44 Years In Prison: On the 74th Birthday of Leonard Peltier
GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA — September 15, 2018
On Wednesday, September 12, it was the 74th birthday of Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who has been incarcerated for nearly 44 years after being convicted in connection with the deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
At this time, the FBI continues to withhold over 70,000 documents that are known to exist and hiding the truth. Despite overwhelming evidence of FBI misconduct—including the coercion and intimidation of witnesses, the utilization of false testimonies, and the concealment of a ballistics test reflecting his innocence — Mr. Peltier has been denied a new trial and is long overdue for parole.
Mr. Peltier’s ongoing incarceration has become a powerful symbol of the U.S. government’s mistreatment of its indigenous peoples.
Peltier has some chronic health problems, all of which have occurred since he’s been in prison. In 1986, Leonard suffered a stroke which left him nearly blind in one eye. He also was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. More recently, Leonard has been diagnosed with a pulmonary granuloma. He suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and a heart condition.
In the past years, the Belgian Parliament, the Italian Parliament and the European Parliament have each adopted resolutions, asking the U.S. government to start investigations into the misconduct of the FBI in this case, and to grant Peltier Executive Clemency.
Leonard Peltier has proven to be an exemplary candidate for executive clemency. During his years behind bars, he has established a remarkable record of humanitarian work, including sponsoring a Native American scholarship fund; supporting battered women’s centers and substance abuse programs; and sponsoring annual clothing and toy drives for children on the Pine Ridge reservation, amongst other efforts.
Leonard Peltier has been widely recognized for his humanitarian activities, winning honors including but not limited to:
•1986 Human Rights Commission of Spain International Human Rights Prize;
•1993 North Star Frederick Douglas Award;
•2003 Federation of Labour (Ontario, Canada) Humanist of the Year Award;
•2004 Silver Arrow Award for Lifetime Achievement;
•2009 First Red Nation Humanitarian Award;
•2010 Kwame Ture Lifetime Achievement Award;
•2010 Fighters for Justice Award; and
•2011 Mario Benedetti Foundation (Uruguay) – First International Human Rights Prize.
In 2009, for the sixth consecutive year, Leonard Peltier also was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Peltier, whose health is failing fast last years, released a statement from the Coleman penitentiary saying, “I have had such high hopes over the years that I might be getting out and returning to my family in North Dakota. And yet here I am in 2018 still struggling for my FREEDOM at 73.” He went on to say, “I have pleaded my innocence for so long now, in so many courts of law, in so many public statements issued through the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, that I will not argue it here. But I will say again I DID NOT KILL THOSE AGENTS!”
Furthermore, many well-known personalities included 50 members of the U.S. Congress; and other political and religious leaders in the US and around the world have already called upon U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama to grant freedom to Leonard Peltier. So far, none of U.S. Presidents has found strength to heal a painful chapter in the U.S. history with its first peoples. But there’s still hope.
If this happens, it will be an important step to fair treating of Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples and restoring lost faith in justice and humanity.
You may send your cards & letters to Leonard:
USP Coleman I
P.O. Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521