Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
Leonard Peltier has been imprisoned for some 36 years for the shooting deaths of two FBI agents in 1975. The case gained renewed national headlines with "Incident at Oglala" that was narrated by Robert Redford.
Through the years, several appellate courts have acknowledged evidence of US government misconduct, including knowingly presenting false statements to a Canadian court to extradite Peltier to the United States, forcing witnesses to lie during his trial and concealing ballistic evidence reflecting Peltier's innocence from the jury.
For several years, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark made the case for Peltier's innocence. His attempts to free Leonard Peltier fell on deaf ears.
Twice, the National Congress of American Indians in 1999 and 2011 has passed resolutions requesting Executive Clemency for Leonard Peltier. Both resolutions have fallen on deaf ears.
Many American Indians and others around the world view Peltier as a political prisoner. Through the years, Peltier's supporters have included the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu, among other prominent names. These opinions have fallen on deaf ears.
The winner of the National Book Award, Sherman Alexie writes that Leonard Peltier's supporters and detractors have seen him a metaphor, as a public figure worthy of political rallies and bumper stickers, but very rarely as a private man who only wants to go home.
Tonight, stars, such as Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Jackson Browne, Common and others will take the Beacon Theater in New York City for yet another benefit concert. This is entitled "Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012."
The title seems so simple. After 36 years in prison, Peltier wants to go home.
To those faithful people across Indian country and beyond who have diligently kept the fire going to bring Peltier home, the hope has never died. I actually admire the fervor in which they have endeavored though the years to "bring Peltier home" even though the attempts always fall on deaf ears.
Last week after the White House Tribal Nations Conference, I received an email from one of Peltier's faithful chapter leaders. He asked me: "Any mention of Leonard among attendees?" Unfortunately, I had to relay to him there was no mention of Leonard Peltier among attendees or anyone in the Obama administration.
President Barack Obama is the only person alive today with the authority to free Leonard Peltier and let him go home. Under Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution, the President of the United States is granted the authority to grant executive clemency to those convicted of crimes.
During his time in office, President Obama has stated repeatedly he wants to have open dialogue with Indian country. It is time he has one about the fate of Leonard Peltier.
Last week at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, the President said to the assembled tribal leaders in our nation's capital: "We're going to keep working together to make sure that the promise of America is fully realized for every Native American."
The President should be reminded Leonard Peltier is part of the "every Native American" he spoke about last week.
The part of the President's remarks to tribal leaders about making "sure that promise of America is fully realized" actually sounds pretty simplistic and idealistic. But, American Indians across Indian country know the truth. We have continuously been excluded from this promise for far too long.
Surely, Leonard Peltier has not been part of that promise.
I do not fully know what President Obama had in mind when he mentioned the promise of America, but I would hope part of the promise of America would include the portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that concludes: "with Liberty and Justice for all."
Surely, Leonard Peltier should be part of the all.
This publication is cognizant to the fact killing two law enforcement officers is a heinous deed. So too is fabricating evidence that kept a man imprisoned for the majority of his adulthood.
Realistically, President Obama nor any President will never simply grant executive clemency to Leonard Peltier. The pushback from the FBI would be way too extreme. However, at the very least, President Obama should fulfill his commitment to Indian country about correcting the ills of the past. In part, he can do this by reopening Leonard Peltier's case.
It would seem to reason with a former US Attorney General convinced Peltier is innocent, there is some merit to reopen the case. With the advancements in crime solving technology that did not exist in 1975, the Peltier case should be reopened and reinvestigated.
So that tonight's concert is not in vain, nor that it fall on deaf ears, President Obama should take a hard look at this case that has so long troubled American Indians and non-Indians. The simple thing would be to grant executive clemency. While that option does not appear to be a realistic option at this time, President Obama should have the case reopened and reinvestigated.
It is time to bring Leonard Peltier home.
posted December 14, 2012 10:50 am est