Wambli Ho News, Special Report:

The Peltier Events September 2003: A Report of Impressions and Photographs

© Text and Photos September, 2003  Denver, Colorado
by Stephanie M. Schwartz, Correspondent and Editor
Wambli Ho News
Wambli Ho, Voice of the Eagles

Denver, Colorado:  September, 2003: Peltier Overview:
Leonard Peltier, symbol of political oppression, cultural annihilation, and desecration of all that is Traditional to the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Siouxan Nations has, over the last twenty-seven years, come to symbolize the same issues for all indigenous people around the world.  His name is a banner cry to all those who seek to stand against unfair systems, injustice, and political machinations.  Even more, over the years, the fight and efforts to free him have become a sacred crusade to those who walk in Traditional Ways and to those who seek to help and protect Traditional Indigenous Ways and the Indigenous Cultures.

Oddly, while mainstream America remains virtually ignorant of this man, his life and name have become well known throughout the rest of the world.  Like most issues involving American Indians, Europeans and Australians are far more familiar with the politics, the history, and the issues involving our own indigenous people than the vast majority of Americans within the dominant culture.  As most American Indians of any of the 528 Nations will acknowledge, there appears to be a very strong and consistent media blackout on most issues of importance to their lives and cultures.

Yet, Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, Amnesty International, International Indian Treaty Council, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Sister Helen Prejean, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Coretta Scott King, Gloria Steinem, Wilma Mankiller, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Congress of American Indians, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, the Human Rights Commission of Spain, the Belgian Parliament, the European Parliament, and a host of other notables have all written, petitioned, and virtually pleaded on Leonard Peltier's behalf for his release.

The question begs:  Why has the system repeatedly ignored these pleas, why does the system allow Leonard Peltier to remain entrapped between the cracks of our laws?

Arrested for allegedly murdering two FBI agents in 1975 during a time of enormous conflict, political corruption within the Tribal government and the BIA, and military-style Federal confrontations on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation (a time period infamously known as "The Reign of Terror"), Leonard Peltier has steadfastly maintained his innocence.  When the law officials couldn't prove he actually killed the two FBI agents, the charges were later suddenly reduced mid-Trial to "aiding and abetting" the crime.  Ironically, how he aided and abetted was never clearly defined.  Two other men, Robert Robideau (Ojibwe) and Darrelle Butler (Rogue River Tuni), were arrested for the same crime but later acquitted.  Leonard Peltier, one of the original members of AIM (American Indian Movement) became the sole focus and the sole scapegoat for this crime.

As the years passed, witnesses from his 1976 trial recanted their testimony, citing coercion and intimidation by law officials.  With the Freedom of Information Act allowing access to 12,000 pages of records, evidence (including ballistic evidence) appeared that had been withheld by the prosecution that would have very likely cleared Leonard Peltier at the time of his original trial.  There are also numerous well-founded charges of fabricated evidence.

Over, and over, misconduct and malfeasance on the part of the legal system seems to have permeated every facet of Leonard Peltier's trial.  Yet still, Leonard Peltier remains imprisoned in maximum security at Leavenworth Prison, locked in a spider web of vendetta and persecution, lapsed time limits for appeals, and legalese.

This last week, in a unique move by his attorneys, a petition was filed in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  According to his attorneys, it was the first time that any of Peltier's court hearings would be heard outside the 8th U.S. District Court in Kansas.  And it was an effort which temporarily abandoned trying to get a new trial or trying to clear Peltier's name.  It was a simple filing, based on solid precedence, to get Leonard Peltier paroled.

Inmates convicted prior to 1987 are allowed to be considered for parole in 200 months.  Peltier had served 204 months when he applied for parole in 1986 but was denied a parole hearing and told he would not be eligible for parole until 2008.  This unconscionable decision was made despite Peltier being a model prisoner who has contributed greatly to his People and the community at large through numerous humanitarian projects.

Peltier sponsors several philanthropic aid projects for the Pine Ridge Reservation as well as assisting programs for battered women, substance abuse recovery, and improved reservation medical care.  Peltier has also worked with other prisoners to develop a prison art program to aid in the rehabilitation of prisoners.  Even more, Peltier is now a grandfather, a great-grandfather, and a man long (and unjustly) imprisoned who is in failing health with heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and several other physical problems.

