Michael Meeropol on the Leonard Peltier Case

From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Leonard Peltier case <fwd with comment>                           

[H-Rural Ed. Note: The appended item came to me via a circuitous route, not uncommon on the Internet these days. I thought that H-Rural readers might be interested in seeing the post because we have had some discussions about Native American issues. Moreover, the Internet poster--Michael Meeropol--is of more than passing historical interest himself, as one of the two surviving children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. For H-Rural subscribers in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, let me give a quick background on Leonard Peltier's case. In 1973, the Pine Ridge Lakota (aka "Sioux") reservation in South Dakota was torn apart by factional fighting that culminated in a long siege of the Wounded Knee community, itself the site of the famous 1890 massacre. The leaders of the siege were associated with the American Indian Movement (AIM). The siege brought a heavy federal law enforcement presence to the reservation, particularly the FBI. Two years later, in 1975, there was a shootout at another reservation community and two FBI agents were killed. Leonard Peltier, who was living at Pine Ridge, but who was an Ojibwa, was later arrested and ultimately convicted of the murders. He is now serving a life sentence in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.

There are numerous questions about the validity of Peltier's conviction, and they are ably summarized in Peter Matthieson's 1983 book _In the Spirit of Crazy Horse_.

The posting that follows gives Meeropol's view of the case, along with a statement from Peltier himself. Meeropol's post is stridently polemical, as you will see for yourself, and it also includes a request for funds. I am not endorsing this request for money, and certainly H-Net is not. I've not posted anything like this so far in H-Rural's short life, and would like guidance from subscribers about such postings.

--Jim Oberly, H-Rural Moderator JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU

[Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1993 10:43:00 -0400 (EDT) [From: Mike Meeropol <MMEEROPO@WNEC.BITNET> [Subject: Leonard Peltier [Sender: African-American Research <AFAM-L@MIZZOU1.BITNET>

To members of AFROAM-L and AFAM-L: I apologize in advance if this post has already reached the list. My work load has precluded me from taking off the NOMAIL prompt for this list until recently. However, I believe "better twice than never" and in the case of the enclosed post, I feel so strongly about the issue that I hope everyone who reads it will be galvanized as I was to write members of Congress, subscribe to the newsletter and resolve to do everything possible to be in Washington on November 21.

As someone whose parents were "legally" assasinated by the United States government in 1953, I perhaps feel more viscerally the "living death" to which Leonard Peltier has been confined --- based on perjured testimony, trumpted up evidence, for an action that was not even a crime -- the real "crime" was resistance to the genocide perpetrated against Native Americans by the United States government --- Now with the denial of an appeal, the only hope appears to be executive clemency from Prez Clinton with a push from Atty. Genl. Reno. I hope members of these two lists, who know all too well the way our racist government practices vicious repression against peoples of color can also feel the visceral reaction I experienced when reading this post. Maybe we can put some pressure on and make something happen.

Thanks in advance for your consideration and actions, Mike Meeropol

[ This article relayed from the Usenet "soc.culture.native" newsgroup ]

The following is from the 'Spirit of Crazy Horse', the official newsletter of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. Published bi-monthly, it is filled with important information about the LPDC and Native American movement. Subscription rates are: $10/year (6 issues); $20 for international subscriptions; $5 for seniors; and no charge for prisoners. Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, P.O. Box 583, Lawrence, KS 66044. Make check payable to: Crazy Horse Spirit, Inc.



Greetings Sisters, Brothers, Friends,

It is hard to put into words the feeling I got when I walked into the visiting room on July 7th and saw the pain in my wife's eyes. I knew even before a word had passed between us that it could only mean one thing. My appeal had been denied. My mind clouded with so many thoughts. How could they do this? How could they stand and call themselves the champions of justice when they'd heard the prosecutor go on and on about the lack of evidence against me and the fact that they don;t know who killed the FBI agents? How could they uphold a conviction that has been proven to have been based solely on fabricated, coerced and perjured evidence? Where is justice? Am I to serve twice my natural life in prison even though I can prove my innocence? Is this my fate? Will I die here?

I admit, it was hard to hold back my tears. I am a strong man, but I am not superhuman. My wife held my hand; I could barely force myself to look at her. Softly I told her, "You are young and beautiful. You shouldn't be wasting your life waiting for me. You should go out and find someone you can be with that can give you a family. I can't give you these things." She made a deal with me. She told me that she still has ten good years on her biological clock. If I'm still in prison at that time, she'll think about moving on. It made me feel a little better, but not a whole lot.

I feared that many of my supporters would at last throw in the towel and that I would be doomed to this hell forever. But this is not the case. I witnessed a marvelous and wonderful thing. My supporters were angry and wanted to fight. Letter writing increased, new support groups sprang up, old groups reformed and regionalized. My attorneys held closed meetings to strategize future moves, and so many people wrote to cheer me up that once again I found faith. My long journey does not end behind prison bars.

On November 21st there will be a demonstration in Washington, D.C. I ask anyone who cares about justice, the Constitution, racial equality under the law, and our future generations to be there. This day will be important and historic. It will be a day in which all races of humankind will join in unity to demand that our civil rights be protected and that mine be restored. I have suffered a long time. I want to go home. Please, join us on November 21st to prove to the world that we will not tolerate injustices to any citizen in this country. It is vital that we have the numbers. We will literally need thousands of people there that day.

And when I am a free man, the real work will begin. Prison has not prevented me from trying to help my people. I organize clothing, food and toy drives year round, support women's shelters and Head Start programs. I have established a scholarship for Native law students at NYU and also helped to fund a newspaper by and for Indian children. I am a foster parent to two young boys in Guatemala and El Salvador. Dr. Stuart Selkin and I have been working on ways to improve the health care system on the Rosebud Reservation, and recently I have become involved with Harvard Professor Jeffrey Timmons on economic reform for Pine Ridge. Still I am limited in what I can do.

My dream is to rejoin the people and build community centers offering after school activities and counseling. I want to work with specialists from around the world to help deal with FAS and FAE, and to prevent alcoholism. I want to help create jobs and job training. It is so frustrating to hear over and over again about teen suicide, drug abuse, unemployment and poverty. I think, what is my sacrifice for.

My own children have grown up without me. I missed everythingfrom training wheels to high school graduations. Today I have two of my grandchildren. Will I get to see them in the school play? Will I ever go to parent-teacher conferences? They had been growing up in a place not sympathetic to their needs. Like so many poor children in the world, they've seen terrible things and suffered hard. Now, through my wife and Committee volunteers Michele and Koen, they have a chance to achieve. I only wish I could be there to help them.

I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you today. I have prayed hard for unity amongst all people. I am sure that is the only way toward progress and peace and a secure future for ALL of our grandchildren. Today is a fine example of a step in that direction. Thank you.

                             In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,                      
                              Leonard Gwarth-ee-las Peltier                     

Information provider:
Unit: H-Net program at UIC History Department Email: H-Net@uicvm.uic.edu
Posted: 9 Jul 1994

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