deaths of Native Americans but yet will go to any length to blame the deaths of two FBI agents on an Indian, innocence not being a factor? Why should we have faith in the U.S. justice system when you have ignored millions of our letters and phone calls voicing our justified indignation with the continued incarceration of Leonard Peltier? Why should we have faith in the justice system when the government convicted Leonard Peltier of first degree murder, but when their evidence was impeached during an appeal, they then changed their theory to aiding and abetting? Since Leonard Peltier's co-defendants were found innocent on grounds of self-defense, this sudden change of theory looks to us like a ridiculous excuse to keep an innocent man in prison.
I strongly urge you to do the right thing and grant executive clemency to Leonard Peltier. Millions of people internationally know the case of Leonard Peltier and what it symbolizes and millions upon millions more continue to learn about it. If you ignore us, the prolonged incarceration of the most well know advocate for Indigenous People in the U.S. will add to political unrest and the break down of faith in U.S. justice. If you listen to our valid demands for justice, you will be remembered by millions for a gracious act which you will go down in history for.
Leonard is suffering from severe health conditions. He filed for executive clemency five years ago. Please do not send me a form letter stating that his petition is still under review by the justice department. Instead, please look into this case and take immediate action. Thank you.
US Pardon Attorney
President Bill Clinton
Canadian Extradition Report
The Hon. Ann McLellan, MP
write to Leonard Peltier
Ms. Kathleen Hawk
Congressman John Conyers
Senator Paul Wellstone
| Fri, 3 Dec 1999
We are sure that many of you have recently encountered the FBI�s attempt to counter efforts to gain executive clemency for Native American, Leonard Peltier. They have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on newspaper and radio ads wrought with misinformation and outright lies in an attempt to mold public opinion before our grass roots campaign can bring them the truth. They are also submitting a dear editor form letter to numerous papers. In the midst of new revelations about the FBI�s shameless efforts to cover up important details regarding the Waco catastrophe, it is no wonder that they are now feeling so threatened as to launch a costly campaign to cover their tracks in regard to Leonard Peltier�s case as well.
In the advertisements, the FBI claim that they are attempting to spread the facts of the Peltier case while dispelling the inaccuracies Mr. Peltier�s supporters have disseminated, supporters such as Amnesty International, the late Mother Theresa, and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights to name a small few. Of course the ads did not contain contested facts or attempts to challenge Leonard�s claims. Instead, they were based on brutal insults and emotional, unfounded, and undocumented claims.
Help get the facts of the Peltier case out. If your paper has printed slanderous dear editor letters about the Peltier case be sure to immediately respond with a dear editor letter of your own. Call the paper and let them know that you are outraged that they have printed such undocumented misinformation and ask them to print your letter. If your paper has not printed a slanderous letter, send a strong dear editor letter about Leonard� s case to them before the FBI does. Hook it in to the holidays or other related current issues that your paper is interested in. Submit a letter no longer than 1000 words in double spaced format. Below are some points and rebuttals you can include in your letters. Thank you.
FALSE STATEMENTS IN THE FBI�s AD (Washington Post-Nov 99)
The FBI would like your readers to believe that Mr. Peltier is a violent man with a violent past. However, not only did Mr. Peltier have an absolutely clean record prior to his conviction in question, but Lynn Crooks, the US prosecutor in this case, consistently concedes that they cannot prove who actually shot the agents, making the FBI�s slanderous statements toward Mr. Peltier without any basis whatsoever. What is well documented is the fact that Mr. Peltier is a victim of FBI misconduct. Had the FBI not falsified affidavits, withheld exculpatory evidence, threatened witnesses, and manufactured evidence, Mr. Peltier would not be where he is today.
To begin establishing Mr. Peltier as a violent man, the FBI�s ad opens by describing Mr. Peltier as a fugitive wanted for the attempted murder of a police officer. What the FBI fails to mention is that Mr. Peltier was found innocent of this charge after the police officer�s girlfriend testified that the officer had shown her a picture of Mr. Peltier and told her he was helping the FBI to frame up a big one. This was the first time Mr. Peltier was unfairly targeted because of his activities in the American Indian Movement. Again, Mr. Peltier has NO past record of violence.
The ad states that the agents had entered the Jumping Bull property on June 26, 1975 to arrest a young man in connection with a recent abduction and assault of two young ranchers. In fact, the agents had no physical warrant in their possession for such an arrest, and the warrant that had been issued was for the theft of a pair of cowboy boots and assault, not for abduction. On reservations, such crimes are investigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police, not the FBI.
The FBI�s version of what occurred that day is dramatic and imaginative, however not the least bit documented. For example, there is no evidence that Mr. Peltier was followed by the agents onto the property that day. There is no evidence that the agents were following a red and white van and in fact there is plenty of evidence that they were following a red pickup truck, a vehicle that could not be linked to Mr. Peltier. There were no eyewitnesses to the shootings of the agents. There is no evidence that Mr. Peltier�s gun fired the fatal shots. Mr. Peltier never admitted to going down to the bodies; he only said that he had seen the bodies from a distance. In short, the FBI is claiming to know what it cannot know by the evidence which exists.
The ad goes on to state that after the shoot out, an Oregon state trooper stopped a recreational vehicle in which Mr. Peltier was hiding. They say that Mr. Peltier ran from the RV, fired at the officer and escaped. In reality, there is no evidence that Leonard Peltier was involved in this incident. As a matter of fact, charges in this regard were brought against him and later dropped for lack of evidence. The FBI states that Coler�s gun was found in a bag with one of Mr. Peltier�s thumbprint on it. What they failed to mention was that it was a used paper bag covered in various peoples� fingerprints.
In an attempt to further implicate Peltier as a violent person, the ad accuses Mr. Peltier of telling the RCMP that �had he known the RCMP officers were there to arrest him, he would have blown them out of their shoes.� However, the RCMP did not put this statement on record until over a year after it was supposedly said. The first anyone heard of it was during Leonard Peltier�s trial. This statement was in fact never made. The FBI continues to use charges against Mr. Peltier when he has already been acquitted of them. They state that Mr. Peltier shot his way out of jail while incarcerated at Lompoc federal prison and then robbed and assaulted a rancher. This is simply false. Mr. Peltier did escape from Lompoc after another inmate warned him of an assassination plot against him. However, Mr. Peltier was found innocent of shooting at anyone, of assault, and of robbery. The inmate who claimed to have been hired to assassinate Mr. Peltier had charges of attempted murder of a police officer mysteriously dropped and he would later testify on Mr. Peltier�s behalf in court.
