Leonard Peltier (1944- ), a Chippewa (Anishinaabe) of the American Indian Movement (AIM), is a world-famous political prisoner in the US. He was found guilty of killing two FBI agents in 1975, but, as a US circuit court later found, the evidence was faked!
He has been in prison since 1977, six years of it in solitary confinement. The FBI and the Department of Justice have blocked any chance at parole. His daughter said President Bill Clinton came close to pardoning him, but backed off after protests by the FBI.
Now 72 and in failing health, a pardon from President Obama before he leaves office on January 20th 2017 is his last best hope of not dying in prison.
As Professor James Anaya, former United Nations Rapporteur for Indigenous Rights, told President Obama in 2015:
“if Leonard Peltier dies in jail, then he will likely die a martyr and the relationships and progress that you and your Administration have worked so hard to forge likely will be dealt a significant set-back … I respectfully submit that the time has come for the significant interests of law enforcement to yield to the significant interests of fundamental fairness and reconciliation and healing with America’s first peoples”
Seven of Obama’s fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners also think he should be freed.
The FBI in the late 1960s and early 1970s sought to undermine protest movements, like the Black Panthers and AIM. Leaders were killed, co-opted, thrown in prison or driven into exile, people like Fred Hampton and Assata Shakur.
The Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota became the flashpoint between the FBI and AIM. Under reservation president Dick Wilson there was a Reign of Terror in which 60 people were murdered. The FBI backed Wilson with weapons, intelligence and looking the other way (except for the murder of Anna Mae Aquash, presumably an FBI informant). In 1973 there was a 71-day armed stand-off betweem AIM and the FBI at Wounded Knee (also the scene of the 1890 massacre).
On June 26th 1975, a day and 99 years after Custer’s Last Stand, two FBI special agents, Jack Coler and Ron Williams, were chasing a red pickup – much like the one Peltier was known to drive. They said they were investigating the theft of a pair of cowboy boots. It led to a shoot-out, killing both agents. Soon over 100 FBI agents, US Marshals, state troopers, etc, arrived. There was more shooting, killing one Native, Joe Stuntz.
Some fled into the hills. Peltier made it all the way to Canada!
Four were charged in the murder of the FBI agents, Peltier among them. None were charged in the murder of Joe Stuntz.
Trial: Canada turned Peltier over. The other three got off. In Peltier’s trial, which came later, the evidence was faked, so he was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, sentenced to two life terms in prison.
When it came out that the FBI faked its evidence, having no idea who killed the agents, Peltier’s charge was changed to “aiding and abetting”, but he was not retried!
– Abagond, 2016.
- Welcome to Native American Heritage Month 2016
- FBI: Cointelpro
- Phantom Caucasian Justice
- Assata Shakur
- Fred Hampton