Statement from Leonard Peltier: 39 years in prison
Greetings my Relatives, Friends and Supporters
As I have said so many times in the past I am deeply and truly honored that you remember me on this day and I am honored to have my words read to you today. I think this commemoration day should be about the lives of all our people who in some way lived and died for us.
By the time of the Oglala shoot-out there had already been some 60 something of our Native people killed. These people are the ones we are commemorating here today. I always especially remember Joe Stunz, who was a mentor to some of the younger boys in the community.
Of all the things I want us to remember today and everyday, I want us to remember who WE are, I want us to remember where WE came from, I want us to remember our ancestors that we are so proud of , and I want us to live in such a way that our children and our children’s-children will look back at us and be proud of who they are because of what we were.
I want to see a day where our people do not have to depend on any other source than ourselves.
I want to see a day where our people aren’t suffering from the bitter cold in the winter months.
A day where our people are not suffering from mal-nutrition and improper medical care.
I want to see fires burning inside well built homes that are not unstable and falling apart.
I want to see a day where alcoholism and drug abuse is not rampant throughout indian country.
There are so many other things I could mention that need to change, and I will tell you for a fact they won’t start changing until WE change them.
We must look back to our traditions. We must look back to our own cultures and the teachings of our elders who taught us that the greatest gift the creator gave us was our bodies in good health and the Earth around us. We must remember from our traditions, that it is our responsibility to take care of our bodies and health and the bodies and health of our children,
Our traditions also taught us to be the caretakers of all the nature around us.
There is an old saying back when the Buffalo were almost totally done away with, I think there were only about 25 or so left, in the U.S., the saying was that when the Buffalo come back, the American Indian would also come back. Well, the Buffalo are back, they are not what they were, but they are thriving. WE are also coming back, and we are not what we were yet, but we will be.
I know things have changed, as they always do and we must rise to meet those challenges. Everything in life is based on some challenge and we have faced challenge after challenge and we are still here. I want to encourage all of you from the depths of my soul and with my deepest prayers; to set up programs for our children that would teach them the survival skills that it will take to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. To find ways to protect and restore our Earth.
As a man I encourage you men out there to step up stronger than you have been, more determined than you have been, more consistent and persevering than you have been,and do all you can to make this a better place for all people.
Our enemies are many, but most of it has to do with money. People, at times, love money more than the Creator, or the gifts the creator gave us. Our people will be approached even more in the coming future to sell off our lands and our resources and we must do what we can to protect them for our children and the coming generations.
We must also at every opportunity remind the Gov’t of the agreements and treaties they have made with our people. We should also remind them at every opportunity that the Black Hills are still ours, and the lease is up. We should also remind them, at every opportunity that we are part of the treaty they call the constitution and that we should be respected and given every equal right under that agreement. One thing in particular that the constitution says, is that you will receive a trial with a jury of your peers and yet every indian that is arrested and tried in federal court is tried off the reservation, there is no jury of our peers.
That is just one point, there are many.
I know for a fact that our people have it within their blood, history and understandings, to win out over this time of trial that our people have been going through for a couple hundred years now.
If we want things to be different we are going to have to DO them different.
When I think about our young people and elders who commit suicide I am full of sorrow. When I hear about what is happening to Mother Earth, I weep with anguish.
These things won’t change until we take responsibility for making that change ourselves. These corporations are not embarrassed at all by hurting us. They always find some legal, moral or religious reason to justify stealing from us. We as a people must take responsibility, rise to the challenge and teach our children to be able to face that challenge. We need to get back to eating the foods that our bodies are designed for, the ceremonies that our hearts and spirits are designed for, and the love and caring for one another that we are ALL designed for.
A wise elder once said you cannot live with one foot in a White mans canoe and one in an Indians canoe, you have to choose one or the other. He said that in relation to perhaps culture, but when we look at the destruction of the air and the water and the soil and the dangerous possibilities that face all mankind that are taking place right now, we are all in the same boat.
I always remember Floyd Red Crow Westerman once said, that the flowers are not all the same color… the birds don’t all sing the same song but together, they make a beautiful forest. I know for a fact there are people of other races and other colors that feel the same way we do, and when we meet them, we need to join together to stop this common destruction that faces all mankind. There can be no diversity of life on an Earth that cannot sustain life.
I was and am a common man just like you, but in all of this, I came to realize that each of us carries within him the spirit of our people and wherever we go, whether we like it or not, we represent our people. Since I was hauled off to boarding school it has been the same fight, If I would just admit that this Government is always right and never wrong, and if our people would back off from the position of remaining who we are and stop clinging to our cultures, to assimilate, etc, etc…. but in my heart of hearts and in the core of my being I have always remembered what so many of our people have lived and died for, I have remembered that they died for the right to remain on their own land where the creator put us. They lived and died for the right to practice our religion that was given to us. They lived and died to be able to keep their children among them and not be taken off to some boarding school. They lived and died for the right to be Indian, by OUR standards not theirs. I have done my best to live up to that all my days
I am tired, and at kind of at a loss for words now, and I am sure you are all sitting in the hot sun about ready for some cool water and a breeze, but in closing I want to say that
I miss you.
I long to be with you.
I long to have the sun shining on me without the shadow of bars or chain link fencing in the way.
I long to see an eagle circling the Sundance grounds.
I long for the touch and hugs of close friends and loved ones.
I long for life as a free man.
I will never give up, on who we are. I encourage you to stay strong and be a good representative of our people wherever you go. Be an encouragement and a source of strength for those in need.
Wherever they put me, or keep me, or lock me away,- rest assured that my heart and prayers are always with you
Forever in the Spirit of Crazy Horse