REASON TO BE CONCERNED OVER THE PELTIER CASE:
This was the climate that existed when the shoot out took place. Why the FBI entered the Jumping Bull property on June 26, 1975 continues to be a mystery. A map of the Jumping Bull area found in one of the agent�s cars had labeled the families� root cellars as bunkers. Over 150 FBI agents, SWAT team members, BIA police and local vigilantes were able to mobilize around the small isolated area within a very short amount of time after the shoot out began. The group of 30-40 men, women and children escaped through a hail of bullets, many of whom went into hiding fearing for their lives.
Mr. Peltier fled to Canada. While in Canada, his co-defendants were arrested, tried and found innocent on grounds of self defense. After being told that there was not enough evidence against Mr. Peltier to extradite him from Canada, the FBI obtained affidavits from a Myrtle Poor Bear, a local Native American woman known to have serious mental problems. She claimed to have been Mr. Petlier�s girl friend at the time and to have been present during the shoot out, and to have witnessed the murders. In fact she did not know Mr. Peltier, nor was she present at the time of the shooting. She later confessed she had given the false statements after being pressured and terrorized by FBI agents.
Mr. Peltier was extradited to the US where his case was mysteriously transferred to a different district by a different judge than the one who tried his co-defendants. He was found guilty of first degree murder in a trial where exculpatory evidence was withheld, key witnesses such as Myrtle Poor Bear were banned, the jury was intimidated, witnesses were coerced, and the judge erred in his rulings making it impossible for Mr. Peltier to defend himself. The case against Mr. Peltier was weak and Freedom of Information Act documents later released proved that Mr. Peltier�s conviction was unjust.
The main evidence used to convict Mr. Peltier was a shell casing found in the trunk of the agent�s car. This casing was said to match the gun which allegedly belonged to Mr. Peltier. . The FBI ballistics expert had testified that he was unable to do a more conclusive firing pin test on the casing because the gun had been damaged. But, an FBI teletype later released through a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit proved that he had in fact performed the more conclusive test and the casing did not match. When faced with this evidence on appeal, the US prosecutor stated that they could not prove who actually shot the agents, but that Mr. Peltier could still be guilty for aiding and abetting, a complete change of theory. Who he would have been aiding and abetting, how he would have aided and abetted them, and why he would have aided and abetted them has never been established.
The appellate judges decided that the ballistic evidence had been improperly withheld from the defense, and had the jury known about it Mr. Peltier may have been acquitted. Shockingly, the appeal was then denied on a technicality. The same judge would later write a letter recommending Mr. Peltier be released through a presidential grant of executive clemency.
The U.S. prosecutor and the FBI have established that they do not know what participation Mr. Peltier may have had in the agents� deaths and yet Mr. Peltier remains in prison. The only evidence against Mr. Peltier is the fact that he was present at the Jumping Bull ranch during the fatal shoot out. There were more than thirty others there that day as well. Yet Mr. Peltier is the only one who was ever sentenced and imprisoned. The FBI and other officials clearly singled out Leonard Peltier as a scapegoat, and forced him to pay the collective price for the killings which occurred, despite the lack of evidence against him. Personalized vengeance of this kind in US officials cannot be tolerated.
As Federal Judge Heaney of the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals stated in his letter recommending clemency for Leonard Peltier, �The United States government must share the responsibility with the Native Americans for the June 26 firefight. . . the FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier�s extradition from Canada and in otherwise investigating and trying the Peltier case. . at some point a healing process must begin. We as a nation must treat Native Americans more fairly. To do so, we must recognize their unique culture and their great contributions to our nation. Favorable action by the President in the Leonard Peltier case would be an important step in this regard.�
Dear friends of Leonard Peltier,
We would like to apologize for the delay in sending out reports this month. All of our energy has been tied up in the Peltier Freedom Month Campaign, and we were unable to send out timely reports. However, we will be catching you up on everything during the next two weeks, starting now. Heads up for a new phone banking instruction sheet, final report from Peltier Freedom Month, a rebuttal for the FBI's campaign and a new plan of action. Don't forget, December 10 is International Human Rights Day. If organizations in you area are holding events, ask for Leonard Peltier to be part of that agenda. Collect letters to be faxed to the White House that day and remind your friends to flood the comments line. Thank you for your patience and support. Please forward the below message widely.
Canadian Minister of Justice, Anne Mc Lellan Denies Her Government�s Responsibility For the Illegal Extradition of Leonard Peltier
November 30, 1999
One of the most controversial and well known aspects of the case of Leonard Peltier is the manner in which he was extradited from Canada after his arrest in 1976. At the time of Peltier�s arrest, the US government did not have enough evidence against him to extradite him from Canada for the murders of the agents. For this reason, the FBI, in conjunction with Canadian prosecutor, Bob Halprin, obtained affidavits signed by a Myrtle Poor Bear, a Native American woman known to have serious mental problems. She claimed to have been Mr. Peltier�s girlfriend at the time, and to have been present during the shoot out, and to have witnessed the murders. In fact she did not know Mr. Peltier, nor was she present at the time of the shooting. She later confessed she had given the false statement after being pressured and terrorized by FBI agents. A third Poor Bear affidavit directly contradicting those submitted to the courts had been withheld by the FBI, and would later be uncovered before Peltier went to trial.
According to FBI documents, Halprin knew of the existence of this affidavit and he knowingly withheld it during the extradition proceedings. Yet, the complete Poor Bear incident was censored from the jury during Peltier�s trial. Poor Bear was not called as a witness by the prosecution, she was not allowed to testify on the behalf of the defense, and the contradicting affidavits were not allowed to be entered as evidence of government misconduct. No action has ever been taken by either the Canadian or the US governments to rectify this blatant use of FBI misconduct. The Canadian government continues today to cooperate with the US government in obstructing justice for Leonard Peltier.
In 1995, as a result of mounting pressure compounded from Members of Parliament, the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples, the Canadian Supreme Court, and Canadian citizens, the Canadian minister of Justice, Allan Rock, announced that he would conduct an official review of the extradition of Leonard Peltier. In doing so, he asked MP Warren Allmand to review the documents related to the extradition and make a private recommendation to him. MP Warren Allmand reviewed the documents and submitted a confidential letter to Minister Rock stating that the extradition was fraudulent and that without the Poor Bear affidavits, there was not enough evidence to extradite Peltier. But, Minister Rock changed offices, and never completed his review of the extradition.
More recently, Peltier supporters, workers unions, First Nations, and MP�s of Canada began pressuring Allan Rock�s successor, Minister of Justice Anne Mc Lellan, to finish the review. On October 15, 1999, after stating that she had been waiting for the permission of the US government before moving forward, Ms. Mc Lellan released her results. Not surprisingly, her reported results constituted a lazy acceptance of the positions of the Canadian and US governments rather than an actual review where responsible scrutiny of the proceedings would have occurred.
