American Indian Movement Leader, Leonard Peltier is up for Parole. The United Native American Society calls for Freedom for Peltier. Parole is Freedom; Exoneration is Justice!

The United Native American Society is an allied organization with the Movement for Peoples Democracy and the United Jewish Peoples Fraternal Order.

American Indian Movement Leader, Leonard Peltier is up for Parole. The United Native American Society calls for Freedom for Peltier. Parole is Freedom; Exoneration is Justice!

Statement by the Provisional Committee of The United Native American Society

June 30th, 2024

Leonard Peltier, who turns eighty years old this coming September, is the longest-held Native American prisoner in history and has appealed for parole. This hearing is likely to be the last time, due to his age and health, that he can apply for parole.

Leonard Peltier was a leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM). Peltier was asked by the traditional people at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, to support and protect the traditional people and activists from being targeted by paramilitary tribal personnel who were committing violence and up to murder toward Native American Activists.

The Wounded Knee occupation of 1973 marked the beginning of three years of political violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The tribal chairman hired vigilantes, self-titled as “GOONS,” to rid the reservation of American Indian Movement (AIM) activity and sentiment. More than 60 traditional tribal members and AIM members were murdered, and scores more were assaulted. Evidence indicated GOON’s responsibility for the majority of crimes, but despite a significant FBI presence, nothing was done to stop the violence. The FBI supplied the GOONS with intelligence on AIM members and looked away as GOONS committed crimes. One former GOON member reported that the FBI provided him with armor-piercing ammunition.

Leonard Peltier was wrongly convicted for the deaths of two FBI agents who died during a 1975 shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Mr. Peltier has been in prison for about 50 years.

However, an FBI ballistic report showed that ballistic experts had tested the bullet cartridges used in the 1975 shoot-out and found that none of them matched the weapon alleged to be Mr. Peltier’s. At trial, however, defense counsel was denied the opportunity to present this evidence to the jury.

Leonard Peltier is an imprisoned Native American considered by Amnesty International, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Congress of American Indians, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rev. Jesse Jackson, the United Native American Society, among many others, to be a political prisoner who should be immediately released.

During the trial, the FBI coerced three teenage Native witnesses to testify against Mr. Peltier; they all later admitted that the FBI forced them to testify. Still, not one witness identified Mr. Peltier as the shooter.

Leonard Peltier was arrested in Canada on February 6, 1976, along with Frank Blackhorse, a.k.a. Frank Deluca. The United States presented the Canadian court with affidavits signed by Myrtle Poor Bear, who said she was Mr. Peltier’s girlfriend and allegedly saw him shoot the agents. Ms. Poor Bear had never met Mr. Peltier and was absent during the shoot-out. Soon after, Ms. Poor Bear recanted her statements and said the FBI threatened her and coerced her into signing the affidavits.

Mr. Peltier was extradited to the United States, where he was tried in 1977. The trial was held in North Dakota before United States District Judge Paul Benson, a conservative jurist appointed to the federal bench by Richard M. Nixon. Key witnesses like Myrtle Poor Bear were not allowed to testify.

None of Peltier’s children could attend his June 10 hearing because of the limited number of witnesses permitted. The decision on his parole will be made soon.

From three separate law firms in three different states, the co-counselors have based arguments for their client’s parole on a few factors: the arbitrariness of his detention length given his age, health, and safety in a maximum-security environment and the inhumane lack of medical attention to the 79-year-old’s failing health. He must make do with talking and eating with few remaining teeth. He has diabetes, high blood pressure, the effects of a previously suffered stroke, and complications from jaw surgery. Due to health complications, Peltier can barely walk regularly. He needs a wheelchair; however, Peltier must use a walker instead. He was diagnosed with a potentially fatal abdominal aortic aneurysm and is at risk of COVID-19 reinfection.

Parole is the first step in granting Mr. Peltier his freedom. United Native American Society calls for Leonard to be exonerated to clear his good name.

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