GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- The Leonard Peltier Tribunal on the Abuse of Indigenous Peoples Rights began Wednesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The first day of testimony focused on the Reign of Terror for Lakotas on Pine Ridge in South Dakota during the 1970s. The abuse was carried out by US agents and the corrupt tribal government at the time. Lakotas testified that the shoot out that left two FBI agents dead was the result of a setup by the US, which had targeted and surrounded supporters of the American Indian Movement, and traditional Lakota families at the Jumping Bull camp, on June 26, 1975.
During a phone call from prison, Peltier said, "Get up and start fighting for your people," Peltier told those who have been living easy lives.
"I just turned 69 and can not be here too much longer," Peltier told the Tribunal.
"AIM's policy from years ago was you never leave a brother behind, or a sister," Peltier said.
Oglala Vice President Tom Poor Bear described being shot by the 'Goon Squad' during the Reign of Terror.
Poor Bear said the feds armed the Goon Squad with weapons, automatic weapons, "to kill their own people."
"Then they started sending people like our brother Leonard Peltier to prison."
"The tribal government was very much a part of that."
Although Poor Bear is part of the tribal government today, he said it has changed a great deal. Poor Bear thanked the American Indian Movement for the courage it gave the people to stand up to the Goon Squad. In Wanblee on Pine Ridge every month Lakotas were shot and killed.
"The list is very long."
"I don't know how many times we shot our way out of Pine Ridge." "Those days made us strong." "We got control of our culture, we put it into our schools." He described the creation of the schools, clinic and radio. "A lot of our people died." It continued into the late 1970s. "All we wanted was to be proud of ourselves, proud of our tribal government." Poor Bear said people are still being killed today. "The feds are not doing anything about it." He said from the day they are born, American Indians are targeted for prison. "We were arrested the day we were born." He said he came to the Peltier Tribunal so he could come away with a strategy. "Wounded Knee gave the people hope, not blind hope." 'Cuny Dog' described a razor strap being used on him, and his mouth being washed out with soap for speaking his language, at the age of six in school on Pine Ridge in South Dakota. He said they did not break him. Today, he said, the strategy is for the feds to lock Indian people up for the rest of their lives. Cuny Dog said when he understood what the American Indian Movement was about, his life began again. Cuny Dog said it is time to bring "our brother Leonard Peltier home." Bill Means said when the American Indian Movement was called to the Jumping Bull camp on Pine Ridge, it was because the people needed AIM security just to accomplish their everyday business, like going to the store. Means said that was why Leonard Peltier was at the Jumping Bull camp. "He was invited there by our people." Peltier, Dino Butler and others were there to help the people. They were invited.
Clyde Bellecourt, AIM cofounder, described why the American Indian Movement was created. "We felt that absolutely nothing was being done to upgrade the conditions of American Indians in their own country."
Bellecourt described how the movement originated in Stillwater State Prison and transformed the lives of American Indians, focused on education, jobs and empowerment. From prison, they went into the bars, and into the streets. Then, they developed job training in health fields.
"That's the American Indian Movement, that's what we do."
Bellecourt said he was barred from Pine Ridge for life for carrying a Catholic Priest out of the Sundance when he attempted to give communion in the Sundance.
Madonna Thunderhawk, Cheyenne River Lakota, described the beginnings of the American Indian Movement and how the struggle of families resulted in taking shelter in Wounded Knee in 1973.
Thunderhawk described seeing an armored vehicle for the first time, and when the firefight began at Wounded Knee 1973.
"This was a movement of the local people. We had everyone in the car, from children to grandparents."
"We took shelter in Wounded Knee."
"I had my ten-year-old son with me. I wouldn't have brought him if I had known what was going to happen to us."
"We were there for 72 days."
Thunderhawk spoke of the direction and strength that came from the elders, and how they carried on with the wisdom of their ancestors.
"Being inside there, we had no idea what was going on in the outside world."
"We had no idea it had gone around the world, the rise of Wounded Knee." Thunderhawk said there was no separation by age, the young people and the elders were there.
Thunderhawk described going to Leith, North Dakota, recently to support the young Native people in their opposition to the white supremacists trying to take over that small town.
Thunderhawk also described the abuse of Indian children in boarding schools. She also described how ceremonies were held in secret.
Bill Means said the chiefs and headsmen chose Wounded Knee to make a stance, because the spirits of the ancestors are there.
"The young people were flocking, coming to AIM in droves, Porcupine in particular."
"It wasn't hard to organize resistance, in terms of going to Wounded Knee."
"We were ready to go." Means said the women challenged them: "Where is the Spirit of Crazy Horse?" "Where is the Spirit of Sitting Bull."
Bill Means described the Reign of Terror against Lakota people on Pine Ridge. Jean Roach, Lakota from Rapid City, South Dakota, described the events that led up to the shootout at the Jumping Bulls on Pine Ridge. Roach described being at the Jumping Bull camp on June 26, 1975. She heard the shots, she was helping Joe Stuntz with a bandage on his arm. He went to see what was going on about half mile a way. It was the last time she saw him.
When they heard the shots, they didn't know what to think. She was 14, her brother was 11, at the time. Leonard said they had a choice, of giving themselves up. "I thought, 'No way.'" Her brother had no choice and went to give himself up at age 11. She heard later he survived, and had taken shelter in an outhouse when they were shooting at him. "We had spiritual people backing us. We survived it, even though we were surrounded." "I had bullets going around me, but I survived it," Roach said. "After that, we went into hiding, the FBI was ransacking homes." Two months later, she was at home having breakfast. The FBI pushed their way in without a warrant. "Right away I took off running." The FBI terrorized the family, children were screaming and crying. They took Jean and her brother to a grand jury. Roach said there were never any warrants or subpoenas issued for neither her nor her brother. Still, they stormed her family's home and took them before a grand jury. She was never allowed to consult with an attorney when questioned, as guaranteed by law. "Every time they asked me a question, I would say, 'I want to speak to my lawyer.'" They were constantly subjected to violations. "It was pretty traumatic." Of the people that walked out of Jumping Bull's camp that day, not many of them are alive today, she said. "Right now Leonard is suffering because he chose to stand up for his people, just like we did." She said she was blacklisted, even though she and her brother were just kids. Dino Butler, defendant charged with Peltier who was found innocent, described what happened at the Jumping Bull camp. Butler began by saying that Norman Brown was pinned down, with an FBI agent shooting at him. Butler started shooting and Brown got out of the line of fire. Butler said he fired over the heads of the agents to protect the women and children. They could hear the radio communications of the agents. "I saw Joe (Stuntz) lying on the ground, and I saw a bullet right between his eyes." Leonard wanted to get in a vehicle and drive out, but Butler said he knew they wouldn't make it. They prayed. "We waded across that creek, going in a straight line, and came to a culvert under the road." He and Leonard crawled through the culvert and into a tree. Some people hid in the culvert. A plane was flying over the area, and they waited for it to run out of gas. "It kept flying. Leonard said, 'Let's pray.'" A minute or so later the plane took off toward Pine Ridge. Bob Robideau took off and ran up the hill. Others followed. Leonard and Butler started up the hill. The agents began firing as the women were running up the hill. Butler ran until he fell down and couldn't run anymore, with bullets flying around him "like bees." Butler said he fired at a car and kept running up the hill. "Nilak was wearing moccasins, her moccasins came off, she was barefooted." Butler cut up his vest to cover her feet. Two Oglala brothers rode up on horseback. One was Jimmy Eagle's brother, another was a Loud Hawk. They took them to a home nearby. They were given food in a relative's home, cookies. They decided to go to Manderson to the AIM camp. They were told to follow the stars. It started to get cloudy, and suddenly there were coyotes howling in front of them. "The clouds came in, we couldn't see the stars anymore. We couldn't see the stars anymore. We walked all that night. We rested, and hid out in the brush. We could see the lights." They saw a town, but it didn't look like Manderson. It looked like Pine Ridge, with no food or water, and they were tired. They were asked to go to a home where the Goons were threatening Lakotas. They were fed. There was a cabin in the back of the house. They spent the day there and rested. They were eating when a carload of FBI agents drove up. They didn't have any guns with them. But the people who owned the home talked to the agents and they left. That night, a car came for the women, then another for the young boys, then another car from Leonard, Dino and the others. When they saw a cop car, they prayed and were able to keep going. Earlier, when Leonard, Dino and others went to Shiprock, NM, on the Navajo Nation, and heard the Goons were threatening and throwing things at the people. At first they went to Rosebud, to Crow Dog's, before going to the Jumping Bulls. "It was like a warzone." "As scared as I was, they were scareder." They depended on AIM to be security and protect them. The Goons were shooting up Lakotas homes on Pine Ridge. "That was happening almost everyday." "We were always on the edge." When the shootout happened, Dick Wilson, who was Oglala tribal president, went to DC and signed over one-fifth of Oglalas land at Pine Ridge over to the US government. The land had been a bombing range, Sheep Mountain Bombing Range, and was supposed to revert back to the Oglala Lakotas, but the US held on it to because the US found uranium there, Butler said. "Dick Wilson was in Washington signing away the deed to that land." At the same time, Lakotas were organizing to break away from the Oglala government. Three districts planned to create a sovereign government and seek foreign aid. The Jumping Bull shootout stopped that. At the same time, the FBI was supposed to be investigated for violating the rights of others, including the Black Panthers, Brown Berets, and others, violating their rights and killing people. The Jumping Bull shootout benefited the FBI by halting this too, Butler said.
