Mike Ely: The Railroad of Leonard Peltier

Join Kasama in demanding  freedom for Leonard Peltier-- in demanding that, at long last, simple justice be done from him and  the Native peoples. Write the Parole Board and sign this petition urging his release.Remember: the forces opposed to his freedom are also mobilizing.

Petitions are also being circulated urging clemency and urging Congress to investigate FBI misconduct on Pine Ridge and the “reign of terror” that existed between 1973 and 1976.

This article was  written ten years ago as part of the Jericho '98 Movement. It is infuriating that, today, more than ten years later, this freedom fighter is still locked in prison, instead of walking the streets among us. (Originally published in the Revolutionary Worker, issue #949.  It has been updated and reedited by the author.)

The Railroad of Leonard Peltier

by Mike Ely


For over 36 years the Indian freedom fighter Leonard Peltier has been a target of government attack. He's been set up by FBI Cointelpro "dirty tricks," attacked by federal SWAT teams on Indian land, subjected to a national manhunt, illegally smuggled across international borders, railroaded with manufactured evidence, denied religious rights, targeted for assassination in prison, denied basic medical attention and tortured with extreme isolation.

Leonard Peltier has now spent 33 hard years in prison--for the "crime" of defending Indian people from violent government attack. Though it was proven that the FBI manufactured the "evidence" that convicted Leonard of the death of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge reservation, each court appeal ended in new denials and new insults.

The U.S. government insists that there are, officially, no political prisoners in its dungeons. (Just as they insist "The U.S. does not torture.")

The U.S. insists there are no political laws that target and punish speech, political activity, dissidents and rebels. But the truth is that the U.S. government has always targeted those who rise up against injustice -- they massacred the Native people relentlessly, they assassinated key Native leaders, they have framed and persecuted those who dare to rise up and speak. And this story of Leonard Peltier is a living example of the techniques used to protect this system from exposure, resistance and revolution.

FBI wanted poster of Indian activist Leonard Peltier

Leonard recently wrote:

“If my case stands as it is, no common person has real freedom. Only the illusion until you have something the oppressors want."


In December 1993, at Peltier's first parole hearing, the Parole Board deliberated for only 10 or 15 minutes and then announced that Peltier must wait another 15 years until his next hearing in 2009. It is now 2009. That hearing will be on July 27, 2009.

The Military Conquest of the Northern Plains

The story of Leonard Peltier takes us back to Wounded Knee.

A hundred years ago, on December 28, 1890, the great resistance wars of the Plains Indians ended with a brutal massacre. On windswept flats of South Dakota, at the town of Wounded Knee, 500 soldiers of the U.S. 7th Cavalry used artillery and rifles to massacre 350 Sioux.

For 20 years, the Plains Indians had fought the U.S. government to hold on to their land. Led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, they defeated Custer at the famous battle of Little Big Horn. But the forces of rising industrial capitalism and its armed enforcers proved too strong.

The U.S. government carried out a vicious genocide: They deliberately wiped out millions of buffalo to destroy the food base of the Great Plains Indian cultures. They assassinated or imprisoned the great war leaders of the Plains people. U.S. cavalry attacked Indian villages in mid-winter--killing the people by destroying their shelter and food supplies. Soldiers disarmed the people. Government agents criminalized Indian culture, including the great Ghost Dance rituals. And the government finally herded one Indian people after another onto tiny reservations--stealing their land and breaking many treaties.

Wounded Knee was supposed to be the final shot. The murdering soldiers received 20 Medals of Honor to celebrate the massacre. The Indian people were now decisively conquered--it was said. Now they were supposed to disappear from the land and from history. During the 20th century, Official America treated the Native peoples as "relics of a dying past."

In towns surrounding the reservations, sheriffs and klan-like rednecks enforced anti-Indian discrimination with murderous violence. They were always backed by state and federal authorities. Missionary programs stole Indian children and suppressed the Native languages. Indian people lived in bitter poverty.

Big Foot, among the many dead at the Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890

But the struggle continued. Some Native people, called "traditionalists," pulled back into distant rural pockets to keep their ways alive. Others drifted into urban ghettos where they mingled with proletarians of other nationalities.

