The Peltier Committee situation [Important FWD from Ed Nakawatase]

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Wed Jul 16 15:57:53 MDT 2003

The Peltier Committee situation [Important FWD from Ed Nakawatase]


Warm regards from the Far East, meaning, of course, Philadelphia.  I assume
that you have already seen this letter (I certainly hope you have) but I'm
not totally sure since I wasn't in charge of its distribution.

The letter is an extended effort to try to cool out of the some of the usual
overheated, incomplete, and sometimes downright false stuff that has come of
the LPDC office in recent months.  It's not an effort to settle scores
(which would be a hopeless and unrewarding task anyway) but instead provide
some explanations and make it possible to move on.  That is the plan, at

Your earlier suggestion was appreciated, by the way.  Unfortunately, I'm not
sure who can be appropriate to the task who wouldn't be at risk to be chewed
up also.  LPDC at this point seems to be a negative field; everyone engaged
in its magnetic force seems to become sullied and diminished.  I speak now
as a chastened veteran of the experience; one who got out better than some
others.  As I might have said to you earlier, whatever else happened I can
say that my character has been strengthened immeasurably by my tenure on the
LPDC Board.  And the ruling class is probably amused by the whole thing.

Ed Nakawatase

-----Original Message-----
From: First LPDC Board [mailto:first_lpdc_board at]
Sent: Wednesday, July 09, 2003 10:23 AM
To: Leonard Peltier Supporters
Subject: "Open Letter to Leonard Peltier and Supporters" from the First LPDC
Board of Directors

[Please distribute widely]

Open Letter to Leonard Peltier and Supporters
from the First LPDC Board of Directors

July 8, 2003

Dear Friends:

Saddened by the fact that there is much confusion and misinformation
circulating about the recent history of the Leonard Peltier
Defense Committee (LPDC), we write this brief statement in the hope of
refocusing our collective energies on the real issue at hand:
winning the freedom of Leonard Peltier who, as we all know, continues to be
unjustly and illegally imprisoned. Leonard is a symbol
of Indigenous Peoples' ongoing struggle for justice and survival in the
United States and rest of the world.

As most of you know, in 1998 the LPDC office was in organizational disarray,
non-functional, and deeply in debt.  Gina Chiala and
Pat Benabe, with a great deal of support from Jennifer Harbury and others
and through several years of unremitting effort, managed
to put together a well-organized office, a stellar legal team, a
communication network with thousands of supporters, a highly
effective newspaper, The Sprit of Crazy Horse, a marketing and fund-raising
apparatus with a fiscal sponsor that put the
organization on a positive financial footing, and a clemency campaign that
garnered world-wide support.  As you also know, the
clemency campaign was highly effective, and would have resulted in Leonard's
freedom had it not been for the heartbreaking
last-minute change of position by President Clinton as a direct result of
pressure from the FBI.

We feel it is crucial to recall that both Gina and Pat worked for years
under the most difficult conditions: room and board, no
health insurance, no retirement benefits, no vacations, long tedious hours,
and dedicated an enormous amount of time caring for
Leonard's grandchildren, during some of their most difficult formative
years. Both Gina and Pat gave up years of their lives to work
for Leonard's freedom.

Leonard had clearly stated his wish to create an ongoing human rights
organization to support the struggles of Indigenous Peoples,
and in the wake of the clemency decision, Gina, Pat and Jennifer proceeded
to create a non-profit organization, organized under the
laws of the state of Kansas, to provide the structure needed for the ongoing
public education required to obtain Leonard's freedom
and bring attention to the underlying struggles of native peoples.

The mission statement of the LPDC reads as follows:

"The purposes for which the Corporation is formed, and shall at all times be
operated, are educational activities concerning
indigenous peoples, prison reform, environmental protection, government
accountability, political prisoners and the case of Leonard
Peltier, including the amelioration of his treatment and encouraging
attention to his legal defense and any litigation concerned
there within; to wit:

(a). To provide a means for the dissemination and the exchange of
information, ideas, and resources among American Indians and
supporters within the State of Kansas, and elsewhere.

(b). To accept donations to and for the benefit of the purposes of said

(c). In general, to exercise such other powers as now or hereafter may be
permitted or conferred by law upon a corporation organized
for the purposes of this Corporation or necessary or incidental to the
powers so permitted or conferred, or conducive to an
effective attainment and realization of the educational and organizational
purposes of the Corporation."

