"Someday They’ll Break From the Weight of Their Sins"
~ Silent Bear
On July 27, 2009, a parole hearing will be held for Leonard Peltier. Mr. Peltier has served 33 years in federal confinement for a crime I believe he did not commit. The preponderance of evidence supports my belief. Peltier’s last parole hearing was held in 1993.
Leonard Peltier is not in prison for killing the two Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Agents as is alleged, he has been incarcerated for 33 years because he belonged to a group (American Indian Movement) that dared to challenge the federal government and their lies. When one has the audacity to challenge the fedgov, he/she becomes a target for malicious prosecution, fabricated evidence, witness tampering and illegal imprisonment. Leonard Peltier has experienced all of these in the extreme.
AIM was founded in 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1972, AIM staged a "Trail of Broken Treaties" march that terminated in Washington, D.C. They simply marched to demand a series of treaties that had been signed between various American Indian Tribes and the fedgov be honored. A revolutionary idea is it not to demand the fedgov honor its promises! The fedgov negotiated with AIM, not to honor the treaties, but to end their occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) building, which was rapidly becoming a major embarrassment for the government.
The fedgov promised to "look into AIM’s grievances." Like the previous treaties, this promise too was broken.
AIM quickly became the target of the FBI; the agency’s corrupt and illegal activities in this matter are well documented.
On June 26th, 1975, two FBI agents, supposedly in pursuit of a thief who had stolen a pair of boots, entered the Jumping Bull Ranch (private property) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They were in civilian clothes, driving an unmarked car. This act in itself is suspicious, for the FBI is tasked with investigating felonies on Indian Reservations and their pursuit of someone who had stolen a pair of cowboy boots does not ring true. Most FBI agents consider themselves above pursuit of a common thief. Perhaps this was a ruse to check out members of AIM who were camped on the Jumping Bull Ranch.
There is no record of who fired the first shot, or why the firing started. A family with children reportedly yelled they were under attack and many present at the time rushed to their defense. When the shooting stopped, the two FBI agents and a young Indian laid dead. All were shot through the head. Ironically, there has never been an investigation into the murder of the young Indian.
In what, almost two decades later, would be seen at Ruby Ridge and Waco, the FBI surrounded the area with SWAT teams and agents. Reportedly, for the next few days FBI agents terrorized local residents with no-knock raids and home and property searches, all without warrants.
While there will be some who question my assertions of illegal activities by federal agents, I would suggest any who fall into that camp read this 10 part investigative article on federal law enforcement and prosecutorial misconduct. This quote from that article tells it all: "They lied, hid evidence, distorted facts, engaged in cover-ups, paid for perjury and set up innocent people in a relentless effort to win indictments, guilty pleas and convictions, a two-year Post-Gazette investigation found."
Without any corroborating evidence, warrants were quickly issued for Leonard Peltier, Darrelle "Dino" Butler, Bob Robideau and Jimmy Eagle for murder. Prosecutors would later drop the charges against Eagle when it was proved he was not even on the reservation the day of the shooting. Since no warrant shall issue without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, someone lied to obtain the warrant on Eagle. Why, then, should anyone believe the facts presented in the warrants for the other three?
Butler and Robideau would stand trial separately from Peltier because Peltier had fled to Canada. The FBI reverted to standard operating procedure (SOP) by demonizing the suspects before their trial in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Local authorities were told by the feds that large groups of AIM members/terrorists (they love that word) would be descending on the town. Employees in the Court House were told to prepare for shooting incidents and the seizing of hostages by marauding Indians.
The trial began on June 7, 1976 with Judge Edward McManus presiding. McManus, under vigorous objections of federal prosecutors, allowed a broad range of evidence to be introduced. Testimony was given concerning the "Reign of Terror" in and around Pine Ridge Reservation and the FBI’s tactics operating under their COINTELPRO directives.
During the trial, a federal witness admitted to being threatened into changing his testimony by FBI agents and to have provided testimony as instructed by those agents.
The jury returned a verdict of innocent, ruling there was no evidence shots fired by Butler and Robideau killed the two FBI agents and furthermore, their return fire was an act of self-defense.
