Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Never Forget: Wounded Knee (29 December 1890)

The Wounded Knee Massacre
December 29, 1890

An Account of The Massacre

By August of 1890, the U.S. government was fearful that the Ghost Dance was actually a war dance and, in time, the dancers would turn to rioting. By November, the War Department sent troops to occupy the Lakota camps at Pine Ridge and Rosebud, convinced that the dancers were preparing to do battle against the government. In reality, the Indians were bracing themselves to defend their rights to continue performing the sacred ceremonies. In reaction to the military encampment, the Lakotas planned various strategies to avoid confrontation with the soldiers, but the military was under orders to isolate Ghost Dance leaders from their devotees.

The Hunkpapa Sioux Chief, Sitting Bull, had returned from Canada with a promise of a pardon following the Battle at Little Bighorn and was an advocate of the Ghost Dance. At his request, Kicking Bear traveled to the Standing Rock reservation to preach and made numerous Hunkpapa Sioux converts to the new religion.

Kicking Bear:

"My brothers, I bring to you the promise of a day in which there will be no white man to lay his hand on the bridle of the Indian horse; when the red men of the prairie will rule the world... I bring you word from your fathers the ghosts, that they are now marching to join you, led by the Messiah who came once to live on earth with the white man, but was cast out and killed by them."

Kicking Bear (quoting Wovoka):

"The earth is getting old, and I will make it new for my chosen people, the Indians, who are to inhabit it, and among them will be all those of their ancestors who have died... I will cover the earth with new soil to a depth of five times the height of a man, and under this new soil will be buried the whites... The new lands will be covered with sweet-grass and running water and trees, and herds of buffalo and ponies will stray over it, that my red children may eat and drink, hunt and rejoice."

(Source: Eyewitness at Wounded Knee, 1991)

Reservation agents began to fear that Sitting Bull’s influence over other tribes would lead to violence. By December reservation official grew increasingly alarmed by the Ghost Dance outbreak, and the military was called upon to locate and arrest those who were considered agitators, such as the Sioux Chiefs, Sitting Bull and Big Foot.

On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull and eight of his warriors were murdered by agency police sent to arrest him at the Standing Rock reservation. The official reason given for the shooting claimed that he had resisted arrest. Fearing further reprisal, some of his followers fled in terror to Big Foot’s camp of Miniconjou Sioux. While many of Big Foot’s group were devout Ghost Dancers, others had already begun to leave the religion. Old Big Foot was a peaceful leader and was not attempting to cause further agitation of the situation. But after the slaying of Sitting Bull, Big Foot was placed on the list of "fomenters of disturbances," and his arrest had been ordered. Upon arrest, his group was to be transferred to Fort Bennett.

Under cover of the night on December 23, a band of 350 people left the Miniconjou village on the Cheyenne River to begin a treacherous 150-mile, week-long trek through the Badlands to reach the Pine Ridge Agency.

Although Chief Big Foot was aged and seriously ill with pneumonia, his group traversed the rugged, frozen terrain of the Badlands in order to reach the protection of Chief Red Cloud who had promised them food, shelter, and horses. It is reported that both Big Foot and Red Cloud wanted peace. On December 28, the group was surrounded by Major Samuel M. Whitside and the Seventh Calvary (the old regiment of General George Custer). Big Foots band hoisted a white flag, but the army apprehended the Indians, forcing them to the bank of Wounded Knee Creek. There, four large Hotchkiss cannons had been menacingly situated atop both sides of the valley overlooking the encampment, ready to fire upon the Indians.

A rumor ran through the camp that the Indians were to be deported to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) which had the reputation for its living conditions being far worse than any prison. The Lakotas became panicky, and historians have surmised that if the misunderstanding had been clarified that they were to be taken to a different camp, the entire horrific incident might have been averted.

That evening, Colonel James Forsyth arrived with reinforcements and took over as commander of the operation. The Indians were not allowed to sleep as the soldiers interrogated them through the night. (It has been reported that many of the questions were to determine who among the group had been at Little Bighorn fourteen years earlier. In addition, eyewitnesses claimed that the soldiers had been drinking to celebrate the capture of the ailing Big Foot.)

The soldiers ordered that the Indians be stripped of their weapons, and this further agitated an increasingly tense and serious situation. While the soldiers searched for weapons, a few of the Indians began singing Ghost Dance songs, and one of them (thought to be the medicine man, Yellow Bird, although this is still disputed by historians) threw dirt in a ceremonial act. This action was misunderstood by the soldiers as a sign of imminent hostile aggression, and within moments, a gun discharged. It is believed that the gun of a deaf man, Black Coyote, accidentally fired as soldiers tried to take it from him. Although the inadvertent single shot did not injure anyone, instantaneously the soldiers retaliated by spraying the unarmed Indians with bullets from small arms, as well as the Hotchkiss canons which overlooked the scene.