And finally, after generations, a new opportunity for combative mass struggle arose: In the 1960s, Black people started shaking the United States with powerful rebellions. In Oakland, the Black Panther Party picked up the gun to challenge the system's pig police. A new generation of Indian youth woke up and formed the American Indian Movement (AIM). Like the Panthers, they worked day and night to bring hot, radical, anti-system politics out to new sections of the people. Urban Indian radicals linked up with the rez youth and whole communities of "traditionalist" people.

Leonard Peltier was a leading activist in that radical new generation.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse

"I don’t consider myself an American.” Leonard Peltier, My Life Is My Sun Dance

Leonard Peltier was born on Turtle Mountain reservation in North Dakota in 1944. His family came from the Anishinabe (Chippewa) and Lakota (Sioux) peoples.

"During harvest season, ...my whole family --grandparents, aunts, uncles, and children --would migrate from Turtle Mountain to the Red River Valley to work in the potato fields. In those days, potatoes were picked by hand, and Indians would be hired to pick spuds at three to four cents a bushel, while Mexican Indians worked the sugar beets. When I was old enough to go into the fields, I would work ahead of the pickers, shaking the potatoes loose, which made it faster."


The young radical activist Leonard Peltier

Carolina Saldaña writes:

"Leonard tells us that when he was nine years old a big black government car drove up to his house to take him and the other kids away to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding school in Wahpeton, Dakota del Norte. When they got there, they cut off their long hair, stripped them, and doused them with DDT powder."


Leonard remembers:

“I thought I was going to die…that place…was more like a reformatory than a school…I consider my years at Wahpenton my first imprisonment, and it was for the same crime as all the others: being an Indian... We had to speak English. We were beaten if we were caught speaking our own language. Still, we did….I guess that’s where I became a 'hardened criminal,' as the FBI calls me. And you could say that the first infraction in my criminal career was speaking my own language. There’s an act of violence for you….The second was practicing our traditional religion.”


As a teenager he went to live with relatives in the Pacific Northwest, far from his home reservation.

In 1970, a group of Native people in Seattle occupied an abandoned army base, Ft. Lawson. Peltier joined the action and then he joined the newly-formed American Indian Movement. Meanwhile, AIM was growing quickly by answering the many outrages surrounding the reservations with struggle--they organized people to militantly confront the rednecks, cops and courts in towns surrounding the reservations.

In the mid-1960s, I spent part of a summer bailing hay on a Montana ranch, not far from the Missouri River. One of things most stark and shocking to me was the raw racism toward Indian people expressed by the ordinary ranchers I met. Several of them I talked to felt, without a blink, that it was necessary to crush any expression of Indian culture, language and religion -- and that Indian people should not have the right to simply wander around off the reservations, go freely into town,or  hang out. One guy my age, who I just met at a coffee counter, explained soberly,

"You have to understand, and they have to understand, that they are a conquered people. We beat them. And we now get to decide."


And reflecting those ugly views and those unjust power relationships, the cops of the towns ringing the reservations routinely brutalized and arrested Indian youth -- for just being there, for just being Indian.

When I interviewed Leonard in 1994, he talked about the conditions that brought his generation into AIM,

"Poverty, discrimination. The injustices that people were receiving in the courtrooms. The violations of the Indian treaties made between two sovereign nations--the United States government and Indian nations. The bigotry that exists around Indian territories. The unemployment which brings in the high alcoholism rate and disease rate of the reservations. In them days, it was just still not illegal to kill an Indian. If you killed an Indian, you'd be very unfortunate if you got probation--most of them were released immediately."


By 1972, AIM felt ready to take on the federal government. Peltier was prominent in the week-long occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) building in Washington D.C.

At that point, the FBI decided to destroy AIM by any means necessary. Their COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) targeted leading activists of AIM for jail and assassination. Infiltrators worked to gather information about AIM's organization, to create divisions in the organization, and to set up its activists for "neutralization." One FBI document recommended that "local police put leaders under close scrutiny, and arrest them on every possible charge until they could no longer make bail."

Peltier was one of the activists targeted after the BIA takeover. He was attacked in a restaurant by two off-duty cops, badly beaten and charged with attempted murder. One cop's girlfriend testified that, before the incident, the cop had waved around a picture of Peltier, saying his job was "catching a big one for the FBI."

