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The Case of Leonard Peltier (Full Article)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

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Written by Peter Miller

For an abreviated article on Peltier, click here. - Ed.


On Saturday September 15, 2012, Michael Kuzma, Leonard Peltier’s current Lawyer, came to Square Guelph to speak about the case of Leonard Peltier.

Leonard Peltier is a Native American activist in the United States, who has been in jail now for 38 years. Many say that Peltier’s conviction was a grave injustice, and this is something that anyone who studies his case can see. 

Peltier was an activist for the American Indian Movement (AIM) that started in 1968, and is a symbol of Native resistance. In 1972, AIM organized the Trail of Broken Treaties march to Washington. Participation in the march occurred all over the United States, and led to the occupation of a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office. The protest brought attention to Native American issues, including the government’s unwillingness to abide by treaty rights, and poor living standards, and inadequate housing on reserves. After the march, the FBI started to try to neutralize AIM with their COINTELPRO program.

1973 was the beginning of a three year occupation of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, an Oglala Sioux Native American Reservation located in South Dakota. Prior to the occupation, AIM had been involved in caravans to areas around Pine Ridge, where two killings of Native American people occurred.  

After these occurrences, 65 US Marshalls were sent to Pine Ridge to back up Dick Wilson, the Tribal Chairman of Pine Ridge, who with the support of the U.S. Government, had his own private army. Wilson used paid enforcement to suppress a campaign at Pine Ridge to impeach him because of repeated acts of corruption and the abuse of opponents. The Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization staged a march to the BIA office on Pine Ridge, where protesters found sand bag fortifications and machine guns pointed at them.

AIM was then asked by traditional Oglala people to come and support the people in Pine Ridge. A 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee, a town on the reservation, began. Activists protested against Dick Wilson as well as the United States Government’s failure to fulfill treaty rights with Native American Peoples. Around 50 AIM supporters and members were killed by Wilson, and his private army that received funding from the FBI. U.S. Marshalls, and BIA and FBI agents came down, and the government handed hundreds of indictments to AIM and its supporters. This terror occurred for 3 years after the beginning of the Wounded Knee occupation.

The U.S. government used Dick Wilson to steal Native American land. It turns out that the Pine Ridge Reservation is rich in uranium that is essential for nuclear weapons and power plants.

On June 11, 1975, the traditional chiefs of the Oglala Nations signed a resolution that repudiated any legislation that violated their past treaty made with the government and recognized the Traditional council as the only legitimate Oglala government.  On June 25 members of Wilson's private army and BIA agents fired guns in the town of Oglala. Government Agents also came to a cabin in viewpoint of Jumping Bull’s property (where AIM had a camp), and stated they were searching for Jimmy Eagle concerning the theft of a pair of shoes.

The next day, two police cars followed a red truck and went to Jumping Bull’s compound where there were AIM members and supporters, pulled into a defensive position, and came out of their cars with their guns pointed towards the AIM camp. A shoot-out began, and two FBI agents and one Native America were killed.

The claim by the FBI that they were ambushed is absurd. Back up quickly came from the FBI to help the two vehicles. The FBI also has jurisdiction only to investigate major felonies on reservations. The theft of a pair of shoes is not a major felony. The FBI knew they were looking for trouble when they got out with their guns drawn, and knew that AIM supporters and members would defend themselves. After all, the reign of terror had been occurring for quite some time by then, with many AIM members being killed. This incident was an effort by the FBI to stop opposition to the government’s plans in the region. On the same day of the shootout, Dick Wilson negotiated away 133,000 acres of Pine Ridge land that the government had found major uranium deposits in.

After this incident, many AIM members escaped Pine Ridge with the help of many people there, despite the government conducting raids to try to find them.

Later, Dino Butler and Bob Robideau were arrested for the murder of the two FBI agents, leaving one other person the government wanted for prosecution free: Leonard Peltier. Later, Leonard Peltier was arrested in Canada where he fought extradition. During the fight against extradition, Butler and Robideau were found not guilty on the grounds of self-defence.

Peltier was extradited from Canada in part because of statements from Myrtle Poor Bear. Poor Bear was coerced into saying that she was Peltier’s girlfriend, and had seen him shoot the FBI agents when she had never met Peltier before.

Peltier’s case was moved from Cedar Rapids to North Dakota, where Judge Paul Benson who was a Nixon appointee became the new judge. During the trial, Poor Bear contacted the defence stating that she wanted to testify that she was forced to lie about Peltier. Judge Benson did not allow her to testify and refused to read Jury Instruction number 19 in the courts, which gives credibility to the defendant, should the jury feel that the government had coerced the witness. Benson also denied all defense motions and denied defence requests for ballistic reports, and autopsy reports that could have helped Peltier’s case. Peltier was found guilty and sentenced to two lifetimes in prison, and the court of appeals upheld the conviction while the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. This was a great injustice. How is it that the Peltier was found guilty of something that other AIM members had been found not guilty of because they were acting in self-defence?

