I write to urge you to consider executive clemency for Leonard Peltier. You have appreciated, more than any President in recent memory, the tumultuous history of Native American tribes, and the tragic events derived from that history. Mr. Peltier has been in prison for 41 years, for a tragic event that took place during troubled times. He is in ill health; requires urgent, specialized medical treatment; and just lost his youngest son. Continued incarceration serves no purpose.
— Dave Archambault, Tribal Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, in December 23 letter to Barack Obama
I watch the events at Standing Rock with both pride and sorrow. Pride that our people and their allies are standing up and putting their lives on the line for the coming generations, not because they want to, but because they have to. They are right to stand up in a peaceful way. It is the greatest gathering of our people in history and has made us more connected than ever before. We need to support each other as we make our way in these times. And I feel sorrow for the water protectors at Standing Rock because these last few days have brought a much harsher response from the law enforcement agencies there and our people are suffering.
— Day of Mourning Statement by Leonard Peltier: The Standing Rock People are My People
Possibly, probably, Leonard Peltier’s last hope to avoid dying in prison lies with Barack Obama. Obama must grant clemency to him before Trump is sworn in! Please call the White House at 202-456-1111 or go to website and spread the word widely. Peltier’s release, on top of the Standing Rock uprising, will be a very big deal, particularly but not only for Indigenous people.
There was a ten-year period, from 1992 to 2001, where the cause of freedom for Leonard Peltier was a personal priority, especially each fall. In 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in what is now the Americas, I had joined a 42-day, water-only fast between September 1 and October 12th initiated by Vietnam veteran Brian Willson with Karen Fogliatti and Scott Rutherford. Out of that action emerged a group of us who fasted from October 1-12 every year calling for October 12th to be renamed Indigenous People’s Day and for freedom for Peltier.
After 2001, that “People’s Fast for Justice” effort dissipated, and though I continued to follow Leonard’s situation, I did very little. By 2003 the climate crisis had become, and still is, my major issue. But all of a sudden, several days ago, the idea lodged in my heart and mind that I and many more people need to get busy real fast to bring much more pressure on Obama in the next two and a half weeks to do the right thing for Leonard.
And so this morning I started a water-only fast again for the freedom of Leonard Peltier. I will continue for at least a week, and maybe continue until Obama is no longer President if he doesn’t take action before then.
I’m doing it because I feel strongly about this issue and the immediacy of it. And I’m doing it because I know that when I don’t eat, I am constantly aware of the reason for doing so and will therefore keep working every day to ratchet up the political pressure on Obama.
Leonard isn’t the only political prisoner who should be granted clemency. Mumia Abu-Jamal, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Chelsea Manning—they are others we should be actively supporting now. A fuller list of US political prisoners can be found here.
All those who support the Standing Rock struggle should take action NOW and in the coming days to support Peltier. Here is his full statement in late November about this historic effort.
Stand with Standing Rock, Free Leonard Peltier!