Mc Lellan found that the extradition proceedings were legal. She based most, if not all of her conclusion on prior court proceedings despite the fact that it was the courts themselves who suggested that a governmental review be done because it was a matter regarding nation to nation relationships that they could not act upon. Sadly, Ms. Mc Lellan utterly failed to do her job.
Mc Lellan�s main argument for deeming the extradition legal is that the role of the Canadian court in an extradition hearing is only to hear the evidence presented and to decide whether that evidence might be enough for a conviction if the case was tried in Canada. However, it is not the judge�s role, says Mc Lellan, to weigh the credibility of that evidence, making the fact that the Myrtle Poor Bear affidavits were false, irrelevant.
Minister Mc Lellan outrageously refuses to confront the real issues at hand, namely that the Canadian prosecutor himself in conjunction with the FBI, purposely provided the courts with falsified affidavits, securing Mr. Peltier�s extradition to the US where he did not receive a fair trial as Canada had promised he would. It was not Anne Mc Lellan�s responsibility to simply decide whether or not the courts acted in misconduct, but rather, to decide whether or not the extradition was legal overall, the role of the Canadian prosecutor and the FBI being totally relevant.
Though Mc Lellan acknowledges that the Poor Bear affidavits were false and though she justifies their use by saying that it was not the courts responsibility to weigh their validity, she goes on to say, that had they not been used, there was enough circumstantial evidence to extradite Mr. Peltier anyway, a completely unfounded statement. According to FBI documents, Halprin, the Canadian prosecutor, clearly stated that the US did NOT have enough evidence to extradite Mr. Peltier for the murders of the agents prior to the obtaining of the Poor Bear affidavits. That being the reason the Poor Bear affidavits were obtained in the first place.
On November 1st, 1999 former MP Warren Allmand, publicly released his previously confidential letter which he had submitted to Allan Rock in 1995 as well as his own response to Mc Lellan�s findings. In his response, he argued that there is no way Mc Lellan could have determined that there was enough evidence to extradite Peltier without the Poor Bear affidavits. There is absolutely no evidence or documentation that shows that the judge had felt this to be the case and in fact it is clear he relied solely on the Poor Bear affidavits in making his decision. Moreover, the circumstantial evidence laid out in Mc Lellan�s report was either unrelated to the murder charges, was too flimsy to be taken seriously by a court of law, or it has since been impeached through FOIA documents (such is the case with the ballistic evidence). In Allmand�s letter to Allan Rock he recommended that the Minister of Justice make a formal plea to the United States to either release Peltier through a grant of executive clemency or to grant him a new trial. Allmand requested that at the very least that he order an independent review, either by a learned counsel or by a retired judge. Mc Lellan neglected to even consider Mr. Allmand�s advise and she did not post his letter as part of the documents relating to the extradition on her web site. It is an outrage that such blatant governmental misconduct can be left without any rectification. You can help by calling Minister of Justice, Anne Mc Lellan and voicing your opposition to her report. Ask her how it can be legal for the Canadian and US governments to intentionally manufacture evidence. Ask her why she neglected to consider Warren Allmand� s letter as part of her review and suggest that she order an independent review of the extradition.
The Honorable Anne Mc Clellan, Member of Parliament
November 24, the Leonard Peltier Support Group is holding a phone
in campaign to the White House calling for the release of Leonard Peltier
(who has reportedly been unjustly imprisoned for 23 years). Callers are
asked to call the White House at 1-202-456-0285, and ask for executive
clemency for Leonard Peltier.
Statement of Leonard Peltier November 1, 1999
Greetings Sisters, Brothers, Friends and Supporters,
I hope everyone who has traveled long distances to be here today, to show their love and support for me has had a trouble free journey and I�m hoping that it will be the same when you return home. I want to say to all of you from the deepest part of my heart, thank you very much.
February 6, 2000, will officially mark my twenty-fourth year in prison�twenty-four hard years. A lot has happened in my life. I�ve seen my father pass into the spirit world, also a sister and a brother. Those were especially hard times for me, as I have always been close with my family. I wanted so much to be at their funerals to see them off, but of course this was denied. So all I could do was pray that they had a good safe journey into the spirit world. I was able to see some of my children grow up into fine young adults ? a couple not so good, but they are all adults who have started to live their own lives.
I have been a grandfather for sixteen years. There are now seven grandchildren. I have learned from being a grandfather that it is a special gift from the Great Spirit. I have Alexandria (16) and Cyrus (14) near me, thirty miles away in Lawrence, Kansas, raised by special close friends and supporters for the past eight years. Believe me, this has been an enormous help and experience for me while I serve this time. I did not know that anyone could end up loving anyone as much as I have come to love these two kids. I am not saying that the entire eight years have been trouble-free with them. There were times when I was not sure that they would have a roof over their heads. Also, as troubled children who have not had such a great life themselves, they would make life a little hard for those caring for them and problems would arise from it ? problems that I had no way of dealing with from here in a prison cell. I want to say to the people, who have opened their homes and gave me a helping hand with them, thank you very much, with a warm hug and kiss.
My health at 55 years old is not great. Most of you know what was done to me at the medical center for federal prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. I cannot say for certain that the botched operations were done intentionally. I would like to believe that it was not and the contract doctor, Tom Collins, who was and is a good man. I do not blame him. I do blame the Bureau of Prisons as Dr. Collins did not want to do the operation there in the Medical Center, as they did not have the kind of facilities to perform this kind of operation. So I live in daily pain and am not able to eat my food properly. I do not know what can be done about this. Thousands if not millions are aware of this medical problem. Those who have written, phoned, faxed and e-mailed government authorities have had no effect. I put out a plea for lawyers to help me with this, but I never received any responses. So I filed a law suit of my own and the courts dismissed it claiming that my medical problems was not cruel and unusual treatment.
I guess, in America, this is normal treatment for prisoners. Just imagine if this was happening in a country like China or Iraq, the outcry would be enormous and deafening. I remember a few years ago when the US government was trying to free the Chinese dissidents. Because of health reasons, all we heard on TV was how ill these Chinese dissidents were and how the Chinese government refused to treat them. Knowing myself how big a liar the government is ? and of course the press wasn�t any better, releasing everything that the government told them to, I began to believe that everything that was said was true. I thought, gee, they should let them go. When finally they were given their freedom and they came to the USA, they were immediately sent to Johns Hopkins Medical Center. When they were released from the hospital they gave their medical reports that they were in fine health, treated for abdominal gas and the other was given a new pair of eyeglasses. What an insult it that must have been for the Chinese government. No wonder they no longer trust or like the USA. We did get to see and witness some positive things this year. When Clinton released my comrades, friends ? the Puerto Ricans, of course this was not done without controversy and made a lot of us know this was not done in the name of humanity, but possible votes for Hillary in her Senate race. Still we must give the President credit for doing it. It was a little sad to see my good friend and comrade Luis Rosa leaving, but happy that he was leaving this hell called prison. I know that they will not disappoint anyone because if the others are like Luis then there are some good comrades out there with you.