Wounded Knee 2 and the Need for Armed Self-Defense

Wounded Knee occupation 1973

On the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations in South Dakota, the AIM movement had developed deep roots among the masses who were hungry for change.

In opposition to AIM, tribal chairman Dick Wilson, with federal backing, organized vigilantes and reservation police into a secret Klan-like force called the GOONs (Guardians of the Oglala Nation). Wilson banned political meetings on the reservation. Anyone who opposed the system risked death from the GOONs. The people call these times "The Reign of Terror."

The masses and AIM activists rose up in struggle. In February 1973, hundreds took over the buildings at Wounded Knee to publicize their grievances. They were blockaded by GOONs and federal forces--including U.S. Marshals, FBI SWAT teams, troops, armored vehicles, sharpshooters and even some phantom jets. The firefights lasted over two months and brought AIM's struggle worldwide attention.

After a negotiated "settlement," the FBI flooded their agents into the area. And by 1975, western South Dakota had the highest ratio of agents to citizens in the U.S.

The people faced a death-squad campaign--presided over by the FBI. During the 36 months after Wounded Knee, more than 60 AIM supporters died violently on or near the Pine Ridge reservation. People simply showed up dead on the side of the road or died in sudden shootouts at nighttime GOON roadblocks. Over 300 Native people suffered violent physical assaults. The per capita rate of state murder on Pine Ridge Reservation was as high as in Chile--where a CIA-military coup was conducting a famous bloodbath.

William Janklow, then South Dakota deputy attorney general, said:

"The only way to deal with the Indian problem in South Dakota is to put a gun to American Indian Movement leaders' heads and pull the trigger."


The FBI, which occupied the reservation like an army, did not solve even one of these murders. But they compiled more than 316,000 separate investigative file classifications, including on all Native people with military training. Agents arrested 562 AIM members and supporters for participating in Wounded Knee. Another 600 people were charged with supporting the defenders. There were 185 indictments. One of the Army's commanders at Wounded Knee later wrote, "AIM's most militant leaders are under indictment, in jail or warrants are out for their arrest... the government can win, even if no one goes to jail."

These attacks after Wounded Knee 2 brought Leonard Peltier onto the Pine Ridge Reservation.

With many of Pine Ridge's core activists on the reservation underground, in jail or dead--elders asked AIM members to organize self-defense camps to protect the people from GOON killers. In the spring of 1975, the Northwest AIM group, including Leonard Peltier, set up a defensive camp near the town of Oglala, a strongly pro-AIM area. Their camp was on the land of elders Harry and Cecilia Jumping Bull.

A secret June 6, 1975 FBI memo says:

"There are pockets of Indian population that consist almost exclusively of American Indian Movement (AIM) and their supporters on the Reservation. It is significant that in some of these AIM centers the residents have built bunkers which would literally require military assault forces if it were necessary to overcome resistance emanating from the bunker."


The Shootout at Oglala

Oglala on the Pine Ridge reservation, site of the FBI shootout

On July 25, 1975, two FBI agents, Coler and Williams, arrived at the Jumping Bull compound. They said they were seeking a young Indian who had stolen some boots. One AIM member summed up: The agents showed up to serve a warrant they didn't have, on someone who wasn't there, for a crime outside their jurisdiction.

By the next morning, July 26, it was clear these feds had been scouts for a military operation. Combat-armed police started massing near Oglala village--GOONs, BIA police, state troopers, U.S. Marshals, and FBI SWAT teams. Warned, the Indians, including Leonard Peltier, prepared to defend themselves. FBI documents claim 35 activists were involved.

Around noon on July 26, the same two FBI agents--Coler and Williams--drove past the Jumping Bull family buildings and straight for the AIM camp. It is not clear how the shooting started. Agents Coler and Williams got out of their car and began firing. Members of the AIM camp fired back. Coler and Williams called for reinforcements--it was the prearranged signal for all-out federal assault.

Three Indian youth, hiding behind trees and houses with .22 squirrel rifles, shot out the tires of the first reinforcements. The whole police assault froze. Coler and Williams were caught in their own trap.