This Appeal Hearing to allow Peltier to apply for parole was held on Friday, September 19, 2003 with numerous other support events held in the days surrounding the court proceedings.
Denver, Colorado:  Wednesday, September 17, 2003:  Leonard Peltier Media Forum
Sponsored by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, (David Hill, Director, and Associate, Delaney Bruce) 

Surrounded by luxury seldom known by reservation Indians, the Denver Marriott Hotel conference room was the site which hosted this gathering prepared specifically to inform and educate the mainstream media in an environment which was comfortable for them.  With press packages comprised of documents, pages of facts for easy reference, and a computer CD filled with exact Court documents, this forum included panelists of several "who's who" in the American Indian world.

Long-time Peltier activist, Robby Romero, noted American Indian (Apache) solo musician and founder of the popular contemporary Native music group Red Thunder smoothly moderated the panel's presentations.  The panel was comprised of Dennis Banks (one of AIM's original founders and longtime political activist), Cyrus Peltier (Leonard Peltier's grandson), Barry Bachrach (one of Leonard Peltier's attorneys from the firm of Bowditch & Dewey in Worcester, MA), Peter Matthiessen (author of the book, "In The Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement"), and Harvey Arden (editor of Leonard Peltier's book, "Prison Writings:  My Life Is My Sun Dance").

Sadly, all too sadly yet all too normal, this superbly prepared media forum was woefully unattended.  About twenty people showed up, of which only about twelve to fifteen were actual media representatives .and most of those were from small, independent news organizations like Wambli Ho News and Free Speech TV.  Typically, as with most important American Indian issues, only a very few people were there who represented any part of the mainstream media.

The morning began with Oglala Lakota Charles Bear Robe from the Pine Ridge Reservation and Denver who spoke from his heart as he opened the Media Forum with a Lakota Sundance song and prayer.

Dennis Banks, solemn in his words and in his mood, spoke heavily of the days and years of the Reign of Terror.  He told how AIM had been founded in 1968 at the request of the Elders to protect them and to protect the People.  He detailed the events of those years and the ever-continuing persecution of Leonard Peltier.

Cyrus Peltier spoke of the love his grandfather had shown him from prison.  He related how his grandfather, from behind bars, arranged for a loving family to care for him.  Finally, Cyrus Peltier told of the commitment of his family and the American Indian community to stand behind Leonard Peltier for however long it takes to gain his release.

Peter Matthiessen also spoke of the unending struggle to gain justice for Leonard Peltier and the obstacles he overcame in writing and publishing his book ("In The Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement").  Matthiessen verbally remembered the harassment, the threats, the failed lawsuits against him filed by then-Governor of South Dakota William Janklow and the FBI, and the struggles which he faced in bringing the injustice surrounding Leonard Peltier to the public eye.  Over and over and over, Mattheissen reiterated the prevailing mantra among all of Peltier's supporters. Even after nearly 28 years, "we will not go away, we will never go away, we will never stop until Leonard Peltier is freed through vindication of his innocence [a new trial], through clemency, or through parole.  Whatever it takes, however long it takes, everyone is still committed to Leonard Peltier's freedom."

Harvey Arden, editor of Leonard Peltier's own book ("Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance"), spoke only a few words about himself before launching into a powerful and moving reading from Peltier's book.  His goal, as always, was to direct the listeners and the media away from himself and to Peltier's own inspiring words.
"Be thankful you weren't cursed with perfection."
"Imperfection is the source of every action.
This is both our curse and our blessing as human beings.  Our very imperfection makes a holy life possible.
We're not supposed to be perfect.  We're supposed to be useful."
- Leonard Peltier

Barry Bachrach, one of Peltier's attorneys, detailed the background of the Peltier case which included a slide presentation of court and legal documents proving many of their assertions.  He then went on to explain the focus of this current Hearing and the litigation it involved.  He also pointed out that his team of attorneys remains committed to bringing about the release of Leonard Peltier.  Working pro bono, working year-round, they are determined to do whatever is necessary.

Bachrach also pointed out that while the government had been forced to release nearly 12,000 pages of documents (which resulted in documenting many of the errors and misdeeds surrounding the original Peltier trial), there are still nearly 12,000 more pages being withheld from release through the Freedom of Information Act under the label of "national security."  The attorneys, and the public as well, are forced to wonder what national security issues could still be at stake in a twenty-seven year old trial involving murders which took place on a remote American Indian reservation so long ago.
Denver, Colorado:  Thursday, September 18, 2003:  Two Public Forums
Both forums were sponsored by Professor Glenn Morris, Colorado AIM, and the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.

