‘Leonard Peltier Is NOT A Political Prisoner’

The push is on for Obama to pardon Leonard Peltier before the U.S. President’s term ends. With that in mind, we offer this backgrounder: 

“Before there was ‘Idle No More’, before the Supreme Court and the overturning of land title, before Caledonia, Ipperwash and Oka, and even before ‘Section 35’, the early 1970s provided the first modern ‘hero’ of the aboriginal rights movement. Leonard Peltier obtained celebrity status worldwide as representative of the injustice and suffering of North American Indians.

There was only one problem with this picture: Leonard Peltier was in reality a thug enforcer for the ‘American Indian Movement’ (A.I.M.) — and a murderer, to boot. Grab a coffee and settle in for the made-for-tv saga: The fabricating of an Indian ‘legend’… 

“Before the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, Leonard Peltier was the ‘Reds’ favorite red man, the international star of Soviet propaganda and the subject of 12 million signatures demanding that the President of the United States release the victim of white capitalist American racist oppression. 

“That campaign ended with the demise of the Soviet Union, whose Russian successors are too busy invading small nations to care. But Peltier, sans propaganda machine, survived the demise of the USSR.

“Though rivaled by Mumia Abu-Jamal, Peltier is still a celebrity prisoner, backed by an all-star, international cast now massing on what they think is the moral high ground, like Indians in a ’40s western, for a charge at the White House…
{“Near the end of President Bill Clinton’s presidency in 2000, rumors began circulating that he was considering granting Peltier clemency. This led to a campaign against the possibility, culminating in a protest outside the White House by about five hundred FBI agents and their families, and a letter opposing clemency from then FBI director Louis Freeh. Clinton did not grant Peltier clemency.”}

“I support the petition for executive clemency for Leonard Peltier,” says none other than the Dalai Lama. “I am deeply concerned and appeal to authorities in the U.S. to pardon him on humane grounds.”

“Danielle Mitterand, wife of France’s former Socialist President Francois Mitterand, takes it personally.

“I reassure Leonard of my complete support and my hope about this new action undertaken to obtain executive clemency,” she says.

“Omnipresent cause-groupie South African cleric Desmond Tutu says Peltier’s incarceration is a “miscarriage of justice.”

“’Amnesty International’ calls him America’s only political prisoner, and his supporters include the ‘National Council of Churches’, 55 members of the Congress, 50 members of the Canadian parliament, 67 members of the Italian parliament, 48 members of the parliament of the Netherlands, 312 French municipalities and communities, United States Senators Daniel Inouye and Paul Wellstone, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rigoberta Menchu, and Nelson Mandela.

“There are Peltier support groups in Canada, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, and Japan, and more than 100 Peltier support groups in the United States. The prisoner also enjoys Hollywood clout from Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon, Robert Redford, and Marxist rockers ‘Rage Against the Machine’.


“For many with no knowledge of the case or the zeitgeist that produced it, the sheer bulk of support must be impressive. With so many luminaries on his side, the thinking goes, the man must be innocent.

“This international cast mounted a long campaign to pressure Canada, which gave Peltier over to U.S. custody, into rescinding its extradition. However…Anne McLellan, Canada’s former justice minister, refused to ask the United States to release the prisoner. He had been hoping that the land of his ancestors would spring him from Leavenworth, the tough federal joint in Kansas where Al Capone, George “Bugs” Moran, Frank “The Enforcer” Nitty, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly all did time.

“Though Peltier shares some important traits with this gang, personal charisma is not one of them. Now 55, he stands five-foot-three and pulls his graying black hair into a long pony tail, giving him the air of an unemployed film director. Prison garb covers the rose tattooed on his right shoulder, and “Leonard” on his left.

“Said the prisoner, in an exclusive November 10, 2000, interview with the Windsor Star:

“I truly believed she [Anne McLellan] would be just and fair, but all she did was put another nail in my coffin.”

“The choice of words is of interest. Peltier is now a permanent resident of Leavenworth because he put nails in the coffins of Ron Williams, 27, and Jack Coler, 28.

