TUMWATER, WASH. – A Washington state agency plans to remove four paintings by an inmate serving time for killing two FBI agents after former law enforcement officers complained about the artwork’s inclusion in a lobby art exhibit.
The paintings were done in prison by Leonard Peltier, 71, a Native American activist who is serving two consecutive life sentences in the deaths of two FBI agents during a 1975 standoff on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The works were hanging near the front doors of the state Department of Labor and Industries’ headquarters in Tumwater, Washington, and part of an exhibit to mark National American Indian Heritage Month, KING-TV in Seattle reported (http://goo.gl/ckVGrA ).
An association representing retired FBI agents demanded the state agency remove the paintings.
“He’s nothing but a thug,” said retired FBI agent Ray Lauer. “He’s an unrepentant cop killer.”
Lauer is a member of the Retired FBI Agents Association, which wrote a letter to Labor and Industries demanding the paintings be removed.
“For the state of Washington to use taxpayers’ dollars to basically offer a free art gallery to somebody who is a convicted cop killer, I find it, as a law enforcement officer, appalling and quite frankly disgusting as taxpayer also,” Lauer said.
The state agency said it will replace the paintings this week with other artwork.
Displaying the work wasn’t meant as an endorsement of Peltier’s cause, said Tim Church, a state Labor and Industries spokesman. It was simply meant to be about Native American art, he said.
“We feel badly about the impressions that they’re taking from it. We truly do. That was in no way our intent,” Church said.
Peltier’s case has been a source of protest over the decades.
His son, Chauncey Peltier, said there is no evidence his father killed anyone. He has been exhibiting his father’s paintings around the country to raise awareness about his father’s attempt to gain a presidential pardon.
‘Whatever the nature and degree of his participation at Oglala, the ruthless persecution of Leonard Peltier had less to do with his own actions than with underlying issues of history, racism, and economics, in particular Indian sovereignty claims and growing opposition to massive energy development on treaty lands and dwindling reservations.’
Author, writer, environmentalist and political activist Peter Matthiessen has died, aged 86, after a short illness. Pieces written is his memory are here, here, here, here and here.
Matthiessen is best known for his fiction work, his writings on the natural world and his writing and activism on environmental causes.
However, it is his non-fiction books that I value the most. These include In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, which chronicles the story of Native Indian political activist Leonard Peltier and the FBI and US Government’s war on the American Indian Movement and his book about the legendary farm worker, union organizer and activist Ceser Chavez.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse is one of the finest examples of a book that exposed historical and political injustice and gave force to a political campaign that continues to this day.
In In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Matthiessen documents the massive number of crimes committed against Native American people and the genocidal nature of the US authorities in their destruction of Native cultures and people. He documents a long string of historical injustices, ranging from mass slaughter to the takeover and reapportionment of sacred or Native lands, including the forced appropriation of Indian lands for mining use.
The key figure in Matthiessen’s book is Leonard Peltier, who has spent 37 years in American prisons for the alleged murder of 2 FBI agents on the the Pine Ridge Indian Reserve in South Dakota in 1975.
Peltier, an Ojibwa-Lakota from Turtle Mountain, North Dakota, was one of the three young Indians involved in a shoot-out with the FBI at Oglala on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation in June 1975, which resulted in the death of 3 men, including 2 FBI agents and an Indian. Pelteir and 3 others were later charged with the murder of the two FBI agents.
Peltier and two of the young Indian men indicted were members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) a group fiercely opposed to the sale of Reservation land and mining rights to non-Indian interests.
Mathiessen shows how the fire fight was the result of a planned military assault on the Reservation by FBI agents and local Police, working in conjunction with an Indian para-military group (The GOONS), who were linked to Indian tribal figures keen to sell Indian land to white corporate interests wanting to exploit its mineral wealth.
Those same Indian leaders, with the support of Federal authorities, had armed the GOONS (Guardians of the Oglala Nation), who had been terrorizing Indians on the reservation who opposed the sell off. In the 2 years leading up to the shoot out, the GOONS reign of terror had resulted in between 200-300 deaths.
Matthiessen’s book documents how Peltier’s conviction and subsequent life imprisonment were based on Government fraud and misconduct and highly disputed evidence.
Matthiessen’s book was so controversial its publication was delayed for decades due to legal challenges by the US authorities and the FBI, which cost Matthiessen and his publisher $2 million in legal fees.