(Hotchkiss canons are capable of firing two pound explosive shells at a rate of fifty per minute.)

With only their bare hands to fight back, the Indians tried to defend themselves, but the incident deteriorated further into bloody chaos, and the 350 unarmed Indians were outmatched and outnumbered by the nearly 500 U.S. soldiers.

The majority of the massacre fatalities occurred during the initial ten to twenty minutes of the incident, but the firing lasted for several hours as the army chased after those who tried to escape into the nearby ravine. According to recollections by some of the Indian survivors, the soldiers cried out "Remember the Little Bighorn" as they sportingly hunted down those who fled -- evidence to them that the massacre was in revenge of Custers demise at Little Bighorn in 1876.

(Recorded by Santee Sioux, Sid Byrd, from oral histories of several survivors.)

Many of the injured died of exposure in the freezing weather, and several days after the incident the dead were strewn as far as approximately two to five miles away from the original site. By mid-afternoon on December 29, 1890 the indiscriminate slaughter ceased. Nearly three-hundred men (including Chief Big Foot), women, and children -- old and young -- were dead on the frosty banks of Wounded Knee Creek. Twenty-nine soldiers also died in the melee, but it is believed that most of the military causalities were a result of "friendly" crossfire that occurred during the fighting frenzy. Twenty-three soldiers from the Seventh Calvary were later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the slaughter of defenseless Indians at Wounded Knee.

The wounded and dying were taken to a makeshift hospital in the Pine Ridge Episcopal Church. Ironically, above the pulpit hung a Christmas banner which read:

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.

A blizzard swept over the countryside the night of December 29, and when it cleared days later, the valley was strewn with frozen, contorted dead bodies. A burial party returned to the site on New Years Day, 1891. The bodies of the slain were pulled from beneath the heavy snow and thrown into a single burial pit. It was reported that four infants were found still alive, wrapped in their deceased mothers shawls.

American Horse, Oglala Sioux, and others described the carnage:

"There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce...A mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing...The women as they were fleeing with their babies were killed together, shot right through...and after most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys...came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there."

(Source: 500 Nations, 1994)

While only 150 bodies were interred in the mass grave, Lakotas estimate that twice as many Indians perished that brutal morning in 1890 -- on a reservation supposedly protected by two treaties.

Black Elk:

"I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream... the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Make that End-of-Year Donation

To donate to the Defense/Offense Committee, go to www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/donate.htm. Alternatively, checks and money orders made payable to the "LPDOC" can be mailed to LP-DOC, PO Box 7488, Fargo, ND 58106.

Donations for heat on the reservations are critical; every year there are deaths from freezing to death in the night. This is preventable! Please donate online at http://www.pathwaystospirit.org/start.html or send a check or money order to:

Pathways To Spirit
4307 Goldeneye Drive
Fort Collins, CO 80526

REMEMBER to specify that you are supporting the utilities assistance program.

Pathways to Spirit is a federally recognized 501C3 non-profit organization, and as such your direct donations are tax deductible. All donations receive a receipt for tax purposes. For more information, contact info@pathwaystospirit.org.

We hope this information will be helpful to you.

2010 Honorary Leonard Peltier Scholarship

The Oglala Commemoration's

The Committee is pleased to announce our annual Peltier Scholarsip Award for an Oglala Lakota Tribal Member that plans to attend the Oglala Lakota College. It is geared toward meeting the financial needs of the non-traditional student. The applicants must have a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) this school year and currently reside in the local geographic area.

This Scholarship was created to honor Leonard Peltier's vision of empowering the Oglala People to have an active part in defining the future direction of the tribe. The intent: All have the potential to raise above their circumstances and to contribute to the preservation of Traditional Lakota Language and spirituality through education.

2010 Application (PDF)

Applications are available at the Student Financial Aid Office at the Oglala Lakota College, or download and print the application. Return the completed application to the college, addressed to the attention of Ms. Billi Hornbeck, (605) 455-6037.

Deadline: 04 February 2010

For more information, contact the Oglala Commemoration Committee at

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Greetings from GfbV

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy 2010 and, of course, freedom for Leonard Peltier in 2010.