I cannot, of course, see with my own eyes how many of you are here today. I know my staff at the LPDC worked overtime to organize this November campaign. So I hope that all who have committed themselves are standing and sitting and listening to my words are just as determined as the LPDC staff with this new energy to make something happen in my case. I still believe it can be done. As I sit here writing this, I still cannot understand that with the millions of people around the world demanding my freedom ?the government can still ignore it all ? and how my continued incarceration can be on a legal technicality. The Constitution of the United States says that this cannot be. One must be proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. Yet I sit here and it doesn�t appear that my will be opened any time soon. What an evil show of disrespect and dishonor this is for those, including my own family members, who have fought and died in foreign wars for equal and fair justice for all. Recently we learned that the FBI and prosecutors were caught lying tot he number one law enforcement officer, Janet Reno. This certainly was not a surprise tome or my supporters. We know this over 20 years ago in my case. Have you noticed anything about the silence of the mainstream media? What a joke that word is, mainstream media�on the Waco massacre. Nothing about it lately and that can only mean that there is another cover-up coming.
Recently a Canadian Minister of Justice released a report on the investigation they did on my extradition. Yes, it was another cover-up. If you read it, you will see how much of a joke this review is. They claim that there was enough circumstantial evidence to extradite me. If this was so, why did they have to create and fabricate Myrtle Poor Bear? Come on! How ignorant do they believe we are? The fact is, I would not have been extradited on the South Dakota first degree murder charges if they had not fabricated Poor Bear as a witness. Those are the facts in a nutshell.
I am not going to go into a lot of the legal and political issues involved in my illegal conviction. I have enough speakers who are more than qualified to cover everything there in the month of November. If you happen to miss some of these speakers, we have volumes of literature, some documentaries and books available. There is just too much to say and my time is very short. So I cannot speak on any of it today. If you want this information, please contact the organizers of this November campaign.
I know my friends, family and supporters are growing tired of this battle to win my freedom. Yes, it has been a long hard fight for me too. I guess it would not be so bid if we could see a light at the end of the tunnel, when I was gong to be released. But as of late there is no such light so I cannot truthfully say, I will be seeing you soon. I can only say, I hope, my friends, that I will see you all soon. I dream of the day that I can tell you all, thank you, in person.
So in closing, I can truthfully say, that I will never give up. I ask all of you, never to give up on me. We can and we will win this battle. That, I am very confident about. Let me shake all of your hands. Let me embrace you with my love and friendship. Thank you, my friends, for showing me all the love you have..
LEONARD PELTIER FREEDOM MONTH!
Lafayette Park Rally 8:30 am - 1:00 pm Monday Nov. 1
Please be there to support the Native American Survivors from Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge, and Oglala.
As you know, the Leonard Peltier Freedom Campaign begins on November first in Washington D.C. and will continue through Thanksgiving Day. We will be in Lafayette Park every single day, and we need you to be there with us to show support and solidarity for Mr. Peltier and for all Native Americans. Mr. Peltier has been unjustly incarcerated for some 23 years as a result of FBI misconduct, including the coercion of witnesses, the utilization of falsified evidence, and the concealment of a key ballistics test reflecting Mr. Peltier's innocence. He nevertheless remains in prison, denied a new trial and long overdue for parole. Why ? Because he was a leader and he stood up for his people.
Time is running out in this tragic case. Mr. Peltier's health is beginning to deteriorate : he now suffers from diabetes and a heart condition as well as a worsening jaw problem that causes constant pain. Although a Mayo Clinic specialist has offered to repair the jaw, permission has been denied by prison authorities. Amnesty International, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, the Dalai Lama, the National Council of Churches, and the Archbishop of Canterbury have all recognized Leonard Peltier as a political prisoner and are demanding his immediate and unconditional release. The time has come for us to act as well. Monday November 1st s the first day of the month long campaign. There will be an opening rally in Lafayette Park to start up the activities, and we believe that you will find the presentations very moving. Chief Billy Tayac will give the welcoming comments, and Freedom Runners will arrive from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to demand justice and freedom for Leonard. There will be a traditional prayer circle lead by David Chief, a spiritual leader, and a group of Freedom Fasters will begin their long fasting in the square. Most moving of all will be the arrival of the survivors from the siege of Wounded Knee, from the Reign of Terror at Pine Ridge Reservation, and from the shoot out at Oglala. This will be the first time these people have gathered together to speak out in public in decades. From 1973-1975 these people endured one of the worst campaigns of repression by the U.S government that was carried out in this century. Hundreds of thousands of rounds of live ammunition were fired at the men , women and children in Wounded Knee. The promised hearings on local abuses and treaty violations never took place. After Wounded Knee, some 64 AIM members and traditionalist supporters were murdered on Pine Ridge Reservation. Many others were battered, abused and threatened. Despite a massive FBI presence not one person ever stood trial for these crimes. After the incident at Oglala, which a federal judge has recognized was equally the fault of the U.S. government, Leonard Peltier was extradited from Canada on the basis of a false affidavit obtained by the FBI through coercion and intimidation. Other witnesses were terrorized as well . The FBI ballistic test reflecting his innocence was withheld form the defense. In short, Leonard Peltier was framed, one more victim of FBI corruption.
Where were we while all this horror occurred? To be sure, the truth was long withheld from the press and the public. Peter Mathhiessen's book was kept off the shelves for years by litigation. Yet many of us were indeed aware, at least in part, of what was going on. We were appalled, but we believed that the courts and the human rights leaders and our Congressional members would somehow take care of things. We believed that matters would soon be set straight, that justice would be achieved. We were wrong. People continued to be killed and terrorized on Pine Ridge and even today, Leonard Peltier remains in prison.
We were not present for our Native American friends and neighbors in those terrifying years. We did not take a strong enough stand. We did not make ourselves heard. They paid the price.
This time we must all be there, to show our full support for Mr. Peltier and all of the survivors, and to express our outrage at the injustices which have occurred. We must insist on Leonard Peltier's immediate and unconditional release from prison. The time has come to demand justice and respect for all Native Americans.
November is Native American Heritage Month. Let's not leave this grand title as an empty euphemism. Let's make it count.