AIM rifles kept the feds at bay all afternoon--as the people of the camp, including Peltier, slipped away through the brush of White Clay Creek. After the firing stopped, the Feds gathered enough courage to storm in. The place was abandoned. Their pointmen, Coler and Williams, lay dead. An Indian, Joe Stuntz Killsright, was also dead. Everyone else had escaped into the vastness of Indian Country.

The authorities went berserk after this shootout at Oglala. They unleashed a massive manhunt over the whole region--the largest in FBI history. The FBI created a "task force" of 180 SWAT-trained agents, supported by GOONs and BIA police. They launched military sweeps across Pine Ridge, equipped with full combat gear, jungle fatigues, assault and sniper rifles, grenade launchers, plastic explosives, helicopters, spotter planes and tracking dogs. For three months, this federal "task force" ran amok--storming into homes, holding people at gunpoint and ransacking everything.

Norman Zigrossi, the FBI's Assistant Special Agent in Charge, explained the FBI actions repeated almost the exact same words I had heard over coffee in Montana:

"They are a conquered nation. And when you are conquered, the people you are conquered by dictate your future. This is a basic philosophy of mine. If I'm part of a conquered nation, I've got to yield to authority."


Even an official U.S. commission would later say this was "an overreaction which takes on aspects of a vendetta... a full-scale military invasion."

This vendetta failed to capture anyone. A series of grand juries was convened in Rapid City--hoping to force Indian to testify against Indian. The loyal media spread FBI lies about so-called "AIM terrorism."

In the middle of this hysteria, the authorities charged three Northwest AIM members--Leonard Peltier, Bob Robideau and Dino Butler--with killing the two FBI agents. They wanted to portray the whole AIM movement as a plot by "violent outside agitators" stirring up local Indians. The Making of a Railroad

Peltier fled to Canada, where he continued to organize. Meanwhile, Butler and Robideau were tried in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in July 1976. An all-white jury found them not guilty, saying they had acted in self-defense. The all-white jury was shocked to hear of the large-scale FBI and GOON terrorism facing people on Pine Ridge.


After this setback, a 1976 FBI memo called for directing "full prosecutive weight of the federal government...against Leonard Peltier." Peltier was captured and illegally smuggled back into the United States by orders of then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The trial was moved to the anti-Indian community of Fargo, North Dakota. The trial judge announced:

"Leonard Peltier is on trial, not the FBI. I will hear nothing derogatory about the FBI."


The authorities had no evidence linking Peltier to the killing of the FBI agents. So they manufactured it. And the trial judge stopped the defense from exposing the prosecution lies.

The FBI used gestapo tactics to frame Peltier. One Indian woman, Anna Mae Aquash, was pressured by the FBI to betray the movement. When she refused, she was found dead from a bullet wound. The FBI showed Anna Mae's severed hands to a mentally ill woman, Myrtle Poor Bear. This so badly frightened Poor Bear that she signed three different (and contradictory) statements implicating Peltier. In fact, Poor Bear didn't know Peltier and had not witnessed anything.

At Peltier's trial, an FBI agent swore that he had personally seen Peltier near the two dead agents. FBI lab experts claimed a shell casing at the scene came from Leonard Peltier's AR-15 rifle. FBI witnesses claimed that this was the only AR-15 rifle in the shootout. All these "facts" were deliberate lies. The Court of Appeals later wrote: "[The prosecution's] theory, accepted by the jury and the judge, was that Peltier killed the two FBI agents at point blank range."

Leonard Peltier was convicted of two counts of first degree murder on April 18, 1977. Judge Benson immediately ruled that Leonard should serve two life sentences consecutively. It was a complete railroad.

The Government Case Unravels -- The Railroad Continues

"As warriors of our nation we must show our people the spirit of Crazy Horse so they may rise off their knees... Raise up with me and resist the terrorist attacks of genocide against our nation!" Leonard Peltier from prison, 1978

In 1979, the FBI tried to assassinate Peltier in prison--pressuring other Indian prisoners to participate in their plot. One of those prisoners, Standing Deer--who suffered from extreme spinal pain--was denied medical treatment unless he helped to set up Peltier. Standing Deer exposed the plot at great personal risk. He was transferred to a prison hospital for surgery, after an FBI agent threatened him, saying,

"What you need is a good lobotomy."


