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December 2002 News Articles


ST. LOUIS - A federal appeals court Thursday rejected American Indian activist Leonard Peltier's request for reductions in the two consecutive life sentences he got in the 1975 killings of two FBI agents, saying the appeal came far too late.

An attorney for Peltier has argued that ballistics evidence not considered by his client's sentencing judge could have led to two concurrent life sentences, not the back-to-back ones Peltier has been serving since his 1977 conviction and sentencing.

Under concurrent terms, his attorney has argued, Peltier would have been eligible for parole a decade ago. Now federally imprisoned in Leavenworth, Kan., Peltier is scheduled for his next full parole hearing in 2008.

Earlier appeals, including a sentence-reduction request, have been denied.

On Thursday, a three-judge 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled that Peltier's time for arguing the "new" ballistics evidence he has known of since 1985 long has passed.

"And equity does not support extending the 120-day filing period for the 17 years it has taken Mr. Peltier to file his renewed ... motion," 8th Circuit Judge Morris Sheppard Arnold wrote. The 8th Circuit also said Mr. Peltier's sentences were not illegal.

Peltier's attorney Eric Seitz of Honolulu called Thursday's ruling "a disgrace" and proof that "nobody who seems to care about Leonard is in a position of responsibility or authority."

"I'm utterly disgusted with the callousness in which everyone seems to treat this situation," Seitz said. "These are all procedural hurdles that we supposedly have to overcome, and I think it's disgraceful that someone has to serve time under these circumstances when it's clear the case was handled ineptly and dishonestly by the government."

Seitz said it was unclear whether he would ask the 8th Circuit to reconsider or if he would take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I'm not particularly optimistic that any of the judges now sitting have any compassion or willingness to do the right thing here," he said. "They're more inclined to let him rot in prison."

Peltier, a member of the American Indian Movement, was convicted in the June 1975 slayings of FBI agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Both agents, who the FBI said were searching for robbery suspects, were shot in the head at point-blank range after they were injured. Their bodies were left on a dirt road. Peltier, 57, was charged with taking part in the slayings, but whether he fired the fatal shots was never proved.

After fleeing to Canada and being extradited to the United States, he was convicted and sentenced in 1977, despite defense claims that evidence against him had been falsified. Two suspects were acquitted and a third was freed for lack of evidence.

On appeal, Peltier has claimed he never had the chance to argue that his sentences should be based on the theory he, at most, aided others in the 1975 killings, or that he acted in self-defense.

In arguing in October for the sentence reduction, Seitz said that if the federal district judge who presided over Peltier's original trial knew that Peltier couldn't be directly linked to the shootings, he would have given Peltier concurrent - not consecutive - sentences.

Lynn Crooks, a former assistant U.S. attorney who argued against a resentencing, has said Peltier was raising issues already rejected in previous hearings. And, Crooks said, Peltier missed his deadline to appeal.

Just before leaving office in January 2001, President Clinton considered granting Peltier clemency but decided against it, after then-FBI Director Louis Freeh argued that scrapping Peltier's life sentence would "signal disrespect" for law enforcers and the public.


Greetings Friends & Supporters:

Well here we are once again, at the end of my 26th year behind these prison walls. As I reflect back on this past year I am amazed to see all the legal motion that is now happening in my case. After Clinton walked out on us in 2001, I almost felt that I didn't have any avenues of redress left and I wasn't sure if the campaign for my freedom could continue. I wasn't really sure that there would be any more options to pursue. There was the office transition and a lull in activity this past summer. But now, thanks to my great legal team I see that there are still more battles to be fought and if fought hard enough, won. And I hope you are all ready to continue this work because I sure am ready for the next go round.

I know that the political climate, the impending war and the state of the economy is going to make this work a lot more difficult for all of us. However, we must remember that the people have always had to struggle for every little gain that has been won and it isn't going to be any different this time. We must continue our work to expose the FBI's illegal conduct not only in my case, but also for all the people who are unjustly incarcerated for their political beliefs.