For further information call Za'Yn @ Amnesty International:202.544.0200 xt. 245 email email@example.com or Leonard Peltier Freedom Coalition at 202-857-1469 or 785-842-5774 or visit our web site at: http://members.xoom.com/freepeltier/index.html
MAKE FOUR CALLS FOR FREEDOM
to DEMAND CLEMENCY for Leonard Peltier
(202) 456-1111IT'S TIME TO END THE SUFFERING
Northern California calls the Whitehouse every Thursday
Also call your congresspersons (202) 224-3121 OR! (800)648-3516
More info at http://www.freePeltier.org Please forward the new web address widely
Excerpts from the full instruction sheet:
It is important to keep the message short and simple and just take a few basic points.
PSA/ Calendar 10/15:
Kathleen Hawk, Director (202) 616-2093 Fax
Federal Bureau of Prisons (202) 307-3250
Main Justice Building firstname.lastname@example.org
19th Street & Constitution NW
Washington DC 20530
| Re: Leonard Peltier #89637-132
-- Ask for Peltier to receive updated x-rays for evaluation by the Mayo Clinic and for him to be released for outside medical care of his jaw.
President Bill Clinton (202) 456-1111
The White House (202) 456-2461 Fax
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500 email@example.com
| Re: Leonard Peltier #89637-132
-- Ask for Clinton to grant a pardon or Executive Clemency for Leonard Peltier and for his unconditional and immediate release from Leavenworth.
US Pardon Attorney (202) 616-6070
Roger C. Adams
500 First St. NW Suite 400
Washington DC 20530
| Re: Leonard Peltier #89637-132
-- Ask for a pardon of Leonard Peltier, held without parole for crimes he did not commit. Ask for his immediate and unconditional release.
Support the November Washington DC Campaigns for Leonard Peltier! Contact the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee at (785) 842-5774 firstname.lastname@example.org, the Leonard Peltier Support Group of Eugene (541) 683-2789 email@example.com, Indigenous Support Coalition of Oregon firstname.lastname@example.org for info or to help.
For More Info: email@example.com
Indigenous Support Coalition of Oregon
PO Box 11715 Eugene, OR 97440 (541) 683-2789
We are quickly approaching the November 1999 Leonard Peltier Freedom Month campaign in Washington DC. So far we are very pleased with the response and support that has been coming in nationwide. Enclosed is the preliminary calendar for the month.
You will see that Honoring Native Lives is scheduled on November 3rd. We need everyone who signed up for the reenactment of the Wounded Knee Massacre to be in Washington DC on the 3rd if at all possible. The LPDC and our advisory council have been trying to come up with a way that we could publicize the many, many, unjustified losses of Native lives while being very careful to respect and honor the families and friends of those who died. Here is what we came up with. We have invited descendants of the people killed during the Wounded Knee massacre, Wounded Knee II veterans, and survivors of the reign of terror to partake in a ceremony and to speak in honor of those who gave their lives for their people. This will be followed by a short play of Wounded Knee II, which will be performed in the square. Now, here is where you come in. . . we need 64 people to hold signs that each have a picture and the name of reign of terror victims. We will hold an hour of silence for the victims while everyone stands holding the signs. If possible, we will then form into a procession and add the names, one by one, onto a model memorial wall. Through out the rest of the month others will add names of their loved ones to the wall as well. We have decided not to organize Civil Disobedience during this day.
Please make every effort to come early for the November 1st opening because this is the day we will need the strongest show of support. All participants of the November 3rd event can stay in a nearby church, which will be available from the 31st until the 3rd. We should meet the evening before hand to go over the November 3rd program. Please confirm your attendance by returning the bottom of this letter. We still need more people for the November 3rd activities. You can copy this letter and encourage others to come and participate. Please respond as soon as possible. Thank you again and we will see you soon!
It's 1999, why is Leonard Peltier still in prison???
This is a unique time for Leonard Peltier. The revelations of FBI misconduct at Waco, the White House clemency offered to Puerto Rican political prisoners, and Leonard's deteriorating medical condition all make it important for us to redouble our efforts for his freedom. Please see http://treaty.indigneousnative.org/content.html for background on the Peltier case, including its connection to mining in South Dakota.
The 1975 Oglala shootout was less than two months after the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. If U.S. military veterans can make peace with the Vietnamese, why cannot the US. government make peace with the American Indian Movement?
Midwest Treaty Network
From Leonard Peltier:
"My Brothers and Sisters,
It is hard for me to believe that the year 2000 is so quickly approaching us. As I sit in this cell and think about my grandchildren who are growing up so fast, my friends who have passed on, and the many years of my life that have been stolen from me, I remind myself of the attention my own suffering has brought to the realities of Indigenous Peoples everywhere. I know that my own persecution has become a symbol of the persecution all of our people face everyday.
But I have not given up hope for freedom. Today I am asking you to stand up and represent me and everything I am so proud of, the dignity, spirituality and pride of the First Nations Peoples of the world.
My dream is to continue what the Trail of Broken Treaties started; an event that will have an historical and lasting effect in the minds and consciousness of the public. We are hoping to carry out such an event this November in Washington, D.C. November will be a critical time for my freedom campaign.
This December will be Clinton's last likely chance to grant me Executive Clemency. My defense team will have been steadily lobbying Congress to support clemency for two months prior to the event. Therefore, November will be an important time for a strong show of public support. The irony is that at the same time, "Native American Heritage Month" and the Thanksgiving holiday will be occurring and will be bringing additional attention of Native Americans into the public, making November an important month to bring real issues of Indigenous Peoples of the U.S. into the limelight of the media.
I believe that we can accomplish a successful campaign to do this if we all pull our resources together. I can visualize all the colors of our Native Nations' flags flying high around a culturally brilliant and attention attracting event in front of the White House this Fall. The thought of different Indigenous Nations coming together in unity to support sovereignty, human rights, dignity, cultural preservation, and my freedom, warms my heart. Please read the proposal attached to find out more about our plans and how you can help.
In the spirit of Crazy Horse, Leonard Peltier
We, the members of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, are writing to ask for your support, endorsement and collaboration regarding our plans for a November, 1999 Leonard Peltier Freedom Month in Washington, D.C.. . .It is clear that the judicial system in the United States has utterly failed Mr. Peltier. . . President Clinton has the power to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier at any time, and the U.S. Congress is charged with overseeing the correct conduct of affairs by such agencies as the U.S. Parole Board and the FBI. Even misconduct by the courts is subject to comment and review by the Congressional judiciary committee. . . Traditionally, Clemency Petitions are granted by the President at the end of each year. November will thus be a critical month. Moreover, the Parole Board could reconsider Leonard's parole situation in the early spring, making a November action extremely timely.