“The two FBI agents had been involved in a shoot-out with some 30 heavily-armed men on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975.

“A quarter century later, the evidence is stronger than ever that, as the two FBI agents lay wounded and helpless, Leonard Peltier leveled an AR-15 rifle and blew their heads apart at point-blank range.

“It was a task for which he was well suited.


“Peltier was born in 1944 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, a kind of ecumenical Native American of Chippewa and Dakota antecedents, with a Canadian grandmother. One of his first Christmas presents was a cap gun and Leonard inclined to matters military. He enlisted in the Marines and sought service in Vietnam. But instead of seeing action, he wound up with a medical discharge because of a shallow bite.

“I wasn’t in the Marines to bite people,” he explained with a laugh to Peter Matthiessen, author of the fan-magzine book “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse”, the phrase Peltier uses to sign his letters. “I was there to shoot people!”

“The foment of his times denied Peltier his chance in Southeast Asia, but gave him a crack elsewhere. While he was spray-painting fenders in a Seattle body shop in 1965, the movement that would make him a revolutionary hero was taking shape. With the New Left on the rise and all sorts of “liberation movements” mimicking black radicalism, it was inevitable that those now called Native Americans, with their long record of mistreatment at the hands of the United States government, would grow their own ‘revolutionary vanguard’.

“In July 1968, Eddie Benton Banai, George Mitchell, Clyde Bellecourt, and Dennis Banks founded ‘Concerned Indian Americans’. Since the initials ‘CIA’ would send the wrong message, they changed it to ‘American Indian Movement’, or ‘AIM’.

“The group’s emblem was an American flag flown upside down, an international symbol for distress. For the international Left, they were the most politically-correct constituency imaginable, a group whose displacement and romantic suffering was a prism through which the capitalist United States could be denounced.

“Mad Bear Anderson, a Tuscarora, had visited the Cuban Communists as early as 1958. In the mid-1960s, the Stalinist regime in Hanoi welcomed Sid Mills and Hank Adams of the Washington fishing rights controversy and Russell Means, radical Sioux and future film star.

“The extent to which AIM networked with the ‘Weathermen’, the ‘Venceremos Brigade’, and agents from the Eastern Bloc remains unclear. Louis Moves Camp testified at the Banks-Means trial that agents from behind the Iron Curtain had been present at the June 1974 ‘International Indian Treaty Council’. For its part, the FBI classified AIM an “extremist organization”.


“AIM spearheaded the occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay from November 1969 until June 1971, a grand piece of political theatre with plenty of support from Bay Area Leftists. During that occupation, AIM recruited Russell Means, who grew up in Oakland and trained as an accountant, with stints as a rodeo rider and Indian dancer. Means liked to appear in full uniform of braids, beaded belt, and turquoise jewelry.

“Violence was always possible at Alcatraz, but aside from occasionally vicious in-fighting among the representatives of the various tribes, the occupation was fairly routine once the “encampment” was established.

“But the young “warriors” of AIM—ready to act in the sprit of Crazy Horse—were ready for an opportunity “to die for the people.”

“AIM ran a camp in Box Canyon, location of the Spahn Ranch — where Charles Manson and his family hid out after the Sharon Tate murders. AIM took over the site from a Paul “Semu” Huaute, a shaman of the Chumas tribe. In October of 1973, Black Cloud and Rising Sun, two young Indians, tortured and killed cab driver George Aird, who was found stabbed 17 times and stuffed into a drainpipe. 


In 1973, Indians took hostages at Wounded Knee and looted a trading post, with reported prompting from the Weathermen, the Venceremos brigade, and other Leftist militia. The violence prompted none other than prairie peacenik George McGovern to respond that

we can’t have one law for a handful of publicity-seeking militants and another law for ordinary citizens.”

“The ensuing legal tangles called forth William Kunstler from New York. 

