Statement by Leonard Peltier:
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota
June 26, 2003
Greetings Oglalas, Lakotas, Friends and Supporters.
Twenty-eight years have gone by since the Jumping Bull Ranch was invaded by the FBI. For those of you who never lived on a Reservation (“Rez”), understand that this was not an uncommon thing. Native Americans did not enjoy the same rights and protections of the U.S. Constitution. Instead, we were treated as a colonized and occupied nation. And this is what we were. U.S. laws were forced on us. The U.S. military draft. Paying taxes? Every time we bought a loaf of bread, a gallon of gasoline – anything – we paid federal and state taxes. Don’t ever believe that Native Americans do not have to pay taxes. Yes, as I said, their laws were forced on us – yet, we did not enjoy the protection of those laws.
During the 1950s, the then President signed into law the termination of all Indian Reservations. Can you imagine that? That meant every Rez would no longer exist by the year 1985. In 1954, when this law was signed, Native people had just helped them win two world wars. Remember the Code Talkers, the warriors on the front lines, and the Indian women who worked in the veterans hospitals and as welders, building war ships. My Aunt Rose was a welder in the ship yards. As soon as the war was over, she was fired so her job could be given to a white man. This was common after the war. So, my Aunt Rose was not singled out. She just was one of the many victims of racist America. So, this was our reward for the contributions we made with our lives and labors, so that White Americans could live in their comfortable homes under the safety and protection of the U.S. Constitution. Our reward was complete genocide of our nations and, in the end, our people.
Brothers and sisters, look around you. That part of the plan is still in effect. Look at what it is doing to our blood line. With all this intermarriage, it’s changed the full appearance of our people. That has always been part of the plan. Breed the Indian out of the Indians. How do we fight that? Well, that’s a good question. We certainly cannot just out-right forbid our children from intermarrying. Now, they have laws against discrimination and they will use it without hesitation against any of us who try to enforce a “no intermarriage” rule. But if we are to live, then we must come up with something.
The American Indian Movement (AIM) tried its best to reverse this terrible loss of culture happening to our people. We revived the culture. We revived pride in ourselves as Indian People.
Of course, AIM members were labeled racist. We still are! They labeled us as communist, too, which is hypocritical as this is not what communists advocate. In fact, they advocate the total opposite. Racist! Again, this is an outright lie. Do I or any of you hate White people? I mean, look deep inside yourselves and the answer will be no, because we know there are a lot of good-hearted White people who are legitimately concerned about the genocidal acts still being committed against Native Nations. They want to help and support us.
You should also remember our history. At one time, the government’s policy was that the only good Indian is a dead Indian and the White Quakers lobbied the government to stop this policy. The Quakers were once the most powerful religious group in the U.S. So, if they had not stopped the government from doing this, there would be even fewer of our people here today. Remember, they massacred us by the thousands. Wounded Knee is not the only evil massacre that happened.
Sometimes it may seem hopeless for many of us. I know. I feel this hopelessness every moment of my life. You and I feel the same attacks on our sovereign rights. I feel and experience it through the justice system.
If I had broken any laws, then I should have been prosecuted on the Oglala Lakota Nation where the so-called crime took place, not taken hundreds of miles into Fargo, North Dakota – the most anti-Indian community in America – and judged by a group of openly racist Americans. Look at the record of persons who sat on my jury. One freely admitted to hating Indians.
As you know, the FBI has been withholding thousands of documents in my case. Never forget that, at my trial, the court ordered all the evidence released because that was my constitutional right. Remember also, for years, they told us they only had a little over 6,000 but would not release them because of national security. Well, that is one more lie they have been telling us all of these years. Now we learn they have had hundreds of thousands of documents. We just had 32,000 released from the FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC, and another from the Special Prosecutor’s office in Rapid City – a little over 6,000. I believe the Chicago FBI field office has thousands also. The FBI field office in Minneapolis, MN, has over 42,000 more, but they are resisting their release. So I have to go to court to try and get them released. By the time we are finished, there will have been something like 100,000 to 150,000 documents that were illegally withheld in my case.
All my documents are now supposed to be historically significant. The 32,000+ documents that we have were also sent to the National Archives. But, unlike the ones turned over to me, they were uncensored. Our next move is to analyze all of these documents, trial transcripts, appellate briefs, etc., by computer. Right now, we are talking about at least 150,000 documents. This includes the extradition hearings from Canada. This is just a rough estimate, but after we receive the Minneapolis and Chicago documents, we will have perhaps over 200,000. So, what I’m trying to do is get one of these computer programs that will analyze these documents for us. This way, if I want to know what a specific witness or prosecutor or FBI agent has said or written in my case, I can ask for it, and it will all be there in chronological order. This will make the research much faster and more thorough and nothing will be missed. We have researched some of the documents manually and have found a couple of good pieces of evidence of FBI misconduct. Enough to re-open the case. We found more perjury by government witnesses and intentionally-committed fraud by the government’s prosecutors. There is no statute of limitations on fraud. So, there may be some hope there. We will see. But we need to do more thorough research so that we don’t miss anything this time.