Our actions on behalf of Leonard Peltier will be very strong, but non-violent in all ways, as requested by Mr. Peltier himself. We will ask all sectors of society to join us in Washington, D.C. for as long as they are able to arrange. The event will begin on November 1, 1999, with Native American ceremonial runners at the historical Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. After a speech and prayer session there, they will run all the way to the White House in Washington, D.C., where they will be met by all local supporters and a religious leader of high standing, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, together with a Native American religious leader of equal standing. Together they will welcome the runners and officially open Leonard Peltier Freedom Month. We plan to erect ceremonial teepees behind the White House for the month, and conduct a Native American ceremony in front of the White House each and every morning, inviting public attendance. Meanwhile, ten young Native Americans will carry out a Freedom Fast for Peltier in front of the White House from November 1 through Thanksgiving day itself, underscoring the urgent need to grant him justice at last.
Additionally, we are asking for cultural activities including dancing, drumming, and singing from different Indigenous nations to represent the pride for Native tradition and culture that Mr. Peltier has always advocated. We will also invite peoples of all races to carry out support activities, both in Washington and at home. Such activities could include such educational efforts as a reenactment of the massacre of Wounded Knee in key public parks and other symbolic places.
Throughout the month, Mr. Peltier's family and friends will work carefully with Congressional offices, and there will also be carefully coordinated work with the domestic press corps. For those who cannot travel to Washington, D.C., a coordinated and massive telephone campaign to the White House will be organized.
Our goals are both educational and political. The true facts of the Leonard Peltier case are well known and notorious abroad, but have been heavily censored within the United States. We must teach the American people what has truly taken place, and urge them to speak out. Most importantly we must bring these facts to members of the U.S. Congress. They alone can bring the appropriate and effective pressure to bear, both upon President Clinton as well as the Board of Parole and the FBI itself.
Please give us your full support. Leonard Peltier is a gifted Native American leader who still has much to give his people. 23 years of his life have been taken away and his health is beginning to fail. Please help to obtain justice and freedom for him so that he can continue to give his gifts to us all.
____ We wish to formally endorse the November 1999 Freedom Month for Leonard Peltier.
____ We wish to financially contribute to the costs of the Freedom Month. Enclosed is a check to the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee for this purpose.
____ We wish to support this event by organizing or participating in the regional telephone banks for this campaign. Please send information.
____ We live the Washington, D.C. area and would like to help by offering our homes to participants in the prayer ceremonies, and/or by providing transportation to and from the local airports.
____ We would like to help by organizing a cultural or religious ceremony for Lafayette park during the month of November. Please contact for details.
____ We would like to organize fundraising activities or otherwise help to raise funds to help cover the costs of this campaign. Please contact us.
____ We wish to travel to D.C. to participate in this event and show our solidarity.
____ We would like to help organize a busload of people to come to D.C.
____ We have a vehicle and would be willing to carpool with others traveling to D.C.
____ We would like to help with artwork for the November event.
____ We cannot travel to D.C. but would like to help organize teams to address our Congress people in their local district offices.
____ We would be interested in training to participate in the dignified re-enactment of the massacre at Wounded Knee.
____ We would be willing to participate in the dignified re-enactment of the massacre of Wounded Knee, even if it involved civil disobedience.
____ Other? (please specify):___________________________________________________
Great momentum was created from the December 19th rallies across the U.S. and internationally for a mass mobilization to once and for all gain justice for Leonard Peltier. 23 years it has taken to get to this point. Upon what has been done we need to push ahead for even more. This campaign must continue to increase until the U.S. Government understands that the case of Leonard Peltier WILL NOT GO AWAY AND THAT THIS STRUGGLE WILL ONLY KEEP GROWING!
Leonard Peltier is an American Indian Movement (AIM) activist who was framed on the charge of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation on June 26, 1975. There had been a large number of FBI agents at Pine Ridge for the purpose of defending multi-national energy companies' attempt to take Lakota land for uranium mining. The FBI was a part of the oppression of the traditional Lakota People and AIM who were the resistance to the illegally taking of Lakota land. In the two years before the shootout over 60 resistors were murdered by a death squad that was armed, trained and directed by the FBI. On the day of the shootout two FBI agents came into an AIM camp in the same manner that the death squad had done all over Rine Ridge. There is much proof that this was a setup against AIM. Two FBI agents were killed and one AIM member. In the first trial two AIM members were found not guilty by reason of self-defense. Then the government illegally had Leonard extradited from Canada based upon false statements. They then moved his trial to a judge that had been cited for his anti-Indian attitude. Leonard's trial was a frame-up that included falsified evidence and the intimidation of witnesses.
Through the appeals process Leonard's defense has disproved the government's case to the point that the government prosecutor has come out and stated that they don't know who killed the agents and that if Leonard were to have a trial today they could not convict him. They say now that Leonard's crime was that he "aided and abetted" in the deaths because he was there that day. Since the first two AIM members were found not guilty for reason of self-defense, this means that Leonard has been locked-up for 23 years for aiding and abetting in an act of self-defense.
Leonard was arrested in Canada on Feb. 6, 1976, thus marking that day and the building of the international campaign for justice for Leonard Peltier, Feb. 6th of each year has become THE INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SOLIDARITY WITH LEONARD PELTIER. Leonard Peltier supporters have held marches and rallies on that day in many places internationally. It does not matter where in the world you maybe, it does not matter how small or how large of a city you live in, please join us in this day of solidarity. Even if it is but a small handful of people who will come out on that day in your location. Please contact LPDC at; firstname.lastname@example.org if you are willing to help organize for Feb. 6th in your location.
DECEMBER 10, ANNIVERSARY OF THE INTERNATIONAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN
On December 10, 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed. On this day we should remind President Clinton that the U.S. signed the International Declaration of Human Rights and the continued incarceration of Leonard Peltier violates it. On December 10, flood the White House with phone calls at (202) 456-0285 and faxes at (202) 456-2461 To maximize your efforts, arrange phone trees so that the comments line will receive as many calls as possible on this day. This will be conducted and coordinated internationally. The president traditionally grants clemencies in December making this effort extremely important. Recruit as many people as possible to make this important phone call! This will help to build upon the progress made from the November campaign.
