Political Matters: Native Issues in the Halls of Government

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Peltier!

Relatives of imprisoned American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Leonard Peltier have launched a new effort to gain his freedom. Peltier’s sister, Betty Ann Peltier-Solano, and niece, Kari Ann Cowan, have revived the Peltier defense group and renamed it the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee, according to a recent Associated Press story. (The new Peltier Defense website can be found at:www.whoisleonardpeltier.info.)

Peltier, 64, who is serving two consecutive life sentences for the

murder of two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge

reservation in South Dakota, has been behind bars now for nearly 33

years. He is being held in the federal prison at Lewisburg, Penn. In a

case rife with legal misconduct by the FBI and other law enforcement

and judicial authorities, it is time for Peltier to be released. In a

letter sent to his supporters on Nov. 5, Peltier joined in the hope

that the incoming Obama administration will facilitate progressive

social change in America. He also noted that he is eligible for parole

under the "30-year law" of the parole guidelines that were in effect

when he was imprisoned.

Peltier

had hopes for a commutation of his sentence when Bill Clinton left

office in 2001; however, Clinton bowed to pressure from the FBI and

former South Dakota governor Bill Janklow and took no actionregarding

Peltier.

Regarding

the new defense committee structure, Peltier wrote: "I had to turn to

my sister and niece to help me rebuild my defense committeefrom

scratch. We had no files, records, and merchandise. We have not been

able to make contact with the former coordinator of the LPDC. We are

still hoping to resolve this issue, but until then we needed to keep

moving with the campaign."

On

Nov. 28, several dozen Peltier supporters gathered in front of the

federal courthouse in Fargo, North Dakota, where Peltier was convicted

by a jury 31 years ago. Among those who addressed the crowd was Russell

Means, who said that he spoke with Peltier recently by phone. "You can

tell how lonesome he is. He didn’t want to get off the phone. It teared

me up," Means told those at the demonstration, according to an AP

report.

Peltier

concluded his Nov. 5 letter by expressing the hope that people will

learn about his case and work for his freedom. He wrote: "If there

really is a change in the air, we will need each other to bring about

change in so many other areas. For me it has been about our culture and

right to be who we are, but foremost it has been the children and the

next generation. We were supposed to leave a better world behind for

them and how much have we accomplished? I know that somehow and some

way my sacrifice will not be in vain, and that the years I’ve endured

this pain of loneliness and suffering in confinement will make a better

world for those children and coming generations."

Coushattas and Israel

"Political Matters" motored over to Israel in November (as Jim Northrup

would say). It was incredibly warm and sunny every day in the Jewish

state; and I enjoyed swimming in the sea at Tel Aviv. Israel is a

fast-paced, high-tech society with an advanced security regime; it’s

kind of like stepping into the future. Now and then a camel approaches – if you happen to be near the Old City of Jerusalem – and reminds you that you’re in the Middle East.

I was traveling with a group of Jews from the Minneapolis area,

visiting social uplift projects funded by the Minneapolis Jewish

Federation. We spent several days in Jerusaelm, then went to the most

northern area of Israel – to the town of Kiryat Shemona, in the "finger

of the Galilee," which is a chip shot from Lebanon and across

the valley from Syria. Kiryat Shemona was a virtual ghost town during

the summer of 2006, when Hezbollah guerrillas were firing Katyusha

rockets across the border. During the 34-day war, more than a million

Israelis fled south to escape the rocket fire.

Upon

my return to the States, I learned that the Coushatta Tribe of

Louisiana and the State of Israel signed a friendship proclamation in

early November. The Coushattas, in their first international foray, are

looking for Israel’s help in diversifying their tribal economy beyond the casino business.

AP

reported that the event, "colorfully highlighted by a traditional

‘stomp’ dance, marked the first time a Native American tribe has signed

an ‘affirmation of friendship’ with the State of Israel, said Asher

Yarden, Israel’s consul general based in Houston. Coushatta and Israeli

representatives said they could identify with each other over

their searches for a sovereign identity and homeland."