A Letter from Leonard Peltier

Below is Leonard Peltier’s June 26 statement for the 25 year memorial of the shootout at Oglala, South Dakota. He was convicted for the alleged murder of two FBI agents during that event.

On June 12, Peltier was denied parole for the fourth time. A petition for executive clemency is currently before President Clinton. Call the White House Comments Line: (202) 456-1111.

Greetings, friends and supporters,

Twenty-five years have passed since the fatal shoot-out on the Jumping Bull Ranch occurred, and for 25 years I have been forced away from my people and my home, which I consider Oglala to be.

I miss being with all of you, as I have always loved and respected the Lakota ways. I have always admired the Lakota people, especially the Oglalas, for their strength, determination, and courage to continue the struggle to maintain our traditional ways and sovereignty. Not a single day passes when I do not dream of being home with you.

Twenty-four years is a long time to be in prison, but if I was out and you were facing the same kind of brutality you faced under the Wilson regime, I would not hesitate to stand next to you and resist the violent oppression you were forced to endure.

But I am not out, I remain locked up in here, and it has not been an easy 24 years. Prison is a repulsive, violent place to exist in. But again, none of this could stop me from standing with you until the great Oglala Nation is free.

I know a lot of problems continue to exist for you. Corrupt tribal government officials are still taking advantage of the people and crimes committed against Natives receive little if no priority. It makes me very sad to know that after everything we went through in the 1970s our people still continue to suffer so much. The memory of all of those who lost their lives during that time also continues to haunt me.

As we gather together during this time of remembrance, I am aware that the FBI has also organized a 25-year memorial for their dead agents. I do not fault them nor do I disagree with what they are doing. I think all people should gather in memorial for any of their fallen.

But when you analyze this whole event of theirs, you are slapped in the face with the cold reality of racism. Not once have they, nor will they, mention our fallen warriors and innocent traditionalists slaughtered in the ’70s after Wounded Knee II. … They continue to deny that any Indian people were killed as a result of their direct input with the terrorist squad, the GOONS.

The fact is they do not think of Indian people as human beings. Whenever you deny that such atrocities happen, and we know they did happen, it only means they don’t consider the people who died to be human. Hitler’s regime felt the same about the Jews.

But please don’t misunderstand my frustration for a lack of sympathy about the loss of the agents’ lives. I do feel for the families of the agents because I know first hand what it is like to lose a loved one. I have lost many loved ones through the years due to senseless violent acts. If I had known what was going on that day, and I could have stopped it, I would have.

But in order for us to bring reconciliation to what was a very difficult time we first must have justice. We must continue to ask when the lives of our people will be given the same respect and value as others. When will they stop carelessly locking up our people without applying the scrutiny and care the judicial system is supposed to guarantee?

When will guilty beyond a reasonable doubt become a standard that applies to us? When will our guilt have to be proven, rather than assumed? We suffer equally, but we are not treated equally. There is hope for a better future and for peace. But in order for us to live in peace, we must be able to live in dignity and without fear.

In closing, I want to say that your voices are important and your involvement in the effort to gain my freedom is crucial. You know the truth and only you can express the reality of those brutal times.

It is also important that you explain to the youth what we stood for and why, because they are our hope for the future. They can carry out our dream for our people to have pride in their culture, good schools, food, and health care, and most importantly, justice.

Please know that I continue to be here for you too, although I am limited in what I can do from behind these walls. However, I will continue help in whatever I can from here. The one thing my situation has brought me at least, is a voice, and my voice is your voice. So please do not hesitate to write me or contact the LPDC to inform me of what is going on.

I am growing older now and my body is beginning to deteriorate. I sometimes wonder just how much longer I will be with you all on Mother earth. I hope that it’ll be a while longer because I long to be with you, my family and friends, to share some time together.

If not, and I don’t make it home to you, I will always be with you in spirit, at every Sun Dance and Inipi Ceremony, remembering both the happy and the painful times we shared.

 

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

LEONARD PELTIER

 

For more information or to get involved in defense activities, contact the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, PO Box 583, Lawrence, KS 66044. Phone: (785) 842-5774. Website:www.freepeltier.org.