FEBRUARY 6, 2000-ORGANIZE SIMULTANEOUS ACTIONS
Sunday, February 6, 1999 will mark Leonard Peltier�s 24th year in prison. Last year over 50 cities internationally organized local protests calling for Leonard Peltier�s release. This year we are proposing similar simultaneous actions, except that this time our ultimate focus will be on March�s parole review hearing and community coalition building and outreach. Organize local meetings, conferences, and planning sessions. Invite the general public, human rights organizations, church groups, activist groups, unions, students, professors, etc. to participate. Show videos, distribute literature, collect letters for the upcoming parole review hearing. Collect names, addresses, and phone numbers for a mailing lists and ask people to pledge their support for the year 2000. Establish working coalitions. The Senate and House can influence the Parole Commission. Submit an open letter from your community to your governmental representatives asking them to support Leonard Peltier�s release through parole. Fax this letter to your local media sources along with press releases for your actions (Sample letters and press releases will be posted). You can conclude your meetings with marches, vigils, and/or by visiting your local senate and house reps the following day. Leonard Peltier asks that we organize ourselves as collectives and divide organizing tasks among all committed to carrying out the campaign. Please let us know if you are organizing something so that we can help you publicize it and send you relevant materials. The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee Organizing Handbook is available and might be very helpful to you (5.00 donation + 1.00 shipping and handling requested). Remind everyone that this campaign is urgent. The longer we wait to act, the less chance we will have of being successful. Leonard Peltier�s health is deteriorating, don�t let him spend one more year in prison! Work in unity and stay focused!
PAROLE REVIEW HEARING
Leonard Peltier has a parole review hearing scheduled for this March (the date could be postponed). He is long overdue for release through parole, and it is one of his most viable options for freedom. It is very important that we be prepared to pressure the Parole Commission to release him this March. Indirectly, we can use the media and Congress to pressure the commission. Directly, we can collect letters from churches, unions, human rights organizations, the general public, etc. and send them to the parole commission. Please use the LPDC�s sample letters to base your communications on. The parole commission has been extremely hostile toward Leonard, so we must bring enough pressure from responsible human rights organizations, the public, media, etc. to ensure that this time they follow their own guidelines and let him go. This campaign will begin this January, at which point sample letters and sample press releases will be made available. Plan peaceful media events such as vigils in your community for the night before the parole hearing (date TBA).
By Jolynne Walz Martinez
�My jaw is frozen open 13 millimeters. I�m in severe pain. I can�t chew, period,� said Leonard Peltier, who is serving two consecutive life sentences for the murders of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents killed on South Dakota�s Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975.
Imagine what it would be like if you couldn�t chew and had to use your tongue to press your food against your teeth, breaking it up and softening it enough to swallow.
That�s the condition Leonard Peltier is in, the result of contracting tetanus as a child and going through corrective surgery, which he claims left him in worse shape than before.
�My jaw is frozen open 13 millimeters. I�m in severe pain. I can�t chew, period,� he said in a recent phone interview from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, KS, where he is serving two consecutive life sentences for the murders of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents killed on South Dakota�s Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975.
Despite having been imprisoned for the past 23 years, Peltier, an American Indian Movement activist, has continually claimed his innocence, and supporters � including Amnesty International � maintain he is a political prisoner. Furthermore, Peltier claims the lack of proper medical care for his jaw problem is so serious as to be constitutionally classified as �cruel and unusual punishment.�
The official position of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which oversees the operation of Leavenworth, is that �A thorough review of inmate Peltier�s medical record reveals he is being provided appropriate medical attention.�
In December 1998 � without an attorney�s assistance � Peltier filed a complaint with the court alleging medical malpractice, arguing he was denied adequate health care in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The court subsequently dismissed this claim, as well as an appeal filed with the assistance of Liberty, MO, attorney Korey Johnson.
According to Peltier�s prison medical record, which was made available to the PitchWeekly by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Peltier contracted tetanus as a child. Although tetanus, a bacterium that attacks the brain and spinal cord, is sometimes fatal, Peltier was lucky enough to survive. Unfortunately, the disease left him with a common side effect, lockjaw, which prevented him from opening his mouth more than a quarter of an inch, making it difficult to eat, brush his teeth and receive proper dental care.
In 1972, prior to Peltier�s imprisonment, a surgery to correct this problem was unsuccessful.
It was not until December 1995, after he had been imprisoned for two decades, that a dentist at Leavenworth referred him to an oral surgeon at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, MO. In the first two months of 1996, doctors there operated not only to treat the lockjaw but also to treat the degenerative arthritis in his right knee.
The arthroscopic knee surgery was routine. However, medical records refer to the jaw problem as a �difficult case� because it had been left untreated for 42 years.
Dr. Edward L. Mosby, head of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery department at Truman Medical Center, confirmed the fact that a condition such as Peltier�s that had remained untreated would be difficult to treat.
�Let�s say you had your arm in a cast for 42 years,� he said. �You would have a lot of muscle atrophy. You might eventually be able to regain some muscle function, but you would never regain all the function you would have had if your arm hadn�t been in a cast for 42 years.�
The same thing would happen, he explained, to jaw muscles that hadn�t been able to move for that long. Even with surgery to install a dental joint prosthesis and vigorous physical therapy over a long period of time, the patient might expect to regain only about 50 percent of his jaw function.
�I think that there are ultimately going to be forever-type problems,� Mosby said.
After the initial operation on Feb. 8, 1996, the doctors placed Peltier under local anesthesia 10 more times and returned to the operating room, where they passively manipulated the opening and closing of his jaw in order to keep it mobile while healing. In addition, throughout the spring Peltier attended physical therapy for the jaw twice daily and exercised on his own with a Therabite.
Results were mixed. Gradually, Peltier became able to open his mouth wider than before. A progress note in his medical record stated that he could �open wide enough to get [tooth] brush into mouth now.� However, he could no longer chew or touch his teeth together. Doctors were having problems pressing his jaw closed even during passive manipulation.
For example, on Feb. 22, Dr. Thomas A. Collins, D.D.S., noted in his operation report that he had trouble closing Peltier�s jaw because of a disk that �seems to slip forward,� but that �we did, after some manipulation, get his jaw to close normally.�
By late April, it became obvious that a second round of oral surgery was necessary, which was scheduled for May 3.
Although medical records refer several times to plans to discharge Peltier from the hospital only when he could chew normally, he was returned to Leavenworth in mid-June without being able to do so. A �Special Progress Note� from Chief Dental Officer Patrick McDermott, D.D.S., at discharge stated only that the patient was �regaining strength in closing.� Plans were for the dental staff at Leavenworth to follow Peltier�s progress, and for the oral surgeon from Springfield to visit Peltier in two or three months for routine follow-up care.
A month later, the dental treatment record at Leavenworth noted that Peltier�s open bite was not closing with current therapy and that the dentist intended to consult the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield. By September, Peltier had received an emergency transfer back to that facility, where doctors proposed a third corrective surgery, possibly to install prosthetic joints.
This time Peltier refused. The only release he would sign was for them to remove Silastic cap � a device that created space in the joint � that had been installed in May. It was now useless, having worked its way through the tissue. Wires from it were protruding into his mouth.