Leonard Peltier was captured in Canada in 1976 and extradited to the US. The affidavit for extradition was one of three prepared by the FBI. In the affidavit finally filed with the Canadian government, focus was directed towards eyewitness statements from Myrtle Poor Bear, who claimed to have been Peltier’s girlfriend and present at the time of the shooting. It was necessary for the FBI to provide this testimony to the Canadian authorities, for it was their (Canada) legal position the FBI did not have enough evidence to warrant extradition.
It is important to note that Poor Bear later sought to recant her testimony (she claimed she was coerced and threatened by FBI agents) and appear as a defense witness at Peltier’s trial. The trial judge ruled she was mentally incompetent and could not be called as a witness. The fedgov today admits Poor Bear was not present at the Jumping Bull Ranch on the day of the shooting. They obviously fabricated evidence and suborned perjury to facilitate Peltier’s extradition.
In March of 1977, Leonard Peltier was found guilty of the murder of two FBI agents and given two life sentences. Peltier was found guilty without any witness testimony placing him as the shooter of the two agents. Exculpatory ballistics evidence was withheld and the new judge refused to allow testimony showing FBI tampering or witness intimidation. In short, Peltier was found guilty on the same testimony that set Butler and Robideau free. The difference was in the evidence that was allowed by the judge in Peltier’s trial.
Famed attorney, William Kunstler, would discover in 1982, in a telephone conversation with Judge Edward McManus, (who had presided over the Butler/Robideau trial) that McManus, not Benson, had been scheduled to try the Peltier case. Judge McManus had been astonished, he said, to find himself arbitrarily removed in favor of Judge Benson.
There exists zero evidence that Leonard Peltier was responsible in any way for the deaths of those two FBI agents. He has spent the last 33 years in confinement because the fedgov found it necessary to cover its crimes and malicious prosecution and to "get" someone for the deaths of two agents who were operating outside of the law and their oath to "uphold and defend" the constitution.
When President Reagan and Soviet Premier Gorbachev discussed human rights and political prisoners, Mikhail Gorbachev evoked a wave of protest from the U.S. press when he responded to Reagan’s “human rights agenda” by suggesting the U.S. clean up its human rights violations, citing Indians in general and Leonard Peltier in particular.
I enthusiastically support the immediate release of Leonard Peltier and the prosecution of those who wrongfully caused his imprisonment. What I do vehemently oppose is the allegation by many American Indians that Leonard Peltier was convicted and imprisoned because of the color of his skin and that President Obama, himself a victim of racial prejudice, will move to pardon Peltier. Is it not absurd to claim the elected leader of the "free world" to be a victim of racial prejudice? Does his white half discriminate against his black half?
I would remind those who believe Leonard Peltier was targeted because of the color of his skin that Samuel Weaver, who was shot in the back by federal agents at the age of 14, was white. It was a federal agent (FBI agent Lon Horiuchi) who later shot his mother, Vicky, in the face, as she held Samuel’s younger sister; both were white. Although there were several minorities among the men, women and children incinerated or shot by federal agents at Waco, the majority of the 82 who died were white.
Indians, your fight is with the federal government, not a race of people. To allow your fight to be framed by those who profit from the polarization of the races is pure folly and plays into the federal government’s hands; it is possible Leonard Peltier will remain in prison as long as the race card is employed, because, to do so benefits those who put him there.
It is obviously hard for American Indians to challenge and lay at the feet of the federal government the blame for the above listed atrocities, considering a large number of American Indians are in the employ of the fedgov. The great majority of Indians employed by the fedgov have those jobs because of "Indian preference" hiring policies. Simply stated, many have these jobs, not because of their qualifications for the job, but because of the color of their skin. Has the fedgov purchased the right to wrongfully imprison Indians because they provide many of them with a paycheck?
Is it not racism when one reads the following in published employment ads: "We are an equal employment opportunity employer (EEO), Indian preference observed?" Does this mean a less qualified person should have the job if they are of the preferred skin tone? (Would Indians accept this practice in their brain surgeon; they accept it in those who teach their children.) It is impossible to claim racism when one claims preference in anything because of the color of their skin. Only the federal government could get away with claiming racism while practicing racism!
It is imperative all races stand together for justice and place the blame for corruption and criminality where it belongs. A thorough reading of the investigative articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will show the victims of fedgov misconduct and criminal activity to be of all races; a large number of them white.
Michael Gaddy [send him mail], an Army veteran of Vietnam, Grenada, and Beirut, lives in the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.