On October 21, 1973, a car registered to Peltier was identified during a shootout with Bureau of Indian Affairs police at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Two officers were injured but Peltier was never questioned. He had failed to appear for a pre-trial hearing in Milwaukee and was now a fugitive. 

Pine Ridge Reservation, 1973
Pine Ridge Reservation, 1973

“Leonard Peltier was caught up in this ferment. In a 1972 confrontation outside a Milwaukee restaurant, he pulled a gun on a cop and pulled the trigger twice — but the weapon failed. Peltier tried again but on the third try, the officer’s partner put his hand between hammer and firing pin. Peltier wound up spending five months in jail before AIM could raise bail. When released in 1973, he went underground and headed to Seattle.

“Peltier attended the June, 1974 ‘International Indian Treaty Council’, where the Communist Bloc agents were present, and lent his services to the Kottanai Indians in Idaho, who had declared war on the U.S. government. That year, Peltier was arrested on Mercer Island under the name Leonard Little Shell, and charged with possession of illegal weapons.

“He returned to Wisconsin and took part in the takeover of an abbey. By 1975, the fugitive alerts described Peltier, accurately, as “armed and dangerous”


“In June of 1975, Peltier was living on Pine Ridge and acting as an enforcer for AIM on the reservation. On June 24, FBI agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler came onto Pine Ridge looking for Jimmy Eagle, wanted on assault charges. Williams was driving a green ‘Rambler Ambassador 401’, and Coler a two-tone gold-and-white 1972 ‘Chevrolet Biscayne’. Around midday, agents Gerald Waring and Vince Breci heard Williams on the radio. He had seen a red-and-white vehicle and

“there appear to be some Indians in the vehicle, and they appear to have rifles.”

“The red-and-white vehicle stopped on a ridge and the occupants got out, joined on the high ground by other armed militants, Leonard Peltier among them. The two FBI men stood stranded in an open field, armed with only revolvers — useless at long range — and one rifle.

“They are on the ridge above us and firing on us,”

Williams said over the radio, which registered the sound of gunfire. One of some thirty firing was Peltier, from behind a row of junked cars parked above.

“We are being fired upon,” Williams said. “We are in a little valley in Oglala, South Dakota, pinned down in a crossfire between two houses . . . . If someone would get to the top of the ridge and give us cover, we might be able to get out of here.”

“But if help didn’t come, Williams said, they were “dead men.” His last message, very faint, said simply,

“I am hit.”

“When Coler attempted to retrieve his unloaded rifle from the trunk, he took a heavy round — one of nine that passed through the trunk lid — that practically severed his arm. Bleeding heavily, he managed to crawl into his car, soon pierced by volleys of fire from above.

At least 125 rounds hit the agent’s car.
Together, the agents managed to get off a total of five rounds. 


“Williams was also hit, but under heavy fire ran over to the wounded Coler, stripped off his shirt and fixed a tourniquet. Coler passed out from loss of blood, and Williams was rapidly weakening but still fully conscious. He was trying to surrender, but this posed a dilemma for the approaching Indian gunmen, as author Peter Matthiessen astutely noted:

‘’Flight would have been hopeless. Anyone could be identified by the victims.”

“The unconscious Coler, father of two small children, would have died within minutes anyhow but one of the Indians shot him in the head — first with a grazing round, then full on, shattering his skull.

“Williams saw what was coming and pleaded for his life, lifting a hand to his face. His executioner pressed the muzzle of the AR-15 .223 caliber rifle muzzle to the hand and squeezed the trigger. A .223 round blasted the agent’s severed fingers into his face before exploding Williams’s brain and skull.

“Then, the gunmen shot both men after they were dead and scattered the agents’ personal effects, propping up Coler’s FBI credentials on the hood.

They turned both dead men face down, a move they apparently believed their Sioux ancestors had made to prevent the victims from going to heaven. Then the gunmen fled, taking the dead men’s weapons with them.

“By 1:30, FBI reinforcements arrived and ordered the Indians to come out. The Indians fired a warning shot and the FBI returned fire. Indian Joe Killsright fell dead in the exchange.

