- The Case of Leonard Peltier; Native American Political Prisoner
- Peltier strengthened by Mumia decision (FCN, 01/01/2002)
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – The United Nations defines genocide, under principles of the convention on Human Rights, as: “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group through five types of criminal actions, such as killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
In two recent letters, Native American activist Leonard Peltier, 58, reminded those who received them that the 500-year genocide against his people continues.
The subject matter of Mr. Peltier’s letters were the December 2 arrest of John Boy Graham by police in Vancouver, British Columbia for the 1975 murder of Native American activist Anne Mae Pictou-Aquash, 30, and the conviction of South Dakota Congressman William Janklow for leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident.
According to Mr. Peltier, when Mr. Janklow was attorney general of South Dakota, he said: “The way to stop the American Indian Movement (AIM) is to put a bullet through their head.”
As it concerns Mr. Graham, Mr. Peltier, who has been in a federal prison for 27 years for the 1975 murder of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, said that, “since the Patriot Act was passed, the government has gone back through records and is trying to re-file on anyone it can, in any way.”
He said that any open-minded person should be able to see that the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO program of “misinformation and discrediting” is still “alive and well.”
Now, how does that connect to Mr. Graham, also a member of AIM?
Mr. Peltier answers that by saying: “If you look at the history of colonization worldwide, the oppressor always identifies the individuals within the resistance movement that they can or cannot buy off–the old divide-and-conquer.”
He contends that the government is attempting to use the “unfortunate” killing of AIM member Anne Mae Pictou-Aquash as a warning to would-be Native American activists that they, too, could face charges of criminality. Reports have always circulated that some in AIM thought Ms. Aquash to be an FBI informant; and there are some who believe that she was killed because she knew what other AIM members were informants.
Mr. Peltier says that no one should rush to judgment on the issue of Mr. Graham’s guilt, and that no way was Ms. Aquash a spy. He insists that people must see this case as a diversionary tactic to take focus off the fact that South Dakota is a “place where the native people still own the Black Hills, yet are forcibly denied access to their own land.”
Rebecca L. Adamson, columnist for Indian Country Today and president of First Nations Development Institute, writes that “the assets of American and Alaskan Native Tribes would make any other people wealthy. Their land holdings of about 100 million acres, if aggregated, would form a land base larger than all states except Alaska, Texas and California.”
These lands are rich in resources such as timber, good range and cropland, oil and gas reserves, uranium deposits and water reserves. Ms. Adamson writes that until 1962, the Department of Interior said that it was illegal, a violation of trust, for tribes to develop their own mineral properties.
“The power industry makes over $280 billion a year from Native American lands, and the tribes receive one percent of that,” she said. The tribes are the single poorest population in the U.S., Ms. Adamson said. “Tribal control of these assets must be the theme of tribal activists, so that they may move federal policy forward,” Ms. Adamson added.
“America always pushed us off our land and took the best part for themselves. Wherever they pushed us, we would again begin to thrive. Then, they wanted that. The lands we were pushed on became worse and worse. Yet, still the Creator provided for us. Oil or some other valuable mineral was discovered. And, of course, they soon came after that,” Mr. Peltier writes in his letter.
According to the 2000 census, 2.9 million people report their race as Native American. Unemployment for Native Americans is 15 percent, three times the national average. However, 60 percent of the Native American population live in urban areas and pay taxes. One-third of those who live on reservations, who are 25 and older, do not have a high school diploma.
Native Americans suffer violent crimes at two-and-a-half times that of the national rate. Their homicide rate has increased 80 percent since 1992, with an alarming increase in youth suicides.
“The American government broke every single one of the 350 treaties they signed with American Indians, and sent us off into unwanted land, barren reservations–out of sight, out of mind,” Mr. Peltier said. However, he warned that there was a rekindled spirit in the Native American community; there are those ready to stand up for what is rightfully theirs. “And that means more government repression,” he said.