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Controversial case resurfaces

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POSTED: March 15, 2007 5:13 a.m.
Leonard Peltier, a well-known Ojibwa (Chippewa) and Vietnam Marine veteran has served 30 years imprisonment in the federal penitentiary for the notorious killings of two FBI agents on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation near the village of Oglala in 1975.
This controversial conviction has been questioned by various outspoken activists and critics for judicial reformation.
One of the most outspoken, David Geffen, was recently quoted in a ABC News report, “Why David Geffen Dislikes the Clintons — Meet Leonard Peltier” as saying, “Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling,” when referring to the 2001 clemency campaign for Peltier during the final days of Clinton presidency.
Peltier is a poster child in the fight against federal prosecutorial railroading using the most convenient scapegoat available.
According to George Sullivan in his book entitled, “Not Guilty” (printed in bold red on the cover) published in 1997 by Scholastic, Inc., the author quotes a federal prosecutor in an appeals court appearance in 1985, “We don’t know who killed the agents or what participation (Peltier) may have had.”
If the federal prosecutor admitted in court there is “reasonable doubt of his guilt,” I must conclude this is an extreme miscarriage of justice.
“Reasonable doubt” is a fundamental concept in our democratic justice system. A jury must find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the federal prosecutor has concluded in a federal court of appeals there is some doubt as to his participation in the gunfire initiated and retaliated by both parties: the AIM (American Indian Movement) and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Government), then why is he still in prison somewhere in Pennsylvania?
I was not present, so I cannot even presume to know the facts in the case. But I can attest to the very embedded hostility toward the Native American Indians I have encountered in the area surrounding where he was convicted, Fargo, N.D.
Outwardly, you will find many promotional activities touting Native American culture and heritage events, but secretly behind the public facade, you will find (if you are allowed into the inner circles of the “powers that be” in the area) there is a general dislike for “Indians” and stereotypical disrespect for their cultural ideologies. Hostile? Absolutely! No one wants to rent their houses and apartments to a Native American. Well, not everyone, but too many for my sensitive antennae. My husband and I rented our historical two-story house in Arvilla, N.D. to a Native American woman with six children several years ago.  We were sorry to observe she was unable to find decent employment to support herself and the children.
The University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, where Leonard was born on Sept. 12, 1944 is embroiled in a bitter dispute with the NCAA over the use of the collegiate nickname “Fighting Sioux.”
The NCAA has claimed it is hostile and unacceptable in the arena of collegiate sportsmanship. The university filed an appeal that it promptly lost.
In response, the university engaged the North Dakota state’s attorney to file an injunction against the actions of NCAA. The contentious “fight” continues.
The university insists the use of the nickname is in good faith, as it is in reverence of the “Sioux” spirit. I wonder if the all-knowing university administrators know most persons “in the know” translate the word “Sioux” to mean “dog-eaters.” Not very flattering in any respect, would you agree? No wonder the Lakota tribes do not support the nickname “Fighting Sioux.” I would not want to be labeled in that way either. Regardless, they are sure to fight it out in courts where everyone takes their disputes nowadays.
Peltier is quoted as saying, “What the Creator has put me through has helped Indian people. It’s kept Indian issues in the forefront for 20 years (more like 30 years now.)
“It’s educated people about what’s been happening to Indians on the reservation and also about Indian treaty rights ... the sacrifice hasn’t been for nothing.”
According to Sullivan “by 1993, Peltier had been refused a new trial three times and been refused any chance of parole until 2008.” Hum, does that sound like a fair system of justice to you, considering a federal prosecutor is on record doubting the credibility of his own government’s case?
Have we learned anything about Native American Treaty Rights or life on the reservation? Well, I have. I visited the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota with my husband on a food delivery in our blue Kenworth during his “truckin” years, and I was astounded by the living conditions. Have you ever noticed anything in the news about their rights, concerns or anything? 
“We won the West and that is that” seems to be the prevailing thought in our society. It’s immoral, in my opinion.
Well, it can’t be 2008 soon enough. Leonard is finally going to get the chance of a parole hearing. I am confident there is sure to be a huge audience eager to see if justice can right its wrongs. I know I will be listening.
If I am to believe Sullivan’s words, so will 15,000 active and former FBI agents (who) cautioned the (then) president (Clinton in 1994) about any show of pity or mercy toward Peltier.
It will be a controversial decision to be reckoned with no matter what the parole board concludes.
 

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