Leonard Peltier, Activist
Leonard Peltier -- a great-grandfather, artist, writer, & indigenous rights activist -- is a citizen of the Anishinabe and Dakota/Lakota Nations who has been unjustly imprisoned since 1976.
A participant in the American Indian Movement, he went to assist the Oglala Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the mid-70s where a tragic shoot-out occurred on June 26, 1975. Accused of the murder of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Peltier fled to Canada believing he would never receive a fair trial in the United States.
On February 6, 1976, Peltier was apprehended. The FBI knowingly presented the Canadian court with fraudulent affidavits, and Peltier was returned to the U.S. for trial.
Key witnesses were banned from testifying about FBI misconduct & testimony about the conditions and atmosphere on the Pine Ridge Reservation at the time of the shoot-out was severely restricted. Important evidence, such as conflicting ballistics reports, was ruled inadmissible. Still, the U.S. Prosecutor failed to produce a single witness who could identify Peltier as the shooter. Instead, the government tied a bullet casing found near the bodies of their agents to the alleged murder weapon, arguing that this gun had been the only one of its kind used during the shootout, and that it had belonged to Peltier.
Later, Mr. Peltier’s attorneys uncovered, in the FBI’s own documents, that more than one weapon of the type attributed to Peltier had been present at the scene and the FBI had intentionally concealed a ballistics report that showed the shell casing could not have come from the alleged murder weapon. Other troubling information emerged: the agents undoubtedly followed a red pickup truck onto the land where the shoot-out took place, not the red and white van driven by Peltier; and compelling evidence against several other suspects existed and was concealed.
At the time, however, the jury was unaware of these facts. Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. He is currently imprisoned at the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
Leonard Peltier, Artist
Leonard Peltier’s self-taught style is an outgrowth of drawing and carving lessons he received as a child from tribal elders.
Leonard began working with pastels in 1983, proving he had talent to put what he saw on paper. His spirit began to know a freedom he had never before experienced.
Although limited by the prison environment, Mr. Peltier has emerged as a master of Indigenous Art.
Leonard’s artwork reflects his beliefs and commitment to Native American culture. It is The People’s struggle to survive and his desire to portray their cultural beauty that inspires Peltier to paint.
In 1986, Leonard suffered a stroke and lost about eighty percent of his sight in his left eye. "My eye problem has slowed me down considerably, but I am still inspired."
Leonard’s paintings are collected by such noted personalities as Oliver Stone, Peter Coyote, Jane Fonda, Val Kilmer, Michael Apted, Shep Gordon, and Oliver Shanti, as well as many other international celebrities & luminaries.
Leonard, the Writer
Doing time creates a demented darkness of my own imagination; doing time does this thing to you. But of course, you don't do time. You do without it. Or rather, time does you. Time is a cannibal that devours the flesh of your years day by day, bite by bite.
Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance
This book was written from behind the cold prison bars of Leavenworth Penitentiary by Leonard Peltier, who has been called America's Nelson Mandela. Peltier is serving two life sentences for crimes the U.S. government has admitted they can't prove were even committed by Peltier. He is considered by Amnesty International & many other humanitarian organizations to be a political prisoner.
According to prison officials, Peltier's plight has attracted the attention of luminaries such as Britain's Queen Elizabeth. In February 1999, the European Parliament approved a resolution calling for Peltier to be freed. France's former First Lady Danielle Mitterand, who is president of the French human rights organization, France Libertés, has called for the release of Leonard Peltier.
The book's editor, Harvey Arden said, "Leonard Peltier's powerful memoir, a Native American spiritual testament, will shake the conscience of the nation