“They opened up on us, and they had some real sharpshooters out there, too—it was just lucky they was a good distance off,” Peltier told Peter Matthiessen during the early 1980s. “So I hollered to the rest to keep on going, and I fired off a few rounds in that direction, just to keep their heads down.”

“He credited his escape to divine intervention.

“Something had been there,” he said. “The Great Spirit helped us.”

“On the property of Indian Al Running, agents found rifles, sawed off shotguns, pistols, and explosives — including a .44 Ruger rifle that had been with Peltier and his group. They also found an AR-15 with an obliterated serial number and .223 clips in a jacket marked “Chicano Power”. In an orange-and-white ‘International Scout’ they found the .357 revolver issued to Ronald Williams. In a 1964 ‘Mercury’ station wagon used by the fugitives, FBI agents found Agent Coler’s .308 rifle and the AR-15 that turned out to be the murder weapon.

“On November 25, 1975, a grand jury indicted James Eagle, Darell Dean Butler, Robert Robideau, and Leonard Peltier on two counts of first-degree murder.

“On the run, Peltier also shot it out with an Oregon policeman who stopped the motor home he was driving. The vehicle contained seven boxes of dynamite, nine hand grenades, and 14 firearms, one of them the murdered FBI agent Jack Coler’s service revolver.


“Peltier made it across the border to Canada, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested him on February 6, 1976. The fugitive explained to the Canadian gendarmes that he had mistakenly believed that the FBI agents sought to arrest him for the attempted shooting of the Milwaukee cop in 1972. That was why he opted to shoot first and ask questions later.

“After numerous appeals, Peltier was extradited. At his 1977 trial in Fargo, North Dakota, three witnesses said that moments before the execution of Ron Williams and Jack Coler, they had seen Peltier walk toward the two men with the AR-15. In 10 hours, the jury convicted Peltier on two counts of murder.

“Before being sentenced to two life terms on June 1, 1977, Peltier made a statement likely scripted by his supporters:

“Native Americans will resist any further encroachments by military forces of the capitalistic Americans, which is evidenced by large numbers of Pine Ridge residents who took up arms on June 26, 1975, to defend themselves. I stand before you as a proud man. I feel no guilt! . . . I have nothing to feel guilty about! I have no regrets of being a Native American activist—thousands of people in the United States, Canada, and around the world have and will continue to support me, to expose the injustices which have occurred in this courtroom. I do feel guilty for your people that they must live under such an ugly system. Under your system, you are taught greed, racism, and corruption—and most serious of all, the destruction of Mother Earth . . . . No, I’m not the guilty one here: I’m not the one who should be called a criminal—white racist America is the criminal for the destruction of our lands and my people.”

{Mother Earth?: https://endracebasedlaw.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/mother-earth/  }

“This incantation was big magic. Here was a member of the premier victim group in American history hurling jeremiads at white, racist, capitalist ‘Amerika’, which was also guilty of raping ‘Mother Earth’. AIM propaganda proclaimed that

“AIM warriors at Oglala were defending Native People against genocide.”

In 1979, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear Peltier’s case, which didn’t stop it from growing as a Left-wing cause — any more than the evidence did. As Peltier settled into prison, the Soviet Union cited his name in response whenever the United States brought up the question of the dissidents languishing in the gulag. 


“Peter Matthiessen’s “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” portrayed reservation conflicts as politically correct Native Americans versus sellout Indian goons. Peltier, who speaks at length in the book in swaggering bar-stool rhetoric, emerges as the victim of an international capitalist conspiracy to deprive Indians of uranium deposits on their land.

Robert Redford used the book as the basis for his documentary, “Incident at Oglala”. 


