June 26, 2000
Greetings Friends and Supporters,
Twenty-five years has passed since the fatal shoot-out on the Jumping Bull Ranch occurred, and for 25 years I have been forced away from my people and my home, which I consider Oglala to be. I miss being with all of you as I have always loved and respected the Lakota ways. I have always admired the Lakota people, especially the Oglalas for their strength, determination, and courage to continue the struggle to maintain our traditional ways and sovereignty. Not a single day passes when I do not dream of being home with you. Twenty-four years is a long time to be in prison, but if I was out and you were facing the same kind of brutality you faced under the Wilson regime, I would not hesitate to stand next to you and resist the violent oppression you were forced to endure.
But I am not out, I remain locked up in here, and it has not been an easy 24 years. Prison is a repulsive, violent place to exist in. But again, none of this could stop me from standing with you until the great Oglala Nation is free. I know a lot of problems continue to exist for you. Corrupt tribal government officials are still taking advantage of the people and crimes committed against Natives receive little if no priority. It makes me very sad to know that after everything we went through in the 1970s, our people still continue to suffer so much. The memory of all of those who lost their lives during that time also continues to haunt me.
As we gather together during this time of remembrance, I am aware that the FBI has also organized a 25-year memorial for their dead agents. I do not fault them nor do I disagree with what they are doing. I think all people should gather in memorial for any of their fallen. But, when you analyze this whole event of theirs, you are slapped in the face with the cold reality of racism. Not once have they, nor will they mention our fallen warriors and innocent
traditionalists slaughtered in the 70 s after Wounded Knee II. They will not even as much as mention Joe Killsright Stuntz. We cannot even get an acknowledgment from them that they were wrong in supporting such a cruel and corrupt regime as Dick Wilson's. They continue to deny that any Indian people were killed as a result of their direct input with the terrorist squad, the GOONS. The fact is they do not think of Indian people as human beings. Whenever you deny that such atrocities happen, and we know they did happen, it only means they don't consider the people who died to be human. Hitler's regime felt the same about the Jews.
But please don't misunderstand my frustration for a lack of sympathy about the loss of the agents lives. I do feel for the families of the agents because I know first hand what it is like to lose a loved one. I have lost many loved ones through the years due to senseless violent acts. If I had known what was going on that day, and I could have stopped it, I would have.
But in order for us to bring reconciliation to what was a very difficult time we first must have justice. We must continue to ask when the lives of our people will be given the same respect and value as others. When will they stop carelessly locking up our people without applying the scrutiny and care the judicial system is supposed to guarantee? When will guilty beyond a reasonable doubt become a standard that applies to us? When will our guilt have to be proven, rather than assumed? We suffer equally, but we are not treated equally. There is hope for a better future and for peace. But in order for us to live in peace, we must be able to live in dignity and without fear.
In closing, I want to say that your voices are important and your involvement in the effort to gain my freedom is crucial. You know the truth and only you can express the reality of those brutal times. It is also important that you explain to the youth what we stood for and why, because they are our hope for the future. They can carry out our dream for our people to have pride in their culture, good schools, food, and health care, and most importantly, justice. Please know that I continue to be here for you too, although I am limited in what I can do from behind these walls. However, I will continue help in whatever I can from here. The one thing my situation has brought me at least, is a voice, and my voice is your voice. So please do not hesitate to write me or contact the LPDC to inform me of what is going on.
I am growing older now and my body is beginning to deteriorate. I sometimes wonder just how much longer I will be with you all on Mother earth. I hope that it'll be a while longer because I long to be with you, my family and friends, to share some time together. If not, and I don't make it home to you, I will always be with you in spirit, at every Sun Dance and Inipi Ceremony, remembering both the happy and the painful times we shared.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier's case
Since the early 1970s, traditional Lakota Peoples have opposed leasing and selling reservation lands for mining operations. The U.S. government-backed and supportd Tribal Government, headed by Richard Wilson, favored uranium mining and its short-term benefits and vehemently responded to anyone of an opposing view. It was quite clear that violence would be applied against any opposition.
There were over 60 reported violent deaths to American Indian Movement (AIM) members and/or supporters between the years 1972 and 1975. AIM was summoned to the Pine Ridge Reservation for the protection of the traditional Lakota Peoples. The FBI was supporting the tribal police with weapons and training.
Leonard Peltier was among those who responded to the call for help. They came knowing that Richard Wilson's police were backed with superior assault weapons, tactical support and FBI-supplied intelligence regarding AIM and its supporters. Fear and tension was near boiling point on Pine Ridge at this time.
It was in this explosive atmosphere, that on 26 June 1975, two young FBI agents (unknown to anyone at Pine Ridge), drove off the main highway in cars that no one could identify, and came directly into an AIM encampment known as Tent City on the Jumping Bull property on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Their own 302 radio transmissions acknowledged that they thought they were in pursuit of Native American Jimmy Eagle, who was suspected of stealing a pair of used cowboy boots. With tensions high, a firefight ensued and the two agents and one Native were killed.
There has been no government investigation of Native American Joe Stuntz Killsright's death to this day. However, when FBI agents are killed, the government feels compelled to resolve their deaths, and it appears, at any cost.
Of over 20 participants, the government chose four people and set out to apprehend and take them to trial. Those named were Dino Butler, Bob Robideau, Jimmy Eagle and Leonard Peltier. Robideau and Butler were apprehended, and with two in hand, the government decided to go to trial without Eagle or Peltier.
Almost as quickly as the case was presented, acquittals were rendered by the jurors. Robideau and Butler were both found not guilty by reason of self defence. The jury saw it as an invasion by a hostile, armed paramilitary force on sovereign Pine Ridge Reservation land.
The government then dropped the charges against Jimmy Eagle, and set about applying its full prosecutive weight towards Leonard Peltier, who had traveled to Canada just prior to the Robideau/Butler trial.
The US government managed to secure peltier's extradition in controversial circumstances and the subsequrent trial venue was changed at the last minute from Cedar Rapids (site of the acquittals), to Fargo, North Dakota. The judge was also changed at the last minute. Everything was now in place for a conviction. Evidence that was admissible in the Cedar Rapids trial was not admissible in the North Dakota court. Leonard Peltier was convicted on two counts of first degree murder, one each for the two agents. He has been in federal prison since 1976.