(from the Nuclear Resister #158/159, September 20, 2010)
February 6, 2010
Greetings to everyone,
Thirty-four years. It doesn’t even sound like a real number to me. Not when one really thinks about being in a jail cell for that long. All these years and I swear, I still think sometimes I’ll wake up from this nightmare in my own bed, in my own home, with my family in the next room. I would never have imagined such a thing. Surely the only place people are unjustly imprisoned for 34 years is in far away lands, books or fairy tales.
It’s been that long since I woke up when I needed to, worked where I wanted to, loved who I was supposed to love, or did what I was compelled to do. It’s been that long – long enough to see my children have grandchildren. Long enough to have many of my friends and loved ones die in the course of a normal life, while I was here unable to know them in their final days.
So often in my daily life, the thought creeps in – “I don’t deserve this”. It lingers like acid in my mouth. But I have to push those types of thoughts away. I made a commitment long ago, many of us did. Some didn’t live up to their commitments, and some of us didn’t have a choice. Joe Stuntz didn’t have a choice. Neither did Buddy Lamont. I never thought my commitment would mean sacrificing like this, but I was willing to do so nonetheless. And really, if necessary, I’d do it all over again, because it was the right thing to do. We didn’t go to ceremony and say, “I’ll fight for the people as long as it doesn’t cost too much.” We prayed, and we gave. Like I say, some of us didn’t have a choice. Our only other option was to run away, and we couldn’t even do that. Back then, we had no where left to run to.
I have cried so many tears over these three plus decades. Like the many families directly affected by this whole series of events, my family’s tears have not been in short supply. Our tears have joined all the tears from over 500 years of oppression. Together our tears come together and form a giant river of suffering and I hope, cleansing. Injustice is never final, I keep telling myself. I pray this is true for all of us.
To those who know I am innocent, thank you for your faith. And I hope you continue working for my release. That is, to work towards truth and justice. To those who think me guilty, I ask you to believe in and work for the rule of law. Even the law says I should be free by now, regardless of guilt. What has happened to me isn’t justice, it isn’t the law, it isn’t fair, it isn’t right. This has been a long battle in an even longer war. But we have to remain vigilant, as we have a righteous cause. After all this time, I can only ask this: Don’t give up. Not ever. Stay in this fight with me. Suffer with me. Grieve with me. Endure with me. Believe with me. Outlast with me. And one day, celebrate freedom with me. Hoka hey!
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
~ ~ ~
September 6, 2010
Sisters, brothers, friends and supporters,
I wish I could sit across the table from each of you right now. We’d share a meal and reflect on changes in this world over these 35 or so years. Yes, I pay attention to things on the outside (as much as possible). I know the world is in turmoil and I ache for the Native people who languish in utter poverty on reservations and in inner cities across America.
As a young man, all I wanted to do was make a positive difference in the People’s lives. I’ll turn 66 years old next week and I still want that. It’s difficult to have an impact in my current circumstances, though. That’s a constant source of frustration for me. On the outside, given the chance to roll up my sleeves once again, I suspect I’d still be somewhat frustrated. All that must be done is more than any one person can accomplish. I’d still like the opportunity to do my part.
Thinking back to those days on Pine Ridge, what I remember is the funerals. There were so many funerals… So many families lost loved ones.
There was a powerful force at work on the reservation back then, one with a single purpose—to stamp out the last resistance of the Lakota people.
We (the Oglala traditionals and members of the American Indian Movement) stood up because we were trying to defend our People. It was the right thing to do. We had—have—the right to survive.
The land was being stolen, too… used for mining mostly. No thought was given to the disposal of toxic waste. The rivers were full of poisons. Not much has changed, I hear.
In those days, though, the reservation was torn apart by a tribal dispute and the federal government armed one group against another. The result was a long line of tragedies for the People of Pine Ridge… and for the People who were there that day in June 1975.
I honestly understand the pain and anguish suffered by all concerned and I have been part of that suffering.
I have watched people lie on the witness stand countless times and felt the doors closing on me.
I have heard judges admonish prosecutors for allowing false evidence in and, in some cases, for participating in the falsification itself.
The government hid evidence, too.
Or manufactured it. Literally.
The courts say none of this is even in dispute anymore. So I wonder, if the American standard of justice is still “beyond a reasonable doubt,” why am I still here?
Some people have had their convictions overturned because of one constitutional violation. The number of constitutional violations in my case is staggering. Yet, I continue to wait here for the same justice to be applied for me.
I hope that someday someone can put it all on the table and show the enormity of the railroading I have been victimized by.
Last year, as you know, my parole was denied. That was a disappointment, but I am not defeated. My fight for freedom—for my People and myself—is not over. I am a pipe carrier and a Sundancer. Abandoning The Struggle is not—never will be—a consideration.
I am an Indian man and proud of it. I love my People and culture and spiritual beliefs. My enemies like to suggest otherwise and seek to rob me of all dignity. They won’t succeed.
When I look back over all the years, I remember all the good people who have stood up for me, for a day or a decade. Of course, many have stayed with me all along the way. I think of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have signed petitions for me, too… people on the poorest of reservations to the highest of political offices.
As we have learned over these many years, my freedom won’t come quickly or easily. To succeed, the coming battle will have to be hard fought. Please continue to help my Committee and legal team as you have always done. Your support is more important now than ever before. When freedom comes, it will be due in no small part to the actions you take on my behalf.
Again, thank you for remembering me. You can’t know the comfort you bring to an innocent man locked away from the world for so very long.
[February 6, 2010 marked the 34th year of Leonard Peltier’s imprisonment for a crime he did not commit: the killing of two federal agents. Peltier observed his 66th birthday on September 12.]