The morning Forum was held at the Tivoli Student Union Center of the Denver Downtown Auraria Campus of Metropolitan State College of Denver, Community College of Denver, and the University of Colorado - Denver Campus.
The afternoon Forum was held at the University of Colorado - Boulder Campus.

Speakers included Russell Means (one of the original founders of AIM and longtime political activist), David Hill and Delaney Bruce of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Peter Mattheissen (author of the book, "In The Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement"), Harvey Arden (editor of Leonard Peltier's book, "Prison Writings:  My Life Is My Sun Dance") and, representing the Peltier legal team, attorney Mike Kuzma (Counsel for the City of Buffalo, NY and an attorney who works on the Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain the documents pertaining to the Peltier case which are still being withheld by the FBI).

Again, the words on Peltier's behalf were presented over and over.  However, this time the audience (many of them college students who weren't even alive when the events took place) was over capacity and rapt in their attention to what must have been the nearly incomprehensible and shocking issues involved.  It was clear that few people were prepared to see and witness the pages and pages of documented proof and the two or more hours of discussion detailing the facts of the Peltier case.

David Hill, Director of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and his associate, Delaney Bruce, both briefly spoke on Leonard's behalf as well as detailing the events leading to this week's Court Hearing.

Mike Kuzma stepped up to speak on behalf of Leonard Peltier's legal team, describing the long history of government mishandling of the Peltier case.  He also described his years involved in filings to obtain the 12,000 government and FBI documents through the Freedom of Information Act.  Many of these documents clearly show the mishandling and withheld evidence in the Peltier trial.  Repeatedly, the question was asked .."What could possibly still be contained within the additional nearly 12,000 pages which continue to be hidden under the label of National Security?"  Even more, "How could National Security still be involved in the issues and twenty-seven year old trial over two murders in the tiny, rural, obscure village of Oglala on the Pine Ridge Reservation?"

Once again, Peltier's editor and long-time friend, Harvey Arden, rose and spoke only a handful of words introducing himself.  A renaissance man who is quietly spoken, articulate, self-effacing, and highly successful in his own right as an author, editor, and non-profit publisher of indigenous wisdoms (www.dreamkeepers.net), Arden was never heard to promote himself.  Always, his words were about Peltier and for Peltier.  Arden nearly immediately launched into a powerful and moving reading of Peltier's own words (from Peltier's book, "Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sundance"), creating a shift into a world few mainstream people know.  It was a steel beam to the consciousness of the people present in those forums, a vivid view into the heart of Leonard Peltier, and it left a stone-cold quiet of shock around the room.  Peltier had ceased to be a statistic to them; he had become a human being.

Somber Russell Means, a tall bear of a man who moves with solid, quiet deliberation as though always on alert, heard those words and rose slowly, speaking softly, his face darkened with emotion.  This was no smooth actor or politician speaking but, rather, a powerful and seasoned man whose history and his People's history still very much haunts his heart.  As he said, Peltier's words as related by Arden brought it all back and the pain-filled past had suddenly become alive again.  The tears came to his face.  Then, as he spoke, the grief and rage grew less quiet until he was booming at the audience, challenging them to wake up to the world around them and wake up to what continues to happen even today .to the Lakota People, to all American Indian Nations, to all Indigenous Cultures, and even now to the mainstream societies.  And, ultimately, to wake up to the world-renowned symbol but locally little-known plight of Leonard Peltier.

Finally, author Peter Matthiessen ("In The Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's War on the American Indian Movement") repeated and reinforced what had become a mantra during this week:  "We will not go away.  We will not be silenced.  We will not stop our efforts until Leonard Peltier is freed."

Note:  Thursday, September 18, 2003:  Sweatlodge Ceremony in Commerce City, Colorado (a suburb of Denver)
This ceremony in support of Leonard Peltier was sponsored by Rocky Rodriguez (member of the UN International Indian Treaty Council) and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.  Wambli Ho News was unable to attend as were the panelists due to the Forums regrettably being held at the same time.
Denver, Colorado:  Thursday Evening, September 18, 2003:
Peltier Defense Fund-Raiser held at the Mercury Café
This event was sponsored by Rocky Rodriguez (member of the UN International Indian Treaty Council) and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee as well as the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.

