June 26, 2016
Letter from Leonard Peltier
Sisters, brothers, friends and supporters:
Sisters, brothers, friends and supporters:
June 26th marks 41 years since the long summer day when three young men were killed at the home of the Jumping Bull family, near Oglala, during a firefight in which I and dozens of others participated. While I did not shoot (and therefore did not kill) FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, I nevertheless have great remorse for the loss of their young lives, the loss of my friend Joe Stuntz, and for the grieving of their loved ones. I would guess that, like me, many of my brothers and sisters who were there that day wish that somehow they could have done something to change what happened and avoid the tragic outcome of the shootout.
This is not something I have thought about casually and then moved on. It's something I think about every day. As I look back, I remember the expressions of both fear and courage on the faces of my brothers and sisters as we were being attacked. We thought we were going to be killed! We defended our elders and children as they scattered for protection and to escape. Native people have experienced such assaults for centuries, and the historical trauma of the generations was carried by the people that day -- and in the communities that suffered further trauma in the days that followed the shootout, as the authorities searched for those of us who had escaped the Jumping Bull property.
As the First Peoples of Turtle Island, we live with daily reminders of the centuries of efforts to terminate our nations, eliminate our cultures, and destroy our relatives and families. To this day, everywhere we go there are reminders -- souvenirs and monuments of the near extermination of a glorious population of Indigenous Peoples. Native Peoples as mascots, the disproportionately high incarceration of our relatives, the appropriation of our culture, the never-ending efforts to take even more of Native Peoples' land, and the poisoning of that land all serve as reminders of our history as survivors of a massive genocide. We live with this trauma every day. We breathe, eat and drink it. We pass it on to our children. And we struggle to overcome it.
Like so many Native children, I was ripped away from my family at the age of 9 or so and taken away to get the "Indian" out of me at a boarding school. At that time, Native Peoples were not able to speak our own languages for fear of being beaten or worse. Our men's long hair, which is an important part of our spiritual life, was forcibly cut off in an effort to shame us. Our traditional names were replaced by new European-American names. These efforts to force our assimilation continue today. Not long ago, I remember, a Menominee girl was punished and banned from playing on the school's basketball team because she taught a classmate how to say "hello" and "I love you" in her Native language. We hear stories all the time about athletes and graduates who face opposition to wearing their hair long or having a feather in their cap.
With this little bit of my personal history in mind, I think it is understandable that I would then, as a young person in the 1960's and 70's, be active in the Indigenous struggle to affirm our human, civil, and treaty rights. Our movement was a spiritual one to regain our ceremonies and traditions and to exercise our sovereignty as native or tribal nations. For over 100 years some of our most important ceremonies could not be held. We could not sing our songs or dance to our drum. When my contemporaries and I were activists, there were no known sun dances. Any ceremony that took place had to be hidden for fear of reprisals. One of our roles as activists for the welfare of our Peoples was to create space and protection for Native peoples who were trying to reconnect to our ancient cultures and spiritual life. This was dangerous and deadly. It meant putting our lives on the line because people who participated in these ceremonies, and people who stood up for our elders and our traditional way of life, were brutally beaten, killed or disappeared. Paramilitary groups and death squads ruled some reservations and each day was a battle. If an uninvited, unknown or unrecognized vehicle pulled up to your house, the first reaction was that you were being visited by someone who meant to do you harm in some way. This was learned behavior on the reservations. This was excruciatingly true in the 1970's.
Hey, I don't want to be all doom and gloom here. I see over the decades that in some important ways, life has improved for our Peoples. President Obama's extraordinary efforts to forge a strong relationship with our Tribal Nations is good cause for a new sense of optimism that our sovereignty is more secure. By exercising our sovereignty, life for our people might improve. We might begin to heal and start the long journey to move past the trauma of the last 500 years. But what will we do if the next Administration rolls back those gains made over the past 8 years?
