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reminder - mtg for Peltier vigil tonight - June 7th

This is a reminder that there will be a meeting this evening to plan for a
vigil to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Leonard Peltier being unjustly

Wed. June 7th at 7 pm
280 Metcalfe St. - 5th floor board room
corner of Metcalfe and Gilmour St.


Leonard Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota political prisoner, has spent the last
24 years of his life in prison despite the fact that the government has
admitted on numerous occasions that they do not know who is responsible for
the crime he was convicted of. Because of the glaring Human and
Constitutional violations that have been made in the overall targeting,
prosecution, and continued imprisonment of Peltier, millions have come to
know of his case and support his freedom. Some of whom are  Desmond Tutu,
the Dalai Lama, Amnesty International, Assembly of First Nations, Canadian
Labour Congress, the European Parliament, the Italian Parliament, the
Belgium Parliament, the Green Party, 50 members of U.S. Congress, Robert
Redford, the National Congress of American Indians, and Jesse Jackson among
Leonard Peltier is 54 years old and was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
He came from a large family of 13 brothers and sisters. At the age of 8
years he was taken from his family and sent to a residential boarding school
for Native people run by the US Government. This was his first experience
with the intrusion of the United States Government into the lives of Native
As a teenager he returned to live with his father at the Turtle Mountain
Reservation in North Dakota. It was one of three reservations which the
United States Government had chosen as the testing ground for its new
termination policy. The resulting protests and demonstrations against this
policy which forced First Nations families off their reservations and into
the cities, was his first experience with Native resistance to the United
States Government's efforts at assimilation.
During one particularly difficult winter on the Turtle Mountain Reservation
Leonard Peltier recollects protests by his people to the Bureau of Indian
Affairs about the lack of food on the reservation. Following these protests,
B.I.A. social workers came to the reservation to investigate the situation.
Leonard and one of the organizers on the reservation went from household to
household before the arrival of the investigating party to tell the local
people to hide what little food they had. When he got to the first house, he
found that there was no food to hide and the same story was repeated in each
of the households that he went to. This experience awakened him to the
desperate situation for people on his reservation. Because he worked with
his father as a migrant farm worker, he often traveled from reservation to
reservation. He came to learn that policies of relocation, poverty, and
racism were affecting all Indigenous peoples in the U.S.
In 1965, Leonard Peltier moved to Seattle, Washington, where he worked for
several years as part owner of an auto body shop which he used to employ
Native people and to provide low-cost automobile repairs for those who
needed it. During the same period, he was also active in the founding of a
Native half-way house for ex-prisoners in Seattle. His community work
involvement included Native Land Claim issues, alcohol counseling, and
participation in protests concerning the preservation of Native owned land
within the city of Seattle.
In the late 1960's and early 1970's Leonard Peltier lived in Washington and
Wisconsin and was working as a welder, carpenter, and community counselor
for Native people. In the course of his work he became involved with the
American Indian Movement and eventually joined the Denver Colorado chapter.
He worked as a community counselor confronting job issues, alcohol problems
and better city housing.
Leonard Peltier's support for the American Indian Movement led to his
involvement in the 1972 Trail of broken Treaties which took him to
Washington D.C., in the non-violent occupation of the Bureau of Indian
Affairs building. He became strongly involved in the spiritual and
traditional programs of AIM.
Leonard Peltier's involvement in AIM is what brought him to Pine Ridge in
1975. During that time the reservation was rife with conflict between the
conservative tribal chairman and his supporters and the traditional people
who wanted to keep their land, language, culture, and spirituality. The
tribal chairman and his hired vigilantes know as "GOONS" carried out a
campaign of violence against those in opposition to his policies. In a
period of three years over 60 traditional people were murdered on Pine Ridge
and over 300 were severely beaten, several of whom were involved with AIM.
During this period the reservation had the highest ratio of FBI agents to
citizens than any other area in the US. Despite this, no murders or beatings
were ever investigated. Furthermore, one GOON leader has since gone on
record to say that in fact, the FBI intentionally turned their heads to such
behavior and moreover, helped to arm those carrying out these crimes.
It was for this reason Leonard Peltier along with other AIM members were
asked to come to Pine Ridge to help the people who were being targeted. It
was in this climate of fear that a shoot out broke out on June 26, 1975
between two FBI agents in unmarked cars and local residents and members of
AIM. The two agents and one Native man were killed. Three people went to
trial for the deaths of the agents, one of whom was Leonard Peltier. No
investigation of the Native man's death took place. Two of those who went to
trial were found innocent on grounds of self defense. Leonard Peltier, who
had fled to Canada, was tried later, in a different district by a different
judge, after being illegally extradited from Canada. He was found guilty of
first degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive lifes in one of the
most controversial trials of the century. When faced with previously
withheld evidence on appeal pointing to Leonard Peltier's innocence, the
prosecution admitted, and later established that they in fact could not
prove who actually shot the agents or what involvement Leonard Peltier may
have had in their deaths. Despite this Mr. Peltier remains in prison. For
this reason, there is an international outcry for his freedom and Leonard
Peltier has become a notorious symbol of injustice against Native Peoples.
Millions are asking President Clinton to grant him Executive Clemency.
>From prison, Leonard Peltier has continued to advocate for the human rights
of Indigenous peoples and in doing so has won numerous human rights awards.
He was recently declared an official Human Rights Defender at the Human
Rights Defenders Summit in Paris which commemorated the 50th anniversary of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He has also established himself
as a talented artist, using oils to paint portraits of his people which
portray their cultures and histories. Leonard has been an integral part of
the movement to establish access to the practice of Native religions in
prison. He says that it is the sweat lodge, the love and support of so many
people, and his relationship with his grandchildren that allows him to keep
hope from what has been a long, dangerous and trying twenty-three years.

Len Bush, Research Officer
National Union of Public and General Employees
15 Auriga Drive, Nepean, On, Canada, K2E 1B7
(613) 228-9800 / (613) 228-9801 [fax]
www.nupge.ca / lbush@nupge.ca

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