A packed house found all the panelists (except the legal team which was sequestered for the night in preparation for the following day's Hearing) as well as a large crowd of supporters filling the large main floor to standing-room only capacity.  Spiritual Elder Wallace Black Elk, age 84, stood from his wheelchair and moved to the microphone to pray and speak amidst the smoke from a smoldering smudge pot of purifying sage and sweetgrass.  One of the original spiritual leaders in the formation of AIM and present inside the seventy-one day siege of Wounded Knee in 1973, Black Elk spoke long and eloquently of the plight of his People, of all humanity, and the cause of Leonard Peltier.  Following his words, Charles Bear Robe, Russell Means, Glenn Morris, George Tinker, and other long-time AIM members moved forward to shake Black Elk's hand in respect to this Elder and longtime friend and spiritual advisor.  As the formalities ended and with the men gathered in front of this Spiritual Elder, a drum was brought forward by the Black Horse Drum Group and the traditional AIM Song was sung with great emotion throughout the entire restaurant.

Then, the documentary movie by Suzi Baer entitled "Warrior" was shown.  This movie, an extensive documentation of the Reign of Terror on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970's, of the 1973 Wounded Knee Occupation and Conflict, and the events surrounding Leonard Peltier's arrest and conviction as well as interviews with witnesses and extensive interviews with Leonard Peltier was a deeply moving tribute to those who survived those years and who continue to survive.  For nearly everyone in the audience, the film brought back many memories, sometimes too many memories.  Many long-suppressed tears were forced to rise once again to the surface.

Following the film showing, the mood drifted into a lighter yet still focused venue.  Jim Page, a folk singer, impromptu lyricist, and politically aware musician from Seattle provided a fascinating array of song and musical words which portrayed both the humor and the tragedy in the plight of Leonard Peltier and all indigenous cultures.

Apache Robby Romero stepped up to the stage and moved into an incredibly wide range of gifted guitar works and songs.  A long-time Peltier supporter and activist as well as founder of the popular contemporary Native music group Red Thunder, Romero moved expertly through the multiple styles of driving rock, jazz, country, Contemporary Native, and Native Traditional.  He, too, included many numbers which spoke to the plight and needs of Peltier and the American Indian Nations.

Finally, as the hour grew late, Jim Page joined Robby Romero onstage for a last few numbers which brought the evening to a humorous and musical close.  At midnight, the audience finally drifted off for the few hours of sleep they could find before the Peltier Court Hearing was to begin.

Robby Romero:  www.robbyromero.com and www.eaglethunder.com
Jim Page: www.jimpage.net
Denver, Colorado:  Friday, September 19, 2003:
8:00 a.m.:  Rally at the Colorado State Capitol Building
8:30 a.m.:  Parade through downtown Denver
9:00 a.m.:  Peltier Hearing in the U.S. 10th District Court of Appeals, Denver
9:00 a.m.:  Rally outside the Byron White U.S. Federal Courthouse
Sponsored by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and Colorado AIM

Knowing that time was at a premium, the speakers at the Rally held at the Colorado State Capitol Building were brief in their words but strong in their encouragement and enthusiastic support for Leonard Peltier.  The nearly two-mile long Parade was begun and wound its way through the maze of angled streets known as downtown Denver, the core of the city, to the Byron White U.S. Federal Courthouse.

Leading the parade, immediately behind the Colorado AIM Eagle Staff, was 84 year old Spiritual Elder Wallace Black Elk drumming on his personal sacred drum, in beat with the large drum behind him, while being pushed in a wheelchair by his daughter (Marilyn Black Elk) and assistant, Cindy.  Following him came the flags, banners, AIM members and a host of Peltier supporters.  Over two hundred participants.  As they marched and drummed and sang, the sound reverberated through the tall office buildings, seeming to rock them on their foundations, and could be heard echoing for many surrounding blocks.  The sound of the drum's heartbeat filled the windows above with people moved to see what was happening.

During the initial Rally and initial part of the Parade, Wambli Ho News went directly to the Courthouse, intent on covering the happenings there.  Arriving at 8 a.m. to find only Federal police and FBI setting up iron fence-type corrals on the front plaza/sidewalk area, eventually other people and reporters/photographers who had missed the initial Rally began to arrive.

