talking & action (was Re: carol and lou on religion)

Alan Maki alanmaki at
Fri Dec 29 11:57:10 MST 2000

I would urge everyone on this list to send this article on to everyone on
their e-mail lists, etc. and urge people to flood congresspeople and
senators--- especially those of you who may have some influence with Hillary
Clinton in New York-- to call, fax and write, picket and demonstrate to
bring this issue front and center in the few days we have left while Clinton
is president.

Alan Maki

>From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at>
>Reply-To: marxism at
>To: marxism at
>Subject: Re: talking & action (was Re: carol and lou on religion)
>Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2000 12:37:52 -0500
> >    Alan,
> >    I am uninformed about Leonard Peltier
>NY Times Op-Ed, December 29, 2000
>A Time for Human Rights on Native Ground
>MINNEAPOLIS - In 1977, fresh out of Dartmouth College's Native American
>program, I got a job in Fargo, N.D. I worked only blocks from the federal
>court building, and one day, from my window, I saw a crowd collect near the
>courtroom entrance. I walked over to see what was happening and spotted a
>few friends I had grown up with in Wahpeton, N.D.
>My political leanings were all surface, consisting mainly of fashion
>statements. During the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee and the subsequent
>murderous climate on Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, in which more
>than 60 Native people and two F.B.I. agents were killed, I had been trying
>to get good grades.
>Now, here were my friends dressed in flamboyant vests, beads and black hats
>hung with eagle feathers. I, too, wore a hat, a brown Italian fedora, only
>my feather was a blue macaw's. On the basis of our hats, rather than any
>political awareness, I joined the crowd entering the court building and
>became immediately drawn into the trial of Leonard Peltier.
>I changed the hours in my job so that I could sit through the trial and
>listen carefully until at last the cases were presented. Once I'd heard it
>all, I was confident that not one scintilla of hard evidence linked Mr.
>Peltier to the murders of F.B.I. agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams.
>When the jury came back with a guilty verdict I remember extreme shock, a
>surprise so visceral that I jumped up, shouted, and then found myself
>quietly weeping in the swirl of subsequent chaos. I had, then, no personal
>connection with Mr. Peltier. I was not persuaded of his innocence, but that
>was not the point. I was positive that on the basis of what I'd heard in
>court that there was reasonable doubt as to his guilt and that he should
>not have been convicted. My horror was for the United States judicial
>The court system had been influenced, as had I, by the black hats and the
>feathers and the aura of paranoia. Only to me, these things were
>attractive. To others, the mood at the back of the courtroom and the drum
>beating in the street outside were threatening. No one at the time was
>capable of impartiality, or dedicated to discovering the truth.
>Here are a few truths. There is no exact forensic evidence that links the
>rifle said to have been carried by Mr. Peltier to the weapon that caused
>the fatal injuries. There was no witness to the shooting of the F.B.I.
>agents. The young witnesses who placed Mr. Peltier, along with some 30
>other people, in the vicinity of the crime scene have since insisted that
>they were coerced and intimidated by the F.B.I.
>Subsequently, it appears that the F.B.I. sought to avenge the murders on
>the only person who could still be brought to trial after everyone else
>involved in the fatal episode was acquitted, by withholding and
>manipulating critical evidence.
>During the next few weeks, President Clinton has an opportunity to
>demonstrate to Native American people and to the world that our country
>practices some of what it preaches about human rights. By extending
>clemency to Leonard Peltier, Mr. Clinton could make an enormous gesture of
>reparation and healing. Mr. Peltier's release is urged by the European
>Parliament, Amnesty International, the Kennedy Memorial Center for Human
>Rights; by Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev. Jesse Jackson, the
>Dalai Lama; as well as Canada's Assembly of First Nations, not to mention
>Native rights groups and ordinary citizens throughout the United States. As
>long as Leonard Peltier is imprisoned, our country's relationship with its
>Native people is stained by ongoing dishonor, and our own human rights
>statements are undermined by hypocrisy.
>After the Peltier trial, I immersed myself in writing and then motherhood.
>Having experienced some of the hysteria and hatreds of those times, I was
>ambivalent about Mr. Peltier and the attendant posturing of other leaders
>of the American Indian Movement. I was not a knee- jerk defense committee
>member, although I am a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, as is
>Leonard Peltier. But I was haunted because of the high degree of reasonable
>doubt that existed in the evidence against him. Eventually, I wrote to
>Leonard Peltier.
>He is not a killer and never was. How do I know this? Because of the person
>he has become. Leonard Peltier lives, physically half-destroyed, in
>Leavenworth Prison. He is 56 years old, and he has suffered a stroke and a
>jaw condition that left him in unalleviated pain. Everything has been
>stripped away from him. He is transparent now; 24 years in prison do that.
>There is no rage, there is no blame in him. If his life were based upon two
>murders, he could not have grown, as he has, into a spiritual force, a
>person of true humility and gentle humor. I believe the only way he could
>have survived is on the strength of his innocence.
>Last summer, I walked my grandfather's Turtle Mountain land, side- stepping
>wild prairie roses, flicking off wood ticks, snapping the dry tall stems of
>sage into a bundle I would wrap and keep through the winter. As I walked,
>the evening sun blazed beneath a low cloud and lighted all I saw with a
>shivering golden fire. I felt in that moment the vast blessing of my own
>freedom, and took out a letter I'd recently received from Leonard. Words
>are the soul to me, so I neatly folded the letter and buried it, there, in
>his home ground.
>Leonard Peltier has paid a terrible price for all that the American Indian
>Movement was blamed for during the late 1970's. While other AIM leaders
>have trekked to Hollywood, married, remarried, traveled first-class around
>the world and reaped the rewards of notoriety, Mr. Peltier has paid. He has
>paid for our nation's savagery at Wounded Knee in 1890 and 1973, and for
>the shame of the F.B.I.'s treatment of Pine Ridge people. He has paid for
>the violence of the AIM "warriors" who trashed government offices,
>strutted, mugged, brandished weapons and used them. He has paid the debt
>for whoever actually did commit those murders. He has paid every day for 24
>years. He has paid enough.
>It is time to let him go home.
>Louise Erdrich is the author of the forthcoming novel, "The Last Report on
>the Miracles at Little No Horse."
>Louis Proyect
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