Leonard Peltier is eligible for a parole hearing in December 2008, after more than thirty-three years in prison. There are several things you can do to help insure this hearing has a positive outcome.
Leonard Peltier celebrates 64th birthday
September 12th marked the 64th birthday of Leonard Peltier, an American Indian activist sentenced to two life sentences based on fabricated testimony and circumstantial evidence.
Many of us see this as the typical injustice perpetuated against American Indians in the legal system that still exists today. Mr. Peltier, a citizen of the Anishinabe and Lakota Nations, is a father, a grandfather, an artist, a writer, and an Indigenous rights activist. He has spent more than thirty-three years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Amnesty International considers him a “political prisoner” who should be “immediately and unconditionally released.”
Leonard Peltier was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He came from a large family of 13 brothers and sisters. He grew up in poverty, and survived many traumatic experiences resulting from U.S. government policies aimed to assimilate Native Peoples. The first was at the age of eight, when he was taken from his family and sent to a residential boarding school for Native people run by the US Government.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Leonard Peltier began traveling to different Native communities. He spent a lot of time in Washington and Wisconsin working as a welder, carpenter, and community counselor for Native people.
In the course of his work Leonard Peltier became involved with the American Indian Movement (AIM) and eventually joined the Denver Colorado chapter. In Denver, he worked as a community counselor confronting unemployment, alcohol problems and poor housing. He became strongly involved in the spiritual and traditional programs of AIM.
Leonard Peltier’s participation in the American Indian Movement
Leonard Peltier’s participation in the American Indian Movement led to his involvement in the 1972 Trail of broken Treaties which took him to Washington D.C., where he and others took over and occupied of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building.
Eventually his AIM involvement would bring him to assist the Oglala Lakota People of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
On Pine Ridge Reservation, he participated in the planning of community activities, religious ceremonies, programs for self-sufficiency, and improved living conditions. He also helped to organize security for the traditional people who were being targeted for violence by the pro-assimilation tribal chairman and his vigilantes. Pine Ridge had the highest murder rate in the U.S. during the “Reign of the Terror”–something like six times the rate of Detroit, then America’s most violent city.
It was here that the tragic shoot-out of June 26, 1975 occurred, leading to Leonard Peltier’s wrongful convictions.
The court record in this case clearly shows that government prosecutors have long held that they do not know who killed Mr. Coler and Mr. Williams nor what role Leonard Peltier “may have” played in the tragic shoot-out. Despite many such admissions, Mr. Leonard Peltier remains imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
The other two defendants tried in a separate trial for the incident Leonard Peltier was convicted of were found not guilty by reason of self defense.
Around the time of Leonard Peltier’s conviction, a BIA criminal investigator by the name of Paul Herman who was implicated in the brutal torture and murder of a 14 year old girl by the name of Sandra Wounded Foot. She was raped, she was tortured, her body was found tied to a barbed wire fence. He was allowed to plead guilty to a manslaughter charge and did about three and a half years in prison.
Campaign to raise awarness of the plight of Leonard Peltier
The Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee (LP DOC) is campaigning to raise awareness and educate the public about Leonard Peltier for the purpose of mobilizing people to take actions to set him free.
To the international community, the case of Leonard Peltier is a stain on America’s Human Rights record. Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchu, the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, the Dalai Lama, the European Parliament, the Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, and Rev. Jesse Jackson are only a few who have called for his freedom.
To many Indigenous Peoples, Leonard Peltier is a symbol of the long history of abuse and repression they have endured. The National Congress of American Indians and the Assembly of First Nations, representing the majority of First Nations in the U.S. and Canada, have repeatedly called for Leonard Peltier’s release.
Leonard Peltier: life behind the bars
Despite the harsh conditions of imprisonment, Leonard Peltier has continued to lead an active life.
From behind bars, Leonard has helped to establish scholarships for Native students and special programs for Indigenous youth. He has served on the advisory board of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, and has sponsored children in Central America. He has donated to battered women’s shelters, organized the annual Christmas drive for the people of Pine Ridge Reservation, and promoted prisoner art programs.