Yvonne from Society for Threatened Peoples

Frohe Weihnachten und ein gute neues Jahr
selbstverständlich Freiheit für Leonard Peltier in 2010
wünscht Ihnen und Euch
Yvonne Bangert / Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker

Referat indigene Voelker / Indigenous Peoples Dpt.
Gesellschaft fuer bedrohte Voelker e.V. (GfbV)
Society for Threatened Peoples (STP)

P.O.Box 2024
D - 37010 Goettingen

Fon: +49 (0)551 499 06 -14
Fax: +49 (0)551 58 028
E-Mail: indigene@gfbv.de
Internet: www.gfbv.de

Happy Holidays from Leonard Peltier

Greetings and happy holidays. I hope this letter finds you all enjoying the spirit of the season with family and friends.

My August parole denial was appealed in short order. We are expecting a response to that appeal sometime very soon. It has occurred to me that the viciousness of this system knows no bounds, and so I believe strongly in the coming days we will hear of another loss, another denial. This one will be timed and intended specifically as a twisted Christmas present for me, such is the nature of those in charge. With no sense of balance, fairness, or decency, I await my own personal stocking stuffer.

We all know the so-called justice system of this country is more about revenge and retribution than finding true and just resolution. It doesn’t take into account the plight of the wrongfully convicted, nor does it allow flexibility as human endeavors always require. This system has always been about making money at the top, furthering careers in the middle, and forgetting those at the bottom.

Their reason for denying my parole is that I refuse to admit guilt and show remorse for the deaths of two FBI agents. I know the righteousness of my situation. I know what I did and didn’t do. I will never yield.

I also know what this country did and continues to do to me and many others. While they demand I make a false confession for the sake of my freedom, they show no remorse for the loss of much of my life, or the lives of Joe Stuntz and countless others they have murdered over the generations simply for being who they were. Those lives are meaningless when compared to their precious FBI, I guess. And now, some of the very ones responsible for the deaths and suffering of so many of my people, are peddling books and claiming to be a friend of the Indian. We’ve seen this before, and I’ll speak more about this soon.

I remain proud of what I have stood for and mindful of what real justice is. In this season of love and forgiveness, please say a prayer for all of those who never knew justice and others who have such difficulty in finding it still today.

My love and my prayers go out to all of you.

Happy Holidays.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free Screening of "Warrior: The Life of Leonard Peltier" on Dec. 17

What: Free Screening of Warrior: The Life of Leonard Peltier' w/special guest Ben Carnes (formerly of the LP-DOC)
Where: 111 North Central Ave., downtown Los Angeles, 90012 (directly across from the Japanese American National Museum)
when: December 17th at 6:30pm

On Thursday, December 17, 2009, at 6:30pm we will have a free feature screening of 'Warrior: The Life of Leonard Peltier' with special guest speaker Ben Carnes formerly of the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee. We will also have a community potluck (please bring a dish) and raffle.

Bringing the Circle Together: A Native American Film Series is a FREE monthly film series located at the National Center for Preservation of Democracy (directly across from the host sponsor The Japanese American National Museum) at 111 North Central Ave, in downtown Los Angeles, 90012.

The film series was established to provide quality documentaries by and about Indigenous cultures of the Americas, and bring together a central gathering place where discussion and awareness of issues can be shared with the Native community and its supporters.

A little about the film:

The shocking, true story of Leonard Peltier, the American Indian leader locked away for life, convicted of the alleged murder of two FBI agents during a bloody shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975. Around the world his trial and conviction have been denounced as a sham. The heart of the film, is a detailed painstaking account of Peltier's harrowing odyssey through the American justice system.

The film series is hosted by Lorin Morgan-Richards and is sponsored by the following organizations:

The Japanese American National Museum
American Indian Community Council
Hecho de Mano
Nahui Ohlin
SCIC-InterTribal Entertainment
Department of Cultural Affairs

LP-DOC Newsletter for 15 December 2009

December 15, 2009: Gift Drive, ZOOM IN Campaign, and more.
Read here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Update on Leonard Peltier: Len Foster at the 2009 AIM Fall Conference, 25 November 2009

American Indian Movement elder Len Foster (Dineh) gives an update on Leonard Peltier's health and his current situation.

Filmed by Mary Ellen Churchill on November 25th at the 2009 AIM Fall Conference in San Francisco.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

12 Days of Christmas: A Call to Action

December 14 - 25

Demand a Christmas award of clemency for Leonard Peltier. Call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1112 each day during this period. The comment line accepts calls Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., EST.

Human Rights Day: A Good Day to Write a Letter to Leonard

Human Rights Day 2009

Join the Global Write-a-thon by writing a letter of support to Leonard Peltier.

