Published November 24, 2016
COLEMAN, FLORIDA – Leonard Peltier, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, who is incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary in Coleman, Florida, for his 1977 conviction in connection with a shootout with U.S. government forces, where two FBI agents and one young American Indian lost their lives.
Peltier, who is considered a political prisoner of war by many, released this statement on Thanksgiving, which is referred to many American Indians as a “Day of Mourning,” through the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee:
November 24, 2016
Greetings my relatives,
Here we are again. This time the year is 2016. It has been more than 41 years since I last walked free and was able to see the sun rise and sit and feel the earth beneath my feet. I know there have been more changes then I can even imagine out there.
But I do know that there is a struggle taking place as to whether this country will move on to a more sustainable way of life. This is something we wanted to have happen back in the seventies.
I watch the events at Standing Rock with both pride and sorrow. Pride that our people and their allies are standing up and putting their lives on the line for the coming generations, not because they want to, but because they have to. They are right to stand up in a peaceful way. It is the greatest gathering of our people in history and has made us more connected than ever before. We need to support each other as we make our way in these times.
Water IS life and we cannot leave this issue for our children and grandchildren to deal with when things are far worse for the natural world then they are now.
And Mother Earth is already in struggle.
And I feel sorrow for the water protectors at Standing Rock because these last few days have brought a much harsher response from the law enforcement agencies there and our people are suffering.
At least they are finally getting attention of the national media.
My home is in North Dakota. The Standing Rock people are my people. Sitting Bull lies in his grave there at Fort Yates. My home at Turtle Mountain is just a few hours north of Standing Rock, just south of Manitoba, Canada.
I have not seen my home since I was a boy, but I still hold out hope of returning there for whatever time I may have left. It is the land of my father and I would like to be able to live there again. And to die there.
I have a different feeling this year. The last time I felt this way was 16 years ago, when I last had a real chance for freedom. It is an uneasy feeling. An unsettling one. It is a hard thing to allow hope to creep into my heart and my spirit here in these cold buildings of stone and steel.
On one hand, to have hope is a joyful and wonderful feeling, but the downside of it for me can be cruel and bitter.
But today I will choose hope.
I pray that you will all enjoy good health and good feelings and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done and continue to do for me and for our Mother Earth.
Please keep me in your prayers and thoughts as these last days of 2016 slip away.
I send you my love and my respect for all of you who have gathered in the name of mother earth and our unborn generations. I stand with you there in spirit.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,