What can I say that I have not said before? I guess I can start by
saying see you later to all of those who have passed in the last year.
We Natives don’t like to mention their names. We believe that if we
speak their names it disrupts their journey. They may loose their way
and their spirits wander forever. If too many call out to them, they
will try to come back. But their spirits know we are thinking about
them, so all I will say is safe journey and I hope to see you soon.
On February 6th, I will have been imprisoned for 40 years! I’m 71
years old and still in a maximum security penitentiary. At my age, I’m
not sure I have much time left.
I have earned about 4-5 years good time that no one seems to want to
recognize. It doesn’t count, I guess? And when I was indicted the
average time served on a life sentence before being given parole was 7
years. So that means I’ve served nearly 6 life sentences and I should
have been released on parole a very long time ago. Then there’s
mandatory release after serving 30 years. I’m 10 years past that. The
government isn’t supposed to change the laws to keep you in prison —
EXCEPT if you’re Leonard Peltier, it seems.
I’m told I’ll be kept at USP Coleman I until 2017 when they’ll decide
if I can go to a medium security facility — or NOT. But, check this out,
I have been classified as a medium security prisoner now for at least
15 years, and BOP regulations say elders shall be kept in a less
dangerous facility/environment. But NOT if you’re Leonard Peltier, I
As you’ll remember, the history of my bid for clemency is long. My
first app was with Jimmy Carter. He denied it. Ronald Reagan promised
President Mikhail Gorbachev that he would release me if the Soviet Union
released a prisoner, but Reagan reneged. George H.W. Bush did nothing.
The next app was with Bill Clinton. He left office without taking action
even though the Pardon Attorney did an 11-month investigation (it
usually takes 9 months) and we were told she had recommended clemency.
George W. Bush denied that petition in 2009. And in all of the
applications for clemency, the FBI has interfered with an executive
order. That’s illegal as hell!
Today, I’m facing another dilemma — an abdominal aortic aneurysm
(AAA). It’s the size of an AAA battery. The doctor told me if it bursts,
I can bleed to death. It’s also close to my spine and I could end up
paralyzed. The good news is that it’s treatable and the operation has a
96-98 percent success rate. BUT I’m in a max security prison. We don’t
get sent for treatment until it is terminal.
As President Obama completes the final year of his term, I hope that
he will continue to fight to fulfill his promises, and further the
progress his Administration has made towards working in partnership with
First Peoples. It gives me hope that this President has worked hard to
affirm the trust relationship with the Tribal Nations. With YOUR
encouragement, I believe Obama will have the courage and conviction to
commute my sentence and send me home to my family.
Looking back on the 40 years of efforts on my behalf, I am
overwhelmed and humbled. I would like to say thank you to all the
supporters who have believed in me over the years. Some of you have been
supporters since the beginning. You made sure I had books to read and
commissary funds to buy what I may need to be as comfortable as one can
be in this place. You made donations to the defense committee so we
could continue fighting for my freedom, too. You all worked hard — are
still working hard — to spread the word about what is now being called
the most outrageous conviction in U.S. history. There are good-hearted
people in this world, and you’re among them. I’m sorry I cannot keep up
with answering all of your letters. But thanks for the love you have
shown me. Without it, I could never have made it this long. I’m sure of
I believe that my incarceration, the constitutional violations in my
case, and the government misconduct in prosecuting my case are issues
far more important than just my life or freedom. I feel that each of you
who have fought for my freedom have been a part of the greater struggle
of Native Peoples — for Treaty rights, sovereignty, and our very
survival. If I should be called home, please don’t give up on our
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse…
Donations can be made on Leonard’s behalf to the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, PO Box 24, Hillsboro, OR 97123.
More articles by:Leonard Peltier