Lenny Foster, Dineh (Navajo), longtime Peltier supporter and prison reform activist spoke to Wambli Ho News about having been in a sweatlodge ceremony on August 30, 2003 with Leonard Peltier at Leavenworth Prison.  Foster, who worked to found the Navajo Nation Corrections Project, related that he was working hard to bring about a unity and harmony on behalf of Peltier and on behalf of all Indigenous Nations.  Later that day, Foster would stand on the steps with the other Peltier Rally speakers and speak to this need for peace, harmony, and concerted effort.

Ricardo Maez, Yaqui Nation Spiritual Advisor, spoke with Wambli Ho News about the need to educate the public and the "System" about Native issues and Ways in order to help those Natives in the prison system, on the reservations, and outside the reservations.  Maez works as a volunteer to lead ceremonies in the prisons of the Southwest, East Coast, Canada and elsewhere and also works to help Native prisoners obtain access to their religious ceremonies.  He has been to Leavenworth Prison twice.  Lamenting the constant need to battle ignorance, fear, and misunderstanding, Maez believes and hopes that mainstream religions are slowly moving towards an understanding and respect for the Native spiritualities.

The imposing Courthouse itself provided an interesting history of moods.  Built nearly 100 years ago (from 1910-1916) as a Federal Courthouse and U.S. Post Office, by the 1980's it was in sad, neglected shape.  Huge, Neoclassical in design, with sweeping exterior stone pillars and an interior courtyard, the building became a successful project for restoration by the GSA in 1994.  Its history also included being featured as the courthouse in the Perry Mason [Attorney at Law] dramatic television movie series (1985-1993 Viacom Productions Inc.).  Yet the theatrical drama portrayed on its steps in the past was rivaled and even surpassed by the very real drama portrayed on those steps on this day.

With Federal Police and FBI Agents in abundance, members of the press were advised they could take pictures of the Courthouse building but not of the entrances.  Interestingly, every time Wambli Ho News raised their camera to photograph the exterior of the building, most of the Federal Police would step behind the pillars so as not to be photographed.

Suddenly, there was the simultaneous impact of the ground shaking slightly while the ears registered the echoing of the large ceremonial drum whose low, powerful heartbeat sound heralded the approach of the parade.  Media personnel began streaming to the front of the Courthouse while photographers rushed to the street to film the oncoming parade.

It seemed that, finally, the mainstream media were showing up to record that something was happening in regards to Leonard Peltier.  Whether they will continue their investigations and attention to his case and cause or not, it was gratifying to see that, at least on this day, they were interested and willing to report the events.

However, as the parade and rally participants approached and the press moved forward to start interviewing the participants, the Federal Police moved quickly into action.  In their black-appearing uniforms, pants tucked into their tall boots, faces grim with polite yet commanding words, the parade and rally participants were ordered into one of the iron corrals erected only an hour earlier and the press commanded to move into the other corral.  Separated by distance, there was no way any press member could interview anyone and we were left to photographing the scene as the Police officials met with the Rally officials.

Finally, David Hill (Director of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee), Russell Means (one of AIM's founders and longtime Peltier Activist), Glenn Morris (Colorado AIM), Lenny Foster (Navajo Nation Corrections Project), and Native Musician Robby Romero were allowed to stand on the steps and speak to the people in the Rally.  The crowd of participants had now grown to over 300.  But sadly, the speakers' bullhorn did not function well and their words were basically inaudible to the media confined within the press barricade.

Despite the crowd and the crowded conditions, it is to be noted that this was an extremely peaceful rally and demonstration.  At no time did anyone jeopardize the situation and, in turn, the Federal Police seemed to relax a bit themselves in their approach to the situation.

And, eventually, Rocky Rodriguez (Bill of Rights Defense Committee), attorneys Bruce Ellison and Barry Bachrach, and the Peltier legal team emerged from the courthouse and joined the speakers on the steps of the courthouse.  With Cyrus Peltier (grandson of Leonard Peltier) standing to the side with Delaney Bruce (Leonard Peltier Defense Committee) and Rhonda Smith (Peltier legal team), attorney Barry Bachrach moved to the bullhorn and tried to outline what had happened in the courtroom.  Again, it was difficult for most people to hear and, even more, to understand.

