Leonard Peltier: When Will the Shameful Treatment of American Indians End?

Leonard Peltier

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Freeing an Innocent Man

The United States of America, which prides itself on equality for all, has a long history of running roughshod over minority groups. The first of those groups, of course, were the Native Americans, and that bullying continues today.

Case in Point: Wounded Knee

In 1868 the Fort Laramie Treaty was signed between the United States government and the Lakota Nation. It guaranteed "absolute and undisturbed use of the Great Sioux Reservation." That amounted to five percent of the aggregate land base of the 48 contiguous states. It also stated that no portion of that land would be given up without the consent of 75% of the adult male Indian population.

The government chose to ignore this treaty and took what it wanted for railroads, mines, and other uses. Eventually the Great Sioux Reservation was split into the seven reservations which exist today. The rest of the land was turned over to North and South Dakota. (Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee)

Persecution of the Indians continued and on December 29, 1890, in an act of revenge for the defeat of General Custer at Little Big Horn, more than 200 unarmed men, women and children were murdered by the Seventh Calvary at Wounded Knee.

1972

Fast forward to 1972, when an Oglala from Pine Ridge Reservation was beaten and subjected to public humiliation by two white men. When the attackers were arrested and then released without bail, American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders stepped in and led a caravan of 200 cars across the Nebraska line to Gordon. This resulted in charges being laid against the two attackers.

1973

In January 1973 another Indian was stabbed to death and his attacker charged with involuntary manslaughter. In February, when the mother of the victim wanted to speak to officials, she was beaten on the courthouse steps by two policemen. Indians who tried to intervene were tear-gassed. A riot broke out as a result. On February 27th AIM members began a 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota to protest injustices. All that they asked for was that the government follow its own laws.

The U.S. government response was a military-style assault. Two Indians died during the time that 200,000 rounds of ammunition were fired at protesters. The use of military force was eventually ruled unlawful. The FBI filed 542 charges against AIM leaders, resulting in 15 convictions.

June 26, 1975

On this date two FBI agents entered private property on the Pine Ridge Reservation, driving in an unmarked vehicle. At no time did they identify themselves. The claim was later made that they were looking to arrest an Indian for the theft of a pair of cowboy boots.

The result was a shootout, resulting in the death of the two FBI agents, shot at close range, and one Indian. The death of the Indian has never been investigated. It's worth noting that while supposedly only two FBI agents entered the property, within minutes of the shootings the reservation was swarming with agents.

After an investigation, indictments were issued against Leonard Peltier, Dino Butler and Bob Robideau.

Peltier fled to Canada, but Butler and Robideau stood trial. The outcome was that Butler and Robideau were cleared by a jury of any involvement and it was concluded the other gunfire by the Indians was self-defense.

Leonard Peltier was eventually extradited from Canada on the basis of an affidavit signed by Myrtle Poor Bear, a Native American woman known to have mental problems.

I believe that the government was determined to have a conviction this time. The FBI started rumors about anticipated terrorist attacks by AIM members. Additionally, a proven mentally-ill woman testified against Peltier, saying she saw him shoot the agents. She later admitted making up the story.

The jury was made up of all White men and women and they returned a verdict of guilty. It has been proven since that the government withheld evidence and intimidated witnesses. It has also been admitted by witnesses during the ensuing 36 years Peltier has been in prison that there is no way to prove that Leonard Peltier shot anyone. Nevertheless, Peltier remains in prison - currently in solitary confinement for having in his possession a 10 pound note from a British supporter. Note that his mail is routinely checked and the note should have been confiscated before Peltier ever saw it.

People worldwide have been demanding Leonard Peltier's release and a documentary is currently being made about this injustice.

If you are interested in helping in this cause to release Peltier, check out the links below where you can get much more detail about this incident. If Americans really believe in justice and equality for all then it's time they got involved in this case before it is too late.


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Comments 3 comments

manthy profile image

manthy 5 years ago from Alabama,USA

Good hub with valid points.

Voted up and interesting


pattymaggieanne 5 years ago from Fort Wayne

Thank you, Bob, for the enlightening article... the Native Americans need to be treated equally and fairly with compassion.


LRCBlogger profile image

LRCBlogger 5 years ago

I first learned about Peltier from the heavy metal group, Rage Against the Machine. It's a terrible story, thanks for bringing light to this issue.

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