The Illegal Imprisonment of Leonard Peltier: The United Nations Universal Periodic Review, March 16, 2010
The United Nations Universal Periodic Review March 16, 2010
My name is Lenny Foster (Dine’) and I am the Program Supervisor for the Navajo Nation Corrections Project in Window Rock, Arizona and I have been a volunteer traditional Spiritual Advisor for American Indian adults and juveniles in the respective state and federal prisons for the past thirty years. The Navajo Nation Corrections Project is a counseling and advocacy program for Navajo and other Native American inmates incarcerated in state and federal prisons. I also work with families of incarcerated American Indian prisoners and our major activities include spiritual services such as the Sweat Lodge Ceremonies, Pipe Ceremonies, Talking Circles, Spiritual Gatherings, ecclesiastical visits to Death Row and probation and parole advocacy.
I have been a Board Member for the International Indian Treaty Council since spring 1992. The International Indian Treaty Council is an organization of Indigenous Peoples from North, Central and South Americas, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands working for the Sovereignty and Self Determination of Indigenous Peoples and recognition and protection of Indigenous Rights, Treaties, Traditional Culture and Sacred Lands.
My submission of this paper will serve to illustrate my support and respect for Leonard Peltier #89637-132, Ojibwa-Lakota from Turtle Mountain, North Dakota who is presently detained at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He has been incarcerated for the last thirty four years. His case illustrates the discrimination and racist attitudes and human rights violations within the United States criminal justice system. His recent denial of his petition to be released on parole shows the biased and skewed decisions based on lack of compliance for the due process of his release on parole by the U.S. Parole Commission. He satisfactorily met the criteria for release on parole after thirty years of incarceration and assured by the Parole Act of 2005.
I have known Leonard Peltier since November of 1970 when we first met in Denver, Colorado when he was 26 years old and I was 22 years old. We were young and idealistic about making changes throughout Indian Country. I participated in the American Indian Movement with him and we both participated in the ancient ceremonial practices of the Lakota Sun Dance; Sweat Lodge Ceremonies and Pipe Ceremonies. He was a role model and mentor to the younger Indians and he was older brother to many of the younger men and women in the movement.
Leonard along with others was implicated in a shootout with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on June 26, 1975 in Oglala, South Dakota. These turn of events began an illegal and unjust incarceration against Leonard Peltier by the U.S. Government. He fled to Canada and was arrested in Canada on February 6, 1976 and he was extradited from Canada in December based on an affidavit signed by a Myrtle Poor Bear, Native American woman who was known to have serious mental health problems and a woman Leonard did not know.
Ms. Poor Bear claimed to have been Leonard Peltier’s girlfriend was not true or factual and yet she claimed to have been present at the time of the shooting and was witnessed to the shootings. She later confessed she had given false statements after being pressured, threaten and terrorized by the FBI agents.
Ms. Poor Bear wanted to testify about her treatment by the FBI agents and provide a full detailed report of threats by the FBI agents; however, the Federal Judge barred her testimony on the grounds of mental incompetence. She provided false testimony to convict Mr. Peltier and that fact is now considered moot. This conviction on disputed evidence led to a decision that convicted Leonard Peltier to two consecutive life terms in federal prison. This conviction was based on fabricated evidence and it ruined the confidence for a free and unbiased trial.
Leonard has been in the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois; Leavenworth, Kansas; and Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and he has been an exemplary and model inmate with no incident reports. He has been a regular participant in the weekly Sweat Lodge Ceremonies and Pipe Ceremonies which is a very positive spiritual experience for all those young Native prisoners who partake in the ancient cleansing and purification ceremony. I have been visiting him as his Spiritual Advisor since March 1985 at the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas and I have been witness to his changes in his demeanor, spirituality and is a serene and a kind and very respectful person. He has become a very respected and revered elder. He is now sixty-six years old.
It is my opinion that Leonard Peltier is not a threat to the community nor would his release jeopardize the community much less “depreciate the seriousness of the law” or “promote disrespect for the law”. I have prayed and conducted the sweat lodge ceremony with him and he is a very genuine and exudes humanity. He has expressed remorse about the incident and prays for all who were there on that day on June 26, 1975 and I believed he has made amends and has made his prayers of forgiveness to the Creator. He has helped many and encouraged Indian prisoners to rehabilitate themselves by advocating a drug and alcohol free lifestyle while encouraging pride and learning about their culture and traditions. He is a father, grandfather, and a great grandfather. He is considered a wise elder among the younger Indian prisoners and I can attest to that fact because I have been visiting him for twenty five years and I have observed his maturity flourished. He has been experiencing severe health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, losing his eyesight due to diabetes and a jaw that needs immediate medical attention and I hope and pray this serious condition warrants immediate release from prison to serve out his remaining days with his great grandchildren and grandchildren on his home reservation in North Dakota.
While in prison, Leonard has advocated for peace and respect for the rights of others; he has numerous project he has initiated and spearheaded a pilot program with Dr. Steward Selkin on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation on health care deliver including health care delivery and hopefully implement similar programs on Indian Reservations throughout the United States; also he has worked with Professor Jeffery Timmons on a program to stimulate reservation based economics and investments in Native American business enterprises including component to teach business ownership and operation to the Native youth. Also, he helped established a scholarship at New York University for Native American students seeking a law degree. He has raised two of his grandchildren from prison and he has sponsored young children through various boards and programs. He has sponsored and organized emergency food drives and Toys for Tots on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
He has become a very accomplished and self taught painter and has donated many of his paintings to worthy causes, human rights and social welfare organizations and has worked to develop prisoner art programs whereby increasing prisoner’s self-confidence. Many of his paintings are in demand from many Art Galleries and from art collectors throughout the world. Some of the recipients have been American Civil Liberties Union, Trail of Hope, World Peace and Prayer Day, the First Nation Student Association; and the Buffalo Trust Fund along with many others including human rights activists and movie actors. His humanitarian and charitable works reaches far into the community and programs. Leonard has been widely recognized for his humanitarian works and has won several human rights award including the North Star Frederick Douglas Award; Federation of Labour in Ontario, Canada; Humanist of the Year Award; Human Rights Commission of Spain International Human Rights Prize and the 2004 Silver Arrow Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2009 Leonard Peltier was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the sixth consecutive year. He maintains his dignity and pride in spite of being incarcerated for thirty-four years.
I recommend the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples seek compliance through the Declaration of Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples and demand a congressional investigation into the human rights violations of Leonard Peltier. Invitations will be made to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples to visit Leonard Peltier at the United State Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. I request his petition for Executive Clemency is approved by the United States Justice Department and President Barack Obama. Thank you.