Update 2/3/16 > this year marks Leonard’s 40th yearof illegal & wrongful incarceration by the United States Government. Currently Leonard’s life is at risk from an enlarged Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. He needs a surgical evaluation and surgery as soon as possible. Due to Medical Neglect and Indifference by his Prison and the Federal Bureau of Prisons this has not yet happened. If Leonard dies while in Prison….the Bad Guys win!!
In 1999 the story of Native American Political Prisoner Leonard Peltier became known in the circles of “Pop Culture” through the independent small press publication BadAzz MoFo. Best known for movie reviews of the Blaxplotation film genre, along with other Exploitative films that dealt with Native Americans, Asians, Women and more this internationally distributed zine was tagged “Pop Culture at its Baddest” by numerous small press magazine reviewers and die-hard fans. Besides film reviews there were political/cultural articles of interest, interviews with pop-culture icons, book and music reviews, original comic art, rants from the Creator-Publisher-Writer-Editor (David F. Walker) and much more. Not for those easily offended this zine was an “in-your-face” look at the many aspects of Racism in Pop Culture without apology or political correctiveness.
People who believe in the concept of true Justice, Equality, and Human Rights have been advocating for Political Prisoner Leonard Peltier for close to 4 decades. The following article was published in Issue #4 of BadAzz MoFo; Black Cowboys — Spaghetti Westerns — Injunsploitaionshared with permission, David Walker – Creator/Editor/Publisher/Designer/HNIC; Bonnie Walker – Associate Editor/Mother. It gives a perspective of the times and a brief synopsis of Leonard’s case. (There has been a bit of grammatical editing here for this reprint). For in-depth information please go to: http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/, http://users.skynet.be/kola/ and http://www.freepeltiernow.org/ Thank You! ******************************************************
From the time Columbus “discovered” America, over five centuries ago, the indigenous people of the American continents (Indians) have faced a systematic policy of genocide. The history of the American Indian is made up of Eurocentric lies and half truths, that has been written with the blood of the millions of exterminated Indians. Everything from history books to Hollywood films has for too long glossed over or skipped the horrors endured by Indians, and inflicted by a government that at one point actually sanctioned the summary execution of the so-called “red skinned savages”. The unjust practices inflicted on Indians did not stop back in the glorious days of the old west. Rather, it threatens to continue on into the twenty-first century, as the American government still seeks to exploit sacred ground for its minerals, and impose its white, Eurocentric beliefs and religions on other cultures.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, key concerns, such as health issues from water contaminated by mining practices and the violation of sacred lands began to rise in various Indian communities throughout the nation. Drastically opposing factions began to form between traditional Indians that still embraced the old ways, and those that supported government and big business. The division between these two ideologies soon began leading to violence.
In no other area in the United States was the tension between traditionals and pro-government Indians higher, than on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. A state of war existed between the two factions, with the pro-government Indians being supported by the GOON Squad (Guardians Of the Oglala Nation), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the US Marshalls, local and state police, and the FBI. Defending the safety of the traditionalists was AIM (American Indian Movement), a Native American empowerment group similar to the Black Panther Party. And like the Black Panthers, AIM represented a thorn in the side of government looking to control the lives and destinies of a culture through exploitation, substance abuse and genocide.
Between March 1973 and 1976, sixty-nine traditionalists, AIM supporters, and AIM members were murdered by the GOONs and other representatives of the US government. These 69 murders, most of which went uninvestigated, are merely the confirmed homicides – other killings are suspected, but unconfirmed. Based on the population of Pine Ridge, the murder rate between 1973 and 1976 was the highest per capita, than any other city or town in the nation. While Detroit, the “murder capital’ of the United States had a murder rate of 20.2 per 100,000, Pine Ridge had a rate of 170 per 100,000.
The battle for control of the land, and the right to cultural freedom came to head on June 26, 1975. Ronald Williams and Jack Coler, two agents with the FBI, chased a red pick up truck on to the property of Harry and Cecelia Jumping Bull. Officially, the two federal agents entered the property, without a warrant, and without jurisdiction, to arrest a young man named Jimmy Eagle, for stealing a pair of used cowboy boots. The two agents had already visited the Jumping Bull compound the day before, looking for Eagle. FBI reports claim Eagle was in a red pick up truck that entered the Jumping Bull compound, but no proof exists that he was there that day. The long held belief has been that Jimmy Eagle was merely an excuse used by federal law enforcement officers to come on private property, for which they has no warrant to search, and gather reconnaissance information on a reported AIM arsenal. In truth the AIM encampment had housed primarily women and children, but because of concerns raised by the FBI visit on June 25th, an estimated 30 AIM warriors had gathered at the encampment on June 26th.