Revenge was not the only reason the FBI wanted Peltier dead. Secret documents were being forced into the open--proving that the FBI manufactured the "evidence" against Peltier. A secret 1975 memo to the FBI director revealed that the firing pin of the AR-15 rifle connected to Peltier had not matched any shell casing supposedly found at the scene.

By the late 1980s, even Prosecutor Lynn Crooks was forced to admit that the government did not know who shot the two FBI agents. Crooks said,

"We did not have any direct evidence that one individual as opposed to another pulled the trigger... What we argued to the jury was quite simply that this man was a guilty participant in a murder....The facts available did not give us direct evidence as to who did the coup-de-grace.... there was no direct evidence upon which we could make a factual argument. We argued inferences...but that's not the same thing as saying that we had direct evidence...that Mr. Peltier was the one that squeezed off the final rounds." In other words, the government never had any evidence that Peltier shot anyone.


Free Leonard Peltier

However, after years of hearings, the court system has still not released Leonard Peltier from his unjust imprisonment. On October 5, 1987 the Supreme Court refused to review the case. In 1993 the federal courts denied Peltier's appeal again. They argued that even if there's no evidence of "close-up killing," Peltier was guilty of "long-range aiding and abetting." A few months after the December 1993 hearing where the parole board denied his parole and said he would have to wait until 2009 for another hearing. Leonard told me over the phone from Leavenworth:

"The government has admitted in two courts of law at the Appellate Court level that they don't know who killed the agents....And now the government on their most recent decision is claiming that I am an `aider and abettor.' Basically, that was their theory--I was aider and abettor at 15 to 20 feet or 200 yards, about two football fields away. They don't know where I aided and abetted--but I was on the reservation."


In other words, the federal court says Peltier must spend life in prison for being present as the AIM encampment defended itself. The system believes that someone has to pay for the armed resistance at Oglala.

The system has tried to make Peltier a symbol of government revenge and power. They have failed. Instead, Leonard Peltier has continued the struggle--with his words, his paintings and his organizing efforts. The support of literally millions of people all over the world has made Leonard Peltier a symbol of today's Native resistance and U.S. government injustice.


People in this conversation

  • Guest - rowlandkeshena

    Great article Mike.

    While, for many, our struggles first came to public and global attention in the 1960s and 70s with the rise of the Red Power movement in the US and Canada, our struggles against colonialism never subsided: it wasn’t until 1924 that the Iroquois Confederacy, the traditional government of the Haudenosaunee was forcibly broken up by the government and the current puppet system was imposed on those communities! Leonard's struggle against the unjust justice system is our struggle and he is a symbol of what we fight for, from Alaska to Argentina. From Alcatraz and Wounded Knee to Oka and Ipperwash Indians have risen up militantly against the racism and oppression of colonial capitalist society, as well as against those Indians who would sell us out to increase their own personal wealth and social standing.

    I think Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, in a 1999 letter to Peltier (the entire letter can be found here http://bermudaradical.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/subcomandante-insurgente-marcos-to-leonard-peltier/) summed Peltier's struggle and the system's battle to keep him and his spirit in chains:

    <blockquote cite="">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.

  • Guest - Linda D.

    And thank you Rolandkeshena for your knowledge and heartfelt passion, and for posting the 1999 letter from Subcomandante Marcos. Gave me the idea to submit "Leonard Peltier: El Silencio Grita" (Free Leonard Peltier! Spanish version--http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2009/06/11/free-leonard-peltier/) to <i>La Jornada</i>--which I hope they publish.

  • Guest - Miles Ahead

    <blockquote>"<i>Now Leonard is facing a new parole hearing on July 27, 2009. We urge you to actively support his efforts for freedom.</i></blockquote>

    As July 27th rapidly approaches, can someone with more knowledge of what is happening around Leonard Peltier, and support for him, let the rest of us know. The websites that I have found in his defense appear to be dated.

