by Sherry Blue Sky
Back in The Day, I was passionately outraged at the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier, in 1977. Court “justice” in this instance was a farce. A shoot out between the FBI and some members of the Pine Ridge Reservation placed all the blame, under war-like conditions, with those under attack. Amnesty International has expressed concern over the “fairness” (read “lack of”) of the proceedings. FBI forced some false testimony of witnesses, who later recanted, claiming duress, and some vital information was suppressed. The jury never heard the full story, but those working for Peltier’s freedom have all the facts, and know that, while he was present during the shootout, (reputedly asleep at its beginning), he is not linked by hard evidence to the shooting of the two FBI agents who died that day. No investigation was held for the young Native American activist who also died that day, in the shootout between 30 Pine Ridge men, women and children and 150 FBI and police.
The government today admits they have “no idea” who killed the agents. According to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, Peltier’s trial and former appeals were riddled with FBI misconduct: coercion of witnesses, perjury, fabrication of evidence, and suppression of exculpatory evidence which could have proved his innocence. The Court called the FBI’s misconduct “a clear abuse of the investigative process”, but ruled against a new trial for Peltier because they were “reluctant to impute further improprieties to the FBI.”
Peltier is still a political prisoner, serving two consecutive life terms.
All of the appeals and lawsuits filed on his behalf have been denied. Parole was denied at a hearing in 2009, and the next hearing won’t be until 2024. His projected release date is 2040.
A great read on the events on the Pine Ridge Reservation is In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen. A film of the same name was made in 1997.
Leonard Peltier still sits behind bars. It is said that he knows who did the shooting, but will never tell.