Matthiesson continued to write about Chavez, quoting him in this profile article:
When we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belongs to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of men we are. It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us be men.”
COLEMAN, FLORIDA – On Friday January 24, 2014, United Nations Special Rapporteur, Professor James Anaya visited United States Penitentiary Coleman 1 in Florida, to meet with American Indian political prisoner Leonard Peltier. Professor Anaya was accompanied by Leonard “Lenny ” Foster, member of the Board of Directors of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), Supervisor of the Navajo Nations Correction Project, and Spiritual Advisor to Mr. Peltier for nearly 30 years.
The historic, nearly four hour meeting began around 9 am. While the discussion Friday morning was meant to focus on executive clemency for Leonard Peltier, the conversation touched on many subjects, as Mr. Peltier was eager to hear the Special Rapporteur’s perspective on the worldwide condition of indigenous peoples.
In a trial that is widely recognized as a miscarriage of justice, Leonard Peltier was convicted in 1977, in connection with a shootout with US Government forces, where two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and one young Indian man lost their lives. Every piece of evidence to convict Mr. Peltier has been since proven false.
Professor Anaya is currently serving his second term as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People. In September 2012, following a series of consultation sessions with Indigenous Peoples throughout the United States, the Special Rapporteur produced a “ Country Report on the Situation of Indigenous Peoples In the United States of America” (A/HRC/21/47/Ad)].
In the report, Professor Anaya called for freedom for Leonard Peltier, and stated: “Pleas for presidential consideration of clemency…have not borne fruit. This further depletes the already diminished faith in the criminal justice system felt by many indigenous peoples…”
The effort to engage the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the struggle to address justice for Mr. Peltier began in 2008, during a discussion between Lenny Foster and Alberto Salomando, former attorney for the IITC. Following the visit Lenny Foster stated: ‘The visit today by U.N. Special Rapporteur James Anaya to Leonard Peltier in prison is very significant and historic for us. We thank him for working..to make this possible. This will support efforts for Executive Clemency for Leonard Peltier and promote reconciliation and justice in this case.”
Leonard Peltier said Friday “if the Constitutional violations that took place in my trial are allowed to stand, it will set precedence for future trials, and jeopardize the freedom and constitutional rights of all Americans.”
Also in attendance of the meeting Friday were: David Hill, Director of the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (ILPDC), Peter Clark, ILPDC Chapter Coordinator and Unoccupyabq.org member.
David Hill stated “that Americans can no longer afford to tolerate this miscarriage of justice and we shall make every effort to bring these judicial violations to the attention of all Americans, as well as internationally.”
COLEMAN, FLORIDA – Leonard Peltier, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, who has been imprisoned for the past 37 years, issued statement yesterday on the Fourth of July.
Peltier is serving a life sentence in the US Penitentiary in Coleman, Florida. He was accused of the 1975 murders of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He was convicted in 1977.
Peltier is considered to be a political prisoner of war by many American Indians throughout the United States and others worldwide. Through the years, Peltier’s supporters have included the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu, among other prominent names.
The following is Mr. Peltier’s statement:
Greetings My Relatives, Friends and Supporters,
I was told that many of you are staging some vigils and demonstrations of sorts on my behalf and that I should perhaps make a statement.
As always and first of all, I want to say how deeply appreciative I am of your concerns and I am humbled by the efforts that you have taken to keep my case alive. I also want to say and quite honestly, that my case at this point in time really isn’t about me as much as it is about wrongful illegal immoral policies that they practice against our people. And at this juncture of history though these practices were for the most part exercised first on my people they have now crossed over into all peoples, especially the poor. Or anyone that doesn’t have the political or monetary power to combat their system and bring to public awareness the transgressions upon those who can ill afford to defend themselves.
I am not as well read on European American history as I am the history of my own people, but I have some knowledge of it and I find it quite ironic that the first recorded death of a person fighting to throw off the yoke of England on the colonies was a man named Crispus Atticus, who was half black and half Indian.
The two most persecuted races in America today, yet he died that the fledgling government of that time would live. And today in Washington DC he is remembered primarily because of a youth center in a predominately black area of Washington DC. I became aware of that fact when a group of people like yourselves in support of me rode into Washington DC on horses on Earth Day 1990; they camped out at Crispus Atticus Center.