  • Guest - red road

    on Tuesday, July 28, 2009--6 a.m.-3 p.m., San Francisco Federal Building
    calling for the Freedom of Leonard Peltier

    The American Indian Movement (AIM) and AIM-WEST of San Francisco invites you the general public for an early morning SUN RISE PRAYER VIGIL and RALLY on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 calling for the Freedom of Leonard Peltier.

    On Tuesday, July 28th the US Parole Commission in Lewisburg, Penn. will review the case of Leonard Peltier, held in prison for over three decades. This is the best opportunity Leonard will get during his entire period of incarceration to a fair review of his case before the US Parole Commission. The whole world is watching and waiting!

    Please join with us in solidarity with Leonard, his family and relations, friends and supporters from around the world on this day and let us pray for an open mind, and to let the healing of America begin.

    The general public is invited to join with us in San Francisco at the Federal Building 450 Golden Gate Avenue for an early morning SUN -RISE PRAYER VIGIL beginning at 6 am until 3 pm. All Drummers and Singers, Dancers, Community Youth and Elders, solidarity organizations and NGO’s are urged to join with us to celebrate this special occasion. Religious groups and social movements are also encouraged to attend this spiritual gathering and stand together hand in hand, burning sacred sage, being of one mind in Peace calling upon the US Parole Commission to finally release Leonard Peltier from three decades of incarceration for a crime he did not commit!

    Letter from Leonard Peltier
    Saturday, 27 June 2009

    Greetings my friends and relatives,

    I want to start off this statement or speech or whatever you want to call it by saying again as I’ve said before thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me and for standing up for right wherever you are. I can’t express to you in words how extremely grateful I am not just to the people of America but to the people all over the world who have supported the cause of Indian people and myself.

    I know a lot of you have given up a lot to help so many in my predicament. Daily I am made aware of political prisoners around the world. Many who have been killed or tortured or who knows what for trying to right the wrongs in their area, country or nation. I have been asked to make statements in support of other movement people around the world from time to time, South America, Europe and other places. People who love freedom, people who love the earth, people who love their family, people who love the freedom to make their own choice with their own resources, and all indigenous people- we share a common bond. The bond of brother and sister hood, the bond of believing there is a greater power than ourselves. And I don’t mean some government power; I mean the greatest power in all the universe the Creator Himself.

    We also as human beings upon this earth have to recognize that there have always been those who suffer from an illness called greed. They have an appetite for gaining material wealth that is never satisfied. They have an appetite for land that is never satisfied. And the most common symptom of their illness is indifference to the suffering they cause with their quest. These people are the ones that have identified themselves as our common enemy. It is so terrible that under the guise of religion and shouting freedom they pit one people against another. This isn’t something new. All down through history it has taken place. All down through history there have been men, spiritual men, holy men, great thinkers and philosophers who have tried to unite us against this common enemy.

    Today my brothers and sisters I want you to know that if nothing else if we don’t unite against the destruction against the Mother Earth we will have a common future that is void of clean air, clean water, and basic freedoms. We must reach our hands out to embrace others to the cause of life. We must do our best from where ever we are with whatever tools available to enhance and further our quality of life. We must find a way to break down the barriers that divide one people from another. We must find the things we have in common and find ways to solve our differences as basic humanity. We must evolve to a higher level of thinking or to as you might say a traditional level of thinking which obviously is superior to what they call progress today. Our traditional values taught us to live in harmony with Earth the greatest manifestation of the Creator that we have to relate to. Our
    traditions taught us to respect our bodies the greatest gift we have or possess as an individual. Our traditions taught us to preserve the environment for our children and all our future generations. As a member of the American Indian Movement these values are what we were about. Poverty isn’t solved by money poverty is solved by attitude. The problems we have today among all our people are caused by attitude. They are caused by an attitude that was given to us in boarding schools and on reservations that were nothing more than concentration camps in the past. They are attitudes by people who came to us talking to us about God and wanting us to embrace their version of religion and as one brother said once, “They told us to bow our heads, and when we looked up our land was gone, our culture was gone, our children was gone, our way of life was gone.” And now the air itself is