Leonard Peltier is widely recognized for his good deeds and in turn has won several awards including the North Star Frederick Douglas Award; Federation of Labour (Ontario, Canada) Humanist of the Year Award; Human Rights Commission of Spain International Human Rights Prize; and 2004 Silver Arrow Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2004, 2006 and again in 2007, Mr. Peltier also was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times.
Leonard Peltier, the artist and author
He has also established himself as a talented artist, using oils to paint portraits of his people, portraying their cultures and histories. He has written poetry and prose from prison, and completed a moving biography titled Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance (St. Martin’s Press, NY, 1999).
Leonard Peltier credits his ability to endure his circumstances to his spiritual practices and the love and support from his family and supporters.
Freeedom for Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier is America’s unfinished business and a symbol of the injustice perpetrated against all American Indians. It is time to stop the 34 years of injustice and 34 years too long to have imprisoned an innocent man. Freedom for Leonard Peltier is way overdue!
Leonard Peltier’s first full parole hearing was held in 1993, at which time his case was continued for a 15-year reconsideration. He’ll be eligible for another full parole hearing in December 2008. An application for parole will be filed at Mr. Peltier’s discretion.
The earliest that hearing is likely to occur is in January 2009 (according to the Parole Commission’s schedule for in-person parole reviews to be held at USP-Lewisburg, where Peltier is currently imprisoned). Anyone and everyone can help Leonard Peltier get justice and freedom.
What you can do to help
First sign the online petition. You can also download sample letters of support, or write your own. Each tribal member can urge their Tribal Nation to pass a formal Resolution for submission to the US Parole Board. A resolution guideline can be found at WhoIsLeonardPeltier.info.
To support Mr. Peltier by contributing directly to his commissary account, you can send funds through the mail to the following address:
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Leonard Peltier #89637-132
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001
The deposit must be in the form of a money order made out to: Leonard Peltier 89637-132. The Bureau of Prisons will return funds that do not have valid inmate information to the sender provided the envelope has an adequate return address. Personal checks and cash can not be accepted for deposit. The sender’s name and return address must appear on the upper left hand corner of the envelope to ensure that the funds can be returned to the sender in the event that they can not be posted to the inmate’s account.
The deposit envelope must not contain any items intended for delivery to the inmate. The Bureau of Prisons shall dispose of all items included with the funds.
In the event funds have been mailed but have not been received in the inmate’s account and adequate time has passed for mail service to Des Moines, Iowa, the sender must initiate a tracer with the entity who sold them the money order to resolve any issues.
People can also send funds to Leonard through Western Union’s Quick Collect Program. All funds sent via Western Union’s Quick Collect will be posted to Leonard’s account within two to four hours, when those funds are sent between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. EST (seven days per week, including holidays). Funds received after 9:00 pm EST will be posted by 7:00 am EST the following morning. Funds sent through the Quick Collect Program may be sent via one of the following ways:
1) At an agent location with cash: You must complete a Quick Collect Form. To find the nearest agent, they may call 1-800-325-6000 or go to http://www.westernunion.com.
2) By phone using a credit/debit card: Simply call 1-800-634-3422 and press option 2.
3) Via the Internet using a credit/debit card: Go to http://www.westernunion.com and select “Quick Collect”.
For each Western Union Quick Collect transaction, the following information must be provided:
Valid Inmate Eight Digit Register Number (89637-132)
Committed Inmate Name (Leonard Peltier)
Code City: FBOP
State code: DC
It is very uplifting to Mr. Peltier to receive letters and cards. Write to him at:
Leonard Peltier – # 89637-132
P.O. Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837-1000.
At the very least, if everyone that reads this would write the US Parole Board at:
United States Parole Commission
5550 Friendship Boulevard, Suite 420
Chevy Chase, MD 20815-7286
to offer your whole hearted support for the release of Leonard Peltier, it would be a help. And please write, write, write, to Congressmen, the President, Human Rights Organizations, and Tribal Leaders in support of freedom for Leonard Peltier now!