April 19, 2016
American Indian activist Leonard Peltier has been imprisoned for 40 years for a crime he did not commit. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to free him! Demand that President Obama take action to grant executive clemency!
Designated a political prisoner by Amnesty International, Peltier is the highest profile American Indian prisoner incarcerated in the United States. He has always maintained his innocence and has emphatically maintained that his continued persecution by the U.S. government is politically motivated. As the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee explains, “Prosecutors and federal agents manufactured evidence against him…hid proof of his innocence; presented false testimony obtained through torturous interrogation techniques; ignored court orders; and lied to the jury.”
Leonard Peltier being arrested.
In 1975 Leonard Peltier, an American Indian Movement (AIM) leader, was asked by traditional people at Pine Ridge, South Dakota to support and protect the Native traditionalists being targeted for violence. Mr. Peltier and a small group of young AIM members set up camp on a ranch owned by the Jumping Bull family. On June 26, 1975 two FBI agents in unmarked cars followed a pick-up truck onto the Jumping Bull ranch. The families immediately became alarmed and feared an attack. Shots were heard and a shoot-out erupted. More than 150 agents, the anti-AIM paramilitary Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOONS), and law enforcement surrounded the ranch.
According to FBI documents, more than 40 Native Americans participated in the gunfight, but only AIM members Bob Robideau, Darrell Butler, and Leonard Peltier were brought to trial. Mr. Robideau and Mr. Butler were arrested first and went to trial. A federal jury in Iowa acquitted them on grounds of self-defense, finding that their participation in the shoot-out was justified given the climate of fear that existed on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Peltier was arrested in Canada in 1976 and extradited to the U.S., and the following year wrongfully convicted for the deaths of two FBI agents.
Now at 71 years of age, Peltier suffers from a number of medical problems including severe diabetes, hypertension, a heart condition, and most recently abdominal aortic aneurysm. Despite his ailments, he continues organizing and maintains dedicated to humanitarian work. As of April 2016, Peltier has again nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, making this his seventh nomination in twelve years.
His situation continues to gain attention. Over 50 members of Congress and other high-profile officials, including Judge Gerald Heaney of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, have called for his immediate release. Two years ago, James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples visited Peltier and called for his release. At that time, we asked that readers all readers support the call for executive clemency. With only six months to the presidential election, and less than one year left in office, it is now or never for President Obama to pardon or commute Leonard Peltier’s sentence. We recommend that readers call or write the White House weekly and sign on to one or more of the relevant petitions, and helping to increase public awareness of Peltier’s situation.
Readers may also want to send cards and letters to Leonard Peltier at:
USP Coleman I
P.O. Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521
- International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee resources on clemency
- Amnesty USA petition
- Friends of Peltier petition
Tushkahomma lives in Texas and is a member of Solidarity.