    I have been in this cage for some 34 years and though I have been caged I have sought the spirit in prayer of our brother the eagle, I have sought to have an overview of things for as anyone can see I don’t have the freedom to examine life from a close perspective. And from this distant view, abstract view, this detached view, at times I get to see the destruction and divisiveness that these political powers that have scattered us for so long have involved themselves in promoting among our people. I don’t know if it is because I am older now or because my future is so uncertain or if through some spiritual inspiration I deeply want to say so much. I deeply want to move you to do something to save our earth and our children and our children’s future. I didn’t get to raise my children; I haven’t got to really know them or my children’s children. I may never get to, but I
    love them all just the same. And I love life as much as anyone on the outside. And I don’t know how long I will walk this cage. Some days I feel quite healthy and energized and some days I feel like the 64 year old man that I am. I’m always hopeful that I will be free at some point, perhaps in the latter part of July after my parole hearing, and perhaps I won’t. The people that hold me, the FBI and the conglomerate corporations that have for so long controlled the resources of this country and others and for so long have done their best to stifle, to denigrate, and to vilify the voice of the oppressed are some of the most formidable well funded political people on Earth. I was told that the FBI themselves are some 10,000 strong.

    I am but a common man, I am not a speaker but I have spoken. I am not all that tall but I have stood up. I am not a philosopher or poet or a singer or any of those things that particularly inspire people but the one thing that I am is the evidence that this country lied when they said there was justice for all. I am the evidence that they lied when they extradited me from Canada. I am the evidence that they can lie at your trial, they can manufacture evidence at your trial, they can intimidate witnesses at your trial, they can have back room conversations and agreements with the judge at your trial. I am the evidence that the attitude, the powers that be still hold us in a grip. They hold us in an emotional grip. They hold us in a poverty grip. They hold us in a cultural deprivation grip. I could go on and on about the things that go on that weigh so heavily against our people but
    the bottom line is my case is well documented by court after court after court, by hearing after hearing after hearing, by statement after statement after statement. And we as a people are the evidence that this country fails to keep its treaties, this country fails to keep its word. This country has failed to follow its own Constitution - the treaty between the people and the government. We are that evidence. I am nothing more than evidence. That is why people all over the world and here at home have supported the cause of justice in my case. In my particular situation I can’t say that there will ever be any level of justice.

    They cannot give back the 34 years of life that have been taken from me. They can not give back the life of Joe Stuntz that they took June 26th 1975. They cannot give back the lives of the 60 something people that they directly or indirectly caused the death of. They cannot give back the thousand upon thousands of Indian people that were killed and abused since the inception of this government. But the one thing we can do, we must do, is find a way to change their attitude. My brother Leonard Crow Dog once said, “If you want to change the white man you have to change his religion.” And religion is a word that means how you do something on a regular basis; most generally it is associated with your spirituality. Perhaps with global warming as it is and the changes in the weather patterns and the questionable future that faces the earth, they will start to listen. Maybe they will
    reach back and embrace the words of our people foretold again and again. We must live the way that the Earth will renew itself every spring. We must help them reach back. We must speak to them at every opportunity. We must make an effort to reach back ourselves to our own cultural values. And in doing so we can start to solve the many destructive challenges we face. We must more than ever before find a way to heal the wounds of our children and prevent the social illnesses that are so prevalent across our reservations and communities. We have the tools, we have the teachings, we have the philosophies, we have the culture, we have the artists, we have the singers, we have the philosophers, I could go on and on but in essence what I am trying to say is it is imperative that we bring together all our resources to enhance the future for our children in a way that they themselves can
    further the healthy teachings of our culture and way of life; and in doing so I have no doubt that we can change the world.

    If I am freed next month or if I die in prison remember my words and remember we are evidence that the Creator made a beautiful people a people that respected the Earth and nature and each other. We are evidence on every level of goodness that when the Creator made us He meant for us to be free. All our traditions have taught us this way. And even this very form of government that exists today was copied from our people. Our people with our foods, our medicines, belief in freedom and right to choose have influenced the world. Its too bad they didn’t adopt a healthy attitude that we had toward the Earth or an attitude of respect for us the first keepers of this portion of the Earth. If there is something about me that this government can point at and say is wrong or any person say is wrong I will by my own choice, if it proves to be fact, seek to fix it myself. But I also want to
    remind them the policies that have been in place for so long have made us what we are today. The policies that have been in place for so long, have created another reservation called Iraq and another reservation called Afghanistan, and the list goes on and on, you see what’s happening over there is what happened here and all down through North and South America.