“In a 1991 reissue, Matthiessen introduced a shadowy “Mr. X.”, who claimed to be the real killer, a claim denied by Peltier’s original co-defendants. After 469 small-print pages that ransack all possible evidence of Peltier’s innocence — including the ‘deus ex machina’ of Mr. X, the author renders this stunning verdict:

“Although convinced that Leonard Peltier had been tried unjustly, I still lacked any strong sense of his innocence. The brutal nature of the agents’ executions, and the fact that Peltier and his men had eventually been caught with the dead men’s weapons, made me resist the Movement propaganda…”

“…But by this time, the machinery of political martyrdom had reached a state of perpetual motion that paid no heed to second thoughts. On August 17, 1985, 50 congressmen, led by Rep. Don Edwards, had signed an amicus brief in support of a new trial. But on September 11, 1986, the Eighth Circuit affirmed Peltier’s conviction.

“That ruling only confirmed that view of his cult that the true facts were not driving the Peltier campaign. In October 1987, actor Peter Coyote organized a benefit concert “Cowboys for Indians and Justice for Leonard Peltier,” with Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, and Robin Williams.
{As the image below indicates, the tradition lives on…}

Jackson Browne and Bruce Cockburn perform at the "Bring Leonard Peltier Home 2012" Concert at The Beacon Theatre on December 14th, 2012 in New York City.
Jackson Browne and Bruce Cockburn perform at the “Bring Leonard Peltier Home 2012” Concert at The Beacon Theatre on December 14th, 2012 in New York City.

“The following year, William Kunstler discussed political asylum in the USSR for Peltier with Soviet officials, including Mikhail Gorbachev. In addition to their 12 million signatures to the White House demanding clemency, the Soviets sent medical personnel to visit Peltier in prison.

On December 30, 1991, a judge in Fargo denied Peltier a new trial, a refusal that touched off a shift in tactics.

“Canadian {NDP} member of parliament Jim Fulton called for annulment of Peltier’s extradition, and {Democrat} Sen. Daniel Inouye led the push to return the convicted murderer to Canada. Peltier and his supporters urged followers to write Anne McLellan, Canada’s justice minister. She reviewed the case…

“McLellan concluded that

“no evidence has come to light to change the conclusions reached in the previous court decisions”

and on October 16, refused to ask her counterpart, Janet Reno, to release Peltier, whose supporters blasted the decision.

“McLellan is the laughing stock of the international law community and has sullied Canada’s good name in the fight for human rights,”

said Jennifer Harberry, the ‘Leftish’ Washington D.C. lawyer and member of the Peltier team. {Actually, it’s the one thing that McLellan got right…}


“In his Leavenworth interview with the ‘Windsor Star’, Peltier showed that he had upgraded his vocabulary with the times.

“This is a case of native people, of ethnic cleansing, happening to them,”

he said, explaining that at the time of the murder of the FBI agents on June 26, 1975, he was lying on a cot in a “spiritual camp” on the reserve.

“His account covered the war paint of AIM versions with softer, gentler colors.

“It was chaos,” Peltier told the Star. “Bullets were flying everywhere and I heard children crying in fright. I went to check on an elderly couple in the camp and then to protect the children. I couldn’t tell where the bullets were coming from, but eventually realized they were coming from two cars parked about 150 yards away. I fired a few warning shots into the air and I knew some of the other men were firing as well. After a while, the firing stopped and the word went round that the two men from the cars were dead.”

“How the two men came to be dead, Peltier didn’t say — but he now casts himself as their potential rescuer.

“I can’t say I’m sorry I killed those guys because it’s not true,” he said. “I did not kill them, I did not see the agents die. But I’m sorry they died and would have tried to stop it if I knew what was going to happen. I want to be free, but if to be free means having to admit to a lie, I can’t do that. So maybe I will have to die in prison.”

“That was what those who sentenced him to two life terms had in mind, though the sentence hardly fits the crime…

“…The case presents a parable of the Left for all time, especially its attachment to crime. Murder has always been the vocabulary of the Left in power, from Stalin to Mao, to Pol Pot’s ‘Khmer Rouge’. The vocabulary of the intellectuals defending this power, from Walter Duranty to Noam Chomsky, has been to deny or defend those murders. For those who missed that Big Show of the ’60s, the story of our time — the campaign to free Leonard Peltier — tells you all you need to know.”