A lot of the above information was gathered from a booklet called The Case of Leonard Peltier,written by Arthur J. Miller and Pio Celestino. The event on Leonard Peltier provided participants with more recent information about the case that shows even more of the grave injustices that have occurred since Peltier was convicted. A lot of the above information was gathered from a booklet called The Case of Leonard Peltier, written by Arthur J. Miller and Pio Celestino.

Michael Kuzma has been involved in Peltier’s case since 2001. According to Kuzma, in 1978 there were 3,500 pages of material given to the defence about the case, when there were actually 150,000 pages of material that was obligated to be given over to the defence.  He has made Freedom of information act requests in cities across the U.S. regarding the case. However, Kuzma has not had much luck getting pages of documents on Peltier from FBI offices. For instance, in Washington, summaries of the pages withheld were not given. Instead, a summary of the pages was given that was “vague and ambiguous” according to Kuzma.

“Some material was withheld on National Security Grounds,” said Kuzma as well.

More recently, Kuzma was denied 900 pages of documents regarding Frank Blackhorse. Blackhorse was with Leonard Peltier in 1976, where they were both arrested in Alberta. Blackhorse had an illegal firearm, and was wanted in Wisconsin for obstructing justice, but despite this was let out in only three days and never charged.

Blackhorse’s real name was Frank Deluca. He is not Native American and was born in New York City. Kuzma believes that Blackhorse was an informant for the FBI, and the documents on him could be used to Free Leonard Peltier. Kuzma lost the case, even though he argued that the public’s right to know about Blackhorse outweighs individual rights. Blackhorse now lives in Canada. His whereabouts are unknown.

Kuzma also discussed how Leonard has been treated poorly in prison. He has recently been moved to a federal penitentiary in Coleman Florida, far away from his friends and family.

The case is commutable, meaning the U.S. President can free or lower the sentence on Leonard Peltier. According to Kuzma everyone thought Clinton was going to do this but the FBI got to him. At one point, Pamela Anderson spoke with George Bush, advocating for Peltier to be freed. Kuzma pointed out that unfortunately there is only hope that Obama will save Peltier if he loses the election, and therefore has nothing to lose. Unfortunately, Obama will not take the risk to free Leonard Peltier leading up to a contentious election.

For many, Leanord Peltier’s case reveals a serious injustice that has occurred. The case also symbolizes the mistreatment of Native American’s in the U.S. Pine Ridge is extremely impoverished. The average life expectancy there is only around 45 years of age according to Kuzma. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has not respected its treaty rights, and corporations have been able to profit off of uranium reserves in Pine Ridge. Leonard Peltier struggled for Native American rights, and for this, he was sentenced to two lives in prison.

 

 

 


On Saturday September 15, 2012, Michael Kuzma, Leonard Peltier’s current Lawyer, came to Square Guelph to speak about the case of Leonard Peltier.

Leonard Peltier is a Native American activist in the United States, who has been in jail now for 38 years. Many say that Peltier’s conviction was a grave injustice, and this is something that anyone who studies his case can see. 

Peltier was an activist for the American Indian Movement (AIM) that started in 1968, and is a symbol of Native resistance. In 1972, AIM organized the Trail of Broken Treaties march to Washington. Participation in the march occurred all over the United States, and led to the occupation of a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office. The protest brought attention to Native American issues, including the government’s unwillingness to abide by treaty rights, and poor living standards, and inadequate housing on reserves. After the march, the FBI started to try to neutralize AIM with their COINTELPRO program.

1973 was the beginning of a three year occupation of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, an Oglala Sioux Native American Reservation located in South Dakota. Prior to the occupation, AIM had been involved in caravans to areas around Pine Ridge, where two killings of Native American people occurred.  

After these occurrences, 65 US Marshalls were sent to Pine Ridge to back up Dick Wilson, the Tribal Chairman of Pine Ridge, who with the support of the U.S. Government, had his own private army. Wilson used paid enforcement to suppress a campaign at Pine Ridge to impeach him because of repeated acts of corruption and the abuse of opponents. The Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization staged a march to the BIA office on Pine Ridge, where protesters found sand bag fortifications and machine guns pointed at them.

AIM was then asked by traditional Oglala people to come and support the people in Pine Ridge. A 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee, a town on the reservation, began. Activists protested against Dick Wilson as well as the United States Government’s failure to fulfill treaty rights with Native American Peoples. Around 50 AIM supporters and members were killed by Wilson, and his private army that received funding from the FBI. U.S. Marshalls, and BIA and FBI agents came down, and the government handed hundreds of indictments to AIM and its supporters. This terror occurred for 3 years after the beginning of the Wounded Knee occupation.

The U.S. government used Dick Wilson to steal Native American land. It turns out that the Pine Ridge Reservation is rich in uranium that is essential for nuclear weapons and power plants.

On June 11, 1975, the traditional chiefs of the Oglala Nations signed a resolution that repudiated any legislation that violated their past treaty made with the government and recognized the Traditional council as the only legitimate Oglala government.  On June 25 members of Wilson's private army and BIA agents fired guns in the town of Oglala. Government Agents also came to a cabin in viewpoint of Jumping Bull’s property (where AIM had a camp), and stated they were searching for Jimmy Eagle concerning the theft of a pair of shoes.

