The 1973 occupation of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation began a three-year period of political violence on the reservation. The tribal chairman’s hiring vigilantes, “GOONS,” to eliminate AIM’s (American Indian Movement) work and ideology, resulted in more than 60 traditional tribal members and AIM members being murdered and countless more assaulted.
During this period, the FBI, in strong presence, actively supplied the GOONS with weaponry, intelligence on AIM members, and a blind eye to the violence. Leonard Peltier, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, and an AIM leader in response to a request for protection by traditional people being targeted for violence, set up a camp with a small group of other AIM members on the ranch owned by the traditional Jumping Bull family.
A shootout occurred on June 26, 1975, when two FBI agents entered the reservation in two unmarked cars and onto the Jumping Bull ranch. Out of fear for their lives, the family panicked and a gunfight erupted while more than 150 FBI agents, GOONS, and law enforcement surrounded the ranch. Two FBI agents and one Native person were killed.
Of more than 40 Native people who participated in the gunfight, only Leonard Peltier, Bob Robideau, and Darrell Butler were arrested, with Robideau and Butler eventually acquitted on grounds of self-defense.
Leonard Peltier was then arrested and extradited from Canada. On June 1, 1977, he was wrongly sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in North Dakota by u.s. District Judge Paul Benson, a conservative jurist appointed by Richard Nixon to the federal bench.
Leonard Peltier maintains his innocence to this day, supported by a litany of wrong-doing and illegal injustices against him. These include affidavits presented to the Canadian Court for Leonard’s extradition by witness Myrtle Poor Bear sayng she allegedly saw Peltier shoot the agents, but who later recanted and said the FBI threatened and coerced her into signing the affidavits.
Also unfolding from the extradition and sentencing came (a)“Three teenaged Native witnesses [who] testified against Mr. Peltier . . . all later admitted that the FBI forced them to testify;” (b) the FBI withheld more than 140,000 pages . . . in their entirety from the defense; (c) “a ballistic test proving that the casing [which] did not come from the gun tied to Mr. Peltier was intentionally concealed;” (d) Eighth Circuit denied a new trial when presented with new evidence, yet found that there “is a possibility that the jury would have acquitted Leonard Peltier had the records and data improperly withheld from the defense . . .”; and (e) the same Judge Heaney, who authored the new trial denial, has since voiced firm support for Peltier’s release because “the FBI used improper tactics to convict Mr. Peltier, the FBI was equally responsible for the shootout, and that Mr. Peltier’s release would promote healing with Native Americans.”
Mr. Peltier, 49 years a Prisoner of War, remains in prison today, a 78-year-old infirmed Elder.
Sign this petition calling on President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
FREE INDIGENOUS ELDER POLITICAL PRISONER LEONARD PELTIER!