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Leonard Peltier after 39 years in prison: Live to make our children proud

June 26, 2014

by Leonard Peltier

This statement was written for an event on June 26, 2014, marking 39 years of incarceration.

Greetings, my relatives, friends and supporters.

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

As I have said so many times in the past, I am deeply and truly honored that you remember me on this day and I am honored to have my words read to you today. I think this commemoration day should be about the lives of all our people who in some way lived and died for us.

By the time of the Oglala shoot-out, there had already been some 60 of our Native people killed. These people are the ones we are commemorating here today. I always especially remember Joe Stunz, who was a mentor to some of the younger boys in the community.

Of all the things I want us to remember today and every day, I want us to remember who WE are, I want us to remember where WE came from, I want us to remember our ancestors that we are so proud of, and I want us to live in such a way that our children and our children’s children will look back at us and be proud of who they are because of what we were.

I want to see a day where our people do not have to depend on any other source than ourselves.

I want to see a day where our people aren’t suffering from the bitter cold in the winter months, a day where our people are not suffering from malnutrition and improper medical care.

I want to see fires burning inside well built homes that are not unstable and falling apart.

I want to see a day where alcoholism and drug abuse is not rampant throughout Indian country.

There are so many other things I could mention that need to change, and I will tell you for a fact they won’t start changing until WE change them.

We must look back to our traditions. We must look back to our own cultures and the teachings of our elders who taught us that the greatest gift the creator gave us was our bodies in good health and the Earth around us. We must remember from our traditions that it is our responsibility to take care of our bodies and health and the bodies and health of our children. Our traditions also taught us to be the caretakers of all the nature around us.

There is an old saying back when the Buffalo were almost totally done away with; I think there were only about 25 or so left in the U.S. The saying was that when the Buffalo come back, the American Indian would also come back. Well, the Buffalo are back. They are not what they were, but they are thriving. WE are also coming back, and we are not what we were yet, but we will be.

Self-portrait of a warrior – Art: Leonard Peltier

Self-portrait of a warrior – Art: Leonard Peltier

I know things have changed, as they always do, and we must rise to meet those challenges. Everything in life is based on some challenge and we have faced challenge after challenge and we are still here. I want to encourage all of you from the depths of my soul and with my deepest prayers to set up programs for our children that would teach them the survival skills that it will take to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow – to find ways to protect and restore our Earth.

As a man I encourage you men out there to step up stronger than you have been, more determined than you have been, more consistent and persevering than you have been, and do all you can to make this a better place for all people.

Our enemies are many, but most of it has to do with money. People, at times, love money more than the Creator or the gifts the creator gave us. Our people will be approached even more in the coming future to sell off our lands and our resources and we must do what we can to protect them for our children and the coming generations.

We must also at every opportunity remind the government of the agreements and treaties they have made with our people. We should also remind them at every opportunity that the Black Hills are still ours, and the lease is up.

We should also remind them at every opportunity that we are part of the treaty they call the Constitution and that we should be respected and given every equal right under that agreement. One thing in particular that the constitution says is that you will receive a trial with a jury of your peers – and yet every Indian that is arrested and tried in federal court is tried off the reservation. There is no jury of our peers.

That is just one point. There are many.

I know for a fact that our people have it within their blood, history and understanding to win out over this time of trial that our people have been going through for a couple hundred years now.

As a man I encourage you men out there to step up stronger than you have been, more determined than you have been, more consistent and persevering than you have been, and do all you can to make this a better place for all people.

If we want things to be different, we are going to have to DO them different.

When I think about our young people and elders who commit suicide, I am full of sorrow. When I hear about what is happening to Mother Earth, I weep with anguish.

These things won’t change until we take responsibility for making that change ourselves. These corporations are not embarrassed at all by hurting us. They always find some legal, moral or religious reason to justify stealing from us.

We as a people must take responsibility, rise to the challenge and teach our children to be able to face that challenge. We need to get back to eating the foods that our bodies are designed for, the ceremonies that our hearts and spirits are designed for, and the love and caring for one another that we are ALL designed for.

A wise elder once said you cannot live with one foot in a White man’s canoe and one in an Indian’s canoe; you have to choose one or the other. He said that in relation to perhaps culture, but when we look at the destruction of the air and the water and the soil and the dangerous possibilities that face all mankind that are taking place right now, we are all in the same boat.

I always remember Floyd Red Crow Westerman once said that the flowers are not all the same color, the birds don’t all sing the same song, but together they make a beautiful forest. I know for a fact there are people of other races and other colors who feel the same way we do, and when we meet them, we need to join together to stop this common destruction that faces all mankind. There can be no diversity of life on an Earth that cannot sustain life.

We as a people must take responsibility, rise to the challenge and teach our children to be able to face that challenge.

I was and am a common man just like you, but in all of this, I came to realize that each of us carries within him the spirit of our people; and wherever we go, whether we like it or not, we represent our people. Since I was hauled off to boarding school, it has been the same fight.

If I would just admit that this government is always right and never wrong, and if our people would back off from the position of remaining who we are and stop clinging to our cultures, to assimilate etc. etc. … but in my heart of hearts and in the core off my being, I have always remembered what so many of our people have lived and died for.

I have remembered that they died for the right to remain on their own land where the creator put us. They lived and died for the right to practice our religion that was given to us. They lived and died to be able to keep their children among them and not be taken off to some boarding school. They lived and died for the right to be Indian, by OUR standards not theirs. I have done my best to live up to that all my days.

I am tired, and at kind of a loss for words now, and I am sure you are all sitting in the hot sun about ready for some cool water and a breeze, but in closing I want to say that

I miss you.
I long to be with you.
I long to have the sun shining on me without the shadow of bars or chain link fencing in the way.
I long to see an eagle circling the Sundance grounds.
I long for the touch and hugs of close friends and loved ones.
I long for life as a free man.

I will never give up on who we are. I encourage you to stay strong and be a good representative of our people wherever you go. Be an encouragement and a source of strength for those in need.

Wherever they put me, or keep me, or lock me away, rest assured that my heart and prayers are always with you.

Forever in the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Your Relative,

Leonard Peltier

Mitakuye Oyasin

Learn more about Leonard Peltier at http://www.leonardpeltier.info/ and contact the Leonard Peltier Freedom Campaign at 255 Primera Blvd, 160, Lake Mary, FL 32746.

2 thoughts on “Leonard Peltier after 39 years in prison: Live to make our children proud

  1. Bernice Tronson

    Wow, wonderful and powerful words of wisdom. I have just learnt about your story and find it amazing. I am looking forward to watching the movie with my family.

    Reply
  2. Richard Sutton

    Many years ago… I was hitch-hiking north towards Eugene, Oregon when I heard you had been arrested by the FBI. I read as much press as I could and spoke with many others about your case, eventually reading Peter Mattheisen’s book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse to fully familiarize myself with the entire situation. Your imprisonment remains one of the ugliest instances of corrupt justice that all Americans should shrink away from in disgust. Years later, we hosted a showing of your original artwork at our gallery on Long Island and were pleased to have raised some funds through sales, for your defense fund. Later we learned that the remaining artwork and the vehicle along with the funds was “lost”. We were never sure if it had been stolen or what had really happened. It was only a couple of thousand dollars, but we were never again in any position to help in some way, financially. Your resolve and strength has been a beacon to my life. I’ve absorbed and shared as many of your lessons as I can and still await the day when you are finally able to join your people. Thank you.

    Reply

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