The next day, two police cars followed a red truck and went to Jumping Bull’s compound where there were AIM members and supporters, pulled into a defensive position, and came out of their cars with their guns pointed towards the AIM camp. A shoot-out began, and two FBI agents and one Native America were killed.

The claim by the FBI that they were ambushed is absurd. Back up quickly came from the FBI to help the two vehicles. The FBI also has jurisdiction only to investigate major felonies on reservations. The theft of a pair of shoes is not a major felony. The FBI knew they were looking for trouble when they got out with their guns drawn, and knew that AIM supporters and members would defend themselves. After all, the reign of terror had been occurring for quite some time by then, with many AIM members being killed. This incident was an effort by the FBI to stop opposition to the government’s plans in the region. On the same day of the shootout, Dick Wilson negotiated away 133,000 acres of Pine Ridge land that the government had found major uranium deposits in.

After this incident, many AIM members escaped Pine Ridge with the help of many people there, despite the government conducting raids to try to find them.

Later, Dino Butler and Bob Robideau were arrested for the murder of the two FBI agents, leaving one other person the government wanted for prosecution free: Leonard Peltier. Later, Leonard Peltier was arrested in Canada where he fought extradition. During the fight against extradition, Butler and Robideau were found not guilty on the grounds of self-defence.

Peltier was extradited from Canada in part because of statements from Myrtle Poor Bear. Poor Bear was coerced into saying that she was Peltier’s girlfriend, and had seen him shoot the FBI agents when she had never met Peltier before.

Peltier’s case was moved from Cedar Rapids to North Dakota, where Judge Paul Benson who was a Nixon appointee became the new judge. During the trial, Poor Bear contacted the defence stating that she wanted to testify that she was forced to lie about Peltier. Judge Benson did not allow her to testify and refused to read Jury Instruction number 19 in the courts, which gives credibility to the defendant, should the jury feel that the government had coerced the witness. Benson also denied all defense motions and denied defence requests for ballistic reports, and autopsy reports that could have helped Peltier’s case. Peltier was found guilty and sentenced to two lifetimes in prison, and the court of appeals upheld the conviction while the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. This was a great injustice. How is it that the Peltier was found guilty of something that other AIM members had been found not guilty of because they were acting in self-defence?

A lot of the above information was gathered from a booklet called The Case of Leonard Peltier,written by Arthur J. Miller and Pio Celestino. The event on Leonard Peltier provided participants with more recent information about the case that shows even more of the grave injustices that have occurred since Peltier was convicted. A lot of the above information was gathered from a booklet called The Case of Leonard Peltier, written by Arthur J. Miller and Pio Celestino.

Michael Kuzma has been involved in Peltier’s case since 2001. According to Kuzma, in 1978 there were 3,500 pages of material given to the defence about the case, when there were actually 150,000 pages of material that was obligated to be given over to the defence.  He has made Freedom of information act requests in cities across the U.S. regarding the case. However, Kuzma has not had much luck getting pages of documents on Peltier from FBI offices. For instance, in Washington, summaries of the pages withheld were not given. Instead, a summary of the pages was given that was “vague and ambiguous” according to Kuzma.

“Some material was withheld on National Security Grounds,” said Kuzma as well.

More recently, Kuzma was denied 900 pages of documents regarding Frank Blackhorse. Blackhorse was with Leonard Peltier in 1976, where they were both arrested in Alberta. Blackhorse had an illegal firearm, and was wanted in Wisconsin for obstructing justice, but despite this was let out in only three days and never charged.

Blackhorse’s real name was Frank Deluca. He is not Native American and was born in New York City. Kuzma believes that Blackhorse was an informant for the FBI, and the documents on him could be used to Free Leonard Peltier. Kuzma lost the case, even though he argued that the public’s right to know about Blackhorse outweighs individual rights. Blackhorse now lives in Canada. His whereabouts are unknown.

Kuzma also discussed how Leonard has been treated poorly in prison. He has recently been moved to a federal penitentiary in Coleman Florida, far away from his friends and family.

The case is commutable, meaning the U.S. President can free or lower the sentence on Leonard Peltier. According to Kuzma everyone thought Clinton was going to do this but the FBI got to him. At one point, Pamela Anderson spoke with George Bush, advocating for Peltier to be freed. Kuzma pointed out that unfortunately there is only hope that Obama will save Peltier if he loses the election, and therefore has nothing to lose. Unfortunately, Obama will not take the risk to free Leonard Peltier leading up to a contentious election.

For many, Leanord Peltier’s case reveals a serious injustice that has occurred. The case also symbolizes the mistreatment of Native American’s in the U.S. Pine Ridge is extremely impoverished. The average life expectancy there is only around 45 years of age according to Kuzma. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has not respected its treaty rights, and corporations have been able to profit off of uranium reserves in Pine Ridge. Leonard Peltier struggled for Native American rights, and for this, he was sentenced to two lives in prison.

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