|Leonard Peltier with Oglala Vice President Tom Poor Bear during a recent visit.
Photo courtesy Oglala Commemoration, published with permission at Censored News.
By Brenda Norrell
Oglala Sioux Vice President Thomas Poor Bear urged the National Congress of American Indians to strengthen its advocacy for imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier and bring him home. Poor Bear’s letter to NCAI comes after a visit to Peltier in Coleman prison in central Florida.
“It is no secret to anyone who has followed Leonard’s almost 40-year ordeal that this is truly his last chance at Freedom. If President Obama leaves office without granting clemency to Leonard, he will almost certainly die in prison,” Poor Bear told NCAI, the largest organization of Native American Nations in the US.
Poor Bear said it was the first time that he has seen Peltier in 40 years. Although he did not know what to expect, Poor Bear said Peltier was smiling and happy to see him.
Poor Bear pointed out that the US prison system has violated its own rules by keeping Peltier at a distance of more than 500 miles from his family. Currently, Peltier is 2,000 miles away from family members and in poor health, with diabetes and other health problems.
Poor Bear said Peltier spoke little of his own health problems and instead spoke of ways to give hope to Native young people in order to stop the suicides and hopelessness. “I was touched by that. It was clear that he has never stopped thinking about trying to make things better for our people,” Poor Bear said.
Together, Peltier and Poor Bear remembered the early fishing rights struggle at Franks Landing and other places in Indian country where American Indians stood up for their rights, including Fort Lawton and Wisconsin.
Poor Bear said he prays that Peltier will be able to come home again to the Dakotas and Black Hills, where he can live out his days in peace.
“He stood up for us at a very dark time in our history and we cannot, and will not, turn our backs on him now,” Poor Bear said.
Censored News is a service to Indigenous Peoples and grassroots human rights efforts.
Also see Censored News original coverage of the Peltier Tribunal in Green Bay, Wis., in October 2013
Peltier Tribunal conclusion: Judges Findings
Day 3 Peltier Tribunal: Findings and Testimony, Manny Pino uranium mining genocide
Day 2: Peltier Tribunal Lenny Foster and Dorothy Ninham, Visits to Peltier in prison, Native prisoner rights
Day 1: Peltier Tribunal Reign of Terror on Pine Ridge, Peltier calls Tribunal
Dakota written testimony by Chris Mato Nunpa, Dakota historian and professor