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This is in response to a recent New York Times editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/opinion/02mon3.html?_r=1&ref=opinion
To the Editor:
Thanks for your informative August 2 editorial, “Tribal Law and Order.”
I didn’t realize years ago when I was coordinator for the Atlanta Leonard Peltier Support Group, or when I worked one summer at his defense committee, that tribal police were there to fulfill a treaty we had with Indian people.
Leonard Peltier was the leader of an American Indian Movement group that was invited to the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Indian Reservation by the traditional people and their chiefs to protect them from tribal police. He was convicted of the murder of two FBI agents in a shootout on the reservation in 1975. Since his conviction, his prosecutors have admitted that they fabricated evidence, withheld evidence, coerced witnesses and don’t know who killed the agents. This was during the energy crisis of the 1970’s, when huge subsidies were given to energy companies to search for alternative energy on that reservation.
The Indians’ protests of the rape of their land and other abuses led to oppression and to the election of Dick Wilson, a corrupt tribal chairman. That election was later investigated by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which determined that Russell Means had actually won. The Commission also documented 60 murders and over 300 beatings of Indian people on Pine Ridge in the three years surrounding the shootout, mostly attributed to the tribal police, and supported with arms, training and direct support from the U.S. government. The funding for that investigation was cut when Peltier was convicted.
He is a scapegoat, plain and simple. It’s encouraging that the Obama administration wants to fulfill its obligation to uphold our treaties with Indian people, but they must also take steps to prevent further abuses of those treaties. On February 6, 2011, Leonard Peltier will have been in prison for 35 years. Obama has taken a good first step. A good second step would be to set Leonard Peltier free. America needs to know his story.
Reid Freeman Jenkins
Have You Thought of Leonard Peltier Lately? by Harvey Arden
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen
Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance by Leonard Peltier
The Trial of Leonard Peltier by Jim Messerschmidt