I often receive questions in letters from supporters about my health. Yes, this last year has been particularly stressful for me and my family. My health issues still have not been thoroughly addressed, and I still have not gotten the results of the MRI done over a month ago for the abdominal aortic aneurysm.
As the last remaining months of President Obama's term pass by, my anxiety increases. I believe that this President is my last hope for freedom, and I will surely die here if I am not released by January 20, 2017. So I ask you all again, as this is the most crucial time in the campaign to gain my freedom, please continue to organize public support for my release, and always follow the lead of the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do on my behalf.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse…
What YOU can do: Call President Obama for Leonard Peltier: 202-456-1111; email President Obama: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments; post a comment on Obama's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/potus/?fref=ts&hc_location=ufi; send a tweet to President Obama: @POTUS; and/or write a letter: President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.
International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
PO Box 24, Hillsboro, OR 97123
PO Box 24, Hillsboro, OR 97123
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE12 April 2016Contact: Peter Clark, International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, 202 Harvard SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106, (505) 217-3612; firstname.lastname@example.orgLeonard Peltier nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for seventh timeNative American activist Leonard Peltier has again been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and for the seventh time."Despite numerous barriers, my uncle has made remarkable contributions to humanitarian and charitable causes," stated Kari Ann Boushee, co-director, Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.An innocent man, Leonard Peltier was wrongfully convicted in connection with the shooting deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1977. Imprisoned for over 40 years—currently at the federal prison in Coleman, Florida—Peltier has been designated a political prisoner by Amnesty International. Over 50 Members of Congress and others—including Judge Gerald Heaney (8th Circuit Court of Appeals) who sat as a member of the court in two of Peltier's appeals—have all called for his immediate release. Peltier also is an accomplished author and painter.Appellate courts have repeatedly acknowledged evidence of government misconduct in the Peltier case—including knowingly presenting false statements to a Canadian court to extradite Mr. Peltier to the United States, and forcing witnesses to lie at trial. The federal prosecutor has twice admitted that the government "can't prove who shot those agents."According to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals "the FBI used improper tactics in securing Peltier's extradition from Canada and in otherwise investigating and trying the Peltier case." The court concluded that the government withheld evidence from the defense favorable to Peltier "which cast a strong doubt on the government's case," and that had this other evidence been brought forth "there is a possibility that a jury would have acquitted Leonard Peltier."Along with being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize at least six times previously (2004–2009), Mr. Peltier's humanitarian work has earned him numerous awards and distinctions.For decades, Peltier has enjoyed the support of Nobel Laureates including the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who recently joined with other Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Ireland (1976), Jody Williams, USA (1997), Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Argentina (1980), Shirin Ebadi, Iran (2003), Tawakkol Karman, Yemen (2011), and Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Guatemala (1992) in asking that President Obama commute the sentences of the aging and ailing Peltier.At 71 years, Peltier suffers from serious medical problems that impair his ability to walk, see, and conduct normal life activities. He suffers from severe diabetes, hypertension and a heart condition, and was recently diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm.Peltier's 1993 application for clemency was denied in 2009 by then President George W. Bush as one of his last official acts in office. Mr. Peltier formally re-applied for a commutation on February 17th and awaits President Obama's decision."More than most, my uncle understands the importance of reconciliation, forgiveness and peaceful collaboration in order to advance and preserve human rights for all. He's dedicated his life to preserving his Native culture, tribal sovereignty, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples," said Ms. Boushee. "He's deeply honored to be nominated for such a prestigious award."The Nobel committee in Oslo, Norway, will announce this year's Peace Prize recipient in October.###----What YOU can do: Call President Obama for Leonard Peltier: 202-456-1111; email President Obama: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments; post a comment on Obama's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/potus/?fref=ts&hc_location=ufi; send a tweet to President Obama: @POTUS; and/or write a letter: President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
PO Box 24, Hillsboro, OR 97123(505) 217-3612