Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oglala Commemoration: Statement by Leonard Peltier, 26 June 2012

Leonard Peltier 2012 Statement

Greeting my relatives,

First of all before I get into talking about anything, I want to tell you how much I deeply appreciate your remembering all the people who stood for what’s right at the Oglala Confrontation. And I deeply want to thank you for remembering me and the chance to express myself to you. Each time that I am asked about putting together a comment for any kind of event I always think to myself, what if I never got to say another thing. As you get older, that could very easily be a reality. So I try to give a lot of thought to what I say to you and to others and especially to any young people who might be listening to my words. And I want to be quite honest the words I have to say are the teachings of our people, oue elders, our medicine people and things I’ve learned in life the hard way. And things I’ve learned in a good way. If speaking to you in some way makes your life better or prevents you from going to prison or being hurt or losing your land or your culture or helps in regaining the things our people have lost then I feel it will be worthwhile.

I hope and pray that none of the young people will ever end up in any prison situation. And especially end up in prison for trying to do what is right and defending what is right. In this prison setting the days go by oh so slowly and the months and years as I look back at them all kind of fold into one; because every day is so much the same. There are very few highlights and you hear of people having nightmares in their dreams but in here the nightmare is in your waking moments. And in your sleep, you are free for a while.

I want to say how much I appreciate and respect our people for not selling or giving up the Black Hills. And how much I want to encourage all our people to remain strong and do everything they can to regain our culture. If we are ever to be strong people again, that we once were, it will be because we have taken responsibility to regain our strength. This government will never return anything meaningful that is still of some money value to them. This is not my opinion, it is reality and obvious to anyone who pays attention. We must do everything we can to regain strength of self-discipline. We must do everything we can to fully take responsibility for our future. Our ancestors before us fought and died and suffered for us. Each person here today is a result of someone who in the face of death and imprisonment stood and said, “The future of my children and my children’s children and generations to come, is worth living and dying for.” We should never let those sacrifices be in vain. The Creator of all things does not want our death; the Creator of all things wants our life; wants us to live for ourselves and for our children, and to protect the earth and nature for our future generations. That is who we are.

If you feel or have come to believe that you have a calling to do a certain thing for your people, if you prayed about it in ceremony and you feel this is a true thing in your life, then you should educate yourself with every part of that calling. Don’t wait for it to come to you. Go find that knowledge. Knowledge is strength – knowledge is power – knowledge is survival – knowledge and truth comes from Creator and belongs to everyone. Don’t worry about who said what or who said it first or who said it om people that has existed ever since Columbus landed in the Caribbean belongs to all our people. It needs no sanction from anyone. It belongs to no man or no woman. It truly belongs to our people because it is the spirit of our people saying, “We want to regain what we lost and protect what we have for ourselves and future generations.”

Another issue I want to talk about for a moment, is the issue of alcohol and drugs, I know from personal experience that its hard to avoid those things when you grow up around them. I can tell you for a fact that alcohol and drugs will not bring you the life you want. This world has a lot of beauty in it, a lot of joys and challenges and it has challenges that hurt, but meet those challenges and know the beauty of this earth and this life. You need to be clear minded. Traditionally, our people observed nature and got their inspiration from nature and if there is some place in nature where the wolf polluted his brain or the elk or the eagle or any other creature, I’m not aware of it. We need every ounce of good thinking that we have and can get to protect our lives and our children and our culture.

All I want to tell you for a fact that boredom is a part of life, no matter where you are, if you get up and go find something to do when all around you are getting drunk or using drugs, after a while you will get better at finding things to do. And your life will be far better. And getting depressed is a part of life, but you don’t learn how to deal with it by putting into your body things that weren’t meant to be there. That’s why Creator gave us our own medicines and our ceremonies and each other, so that we could with a clear mind enjoy life and protect life and recue life where is was endangered. If there is someone hearing this that has thought about taking their own life, I would encourage you to rather than throw your life away, give your life to your people. Let your life stand for something. Don’t let the sacrifices of our ancestors be for nothing.

Also I want to say, that you can do all the right things day after day, year in and year out and still bad things can happen. But if you have a clear mind, and have developed your own self-discipline in knowing who you are, you can take these bad things as challenges and use them to make yourself stronger and your people stronger and prevent them from happening to yourself or to others that you care about. And I want to say again, especially for the young people, that one of the most important things you can learn that most of our ceremonies are based on is developing your personal discipline. And learning to take responsibility for yourself and your future and taking care of your health, is the greatest gift you have on this earth at this time. And the most important thing that would enhance all your lives in making it stronger and better is to develop a personal relationship with the Creator. Don’t let it be based on some other person’s approach to spirituality but find the things that work for you.

Our teachings have always shown us how to find our own vision through prayer and fasting and sacrifice. These things help bring forth the elements of our spirit and make us stronger and help us face the challenges of life. I hope that in hearing my words some of you if not all, will be inspired in a good way. My greatest hope is that you will think about these things and apply them to your life as you find the truth of them. And sometimes I know we have to return to what we said, maybe have someone speak it to us again or read it again, but whatever happens I sincerely pray and hope that all our lives will be better and for the better and not just for our people but all people. Because our way is not just another way of life, it is THE way of life. It is life seeking life, it is life protecting life, it is living in such a way that all things are reborn every Spring.

I’ll close for now, thank you for your time, thank you for listening, remember the sacrifices of those who lived and died for you. Remember Joe Stuntz, and all the others who gave their lives, as I know you do, I would love to be with you now, today, and know in my heart I am. In my heart I stand next to you. May the Creator bless you always in all ways.

Your relative,

Leonard Peltier