COLEMAN, FLORIDA – Leonard Peltier, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, who has been imprisoned for the past 37 years, issued statement yesterday from his cell.
Peltier is serving a life sentence in the US Penitentiary in Coleman, Florida. He was accused of the 1975 murders of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He was convicted in 1977.
Peltier is considered to be a political prisoner of war by many American Indians throughout the United States and others worldwide. Through the years, Peltier’s supporters have included the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu, among other prominent names.
The following is Mr. Peltier’s statement:
Greetings my relatives, friends and supporters,
I am communicating to you today to address some of the concerns about the changes that have taken place within the organization that leads the efforts to bring about my freedom. I am referencing the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee (LPDOC) as you well know, those of you who are familiar with the organization, there have been changes every two or three years. Sometimes people feel this is too much and some feel it is too little and this is why I am having this comment sent out.
First of all I want you all to know that I deeply, deeply, appreciate all the people who have given parts of their lives to help bring about my freedom and enhance the lives of my people all over the world. I know it has been difficult for many, in fact for most because it is a drain on ones resources, ones time, and often times takes away from a person’s family and personal life to be involved in movement activities. I appreciate that. I don’t know how to impart to you how deeply I appreciate that. There is no one who has come through the doors of the LPDOC that has all the answers or could possibly make all the right decisions, all we can really do is do our level best to do what is right, and try to right what is wrong. This kind of work wears on people and I do not expect any person to devote their lives to me.
This isn’t all about me.
This is about the constitutional violations toward Americans that put me here. This is about the violations that keep me here. This is about the human rights violations that put and keep me here. This is about the human rights that indigenous people all over the world deserve to have honored. This is about the treaty rights that the indigenous people of America have with the United States that are being violated feloniously today.
This is about the legal procedures that were violated in my case that stand as possible precedents in the cases of others to come. Of all these things I mentioned, I am legally adjudicated evidence of those violations. I am not the only person who is evidence of these violations however, because of your struggles and those before you, and those who struggle now I am probably more visible than most of the others. As I said before people coming to the defense committee are not expected to devote their whole lives to me and I fully realize they have families and children. The older members of AIM and the struggle have grandchildren they are taking care of now. I guess what I am trying to say to you is that it is not unusual, nor inappropriate for there to be changes within the Peltier Defense Committee.
As Native people, and as movement people, we represent in most cases the poorest of the poor in America and we are dealing with the most powerful, politically strong, well financed organization in the world today. So it’s not so difficult to see how we can be stressed from time to time and have changes from time to time for we are in fact the most vulnerable all the time.
We don’t have enough money to always fund the most needed lawyers and legal workers or secretaries or web managers or whatever. We rely mostly on the good hearts of people who volunteer and we have never had enough money to pay these good people what their efforts are worth so it is easy to see why people at some point might choose to travel a different path in due time because they all have families and their own lives to live. People come into this organization with various skills and skill levels and most times they further those skills and skill levels and it enhances the strength of all of us whether they stay within this committee or not because of their involvement in their community using those skills.
In the near future you will see some changes in our website, and our level of activities, and our promotion, even more so of all our concerns for our mother earth, and our children’s future. I have personally, grand children and great grandchildren at this time and I know that you would understand my concerns for their future and my concerns for the future of all of our children.
If it were not for our indigenous cultures which are totally linked to the natural environment the creator gave us than I would have had no reason to be at Oglala that day, nor would the other Native people on Pine Ridge have a reason to remain where they live today. That area is still the poorest of the poor. The suicide rates there among children are epidemic and among adults it’s the same.
The Cathedral, the Temple of their way of life, the Black Hills of South Dakota has the faces of those who led the destruction of their lives carved upon them. The Black Hills of South Dakota was forcibly leased from the Lakota people, that lease has been up for over 40 years and yet America does not return it. The Lakota people have not accepted money for it and yet this injustice continues while all the while people of America turn a blind eye to this violation of religious freedom. This is only one example that I mention because of the size and how blatant it stands out and how most Americans are not aware of this.
We truly want changes in America. We want changes in the Americas from the far north to the extreme far south. We want a turnaround in the destruction of our natural environment. On the dollar bill it says in “God we trust.” It should say something to the effect in God’s handy-work we MUST trust.
I could go on and on but I feel like I am getting to preachy. Forgive me if I have rambled, if you can imagine sitting in a building that you don’t like, for ONE day imagine how it would be to sit in there for approximately 13,688 days plus and think about these things and try to work on these things. So I would like to sincerely encourage you to try and mend your differences and join with me to make this a better place for the future of our children and all natural life. And if you so decide to be involved with some other group I totally respect that, but I encourage you—deeply encourage you—to always be doing something to make a difference in our world. A difference for the better.
Forgive me if this seems a bit lengthy but the future of my involvement is very important to me and when you get to be 69 years old, one day could be a lifetime. If you have any doubts about this statement, just ask one of your grandparents. In saying this I want you to understand why we are gearing up to do everything as soon as possible. I don’t know what else I can say to get you to better understand this situation at the moment but again I want to say I appreciate all your efforts, all the things you have done, and for the indigenous people of the United States I want to echo the words that they say over and over again in their own way
WE ARE STILL HERE.
This is our home, this is our past, this is our present, and this is our future.
May the Great Spirit bless you with the things you need and enough to share with others who have needs also.
In the spirit of Crazy Horse and all our people of the past who have given unselfishly that we might exist today and have values that are worth living for.
Your friend always, in all ways,