From Behind the Iron Door
Greetings my friends, relatives, relations, supporters.
I wrote a statement the other day sitting here in my cell and I know that no one really cares to read something that is six pages long. So this is my effort to shorten it a little bit.
The first subject I want to touch on is, being in prison for 36 years is hell. There are some folks who are planning to walk across America starting in California going to Washington D.C. to bring attention to the injustice that faces Indian people in the judicial system of America and of which I am some of the evidence of that. But first of all what I really want to say is I really appreciate and love the people that do things like this for those of us who are imprisoned. And if walking across America sounds like a lot, try standing in an 8-foot x 6-foot cell for 36 years. But I want you to know as terrible and painful as this is, in a strange way, I am honored that the most powerful government has considered me a challenge such that they would violate all their own laws to keep me imprisoned. In my standing I have stood for what’s right. I have stood for the right of a people invaded by emissaries of the corporations they ultimately represent; the right of a people to defend themselves in whatever way necessary; to defend their women and children and elders and life itself when attacked with deadly force by this government.
For some of you who may hae recently come in contact with my case, my case is one where an Indian community that had been continually terrorized by FBI and a goon squad funded by them on the reservation, had opposed the sale of 1/8th of the tribe’s mineral resources and land. On June 26, 1975, they attacked the village of Oglala on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It started with two FBI agents in unmarked cars and unmarked clothing, firing into an enclave of dwellings. The two agents numbers soon swelled to 250. In the ensuing battle the two initial agents were killed; and one young Indian man, Joe Stuntz, was murdered by the FBI, shot between the eyes. Ultimately some 30 of us escaped. Two men, Bob Robideau and Dino Butler who were captured before I was, were put on trial and all the evidence of that day was allowed to be presented in their defense. And they were acquitted by reason of self-defense; the jury said they had the right to defend themselves with deadly force. I had escaped to Canada and was later apprehended there. The government perjured testimony, and they got someone to lie to bring me back from there. I was put on trial and all the evidence used to convict me was later proven false in court, as well as the lie to extradite me. And the same evidence used by the defense in the first trial was not allowed. They ultimately got a conviction saying I was guilty of murder, which was later amended to aiding and abetting.
Then later an individual whom some called Mr. X, on tape admitted he was the shooter. Bob Robideau, one of the original two men acquitted by reason of self-defense, later told retired FBI Agent Ed Wood he was Mr. X and that he had shot the agents. Bob feared for his life. Bob didn’t make his statement for many years. Bob did all that he could do to help me over the years and later started living in Spain. And then he made a statement to a few people that he was going to come back and speak more about being the shooter and being acquitted of the offense. And within about a month’s time he was found dead in his apartment in Spain. He supposedly fell out of bed and hit his head and died. Having said that, my main point is that where all the evidence was allowed to be presented, Indian people were found not guilty for rightfully defending themselves by reason of self-defense.
There has not been a violation of human rights by America that wasn’t first practiced on Native Americans. America’s first biological warfare was against Indian people with small pox and measles infected blankets. The first concentration camps were against Indian people where they took their land and rounded them up. And Lincoln, known for being against slavery, had 38 Indian men hung in unison in Mankato Minnesota for rebelling in the starving concentration camp they were confined to; and there were camps all across this nation for American Indian people.
The first atomic bomb was dropped on Indian land polluting it and destroying the water tables. To this day the result of their digging for uranium still pollutes parts of the Navajo reservation. They practiced sterilization of our women up until the late 1950s and even into the 60s. Up in Alaska they experimented with various forms of hepatitis on the native people there. The list goes on and on. Our people to this day suffer generational trauma as a result of the concentration camps and invasions and starvation and boarding schools that tried to destroy our culture. The death rate in the boarding schools was 50 percent.
To this day the unemployment rate for American Indians is 35 percent. What America calls “depression” has become a way of life for us.
Bureaucrats scream and jump up and down about the Israelis’ right to claim their homeland, yet at the same time America still takes our land against our will, our homeland. The Black Hills of South Dakota was leased for 99 years; the lease has been up for 20-something years, but they will not return it. They have offered to pay some three billion dollars for the Black Hills. Why don’t they take that money and relocate the non-Indians from there? There have been people complaining of a mosque in the proximity of the former World Trade Towers yet our sacred hills have Abraham Lincoln’s face carved in the side of our sacred area. And George Washington who practiced a scorched earth campaign against our people in the East is there along with others.
I’m sorry if I’m getting carried away, I want America to be a great nation, but I want it to be fair to all people. We don’t ask for anything that wasn’t agreed to by this government. There’s three-hundred-and-seventy-something treaties that cover most of our concerns. I apologize if in reading this in some way it hurts your celebration of the holidays. It’s very difficult to not be negative when you are unjustly imprisoned for this long and every day you look through an iron door when the true enemies and terrorists are free to terrorize the poor and the oppressed of America. When the resources of America and the labor of its people is used to enhance the lavish lifestyle of some two to three percent of the population that owns 96 percent of America’s wealth, or, I should say, owns and controls 96 percent of America’s wealth; then people like you and the people occupying Wall Street and walking across America are needed more than you would ever know.
I said I wouldn’t make this too long and it seems I have gone back on my word. However in closing I would like to thank the National Congress of American Indians for passing a resolution supporting me in my bid for freedom. And I would especially like to thank Lenny Foster who has served as a spiritual leader in prisons throughout America who presented the resolution to the National Congress of American Indians. I would also like to thank all the others, too numerous to mention, who have supported me for so many years. I guess in some off handed way I have learned to live and exist by my contact with them over the years. This struggle has been long and difficult and I know at times I have offended people and hurt their feelings and for that I am deeply regretful. But rest assured I appreciate all of you in the deepest sense of the word. And I pray that this Holiday season brings joy to you and your families. And there is no greater gift that we can give our children and our children’s children than freedom and a healthy earth.
I will close for now but unless they shut me up like they did Bob, you will hear from me again, rest assured.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and all the others that have died for their people,
—December 17, 2011
Write to Leonard Peltier at:
Leonard Peltier #89637-132
USP Coleman I
U.S. Penitentiary, P.O. Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521