FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

40 Years is Enough: Bring Leonard Peltier Home

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.19.07 AM

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’swebsitefeatures 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.”

This article originally appeared on Indian Country Today

More articles by:

Frances Madeson is the author of the comic novel Cooperative Village (Carol MRP Co., New York, 2007), and a social justice blogger at Written Word, Spoken Word.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
January 20, 2020
Paul Street
Trump Showed Us Who He Was Before He Became President
Eric Mann
Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Ipek S. Burnett
MLK and the Ghost of an Untrue Dream
Mark Harris
Better Living Through Glyphosate? Spray Now, Ask Questions Later
Katie Fite
Owyhee Initiative Wilderness and Public Lands Deal Critique: Ten Years After
Thomas Knapp
A Loophole for the Lawless: “Qualified Immunity” Must Go
REZA FIYOUZAT
Best Enemies Forever: The Iran-U.S. Kabuki Show
Jeff Mackler
Worldwide Furor Sparked by U.S. Assassination of Iran’s General Suleimani
William deBuys
The Humanitarian and Environmental Disaster of Trump’s Border Wall
Binoy Kampmark
A Matter of Quality: Air Pollution, Tennis and Sporting Officialdom
James Haught
GOP Albatross
Jill Richardson
Why Do We Have School Lunch Debt at All?
Robert Koehler
Nuclear Hubris
Patrick T. Hiller
Instead of Real-Time Commentary, Eight Common-Sense Reason for Not Going to War with Iran
Charles Andrews
A Note on Carlos Ghosn and Global Capitalism
Jeffrey St. Clair
Some Trees: Los Angeles
Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
Frank Joyce
Will the Constitution Fail Again?
Andrew Levine
Biden Daze
Pete Dolack
Claims that the ‘NAFTA 2’ Agreement is Better are a Macabre Joke
Vijay Prashad
Not an Inch: Indian Students Stand Against the Far Right
Ramzy Baroud
Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank
Norman Solomon
Not Bernie, Us. Not Warren, Us. Their Clash Underscores the Need for Grassroots Wisdom
Ted Rall
America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia
David Rosen
The Irregulators vs. FCC: the Trial Begins
Jennifer Matsui
The Krown
Joseph Natoli
Resolutions and Obstacles/2020
Sarah Anderson
War Profiteering is Real
James McFadden
The Business Party Syndicate
Ajamu Baraka
Trump Prosecutors Make Move to Ensure that Embassy Protectors are Convicted
David Swanson
CNN is Trash
Rev. William Alberts
Finally a Christian Call for Trump’s Removal
Dave Lindorff
The ERA Just Got Ratified by Virginia, the Needed 38th State!
W. T. Whitney
Mexico Takes Action on Coup in Bolivia and on CELAC
Steve Early
How General Strike Rhetoric Became a Reality in Seattle 
Jessicah Pierre
Learning From King’s Last Campaign
Mark Dickman
Saint Greta and the Dragon
Jared Bernstein - Dean Baker
Reducing the Health Care Tax
Clark T. Scott
Uniting “Progressives” Instead of Democrats
Nilofar Suhrawardy
Trump & Johnson: What a Contrast, Image-wise!
Ron Jacobs
Abusing America’s Children—Free Market Policy
George Wuerthner
Mills Are Being Closed by National Economic Trends, Not Environmental Regulations
Basav Sen
Nearly All Americans Want Off of Fossil Fuels
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail