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Political Matters: Native Issues in the Halls of Government
Thursday, January 01 2009
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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 Free 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."

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