The United Stated has wrongfully imprisoned Leonard Peltier for 38 years. Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota was a leader of the American Indian Movement.
The American Indian Movement was founded in Minneapolis, MN to fight and protect the rights of Indigenous nations that were agreed upon in treaties, sovereignty and the U.S. Constitution and laws. AIM also focuses on the support of traditional spirituality, culture, history and language amongst Indigenous people.
In the 1970s AIM’s activism had grown popular during major conflicts between the United States regarding American Indian rights. During a time of extreme violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of South Dakota, a shoot out occurred for unknown reasons between over 40 Native Americans, the FBI, a team of SWAT members, BIA police and vigilantes resulting in the death of a young Native man (Joe Stuntz) and two FBI officers (Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams). While three deaths occurred, only the deaths of the FBI agents were ever investigated.
Those involved in the shooting, and the only three brought to trial were AIM members Bob Robideau, Darrelle Butler and Leonard Peltier. Robideau and Butler’s trial were held in front of a federal jury in Iowa in June 1976. Both were acquitted in July of the same year on both the shoot out and the murder of the FBI agents on grounds of insufficient evidence and self-defense.
Peltier’s trial was not held until 1977 after his fleeing to Canada in his accurate fear of being unfairly tried in the U.S. court system. After being extradited from Canada with a falsely acquired affidavit, Peltier was brought to Fargo, North Dakota for trial under U.S. District Judge Paul Benson. It was later discovered that the trial was supposed to be held in Sioux Falls under Judge Edward McManus, the same judge who presided over Robideau and Butler’s trial, but by an unidentified circumstance the judges and locations were switched.
During Peltier’s trial there were countless illegal actions done by the prosecutors representing the FBI. The actions included: withholding evidence from trial, intimidating witnesses into false testimony, manipulating federal investigatory documents, and intimidation/misleading of the jury and public. Judge Benson however allowed and supported the “evidence” that was used within the court for Peltier’s conviction. Thus leading to Peltier having to serve two life sentences (one for each of the dead officers) for a crime that he did not commit.
In the following video you hear of Peltier giving his testimony and argument to Judge Benson and the courtroom during his 1977 trial. He knows his fate in the judicial system and continues to state the wrongs and misconducts of the case. The video later explains that the court allowed for his conviction and the manipulation of laws in order for the government to not allow a new trial for Peltier’s freedom. In the corner of the video there is a count through the 36 years. It is now 38 years he as been in prison.
Currently, in the media hash tags, #leonardpeltier, #freeleonard and #freepeltier, have been trending in a flurry all over the Internet in recent years. However, the fight for the justice and freedom of Leonard Peltier has been going on for over 20 years and has now become more pressing due to Peltier’s dwindling health. Petitions and other countless movements have been created and held for Peltier’s freedom and righteous justice. Peltier’s trial has exemplified the corruption of the US government and judicial system among the rights of the Native American people. If freed and to have justice be served it would create a great and improved standing between the US government and the Indigenous people of America and the continent.
If you would like more information on Peltier and the trial or to sign one of the petitions for his freedom you can go to www.leonardpeltier.info/petition and join the movement.
Supporters for Peltier’s freedom include the Dalai Lama, Susan Sarandon, Harry Belafonte, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, the now late Nelson Mandela, Pete Seeger, and Mother Theresa as well as Amnesty International.
I also highly recommend watching this video on the case and petitions for Peltier: