This blog maintained by and property of The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

Sunday, June 19, 2005


“Everyday that Leonard sits in prison, we grow stronger; everyday the oppressor lies they grow weaker.”

The FBI and U.S. government always portray their fallen combatants as family people and just as Joe Stunz, our fallen warrior in the same battle, is never mentioned, Leonard Peltier is dehumanized by making it seem as if he arose from a vacuum. Nothing could be further from the truth. Together with friends and supporters, the Peltier family made a strong presence at the court hearing in Fargo, North Dakota, June 15th 2005. From Tiny, Leonard’s stepmother (in a wheel chair), to little Leighton and Precious, Linda’s (Leonard’s sister) great-grandchildren, there were five generations of Peltiers' represented. “We want Leonard home, it’s been too long,” exclaimed Leonard’s sister Julie. Other Peltier siblings present were: Sheila, Pucksie, Irvin (with children Moose, Josh, and Amy), Betty, and John Sack (with children Andrea and Baby John). Leonard’s cousins Troy, Leona and her daughter Melody, were also present. Supporters and Defense Committee members traveled from the four directions, and from as far as Olympia, Washington; Lawrence, Kansas, and Boston, Massachusetts, to be present. Singer Buffy Saint Marie, actor Peter Coyote and Hank Gottfriedson of the Frank’s Landing Indian Community in Washington State, made generous donations for people traveling long distances to attend.

People gathered in front of the Courthouse two hours before the hearing started. Russ Redner, Director of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, summoned the crowd with a drum and talked about the need for Native people to unite and continue the struggle for which Leonard is imprisoned. Before entering the Courtroom, Paul Schultz and his daughter Lira, of the White Earth Indian Reservation, sang a song calling the spirit of the eagle in his native Anishinabe, and exhorted all indigenous people to not be afraid to speak what is in their heart.

In a full courtroom, the hearing was presided over by Judge Ralph Erickson and lasted approximately two hours. Barry Bacharach, Peltier’s attorney, presented arguments supporting his motion on the U.S. Court’s lack of jurisdiction over acts committed on Indian Reservations, while attorneys for the U.S. government, with special prosecutor Lynn Crooks, tried to dismiss the motion calling it frivolous. However, according to Bacharach the argument went well, with the judge being both inquisitive and open to fully allowing issues to be aired. The judge will evaluate the arguments and precedents brought up and will make a decision in the near future. His demeanor showed partiality towards the U.S. governments’ arguments. Judge Erickson even went so far as to cite the Federal Supreme Court case of Worcester v. Georgia (1832) as a precedent supporting federal jurisdiction over Indian territories even though that decision actually reaffirmed the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation. Furthermore, this decision was ignored by President Andrew Jackson who uttered the infamous words “John Marshall [the Justice leading the majority vote] has made his decision; now let him enforce it”, and proceeded to evacuate-by-force the Cherokee people in the infamous Trail of Tears. “This is not just about Leonard, all the laws affecting our people are being put into question to keep him in prison, to suppress all of us, a continuation of the genocidal policies that gave rise to this country” commented Russ Redner. “They are stretching their judicial system so thin, it will never go back to its original shape, their house of cards is crumbling”, he added.

As people came out of the grueling hearing, they looked somewhat changed, a new or renewed bond amongst them could be felt. It was as if unity had been created through enduring together the arrogance of the U.S. judicial system, not only through the unjust suffering allotted to our beloved warrior, but also through the revisiting of the trauma all indigenous people in this land have been carrying generation after generation, represented by the historical landmark cases mentioned. “Confronting the oppressor is the most healing thing we can do”, explained Russ Redner. If the suffering transforms into unity, this sacred unity will give rise to healing and empowerment, and nothing will have been in vain.