This past summer I put out a call for Native youth to come out and take on some responsibility for the movement to free me and to make sure Indigenous issues are kept alive. I am happy to report that a number of students from Haskell Indian Nations University took up the challenge. They have formed the Peltier Indigenous Justice Alliance (PIJA). This endeavor by these students makes me feel proud. I hope that others will join them to carry on the work of those who have already worked so tirelessly all their lives for justice. Remember it was a hand-full of students from the Bay Area who helped organize the takeover of Alcatraz, which gave spark to the movement, which led to many of the demonstrations that would bring our issues before the public.

I also want to tell you how proud and happy to have my daughter Marquetta working in the office coordinating my campaign and being on the speakers' bureau. She has taken on a tremendous responsibility is doing a fine job. Thanks to her this Christmas I will be able to have more of my grandchildren with me. It hasn't been easy watching my children and now my grandchildren grow up through photos. Now I can actually have them with me and be able to spend some time talking and playing with them for a few hours a week. Believe me this is a welcome break from this daily oppressive life I live in here.

Now that the holidays are once again upon us I would once again ask you to support the Christmas Drive for the children of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. So many children would have gone without a gift, had it not been for your generosity these past years.

And last but far from least I want to thank each and every one of you for hanging in there with me through the good and the hard times. I am counting on all of you to be with me for this next campaign. No effort can move forward without your continued support. Together we can and will succeed. And in closing I want to wish you and yours safe and happy holidays and a prosperous New Year.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Leonard Peltier

              ANNUAL CHRISTMAS DRIVE 2002

Indigenous Political Prisoner, Leonard Peltier, has organized his annual gift drive for the children of the Pine Ridge Lakota Nation in South Dakota. This is one way Leonard continues his humanitarian work for his people despite his incarceration. Help Leonard Peltier reach out beyond the bars that imprison him.

You can send gifts such as new toys and practical, new winter clothing (gloves, jeans, thermal underwear, sweaters, socks, hats, scarves, jackets, boots, and blankets, etc.) to the addresses listed below. Your gifts will be distributed to the people of Pine Ridge in Leonard's name.

Thanks to Peltier's supporters, last years gift drive was very successful. Many families wrote Leonard to both thank him and tell him how the gifts brightened the families' holidays.

Some supporters collected donations from stores who were willing to help after learning that Pine Ridge continues to be the most impoverished community in the United States. Some organized collections by asking friends and co-workers to sponsor a child by contributing a gift. Others simply purchased gifts out of pocket.

The gift drives don't only help the families, but also help Leonard keep his spirits strong through the difficult holiday season.

Gifts may be sent to the persons listed below. They will be responsible for the distribution of these gifts to different areas of the community. Thank You and have a safe holiday!

Geraldine Janis Box 525 Pine Ridge, SD 57770

Fedelia Cross Box 42 Oglala, SD 57764

Roslyn Jumping Bull Box 207 Oglala, SD 57764

Until Freedom Is Won! The New Leonard Peltier Justice Campaign

Leonard Peltier Defense Committee PO Box 583 Lawrence, KS 66044 785-842-5774


Greetings! Hello Everyone...Just got back from the Ride....everything is the Buffalo Nation that stands around to help one that is down...everyone did just that...the Mennonites assisted with equipment to patch and get the people to Rapid City, 2 hours away to get the Tires replaced, not every single tire as reported was the case, was 2 on each truck and trailer, but one is bad all the money that was donated, along with prayers will assist the Ride...we are non-profit, so all is accountable for their needs....some will continue to Ride through Christmas, some will rush home to families...but the last day of the Ride is the 28th, then on the 29th will be ceremony...a lot of these kids are learning lots from this...even the disgrace of vandalism and what that brings to People that are trying to learn a history of a people from a spiritual all is good...thanks all for the prayers! May you have a Happy Holiday...Paula

The Big Foot Memorial Ride starts at the site of Sitting Bull's log home, where he was killed by tribal police 110 years ago. The contemporary riders will retrace the route of Lakota who fled Standing Rock Reservation fearing for their safety. A group of about 100 joined Chief Big Foot's band at Cherry Creek. Big Foot led a large group through the Badlands.

