I am Obama’s prisoner now
September 14, 2009
On August 21, Native American activist Leonard Peltier, one of America’s longest-serving political prisoners, was denied parole by the U.S. Parole Commission.
In 1977, Leonard was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the deaths of two FBI agents who were killed in a gunfight on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975. His co-defendants Bob Robideau and Dino Butler were acquitted on the basis of self-defense, but the government managed to secure a conviction against Leonard, despite never producing any witness who could identify him as the person who killed the agents.
Leonard wrote the following after his parole was denied.
THE UNITED States Department of Justice has once again made a mockery of its lofty and pretentious title.
After releasing an original and continuing disciple of death cult leader Charles Manson who attempted to shoot President Gerald Ford, an admitted Croatian terrorist, and another attempted assassin of President Ford under the mandatory 30-year parole law, the U.S. Parole Commission deemed that my release would “promote disrespect for the law.”
If only the federal government would have respected its own laws, not to mention the treaties that are, under the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land, I would never have been convicted nor forced to spend more than half my life in captivity. Not to mention the fact that every law in this country was created without the consent of Native peoples, and is applied unequally at our expense. If nothing else, my experience should raise serious questions about the FBI’s supposed jurisdiction in Indian Country.
The parole commission’s phrase was lifted from soon-to-be former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, who apparently hopes to ride with the FBI cavalry into the office of North Dakota governor. In this, Wrigley is following in the footsteps of William Janklow, who built his political career on his reputation as an Indian fighter, moving on up from tribal attorney (and alleged rapist of a Native minor) to state attorney general, South Dakota governor, and U.S. congressman.
Some might recall that Janklow claimed responsibility for dissuading President Clinton from pardoning me before he was convicted of manslaughter. Janklow’s historical predecessor, George Armstrong Custer, similarly hoped that a glorious massacre of the Sioux would propel him to the White House, and we all know what happened to him.
Unlike the barbarians that bay for my blood in the corridors of power, however, Native people are true humanitarians who pray for our enemies. Yet we must be realistic enough to organize for our own freedom and equality as nations. We constitute 5 percent of the population of North Dakota and 10 percent of South Dakota and we could utilize that influence to promote our own power on the reservations, where our focus should be.
If we organized as a voting bloc, we could defeat the entire premise of the competition between the Dakotas as to which is the most racist. In the 1970s we were forced to take up arms to affirm our right to survival and self-defense, but today the war is one of ideas. We must now stand up to armed oppression and colonization with our bodies and our minds. International law is on our side.
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GIVEN THE complexion of the three recent federal parolees, it might seem that my greatest crime was being Indian. But the truth is that my gravest offense is my innocence.
In Iran, political prisoners are occasionally released if they confess to the ridiculous charges on which they are dragged into court, in order to discredit and intimidate them and other like-minded citizens. The FBI and its mouthpieces have suggested the same, as did the parole commission in 1993, when it ruled that my refusal to confess was grounds for denial of parole.
To claim innocence is to suggest that the government is wrong, if not guilty itself. The American judicial system is set up so that the defendant is not punished for the crime itself, but for refusing to accept whatever plea arrangement is offered and for daring to compel the judicial system to grant the accused the right to right to rebut the charges leveled by the state in an actual trial. Such insolence is punished invariably with prosecution requests for the steepest possible sentence, if not an upward departure from sentencing guidelines that are being gradually discarded, along with the possibility of parole.
As much as non-Natives might hate Indians, we are all in the same boat. To attempt to emulate this system in tribal government is pitiful, to say the least.
It was only this year, in the Troy Davis case, that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized innocence as a legitimate legal defense. Like the witnesses who were coerced into testifying against me, those who testified against Davis renounced their statements, yet Davis was very nearly put to death. I might have been executed myself by now, had not the government of Canada required a waiver of the death penalty as a condition of extradition.
The old order is aptly represented by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who stated in his dissenting opinion in the Davis case:
This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.
The esteemed senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan, who is now the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, used much the same reasoning in writing that “our legal system has found Leonard Peltier guilty of the crime for which he was charged. I have reviewed the material from the trial, and I believe the verdict was fair and just.”
It is a bizarre and incomprehensible statement to Natives, as well it should be, that innocence and guilt is a mere legal status, not necessarily rooted in material fact. It is a truism that all political prisoners were convicted of the crimes for which they were charged.
The truth is the government wants me to falsely confess in order to validate a rather sloppy frame-up operation, one whose exposure would open the door to an investigation of the United States’ role in training and equipping goon squads to suppress a grassroots movement on Pine Ridge against a puppet dictatorship.
In America, there can by definition be no political prisoners, only those duly judged guilty in a court of law. It is deemed too controversial to even publicly contemplate that the federal government might fabricate and suppress evidence to defeat those deemed political enemies. But it is a demonstrable fact at every stage of my case.
I am Barack Obama’s political prisoner now, and I hope and pray that he will adhere to the ideals that impelled him to run for president. But as Obama himself would acknowledge, if we are expecting him to solve our problems, we missed the point of his campaign.
Only by organizing in our own communities and pressuring our supposed leaders can we bring about the changes that we all so desperately need. Please support the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee in our effort to hold the United States government to its own words.
I thank you all who have stood by me all these years, but to name anyone would be to exclude many more. We must never lose hope in our struggle for freedom.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
–the preceding article first appeared in socialistworker.org:
Russell Means speaks on the nation-wide broadcast of Native American Calling. Among the topics discussed are the denial of Leonard Peltier’s appeal and its implications, as well as the ‘Freedom to Travel’ that is guaranteed within the areas covered by the 1851 & 1868 Fort Laramie treaties.
Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee
–Attend the Vigil at Lewisburg Penitentiary July 28th–
Join us and other Peltier supporters at the entrance of USP-Lewisburg on July 28 between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. for a peaceful protest and vigil. Meet at the corner of Route 15 and William Penn Road. USP-Lewisburg is located in central Pennsylvania, 200 miles north of Washington, DC, and 170 miles west of Philadelphia.
Days Inn will give a discount to anyone attending the Peltier vigil. The motel is 1 mile from the prison. The phone number is 570-523-1171.
You perhaps can’t make the trip to Lewisburg. What to do?
Plan a peaceful, respectful and sincere demonstration at a federal or state building in your area.
Please Help us Circulate this Press Release ~ In your state ~
–Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians join call for Peltier’s parole –
Characterizing U.S. political prisoner Leonard Peltier’s continued incarceration as “a sad commentary on the US government and the humanitarian values Americans profess,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined thousands of people around the world in writing to the U.S. Parole Commission on Peltier’s behalf.
Tutu’s July 8 letter expresses “deep hope that your commission will grant parole and release to Leonard Peltier.”
Peltier’s home reservation, Turtle Mountain, cited Peltier’s health and political status in calling on the commissioners to release the 64-year-old American Indian Movement activist.
In a July 7 letter signed by reservation council member Cindy L. Malaterre, Turtle Mountain states that “it is time for you to end the chapter to this tragic event and release our tribal member, who is now an elder, who needs to come home to live out his remaining days on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, where his friends, family and tribe live.”
Peltier, who has served more than 33 years in federal prison, is scheduled for a full parole hearing on July 28, his first since 1993. Under federal parole commission regulations, prisoners are subject to mandatory release after serving 30 years, unless they have committed serious offenses in prison or pose a significant threat to violate the law.
Peltier has an exemplary prison disciplinary record and is a six-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee due to his humanitarian efforts and commitment to justice for the world’s indigenous peoples.
SUN RISE PRAYER VIGIL and RALLY on Tuesday, July 28, 2009
SUN RISE PRAYER VIGIL and RALLY on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 calling for the Freedom of Leonard Peltier. Thank you for your concern regarding Leonard Peltier. Please mark your calendars and inform your networks.
The American Indian Movement (AIM) and AIM-WEST of San Francisco invites you the general public for an early morning SUN RISE PRAYER VIGIL and RALLY on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 calling for the Freedom of Leonard Peltier.
On Tuesday, July 28th the US Parole Commission in Lewisburg, Penn. will review the case of Leonard Peltier, held in prison for over three decades. This is the best opportunity Leonard will get during his entire period of incarceration to a fair review of his case before the US Parole Commission. The whole world is watching and waiting!
Please join with us in solidarity with Leonard, his family and relations, friends and supporters from around the world on this day and let us pray for an open mind, and to let the healing of America begin. The general public is invited to join with us in San Francisco at the Federal Building 450 Golden Gate Avenue for an early morning SUN -RISE PRAYER VIGIL beginning at 6 am until 3 pm. All Drummers and Singers, Dancers, Community Youth and Elders, solidarity organizations and NGO’s are urged to join with us to celebrate this special occasion. Religious groups and social movements are also encouraged to attend this spiritual gathering and stand together hand in hand, burning sacred sage, being of one mind in Peace calling upon the US Parole Commission to finally release Leonard Peltier from three decades of incarceration for a crime he did not commit! There will be special invited speakers, and the media and press are welcome to cover the event. The public is encouraged to immediately call today the office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, in SF at 415-556-4862 to remind her to write a letter to the US Parole Commission by July 14th just as she did in August 1993 to Attorney General Janet Reno asking for a review of the circumstances behind this case in view of discrepancies in handling it’s process. Congresswoman Pelosi is also invited to address the VIGIL on July 28 in SF if she happens to be in the CITY. The SF County Board of Supervisor’s are also encouraged to come and support these efforts for Leonard’s release from prison.
This is a peaceful and non-violent gathering on behalf of Leonard and his family and to always be respectful and honorable in seeking his freedom.
For more information call at 415-577-1492.
Thank You All My Relations! Antonio Gonzales AIM-WEST Director
CALL to ACTION
CALL THE WHITE HOUSE ~ 202-456-1111 ~ ASK PRESIDENT OBAMA TO SUPPORT PAROLE FOR LEONARD PELTIER AND CONTINUE WRITING LETTERS TO THE PAROLE BOARD! 14 DAYS LEFT! LEONARD WILL COME HOME ~ LETS WORK TOGETHER
Buy a Piece of History
There are 25 paintings available, which vary in price and size. All of his paintings are original native expressions of portraits of his visions. Leonards oil paintings are collected by various people, including well known names, such as Chelsea Clinton, Oliver Stone, Val Kilmer, Jane Fonda and so many more admirers. His work will be enjoyed for centuries to come and we encourage everyone to purchase an original painting or a lithograph of Leonards work.
This is a critical time for Leonard and for the LPDOC. With the parole hearing coming up, and the Lawyers working on Leonards case. We need to do everything in our power to see that Leonard is released. With this work in progress we also need funds to continue.
–World Day of Prayer–
Branson Missouri by the water at Table Rock Lake, anyone can come and pray with us, we will be at the park. All are welcome. Call for questions 417-302-5226. Come at sunrise!
Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee
Eric Seitz, 808-533-7434 or
Kari Ann Cowan, 701-235-2206 or 701-278-2968