Letter from Leonard Peltier 6/26/2016

americanindiansandfriends.com – Leonard Peltier – June 26, 2016

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Photo: Leonard Peltier

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…

Doksha,

Leonard Peltier

Read entire article here

Leonard Peltier

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leonard Peltier (born September 12, 1944) is a Native American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). In 1977 he was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first degree murder in the shooting of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Peltier’s indictment and conviction have been the subject of much controversy; Amnesty International placed his case under the “Unfair Trials” category of its Annual Report: USA 2010.[1]

Peltier is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida. Peltier’s next scheduled parole hearing will be in July 2024.[2] Barring appeals, parole or presidential pardon, his projected release date is October 11, 2040.[3]

Early life and education

Peltier was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the eleventh of thirteen children, to Leo Peltier and Alvina Robideau.[4] His father was Turtle Mountain Chippewa on his paternal side and French on his maternal side, and his mother was Dakota Sioux and French on her mother’s side and Chippewa on her father’s.[citation needed] Peltier’s parents divorced when he was four years old. At this time, Leonard and his sister Betty Ann were taken to live with their paternal grandparents Alex and Mary Dubois-Peltier in the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa near Belcourt, North Dakota.[5] In September 1953, at the age of nine, Leonard was enrolled at the Wahpeton Indian School in Wahpeton, North Dakota, an Indian boarding school run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). He graduated at Wahpeton in May 1957, and attended the Flandreau Indian School in Flandreau, South Dakota. After dropping out in the ninth grade, he returned to the Turtle Mountain Reservation to live with his father.

Career and activism

In 1965, Peltier relocated to Seattle, Washington. He worked for several years and became the owner of an auto body station. In the city, Peltier became involved in a variety of causes championing Native American civil rights, and eventually joined the American Indian Movement. In the early 1970s, he learned about the factional tensions at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota between supporters of Richard Wilson, elected tribal chairman in 1972, and traditionalist members of the tribe. Wilson had created a private militia, known as the Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOON), whose members were reputed to have attacked political opponents. Protests over a failed impeachment hearing of Wilson contributed to the AIM and Lakota armed takeover of Wounded Knee in February 1973, which resulted in a 71-day siege by federal forces, known as the Wounded Knee Incident. They demanded the resignation of Wilson. Peltier, however, spent most of the occupation in a Milwaukee jail charged with attempted murder. When Peltier secured bail at the end of April, he took part in an AIM protest outside the federal building in Milwaukee and was on his way to Wounded Knee with the group to deliver supplies when the incident ended.[6]

The takeover did not end Wilson’s leadership, the actions of the GOONs or the violence; the Oglala Sioux Tribal Government recently asked U.S Attorney Brendan Johnson to look at 45 unresolved deaths since that time.[7] In 1975 Peltier traveled to the Pine Ridge reservation as a member of AIM to try to help reduce the continuing violence among political opponents. At the time, he was a fugitive, with a warrant issued in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It charged him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for the attempted murder of an off-duty Milwaukee police officer, a crime of which he was later acquitted.

Shootout at Pine Ridge

On June 26, 1975, Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were on the Pine Ridge Reservation searching for a young man named Jimmy Eagle, who was wanted for questioning in connection with the recent assault and robbery of two local ranch hands. Eagle had been involved in a physical altercation with a friend, during which he had stolen a pair of leather cowboy boots.[8] At approximately 11:50 a.m., Williams and Coler, driving two separate unmarked cars, spotted, reported, and followed a red pick-up truck which matched the description of Eagle’s.

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Photo: Leonard Peltier being arrested

Soon after his initial report, Williams radioed into a local dispatch that he and Coler had come under high-powered rifle fire from the occupants of the vehicle and were unable to return fire with their .38 Special revolvers. Williams radioed that they would be killed if reinforcements did not arrive. He next radioed that he was hit. FBI Special Agent Gary Adams was the first to respond to Williams’ call for assistance, and he also came under intense gun fire; he was unable to reach Coler and Williams.

The FBI, BIA, and the local police spent the afternoon waiting for other law enforcement officers. At 2:30 p.m., a BIA rifleman fatally shot Joe Stuntz, an AIM member who had taken part in the shootout.[9] At 4:31 p.m., authorities recovered the bodies of Williams and Coler from their vehicles. At 6:30 p.m. they ignited tear gas and stormed the Jumping Bull houses, where they found the body of a Native American, Joseph Stuntz. Stuntz was clad in Coler’s green FBI field jacket, which he appeared to have taken from the agent’s car. The two FBI Agents were later confirmed to have died on June 26, 1975. Stuntz appeared to have died later, during subsequent shooting.

The FBI reported that Williams had received a defensive wound to his right hand (as he attempted to shield his face) from a bullet which passed through his hand into his head, killing him instantly. Williams received two gunshot injuries, to his body and foot, prior to the contact shot that killed him. Coler, incapacitated from earlier bullet wounds, had been shot twice in the head. In total, 125 bullet holes were found in the agents’ vehicles, many from a .223 Remington (5.56 mm) rifle.

Leonard Peltier provided numerous alibis, to different people, about his activities on the morning of the attacks. In an interview with the author Peter Matthiessen (In the Spirit of Crazy Horse 1983), Peltier described working on a car in Oglala, claiming to have driven back to the Jumping Bull Compound about an hour before the shooting started. In an interview with Lee Hill, he described being woken up in the tent city at the ranch by the sound of gunshots. To Harvey Arden, for Prison Writings, he described enjoying a beautiful morning before he heard the firing.

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Photo: Earlier picture of Leonard Peltier in prison

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Photo: Photo: John Lennon asking for Leonard Peltier’s release.

Read entire article here

PS This has been going on for far too long and it’s time to let Leonard Peltier free.

Posted by Teri Perticone

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