At this junction, the media broke free of their corral and rushed to hear, record, and photograph the attorneys standing on the steps.  Thankfully, the Police allowed this.

Wambli Ho News interviewed Rhonda Smith of the Peltier legal team and she was most helpful in explaining what had happened in the courtroom.  She related that there had been three judges (two men, one woman).  It was apparent that one judge had been given incorrect information.  Once that issue was resolved, Smith told that all the judges became very proactive in the hearing and processing of the information which Peltier's attorneys had presented.  Smith was clearly hopeful of a fair decision from these 10th Circuit Federal Appeals judges, a decision which may take two to three months to come down.

Attorney Barry Bachrach (from the firm of Bowditch & Dewey in Worcester, MA) stopped on the sidewalk and gave the press a second chance to ask questions.  He stated that he felt the Hearing was a "fair" one.  While much can happen in the next two to three months before the decision is rendered, Bachrach was guardedly optimistic that this fairness would be fully reflected in the Court's decision.  He explained that the Court has several decision options if they rule in Peltier's favor.  The most common option would be to send the case back to the 8th Circuit Court to be heard again.  However, there is an outside chance (Bachrach estimated a 1% chance) that this 10th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals could find that, given the legal history, Peltier is not capable of receiving a fair hearing in the 8th Circuit Court and therefore would immediately order his parole directly.

Then it was over.  People slowly moved away from the courthouse, filled with renewed hope but reluctant to let the moment pass.

But the moment didn't really pass away.  As their mantra goes, and the people understand only too well, they themselves will not go away.  They will be heard.  And they will continue to work until Leonard Peltier, martyr for his People and symbol for all injustice, is free.

It is to be noted that the Quetzalli Art Gallery in Denver held a reception in honor of Leonard Peltier later that afternoon which was attended by many loyal Peltier supporters.  Unfortunately, Wambli Ho News was not able to be present.  The Gallery continued its extraordinary exhibit of many of Leonard Peltier's paintings throughout the next day as well.
Leonard Peltier Court Update from Reuters.....
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research, archival, news, and educational purposes only.

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=3755573

Court Rejects Indian Activist Peltier's Bid
Tue November 04, 2003

By Judith Crosson
DENVER (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday denied American Indian activist Leonard Peltier's request for a parole hearing after 27 years in prison for killing two FBI agents, but it strongly criticized the government's behavior in the case.

"Our only inquiry is whether the commission (parole board) was rational in concluding Mr. Peltier participated in the execution of two federal agents. On the record before us we cannot say this determination was arbitrary and capricious," the federal appeals court panel said in its 3-0 decision.

Peltier, whose health is not good, has been in federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, serving two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, in June 1975.

Peltier's case has garnered international attention and has come for critics to symbolize continued U.S. government mistreatment of American Indians. On Monday, the socialist Peace and Freedom Party put Peltier's name on the California ballot for the presidential primary in March.

The appeals court panel in its 19-page decision had harsh words for the U.S. government's handling of the case.

"Much of the government's behavior at the Pine Ridge reservation and in its prosecution is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed," the appeals court panel said.

But Peltier's assertion that the parole board did not give sufficient weight to the government's bad conduct as a mitigating factor is not a question the appeals court has the authority to review, the panel said.

Peltier's attorneys had asked the appeals court to review a lower court finding that accepted a federal parole commission's decision to extend Peltier's ineligibility for parole by 15 years, or to 2008, because the 1975 killing of the FBI agents was an "ambush."

Otherwise, Peltier would have been eligible for parole after serving 200-plus months, or a little over 16 years.

The FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, got into a firefight with Indians when they went to the reservation to arrest four people charged with armed robbery. The agents were wounded from a distance, became incapacitated and were killed by shots fired from point-blank range.

Four people were indicted in the slayings. Two were acquitted and the government dropped its case against a third. Peltier escaped to Canada and was later extradited and tried.

Peltier's supporters have said there was no witness testimony that Peltier shot the agents and that he was extradited from Canada on the basis of an affidavit signed by a woman with mental problems.

Since his conviction, the U.S. government has said there may not be direct proof Peltier personally participated in killing the two agents.
Note:  Edited sections of these articles were included in the book, Have You Thought of Leonard Peltier Lately? by Harvey Arden ISBN 0-9754437-0-4  www.harveysplace.net
Published by HYT Publishing  www.haveyouthought.com