So, how do we deal with our issues with the U.S. government? I say democratically, through the politicians. I know this is hard to believe. You voted for candidates you trusted. Some of them turned out to be the worst politicians. I’m speaking about Tom Daschle and Bill Clinton.
Do you remember? Clinton drove through the Oglala Lakota Nation at a hundred miles an hour, stopped to make a short speech, took a few photos, and raced off the Rez again at 150 miles an hour. He knew about a planned proposal to take land from the Lakotas. That is what he, Daschle, and Jankelow met about and discussed. You know that land was on the agenda. It’s always on the agenda.
Clinton also lied to you and our tribal leader when he asked, “Who is Leonard Peltier?” Clinton knew who I was when he began his first campaign. Wherever he went in the U.S., many People that shook his hand asked him to free me. And around the world people put up banners with my name on it at his appearances. Foreign leaders such as Jerry Adams asked him face-to-face to release me. Indian people who worked in his administration and non-Indian people also – one of his biggest financers and associates who ate dinner with him – asked him to grant me clemency. So, he lied when he denied knowledge of who I was.
Clinton misled Indians and the millions of people around the world who supported my freedom. Clear up to the day before he made the deal to save his butt from going to jail. His staff attorney asked us to prepare a statement that Clinton could read as to why he granted me clemency. I heard the special prosecutor say in a press interview that there were other charges they could have indicted Clinton on besides the perjury charge we were all told about. Then, on the day Clinton announced the deal he made with the government to save himself, we knew something was wrong because the White House refused to accept our phone calls. I learned later that in his deal with the Justice Department, there were five clemency petitions Clinton was not to sign. I was one of the five.
But, in no way am I trying to discourage you from voting. In fact, I am doing the opposite. I want you to get out there and advocate that our People register to vote. It is a weapon we can use. I wrote to you about this in the 90’s. But here is the fact. Right now this country is evenly split down party lines. And, as you know from the last election, Gore won the popular vote by somewhere over 300,000. But Bush still won? Well, that is in question still today according to the Florida Voting Commission. As recently as the 1st of June, they would not release the count from those uncounted ballot boxes. So, how do we fight? How do we fight this kind of oppression? Indian Nations should be on guard because there are a lot of these neo-conservatives who still want to terminate our Nations. Well, now we know that our low numbers in population can and do count in an election. So, we must use our new weapon to its fullest. We have to. It’s a must.
Get out there and encourage our People to register to vote. Remember, we also have millions of our supporters here in the U.S. who will follow our lead. You must make it become the in-thing, the new fad among our People to become a registered voter. You must become the new warriors. Make it something popular, to be proud of. You young people with your music bands and drummers, write songs about it. You rappers, write your rap songs. You only have a little over a year to do this before the next national election.
Assuming Bush lets you vote. The last time, Bush won by a little over 500 votes, not 5,000. In the end, he was selected by the Supreme Court which the Republican Party appointed! The Supreme Court isn’t elected by the people.
Do not believe polls. They are rigged by just the way they ask their questions. Of course, the selected people, mostly the people they call, are the ones who work for the weapons manufacturers, so they have a special interest in seeing there is a war. Hell, if they didn’t say yes, they wouldn’t have a job. But when the pollster calls them, they ask, “Do you support the President’s decision to go to war with Iraq?” A country the media had de-humanized as an evil demon. And stop Saddam Hussein from using his weapons of mass destruction? Remember they claimed Iraq had “700 tons” of the chemical Anthrax, and mustard gas, possible nuclear warheads, thousands of scud missiles. You name it. Saddam was armed to the teeth, a threat to the world, over five hundred thousand heavily armed in a well-trained army.
Well, now it seems as if the US army cannot find any of these weapons of mass destruction not as much as a micro dot. And they have searched every mini-van, every truck. They even searched barbecue grills. Their claims were that they (Iraqis) could have used them to cook the chemicals. What? Are we morons to believe this? But, so far they have searched government vehicles, looked under every suspicious rock. Nothing!! So, where are these weapons of mass destruction?
Now they are claiming Iraq is a big country and they could have hidden them anywhere. What did Saddam’s soldiers do? Ask the civilians to hide a missile in their garages – if they had any, of course. Pull up to someone’s home and say, “Here, hide these canisters in your attics, basements, closets”? Even if this, an impossible stunt, could have happened, don’t you think after the U.S. government invaded and the Iraqi government was overthrown that someone, just one family, would have told some soldiers by now, “Hey, get this stuff out of my yard!”? Of course they would, because this stuff is dangerous and just a little leak in one of those canisters could wipe out a whole neighborhood.