Send Cards and Letters:

Leonard Peltier #89637-132
US Penitentiary
PO Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Looking towards 2010: Urgent Plea for the New Year

Looking towards 2010: Urgent Plea for the New Year

Well, no more beating around the bush. No one likes asking for money, but the LPDOC needs a surge of financial support going into the new year. Among the projects we have on the table is a full-page ad we have prepared for an influential national news magazine signed by prominent activists, writers, and editors. It calls on President Obama to grant Leonard immediate and unconditional release and proposes a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the Reign of Terror on Pine Ridge in the 1970s. But it will remain on the table unless we can raise $3000 in the next week or so.

There are now several ways to contribute through paypal on the website, from one-time donations to monthly or quarterly pledges. Please consider pledging a monthly contribution for the upcoming year to give us the financial stability to move forward and, hopefully, complete our task. We also have raffle tickets and gift certificates available for Christmas presents that send a message of justice and reconciliation.

Whatever your faith or beliefs, this is a season of homecoming, of giving, and of reflection upon the past year and planning for the new one. For Leonard Peltier, 2009 was a year of raised hopes and shattered dreams. On Jan. 13, Leonard was brutally assaulted in an incident that the Bureau of Prisons refused to acknowledge or release information on in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by an AP reporter. Despite obtaining thousands of letters from around the world in support of his parole, the U.S. Parole Commission on Aug. 20 denied Leonard his well-deserved release on the basis of false and unsubstantiated claims by the FBI and the Justice Department.

It is time to take a stand.

Help us give Leonard hope for a homecoming in the new year by contributing what you can to his committee. The President has made Afghanistan his war, and Leonard Peltier is now Barack Obama's political prisoner. Also, please call the White House (202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414) and demand a Christmas pardon for one of the longest-serving political prisoners in the world. If President Warren Harding could free political prisoners for the holiday season in his first year in office after World War I, we can expect no less of a president who promised us changes for peace and human rights but now seems to be delivering more of the same. If you contributed to the campaign of Barack Obama or any member of congress, tell them you will instead send the money to the LPDOC unless and until they get on board to help end the persecution of an indigenous freedom fighter whose only crime was to defend human rights and self-determination in Indian Country.

In the Spirit of Leonard Peltier,

Betty Ann Peltier-Solano
Executive Director
Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Never forget the real history of America: Statement from Leonard Peltier, 40th National Day of Mourning

Statement from Leonard Peltier, 40th National Day of Mourning, Nov. 26, in Plymouth, Mass.

Greetings and Hoka Hey!

I would request everyone who can to stand up for a few moments. Stand up for our ancestors. Stand up for our children. Stand up for our country.

To the United American Indians of New England, your supporters, and people of conscience everywhere: What a great day this is! It’s always good to see our people come together as one mind, especially at this time. As we have seen for generations, this week and month American schools will be teaching students the myth of the pilgrims and Indians celebrating the first Thanksgiving. Children will be cutting out paper headbands and “woo-wooing” as they think Indians do—never thinking about the real Indians who suffered an immigrant onslaught, or the Indians still here. This process continues the Americans’ bad habit of ignoring or falsifying their own history. I know it is easier to teach a fairy tale than to teach that the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the massacre of defenseless Indian people, but facts are facts and this country needs to get them straight!

American families will be gathering and eating too much turkey and watching football, oblivious to an ongoing struggle for American Indian sovereignty and self-determination. While it’s always a good idea for people to come together and celebrate, we Indians offer a caution: Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it, or have it righteously inflicted upon them! So overeaters beware! You never know when your wars, your bigotry, your poisons—your whole legacy—will come back to haunt you! While you gorge yourself, we will celebrate today as a day of mourning and fasting for our ancestors and our land. We know the observation comes before the feast.

As an activist and political prisoner here in the “land of the free,” I respect and support the mission of UAINE. You, as well as the American Indian Movement and Indian people of various organizations, have pursued honorable goals even when you got beaten and oppressed for doing so. We as Indian people must never let this country or the world forget that we were here. In your area specifically, Wampanoags, Narragansetts and others flourished in harmony with the land and sea. We thrived. We welcomed outsiders and they survived only through our generosity. For our troubles we suffered unjust wars, had our lands stolen, received disease-infested blankets, and continue to experience treaty violations. You are at ground zero of our genocide. You are patient zero.

I know you will never forget or allow others to forget the real history of America. Let them sit on Plymouth Rock until they see the errors of their ways! Stay united! Stay committed to the struggle! Never give up the fight! We were here! We are still here! We will always be here! Shout it with me—HOKA HEY!

Mitakuye Oyasin!

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier