Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Leonard Peltier Day Honors Imprisoned Native Icon

Leonard Peltier Day Honors Imprisoned Native IconGale Courey Toensing
June 26, 2013

Leaders of the Oglala Lakota Nation have declared June 26 Leonard Peltier Day in honor of the American Indian Movement activist who has been in prison for 36 years, convicted of murdering two FBI agents in a trial that leading social justice organizations say was unfair and tainted by political influence.

Peltier (Anishinaabe-Lakota) was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in 1977 for the death of two FBI agents during a confrontation with American Indian Movement (AIM) members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota June 26, 1975. Peltier admits to being present, but denied at his trial and ever since that he shot the agents. Amnesty International calls Peltier a political prisoner.

Oglala Lakota Nation President Bryan Brewer and Vice-President Thomas Poor Bear issued a proclamation June 24 naming June 26thLeonard Peltier Day. The proclamation reads:

Whereas, June 26, 1975, is a historical day on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and
Whereas, The Oglala Sioux Tribe holds in high esteem people who stand for peace, justice and freedom, and
Whereas, Leonard Peltier, a man asked to stand and protect traditional elders and the Lakota Oyate, sacrificed himself that day, and
Whereas, we hereby proclaim this day so the Oyate and the world will know and honor Mr. Peltier and remember that we as a people continue to heal, and
Whereas, although Mr. Peltier cannot be in attendance for this historic event, we must and will continue his work to heal a nation through human rights, social rights and indigenous rights all over the world, now
Therefore, pursuant to vested authority, we do as President and Vice President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, hereby proclaim June 26, 2013 as a day of honoring for Mr. Leonard Peltier and hereafter every 26th day of June.

Len Foster, Navajo, a volunteer spiritual advisor for Native prisoners, visited Peltier in U.S. penitentiaries for 28 years, including Leavenworth in Kansas and Lewisburg in Pennsylvania, sharing sweat lodge and pipe ceremonies. But Foster has not seen Peltier for over a year since he was transferred to the prison in Colemen, Florida, a maximum-security facility with restrictive visiting rules.

“They consider him a maximum security level prisoner and his security clearance has stayed the same even though he has become a model inmate and a revered elder in the eyes of other Native prisoners. He’s 69 years old, and he’s been incarcerated 36 years now and has some health issues, including diabetes and high blood pressure and the pains and ailments around them,” Foster told Indian Country Today Media Network.

Peltier became eligible for parole years ago, Foster said, “yet they continue to deny him. I think it’s time he was paroled and if not paroled then released for medical purposes or on clemency. We’re working on a presidential pardon,” Foster said. “We continue to ask everyone to support his release, including the readers of this story. By writing Obama a handwritten letter asking for a pardon for Leonard. That would bring about some reconciliation between the non-Indians, the US government and the Indian nations. We continue to pray that will happen.”