Peltier did sign a Bureau of Prisons Medical Treatment Refusal Form dated Oct. 1 acknowledging that �Refusal of recommended surgery may lead to permanent inability to open or close lower jaw properly.�
The day before signing the release, he wrote to his supporters, �You would not believe how some of them (B.O.P. [Bureau of Prisons] officials) have tried to convince me I need the operation, and I believe one is needed.� His reason for refusing further care from the prison doctors, he said, was that �They have me scared shitless,� adding, �I know everyone believes because so many are watching they will not do anything to harm me. Well, after I�m dead it certainly does not matter to me anyway...so I believe it is best I go this route and not allow them to operate.�
During the recent phone interview, Peltier said he was afraid of further treatment at Springfield because following the May surgery he had been near death, had lost so much blood that he had to receive emergency transfusions and had been in a coma for 14 hours. In addition, he claims he was placed in a dirty, insect-infested isolation cell to recover, despite the fact that his behavior warranted no disciplinary action.
As Peltier pointed out, there is no typed report of the May 3 surgery in the copy of his medical record that the prison provided in response to his Freedom of Information Act request, although there is one for the February surgery. Peltier had submitted a couple of requests for the records and only received them several months later following a letter from U.S. Senator Tom Daschle to Bureau of Prisons Director Kathleen Hawk, prompting her to release the records Peltier had requested and to which he was entitled.
Existing medical records do document blood transfusions. There is no official note of the patient being in a coma. A few hours after his medical release from the recovery room the morning of May 4, progress notes in his file state Peltier was �up and about on ward� and �observed ambulating in hallway and visiting with other inmates.�
Scott Wolfson, a spokesperson with the Bureau of Prisons Office of Public Affairs, said he was unable to answer all questions posed by PitchWeekly, including those specifically addressing the May 3 surgery and subsequent recovery conditions. He did refer to a press release posted at www.bop.gov containing the bureau�s official statement on Peltier�s health status and provided an additional brief statement in writing with some more general information regarding Peltier�s situation and the prison�s health care policies and practices.
In part, that statement reads, �It is the policy of the Bureau that inmates are provided the necessary medical care from institution medical staff and local contracts.� According to his medical records, Peltier had been treated for his jaw problems by a combination of staff and contract physicians.
According to Amnesty Inter national�s recent report on prison conditions in the United States, Rights for All, there is reason for concern about inmate rights when private companies are contracted to provide prison services.
�Many experts believe that the involvement of private companies increases the likelihood of inmates being abused and subjected to poor conditions,� the report says. �They suggest that private companies have a stronger interest in cutting costs, which can lead to low investment in staffing, training, health care, educational or rehabilitation programs, and even food.�
National accrediting agencies, such as the American Correctional Association and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, have detailed standards for prisons, some of which address human rights standards; however, Wolfson was unable to provide information on whether the penitentiary at Leavenworth is accredited by those groups or by any other agency.
In addition to fears about the quality of health care he received in Springfield, Peltier is also frustrated that the prison is not providing him with a soft diet as recommended by his doctors, that he is not being allowed to receive a second opinion from a doctor of his choice and that the prison is not allowing any current X-rays or other diagnostic tools to evaluate his current medical condition.
Upon Peltier�s release from Springfield in June 1996, doctors there recommended a soft diet because of his problems chewing. But upon his return to Leavenworth he was placed back on a regular diet. A few years ago Peltier requested a return to the soft diet. According to the Bureau of Prison�s official statement in February of this year, �consideration for a change in diet is being reviewed.�
When asked whether he is losing weight, Peltier says that instead he is about 20 pounds overweight and cutting pastries out of his diet to try to take off a few pounds. His supporters state one of the reasons he is overweight is because he can swallow only soft foods, many of which are fattening, and that this situation may actually exacerbate his pre-existing problems with diabetes mellitus, which currently is controlled by diet rather than insulin.
A note in Peltier�s medical file does indicate that his weight gain was in part due to too many dietary supplements, such as Ensure, and too much soft food.
According to prison authorities, �Inmate Peltier�s current condition is stable� and �He is physically able to participate in institution programming and activities.�
In response to his legal team�s request, Dr. Eugene Keller of the Mayo clinic wrote a letter dated April 14, 1997, offering to provide a second opinion and � if necessary � treat Peltier. In later correspondence, he explains his offer was extended �totally on humanitarian grounds and in the spirit of helping an individual in need.� Before doing so, however, he would require current photographs, X-rays and computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans of Peltier�s mouth and jaw.
When the prison did not respond to this offer by May of this year, U.S. Congressman Paul David Wellstone contacted the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In his response later that month, Phillip S. Wise, assistant director of the Health Services Division, advised the congressman in writing that �Dr. Keller is not a Bureau physician and he is not under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to provide health care services....Therefore, Dr. Keller is not authorized to receive Mr. Peltier�s X-rays.� Also, he advised the congressman that Peltier�s condition is stable and the prison medical staff is no longer recommending additional surgery.
In the meantime, Peltier remains in pain and unable to chew his food. The soft food diet that was requested several years ago remains �under consideration� by prison authorities. His condition has led various supporters to issue advisories to the press regarding his poor health. One from a normally reliable source, CovertAction Quarterly, even claimed Peltier�s hair had turned nearly white and that he was near death. However, reports of his nearness to death are exaggerated, and he only has a bit of gray in his hair and mustache, according to the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, which maintains almost daily phone contact with the prisoner. Nevertheless, the group expresses extreme concern about Peltier�s health and encourages members of the public to write to prison officials on his behalf.
Peltier, himself, encourages the public to voice interest in his health condition, expressing frustration that he has been unable to receive satisfactory health care by working within the prison and court systems.
| August 1999
Dear Leonard Peltier Supporters,
By now you have probably heard that President Clinton has signed "clemency" for eleven Puerto Rican political prisoners and prisoners of war. While this is exciting and hopeful news as it shows that Clinton is willing to do something controversial (and right), there is a catch. The agreement, which the prisoners have not agreed to sign as of yet, restricts their political activities once they are released--it will restrict them from associating with others in the independence movement, they would have to sign a statement renouncing the use of violence, and they would still have to adhere to parole restrictions. (None of these prisoners were convicted for acts of violence in the first place and have served unusually long sentences for the "crimes" they were convicted of.)
They are asking that people call the White House and insist that they be freed unconditionally. Please call the White House and ask them to drop the conditions on the prisoners release and to sign the clemency petition for Leonard Peltier. Leonard wants to express his full solidarity with the prisoners in what ever decision they decide to make. He is currently preparing a statement for them which we will soon release.
President Bill Clinton
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20500
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
PO Box 583
Lawrence, KS 66044
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