Robert Esposito
An International Day of Solidarity was held in honor of Leonard Peltier on February 6 that included Lenny Foster, Radmilla Cody, and John Torres Nez as panelists.

’40 Years Is Enough’ Bring Peltier Home with International Day of Solidarity

Frances Madeson

Leonard Peltier supporters gathered in New York, California, Oregon, Paris, Barcelona, Belfast, Brussels and Berlin on Saturday February 6, 2016, for an International Day of Solidarity. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, home to the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, an overflow multi-generational crowd congregated at the First Unitarian Church to commemorate with prayer, discussion, music, dance and drumming the 40th anniversary of Peltier's incarceration in the U.S. federal prison system. “Twice as many people as last year,” according to Peter Clark, co-director of the Defense Committee, “More than any Peltier event in Albuquerque in recent memory.”

Panelists included Diné elder Lenny Foster, Peltier's long-time spiritual adviser who has visited the political prisoner every year since 1985, conducted sweat lodges in the prison system “before it was chic to do so;” singer, domestic violence activist and former Miss Navajo, Radmilla Cody, who related some of her own experiences of incarceration; and John Torres Nez, president of the Indigenous Fine Arts Market (IFAM), who exhibited Leonard's artworks this past August in Santa Fe. They all conveyed variations on a straightforward message—“40 years is enough, it's time to bring him home.”

The 71-year-old prisoner, currently incarcerated in USP Coleman, a federal maximum-security penitentiary northeast of Tampa, Florida, has been diagnosed with an aortic abdominal aneurysm. Supporters are concerned that if the aneurysm ruptures he could bleed out before receiving the “adequate medical treatment” the Bureau of Prisons is required by law to provide. Prayers were offered for his healing as well as his release. “Leonard belongs to us,” Foster told the crowd. “We don't want our brother to die in prison, like Geronimo.”

The day's events which were two months in the planning by organizers—Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, ANSWER-NM, members of the Blessed Oscar Romero Community, La Raza Unida, Party for Socialism and Liberation, The Red Nation and (un)Occupy Albuquerque—included performances by children from the La Mesa Elementary School. Radmilla Cody sees this transfer of skills as vital to survival and resilience. “We have to go back home, relearn our ways. This is our strength.”

Rapper Def-1 performed “The Land of Enfrackment” recently released on his Shields for Raining Arrows CD, a song about the environmental depredations of hydraulic fracturing, a method of natural gas extraction that Peltier has repeatedly condemned as being destructive to Mother Earth. Def-1 sang: “I'm trying to free my people inside of this evil frame, I'm tired of this greedy game and the lies that will eat your brain.”

“Incarceration is a tool to silence political movements. We don't have heroes, they've been demonized,” Nick Estes, co-founder of The Red Nation explained while disseminating pamphlets at his group's information table. “Our history is erased. But the children here will remember that Leonard Peltier is one of our heroes, that he was fighting for treaty rights. We need our leaders like Leonard Peltier repatriated back to our communities.”

According to Estes plans are already underway for Peltier's reintegration through the Indigenous Rights Center when President Obama “gets on the right side of history” and grants clemency before leaving office in eleven months. The home page of the international Committee's website features a clock counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds that Peltier has been locked up, and a second one counting down the remainder of the Obama administration.

Plans to continue to raise the visibility of the clemency campaign are ongoing. According to Sue Schuurman of the Peace & Justice Center, a mural honoring Peltier's sacrifice is being planned on the east wall of the center which is located near the university of New Mexico campus. UNM-based Red Student Faction is organizing a National Student Day of Action on February 27, a day in 1973 that marked the re-occupation of Wounded Knee. The day of action is a Call to Demand the release of Leonard Peltier.

Paige Murphy said ANSWER-NM is educating the public about who Peltier is and what he means symbolically. “This is a relatable liberation struggle for people the world over. It's so much larger than the Native community.” According to Murphy, the struggle comes down to one word: Respect. “To be seen as human beings.” The group is taking tangible actions to help secure Peltier's release. “Actions such as the letter writing campaign to the White House,” she explained. During the Q&A, one woman asked: “How many letters and phone calls will it take for Obama to find his courage and release Leonard Peltier? What is the magic number, where is the tipping point?”

When asked for a final comment from the dais, IFAM's Torres Nez's simply said: “Get him out, get him home. Let's talk about the future.”

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onedman's picture
Submitted by onedman on
I know there is no answer for the question but it has to be asked anyway. Why is it so hard for some people to do the right thing(s)? Silent prayer is the only real answer.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Its a national (indian) shame that other less well-known candidates for reprieve, relief is not provided to OTHER deserving native american/indian/first nations/ tribal/indigenous members. Their cases deserve to be shared, retold, "celebrated".