Exactly ninety-nine years and one day earlier, George Armstrong Custer led his men into an Indian encampment that history has named Little Big Horn. Like their past counterpart had discovered nearly one century earlier, Agents Coler and Williams were in over their heads. Based on the reconnaissance work the day before, the FBI agents were only expecting to find a handful of AIM soldiers. The agents entered the Jumping Bull property, never identifying themselves as federal agents, and began to open fire on the red pick up truck they had been chasing. A fire fight between the two agents and members of AIM quickly ensued, with the agents heavily outgunned. The gun battle was quickly joined by approximately 150 government agents and other law enforcement officers and GOONs. When the smoke cleared both Coler and Williams were dead, as was an 18 year old member of AIM- Joe Stuntz Killsright.
The FBI claimed the two agents had entered the property in pursuit of a wanted criminal, and not as the advance members of a planned raid on the AIM camp. Yet the rapid deployment of nearly 150 reinforcements to the remote Jumping Bull property suggests that there was indeed a raid planned; that Coler and Williams were part of a larger group, and that they had been cut off from their reinforcements by the unexpected number of AIM warriors at the Jumping Bull compound. In fact a FBI radio log recorded a transmission from Agent Williams during the fire fight, in which he says, “If someone could get on top on the ridge and give us cover, we might still be able to get out of here.” Who was the transmission directed to?
Ironically enough, two days before the shootout occurred, 76,200 acres of Lakota land was illegally transferred to the U.S. Park Service. The illegal cession of the land by Dick Wilson, tribal president and leader of the GOONs, was a clear violation of all Lakota tribal laws and rules dictated by an 1868 treaty between the U.S. government and the Lakota tribe. The land in question was believed to be rich in uranium, and was known to sit on one of the richest coal deposits in North America. So, while the transfer of the tribal land was illegal at best and unconstitutional at worst, it was quickly certified as legitimate by both the House and the Senate.
It seems like a strange coincidence that two days after illegally obtaining Indian land, for the express purpose of strip-mining, that the FBI would make what amounted to an attempt to engage AIM in an armed confrontation. Had the encounter at the Jumping Bull compound gone ahead as planned, Agents Coler and Williams would have faced approximately five AIM warriors, and a group of women and children. Any armed resistance would have been containable by the two agents, and would have provided the feds an excuse to use more forceful tactics in their COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) against AIM. Unfortunately, Williams and Coler had more than five AIM warriors to contend with.
The death of AIM member Joe Stuntz Killsright was never investigated. The deaths of Agents Williams and Coler, on the other hand, led to one of the largest manhunts in American history at that time. Four individuals were eventually named in the killing of the two agents. A trial that ended in May of 1976 found that two of those charged, Dino Butler and Bob Robideau, were not guilty in the killings, while charges against Jimmy Eagle were dropped. This left the United States government with only one person left to catch and convict for the murder of two of their own. That man was Leonard Peltier.
Peltier was one of the many AIM members involved in the firefight at Pine Ridge. In February of 1976, Peltier was arrested in Canada, where he had fled after the shoot out. He was extradited back to the United States in December 1976, based on affidavits that were later found to be false. The extradition was based on the coerced statement of Myrtle Poor Bear, who claimed to have witnessed Peltier execute the two agents. Later it would come out that Poor Bear was mentally incompetent, had never known Peltier, nor had she been present at the Jumping Bull compound. Furthermore, her statements were made under threat of violence from FBI agents. In effect, representatives of the United States government lied to the Canadian government to get Peltier sent back to the U.S.
Peltier stood trial for first degree murder in the deaths of Agents Coler and Williams. Evidence and witnesses that had been crucial in earlier acquitting Butler and Robideau of the murders was not allowed in the new trial. Objections and motions made by the defense in the first trial were also overruled. And despite the fact that the prosecution admitted they could not prove who shot the two agents, Leonard Peltier was found guilty on both counts of first degree murder on April 18, 1977.
On September 11, 1986, the U.S. Court of Appeals filed their written opinion regarding Peltier’s Case, and found the government “withheld evidence from the defense favorable to Peltier.” The Court of Appeals went on to note that had the evidence not been suppressed “there is a possibility the jury would have acquitted Peltier.” Yet, over thirty years later, Peltier is still in prison for a crime the prosecution was never able to prove he committed. His parole has been repeatedly turned down, and currently, Charles Manson goes before parole boards more frequently than Leonard Peltier.
The case of Leonard Peltier is not unusual. Like many other nations that we see fit to point an accusatory finger at, the United States practices political terrorism, oppression and continues with the incarceration of thousands of political prisoners. Many of these political prisoners, like Peltier, have been labeled threats to “national security.” It seems the exercising of one’s Constitutional rights must be done within the framework imposed by a government that still has yet to fully acknowledge the rights of women, non-whites, children, the disabled, the poor, homosexuals and the elderly. ******************************************************
(August, 2015) People have been asking for Issue #4 of BadAzz Mofo for a long time, unfortunately it was sold out years ago. However other individual issues are still available. Currently you may find this article and select reprints from BadAzz Mofo (including some from Issue #4) in The BadAzz MoFo Collection available in an online PDF and an actual book. Other books by David F. Walker are also available. Please go to the BadAzz MoFowebsite where Pop Culture is STILL at its Baddest!!>http://www.badazzmofo.com/