At the time the colonies declared their independence the Europeans had already been here for close to 200 plus years. The diseases that were brought by the Europeans had a death rate among native people of 90 something percent and for a long time the history books were saying that when the pilgrims came this was largely an unoccupied land. There were and estimated one million people in America as portrayed by conventional history books. In more recent times however, discoveries have shown that approx 90 million of our people were lost throughout the Americas as a result of disease and wars with the Europeans.
…if I’m getting into a rant, but that’s what comes to mind when I think about 1776 and the Declaration of Independence, which brings to mind the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. I know the Declaration of Independence declares colonizers independent from England and subsequent treaties they declared to be truthful and binding. The treaties they declared to be binding with my people, which number approximately three hundred and seventy something that were ratified by Congress, have been violated feloniously every day. The subsequent Constitution of the United States that in actuality is a treaty between the American government and the people of America is being violated feloniously every day. It declares a person has a right to a free and impartial trial, by an impartial judge, by an impartial jury and enumerates other values of law that were violated feloniously in my case and have been violated feloniously in many cases. And this is still happening.
Freeing me would not change that policy that has been perpetuated against my people; I am only just living evidence of it. And I am as I say, humbly grateful, that you recognize me as such. Freeing me at this time would bring immeasurable joy to my family, friends and loved ones, but we as a people need to address the issues that put me here and that keeps me here because it affects all of us, not just people in prisons, not just people in Guantanamo that have been there for years that have not been charged or tried but it affects all of us; that’s any of you within the sound of the voice that’s reading this statement. And those who can’t hear it or can’t read it – it affects all of us.
Right now in America we not only have the issues of justice and freedom for all so to speak, but we have the issues of clean water and air for all to breath. And to be free from radiation poisoning, and be free from mercury poisoning and a host of chemicals that I can’t even pronounce, that are being released into our environment by wealthy corporations who seem to care less for the people and only for the almighty dollar. This is so hard to talk about because it is so close to my heart and thoughts that it makes me so highly emotional that it disturbs my train of thought sometimes. I want so much to be free but more than that I want you and my children and my children’s children and all our future generations to be declared free. Free to breathe clean air and drink clean water and eat natural clean foods and walk a clean earth. The Declaration on the Rights for Indigenous People by the UN is meant to protect us and our lands for future generations and help us reclaim justly any of our losses. But I really want to get you to think about this because you are quickly becoming another version of the indigenous peoples because you are next in line to be exploited of whatever resources you have, whether it be your land to extend a pipeline across it, or dig a uranium mine somewhere that pollutes the water tables or the air or the land like they did on the Navajo Reservation and so many other places.
I believe Obama has a good heart and is doing the best he can within the confines of the government. And he has said he supports the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and he has signed it, the world is now united on this issue, but implementation has yet to be seen like so many other DECLARATIONS I was somewhat amused by the play on words when one of my native brothers said they should call the upcoming holiday the Fourth of You Lie. I found it momentarily amusing but in reality we are faced with serious consequences if we do not bring about change that puts us in harmony with the Creator and the Mother Earth and one another, and not just here in America but all over the world. People aren’t blowing themselves up because they want to go to heaven they are blowing themselves up because they want corporations and people to stop exploiting them and their resources.
There was a time in history of America when they outlawed our religion.
They declared in another declaration that we should stop sun dancing that we should stop ghost dancing, they declared that we should stop anything that brought us together. And that was because our people would fight to the death for the belief that living in harmony with the Great Spirit, Mother Earth, our fellow man and respecting our brother’s vision was worth dying for.
Before I made this statement I deeply thought about it and I prayed about it, and thought about it some more, and the main thing I want to do is say something that would make a difference in a positive way. I sincerely hope that you will consider my words and I hope that in a positive way what I said will affect you. I want to encourage you to appreciate one another, love one another and do your best to work together, that we can feel good in the fact that we did the best we could. From my heart to your heart, enjoy your life; enjoy the fact that you can hold the ones you love and see them when you want and declare yourselves independent of anything that would take away from you.
In closing I want to say may the Great Spirit be with you always in all ways.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse
Friends for as long as you will have me,
Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Today Media Network
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 USD government and the Indian nations. We continue to pray that will happen.”
Marchers carry a large painting of American Indian Leonard Peltier during a “National Day of Mourning,” Thursday, November 22, 2001, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)