    I am just a common man and I am evidence that the powers that put me here would like to sweep under the carpet. The same way they did all of our past leaders, warriors and people they massacred. Just as at Wounded Knee the Fifth Cavalry sought its revenge for Custer’s loss and massacred some 300 Indian men women and children then gave out 23 Medals of Honor and swept the evidence of their wrongdoing aside. Perhaps this statement is somewhat more lengthy than the others I’ve made; perhaps it is some things I should have said before and perhaps more, if so I hope you will forgive me. I recently was thought to be having a heart attack because of pain in my chest. After having been beaten and kicked and stomped in the last year, I am not quite sure what was causing the pain. I had never been beaten, kicked and stomped like that before. And also I have never been 64 years old
    before. The one thing all this did for me is it really brought home my sense of mortality. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in this prison. And I don’t want you to spend the rest of your life in some prison of the mind, heart or attitude. I want you to enjoy your life.

    If nothing else give somebody a hug for me and say, “This is from Leonard.”
    In the Spirit of Crazy Horse

    Leonard Peltier

  • Guest - red road

    location of the Parole Board hearing)
    there will be a vigil:
    July 28, 2009 -- 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
    (the period of time when the Parole Board members will be entering the prison)

  • Guest - red road

    FOR OTHER SUPPORT ACTIVITIES FOR LEONARD PELTIER (IN NEW YORK AND ELSEWHERE): http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/index1.htm

  • Guest - Blake martin (ajax)

    The glad song of freedom is abroad in the world.The prayers of eighteen centuries are to be answered in the way the people have demanded them to be,and that is,that "THY KINGDOM COME,thy will be done upon earth as it is in heaven."The age of the cross has passed,and the age of love in human hearts is on.It requires no very sane man to discern this state of things.EVERYWHERE these conditions are to be met with,and evidence is no longer wanted to showthat man's true aim in this life should be to do good in order to share in the good things of this life now and here on this earth and not be constantly put off for their rewards in some mysterious future state or place.The things that are wanted and demanded by the masses must be talked about in order that they may take definite form in their minds.

  • Guest - Blake martin (ajax)

    It is in this age that the evils of war,anger,and licentiousness had their origin. Man's combative nature,given to overcome the influences that oppose his advancement,in his ignorant state was directed against his brother on the slightest provocation.Hence originated war,the leading evil that has affected mankind.It is however,a cause of the greatest joy to see that this 'evil' is fast losing its respectability,especially among the more advanced portions of mankind.The evils which have affected the world have been many and varied,with a predisposition to disease,and an abnormal inclination to a perverted use of particular faculties.Man is rapidly learning the important lesson that each faculty of his nature is now seeking the loftiest possible development,in order that he may direct his lower or passional being to its proper and legitimate action.passion and greed have ruled the world and the individual long enough.Man's higher or spiritual nature is driving ignorance away from the threshold of humanity's nature,and in its place is enthroning the majestic form of wisdom,and the evils that have ruled the world are fast passing away,as darkness recedes before the rising sun.My brother and sisters I care not in what land your birth occurred,nor in what language their thought finds its word,nor what the color of your skin may be,or what religion wins your fealty,if against tyranny he wages strife,resists oppression at the risk of life,however poor in purse,unknown to fame,that man from me a brother's love may claim.

  • Guest - leonard ball

    i would like a copy of leonard peltier letter from july 10. how do i print it what page number would it be so i dont have to print the whole article

  • Highlight the letter you want with your mouse,
    copy it,
    open a wordprocessor file,
    paste it in there,
    and print that file.

  • Guest - shoesy ross

    its not those who inflict the most who win ,its those who can endure the most..terence mc swiney

  • Guest - phaed

    I like this content so much.The determined man finds the way, the other finds an excuse or alibi.Thanks.

  • Guest - Land

    Thanks Mike. I have made this article into a pamphlet.

    I received an email I will forward on. It states that Robert Bryan. Mumia"s past attorney, is now Leonard's attorney.

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