                      --- from LPDC, Inc. By-laws, Article I, "Purpose and
Organization," Section 2

As the first Board of Directors, we were charged, in accordance with the
by-laws of the LPDC, with the responsibility of creating an
organization with fiscal, personnel and legal policies which would allow it
to accomplish these purposes.

For most of 2002, in our first months of existence, we met in person and
through countless telephone conferences to develop staffing
policies, make hiring decisions in accordance with those policies,
coordinate with the legal team and develop systems for reviewing
the thousands of documents newly produced by the government under the
Freedom of Information Act, discuss strategy and fundraising
for the civil law suit filed on Leonard's behalf, obtain a new fiscal
sponsor so that donations to the organization would continue
to be tax deductible, and plan the next fundraising campaign.

Because Gina and Pat had resigned and we were trying to both train and work
with the interim staff while looking for permanent
replacements, much of our energy during this period was devoted to
management and personnel issues, a difficult task for an
all-volunteer Board scattered across the country.  We began the transition
to a new office staff and their training while Pat
continued to produce the newspaper and manage the marketing, which was
LPDC's only source of income until a new fundraising campaign
could be launched.  During this period Marquetta Shields contributed a great
deal of time and energy, not only helping to run the
office and responding to the large volume of written, e-mail and telephone
correspondence, but also organizing a corps of young
native activists.  She located a new fiscal sponsor, enabling the LPDC to
plan a large fundraising campaign scheduled to begin
January 1, 2003.   In the fall of 2002, Standing Deer joined the Board,
contributing a great deal with his insight, humor and
unwavering support of Leonard.   We are deeply shocked and saddened by his
passing, and grateful for having had a brief opportunity
to work with him.

Frustrated by what appeared to be a lack of visible organizational progress,
Leonard  asked all of the Board members to resign in
late 2002 and we complied with his wishes.   Attempting to ensure an orderly
and legally proper transition, we left detailed
documentation of office procedures -- including a step-by-step informational
handbook on all related LPDC organizational functions,
performed a complete inventory, and ensured that all financial documentation
was in order.   All bills were current as of January 20
03, taxes had been paid, fiscal sponsorship reports updated, and the office
rent paid through the end of the lease in April 2003.
Those of us who remained on the Board at that time then elected candidates
Leonard proposed and we resigned, turning over all LPDC
resources and responsibilities to the new Board. We continue to be open to
do whatever it might take to be supportive.

The "" website was not the property of the LPDC, but was
operated and paid for by Dawn Hill, who continues to use it
to provide the public with information about Leonard's case as well as
numerous other indigenous struggles.  She made all
substantive material on that website available to the new website created by
the LPDC, ""   Unfortunately,
the latter website seems to be using not only the substance but the design
of the "" site, causing considerable
confusion and resulting in accusations that Dawn has appropriated her own
site.  Multiple sources of information can and should be
used to generate additional support for Leonard's cause, and we urge all
parties to recognize that disputes over "ownership" only
distract the public from the real issues.
Similarly, unfounded accusations against others, in particular Pat Benabe
and Dawn Hill, who have contributed to the work of the
LPDC only serve to distract us from our common purposes.  As former LPDC
Board members, we are each committed to contributing all
that we can to ensuring Leonard's freedom and to supporting the struggles of
indigenous people in North America and around the
world.  The obstacles intrinsic to these struggles are grave enough without
our compounding them with misplaced accusations or
misinformation.   Neither the former staff or volunteers, nor Dawn Hill, are
asking for anything, nor diverting resources or support
from the mission of the LPDC, but attempting to continue that work in a
different forum.  Similarly, as former Board members, we are
not asking for anything from the current LPDC Board or staff, but making a
final call to all persons of good will to focus on the
real, and very difficult, issues at hand.  There is nothing to be gained
from personal attacks; we will only make progress through
the hard work of public education, legal challenges, organized activism and
the fundraising necessary to support these activities.

After twenty-eight years of struggle, Leonard Peltier is still being held at
Leavenworth, despite clear evidence that the government
is holding him illegally.  Our communities continue to be beset by poverty,
disease, discrimination and, most fundamentally, the
denial of the right to self-determination.   We know from many centuries of
struggle which kinds of action can lead us toward
freedom and which are self-destructive.  We hope to join each of you in the

Michael Yellow Bird
Ed Nakawatase
Natsu Saito

More information about the Marxism mailing list