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Its a national (indian) shame that other less well-known candidates for reprieve, relief is not provided to OTHER deserving native american/indian/first nations/ tribal/indigenous members. Their cases deserve to be shared, retold, "celebrated".

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
" . . . with freedom and justice for all." Yeah, right!

Old Lady's picture
Old Lady
Submitted by Old Lady on
It's just so fine to see good people around the globe unite in the name of fairness. I saw some articles on this around the net & literally cried over one of them. Hopefully President Obama will do the right thing before leaving office.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
To tmsyr11: Well are you going to NAME any of those OTHER deserving NDNs or are you just talking out of your ass like always?

jamessimon500's picture
Submitted by jamessimon500 on
The right thing to do is respect the truth: "This story is true.” Leonard Peltier, assuring his supporters that a mysterious Mr. X shot the FBI agents, with what his lawyer, Mike Kuzma, later admitted was a complete concoction. “Peter, you put my life in jeopardy and you put the lives of my family in jeopardy by putting that bullshit in your books. Why didn’t you call me and ask me if it was true?” Dean Butler, chastising Peter Matthiessen for including Peltier’s lone alibi, Mr. X, in his book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Note: An AIM member, David Hill, reportedly played the role of Mr. X in a video aired on American television. "I heard shooting, grabbed my rifle and ran toward a residence where there were women and children...." Statement to President Obama from Leonard Peltier, February 17, 2016. In his book, My Life is a Sundance, Peltier claims he was a quarter mile away in an encampment when the shooting started. "...the strongest evidence that Peltier committed or aided and abetted the murders is as follows: The van that the agents followed into the Jumping Bull Compound [when the shooting started] was occupied by Peltier, Norman Charles and Joseph Stuntz....At the time, Peltier had access to information that he was being followed by FBI agents....Peltier had reason to believe that the agents were looking for him....Upon his arrest in Canada months later for the murders of the agents, Peltier remarked that the two agents were shot when they came to arrest him....Michael Anderson, one of the AIM members who was firing at the cars from one of the houses in the Jumping Bull Compound, testified that...he saw Peltier, Robideau and Butler standing down at the agents‘ cars....F.B.I. agents who later searched the area recovered Williams’ badge and billfold on the ground near the junction of the roads.... It was at this junction that Peltier‘s van had stopped shortly before the firing commenced. " Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, 585 F.2d 314, Sept 14, 1978. “I seen Joe when he pulled it out of the trunk and I looked at him when he put it on, and he gave me a smile.” Leonard Peltier, standing over the bodies of Jack Coler and Ron Williams, moments after their heads were blown off, commenting on Joe Stuntz wearing Jack Coler’s green FBI jacket taken from his car trunk, as quoted in Peter Matthiessen’s, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. “I didn’t think nothing about it at the time: all I could think of was, We got to get out of here!” Leonard Peltier, reacting to Joe Stuntz wearing Jack Coler’s jacket, from In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. Peltier could hear the chatter over the FBI car radio from other agents who were racing to the scene and attempting to re-establish contact with Agent Williams in response to his calls for help. “The two witnesses testified outside the presence of the jury that after their testimony at trial, they had been threatened by Peltier himself that if they did not return to court and testify that their earlier testimony had been induced by F.B.I. threats, their lives would be in danger.” United States v. Peltier, 585 F. 2d 314, U.S. App. Decision September 14, 1978. "... the greater probability is that you yourself fired the fatal shots... It would be unjust to treat the slaying of these F.B.I. agents, while they lay wounded and helpless, as if your actions had been part of a gun battle. Neither the state of relations between Native American militants and law enforcement at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation prior to June 26, 1975, nor the exchanges of gunfire between individuals at the Jumping Bull Compound and the law enforcement agents who arrived there during the hours after Agents Coler and Williams were murdered, explains or mitigates the crimes you committed...Your release on parole would promote disrespect for the law in contravention of 18 U.S.C...." Leonard Peltier’s 1993 Parole Board, commenting on his aiding and abetting conviction. “The mother---er was begging for his life but I shot him anyway.” Sworn testimony attributed to Leonard Peltier, boasting in the Marlon Brando motor home about shooting Ron Williams, as heard by Dennis Banks, Ka-Mook Banks, Bernie Lafferty, and (soon-to-be-murdered) Anna Mae Aquash. According to the autopsy report, Ron Williams died with his right hand held up in front of his face; there were powder burns on his fingers. Inmate Peltier refuses to cooperate in the still-open Aquash murder investigation. “I never thought my commitment would mean sacrificing like this, but I was willing to do so nonetheless. And really, if necessary, I’d do it all over again, because it was the right thing to do.” Peltier’s statement to supporters, 2/6/2010.