Bill Means said Leonard Peltier has become an icon and justice for Leonard Peltier can begin a healing process for Indian country.
Chris Mato Nunpa, Dakota, PhD, gave detailed evidence on the genocide of the Dakota people by the US government. Nunpa, historian and professor from Minnesota, described the genocide of Dakota during his testimony and a morning interview live at the Peltier Tribunal. Read Dr. Mato Nunpa's testimony at this link: http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2013/10/dakota-genocide-chris-mato-nunpa.html
Herb Powless, Oneida, spoke of the American Indian Movement and what it has meant to progress and freedom in Indian country.
Louise Benally, Dineh resisting relocation on Big Mountain sent a message to the Tribunal late Wednesday.
"Thank you for the info and we are all with you during these times. Free Leonard Now! With you all in spirit. We need prayers too, for Leonard Benally, Big Mountain Dineh Resister, in the hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. We need your prayers for healing for Leonard. Thank you and May Peace Prevail on your People -- AIM."
During a concert at the Peltier Tribunal on the first day, Bill Miller, Buggin Malone, and Haudenosaunee dancers performed. Miller shared words of empowerment, and a song written with prayer from Wovoka's descendants.
The US versus Leonard Peltier, and Peltier's incarceration, trials and appeals, will be discussed during the three day Tribunal before a panel of human rights judges on Oneida Indian land here in Green Bay, Oct. 2 --4.
Tribunal issues will cover a wide range of human rights violation in Indian country, including the Cold War genocide of uranium mining on Indian lands, where radioactive contamination remains on Pueblo, Navajo, and other lands across Indian country.
The theft of American Indian children by the current US foster system and the historic genocide and abuse of Indian children in boarding schools will be exposed by longtime American Indian Movement activists.
The toxic genocide in Indian country, from radioactive dumping targeting Western Shoshone lands, to the dirty coal fired power plants on the Navajo Nation, will also be exposed.
Lenny Foster, Navajo, was among the first to arrive for the Tribunal and will discuss the violations of Native American spiritual rights in US prisons. Foster is the program supervisor for the Navajo Nation Corrections Project in Window Rock, Arizona. Foster, who has given support to Peltier in prison, has been avolunteer traditional spiritual advisor for American Indian adults and juveniles in the state and federal prisons for more than 30 years. Peltier said:
Wounded Knee 1973
"The goal of our Tribunal is to document our many struggles with the U.S. government. The government was involved in outlawing every freedom we valued, from the way we talked to the Creator with our ceremonies to the way we parented our children. Don’t ever forget the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental damage that came from ripping Native children as young as 3 and 4 years old from the arms of their parents and putting them into the hands of cold, hard matrons in the boarding schools. Men who normally provided for their families by fishing and hunting found themselves on the wrong side of the law and hunger became common. Acres and acres of beautiful gardens in Native homelands were destroyed for the harvest of uranium flowing through the veins of our Sacred mother earth." See Peltier statement.
The Tribunal is sponsored by Dorothy Ninham and Wind Chasing the Sun. Update Day 3 Tribunal Conclusion and Preliminary findings:
Welcome to Censored News readers from the Peltier Tribunal. On Wednesday, the largest number of our viewers were in: US, India, Canada, Indonesia, Romania, Bulgaria, Philippines, Pakistan, Ukraine and Vietnam. Welcome!