Well, don’t worry, the FBI is there now. And we Indians know they are the best at planting and fabricating evidence. So, something will surely come up soon.
The war, by the way, is not over. U.S. soldiers are still killing people by the dozens. U.S. soldiers are dying every day. And one morning you’re going to wake up with CNN News blaring, “We found the chemicals!” And if you ask, “Hey, why are all of those canisters looking so freshly painted?” Well, remember, under the new Patriot Act, you just might go to prison for questioning this government.
I would like to say to all of you young people here today (who may not know of our own history), this Iraq war is no different than the tactics used in the wars against us. First, they de-humanized us by calling us Red Savages, rapists of white women, and kidnappers of their children. Indians were raiding and killing innocent White people who only wanted to cross our lands to go visit their relatives in California. After they had depleted our food sources -buffalos, deer, elk, etc. – and weakened our tribes with their diseases, they came with the light of dawn and massacred our People. And for what? Our lands. The minerals above and underneath our lands. For Iraq, it was their oil. It is as simple as that. There were no other reasons!
I could go on and on about the government’s lies – the lies they’ve told Indians and the public at large.
I want to introduce you to Debbie Peebles, one of my new Defense Committee Leaders. And hey, look! She is a Native woman. A real sister from the Chippewa Nation. I have known the Peebles’ family since I was a freshman in high school. Debbie’s mom was a teacher on the Rez – way back in the day. Debbie Peebles will be speaking to you on my behalf if she hasn’t already.
Debbie and the LPDC Board has organized what we are calling, the Native Initiative. We hope to organize a million, if not then at least 500,000 registered voters in Indian Country. I know there will be some who will say, “Shhh, they cannot do that. Who does he think he is?” But during the peak of my clemency campaign, the LPDC website was receiving one million hits and visits a day. Not bad, but we also know we can and will do better.
Now to put this Native Initiative into action, it is going to take money and a lot of it. Money we do not have. Again, I know there will be some who will say that’s what the LPDC always says. I even heard rumors that I was a millionaire. Hey, the fact is I am broke. In fact, I owe a year’s tuition for my grandson’s school, but because of these rumors, right now the Committee is literally surviving on the sales of my art work that I donate to it. And we are just treading water and can go under at any time. I know I should not put our dirty laundry out in public, but you’re my People. Some of you have been fighting for my freedom from day one of my arrest, so you deserve to know the truth. The old guard has tried to destroy the Defense Committee. Some of them are illegally holding my websites hostage. Two websites from two different people. I also want you to know the people who are doing this are not just White people. Some are Indians too, or at least are supposed to be.
One last word about the Committee’s financial problems and if you still disbelieve them, you do not even need to drive down to Lawrence. Call the bank and say I have this check here from the LPDC. I just sold them my car or trailer house and I want to know if this check I have here is good. It’s for, let’s say, $30,000. Can I deposit it in my bank? You can even go lower than that, say $10,000. I would not go lower than that because Debbie might have a few paintings sold here shortly. But the point is that this is not a lot of money for someone who is supposed to be so rich. I am not making any of this up, people. I do not have time this late in my struggle for my freedom to cause disruption in my efforts for freedom. I’m too old for that. The only thing I need is to go forward, move this campaign to a higher level – for the People.
I need your help, my People. I need for you to get behind the LPDC Board of Directors: Debbie Peebles, Cathy McCarthy, and Thomas Dockstader. Also support the LPDC staff: Delaney Bruce and Emily Siebel (also known as Bengal), our intern. Work with them. Give them your full support. Do not let people speak ill of them.
And these people who go around claiming we are rich, tell them to stop and quit being jealous. All they are jealous of is my misery. I do not like it here. I hate prison life. All I want to do is go home to die.
We can show you our books and bank account. We are not even healthy. We have to worry about how we are going to pay next month’s bills. My words are not to ask you for money. I know you’re having a hard time yourselves. I know life is not easy for any of us on these reservations. I do hope it is a little better than the old days, but again I tell you this so you will hear it from me.
Finally, I would like for all of you to always remember our bothers and sisters whose sacrifice we remember here today. I am thinking especially of Joe Killsright Stuntz and Anna Mae Aquash – who are buried here – Pedro Bissonnette, June Little, and the many others who died or were tortured during the Reign of Terror here at Pine Ridge. Let us also remember our sister Nilak Butler, who passed within the last year. And in the spirit of reconciliation, let us also remember and pray for FBI special agents, Jack Coler and Ron Williams, who also died on this day 28 years ago. They were victims too.
Thank you for coming out today and thank you for your support.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,