Dear Friends, What an amazing response to this call for help. As Paula says like the Buffalo Nation, everyone gathered around to help support the ones in need. It's a wonderful thing to know that we are indeed All Related. Mitakuye Oyasin Pamela Rickenbach - Milos email: voice: 413-268-7030 web:


The Bush administration wants the Supreme Court to overturn a decision in a long- running contract dispute that could force the government to pay the Navajo Nation as much as $600 million.

The tribe won a lawsuit last August when a federal appeals court ruled the government failed in its duty to protect the tribe's interest in mining leases on reservation land and was liable for damages.

The Government fears that being forced to pay damages in a case where the tribe negotiated the leases could set a dangerous precedent.


Three Oklahoma tribes are asking Congress to finalize a $50 million settlement for land and trust assets along the Arkansas River bed.

The Chickasaw, Cherokee and Choctaw nations were awarded the land through a Supreme Court decision in 1966.

The BIA is fighting the ruling.

              TRIBE DOESN'T EXIST

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has filed documents with the Bureau of Indian Affairs challenging the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation. The tribe is state recognized but Blumenthal says it doesn't meet the criteria necessary for federal acknowledgment.

A judge has ordered a preliminary determination in December.


A provision in the farm bill could lead to the slaughter of more buffalo in Yellowstone National Park.

The measure would give greater authority to the Department of Agriculture to manage diseases such as brucellosis.

National Park Service officials and environmentalists fear this will give the department and the state of Montana greater license to kill bison.

Wildlife officials in Montana are allowed to kill bison that wander out of the park. Twenty-one buffalo were slaughtered April 18th for testing positive for brucellosis.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced the provision but his spokesperson told The New York Times it was an oversight.


The Eastern Cherokee Nation of North Carolina wants to trade 218 acres of Boundary land for 168 acres located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The land, which originally belonged to the tribe, would be used to construct school buildings.

Conservationalists are fighting the trade.


The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) will present its tenth annual California Peace Prize Award to three violence-prevention advocates.

The honorees will each receive a $25,000 grant in recognition of their work and achievements at a ceremony in San Francisco on Friday, December 6.                  "This year's awardees recognize that violence can be prevented through hard work and commitment," said Gary L. Yates, TCWF president and CEO. "The California Peace Prize recognizes their tireless work and ability to prevent violence to ensure healthy futures for all Californians."

One of the honored will be Joseph A. Myers, of Petaluma. Myers, a member of the Pinoleville Band of Pomo Indians, grew up in Mendocino County on the Pinoleville reservation. He attended local schools and later served as an officer for the Oakland Police Department and the California Highway Patrol before earning a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975.                 

After graduating from law school, Myers took a position with the American Indian Lawyer Training Program, a national training and technical assistance program in Oakland for tribal governments. A commitment to improving and professionalizing the tribal court system, the judicial institutions of tribal government mostly located in Indian reservations, still inspires Myers today, as he heads the NIJC, an organization he helped create. NIJC offers technical assistance to tribal governments and delivers monthly training sessions around the country on legal topics that include criminal procedure, Indian housing law, juvenile justice, domestic violence, and other areas of concern.

"Violence in Native American communities is on the rise," Myers said. "The mission of NIJC is to help Native Americans improve their communities and reduce violence by developing the tribal court systems and providing equal justice at the reservation level."

The NIJC will soon launch the Regional Justice Center. The Center will teach youth, ages 14 to 21, about laws that affect them and provide computer and job-skills training.                 

Myers also dedicates his time to the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa, which focuses attention on historical and contemporary issues of racism and diversity through lectures, storytelling and demonstrations. He hopes the museum will help debunk stereotypes of Native Americans and inspire youth to think positively about differences and diversity.

Raja Rahim (San Francisco) and Wayne Sakamoto (San Diego) are also being honored for their work.