–‘Bury His Heart’,
Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley, January, 2000 {Page 6}



“Millions of Soviet citizens once “spontaneously” signed petitions demanding the release of Leonard Peltier, a mid-1970s American Indian Movement (AIM) gunman serving a life sentence for murder. The Russians have since forgotten about the matter. But an astonishing number of Western would-be do-gooders — ‘Amnesty International’, the European Parliament, rock bands, the ‘National Council of Churches’, and Hollywood celebrities like Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon — have refused to let it drop. Indeed, their efforts have lately intensified, even as their claim that Peltier is innocent has never seemed weaker…

“Leonard Peltier is typical of the abuse of other native people,”

said Jennifer Harbury at a Lafayette Park rally a few weeks ago. Harbury directs a “human rights” group in California and has waged a long battle to implicate the Guatemalan government in the death of her husband, who was a Leftist guerrilla in that country. Peltier “is a symbol of the campaigns of oppression” waged by white people throughout the Americas, she announced.

“It seems the federal government is using this as an example of what could happen to us if we are out of line,” added Coki Tree Spirit, another pro-Peltier activist.

“Peltier himself addressed the Lafayette Park rally with a recorded message.

“I still cannot understand that with the millions of people around the world demanding my freedom, the government can still ignore it.”

Maybe the fact that he is guilty has something to do with it


“On June 26, 1975, two FBI agents, 28-year-old Jack Coler and 27-year-old Ronald Williams, were on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, searching for a torture and robbery suspect named Jimmy Eagle. They spotted a vehicle matching the description of Eagle’s van and followed it into a pasture near where Peltier and other AIM members were residing. Then, Williams called in a report that the van had stopped on a rise and that its occupants had emerged with rifles and appeared ready to shoot. The agents were trapped in their cars in an open field, armed only with service revolvers and a single rifle in Coler’s trunk.

“Williams was hit first, in the arm and side. Coler seems to have crawled to the back of his car for his rifle, but he got off only a single shot before his arm was nearly severed by return fire. Despite his own wound, Williams managed to apply a tourniquet to his colleague. But Coler was unconscious, and, realizing further resistance was futile, Williams apparently attempted to surrender. The two agents had managed to get off only five shots. Their cars had been hit at least 125 times by long-range rifles, semiautomatics, and an AR-15 assault rifle.

“Some number of gunmen — dozens of Peltier’s fellow militants may have joined the battle from a nearby camp — then walked down the rise toward the FBI agents. Williams held up a hand in front of the executioner’s gun; a bullet blew off three of his fingers and the back of his skull. Coler was shot in the head and throat from less than two feet away.

“An FBI rescue party killed one AIM suspect and captured another but the rest initially eluded them.

A witness at the scene identified Peltier as the driver of the van Williams and Coler had been following, and his thumbprint was found inside. In November 1975, an Oregon state trooper stopped a vehicle that Peltier was driving. Peltier responded with gunfire and escaped into the woods. He left behind Agent Coler’s revolver — again, with Peltier’s incriminating thumbprint on it — along with eight other guns, a collection of hand grenades, and 350 pounds of dynamite.


“In February 1976, Peltier was finally arrested in Canada by the ‘Royal Canadian Mounted Police’. After a lengthy appeals process, he was extradited to the United States. At his trial the next year, three witnesses said they had seen Peltier walk toward Coler and Williams with the AR-15 murder weapon moments before they were executed. The Mounties who captured Peltier testified that he had volunteered an explanation for the killings: The agents, he had mistakenly believed, were looking for him — to arrest him for the 1972 attempted shooting of a Milwaukee police officer. A jury in Fargo, North Dakota, took 10 hours to convict Peltier on two counts of murder, for which he would be legally guilty even if he had not fired the actual bullets that killed the FBI agents. He was given two consecutive life sentences.

“Journalist Peter Matthiessen’s 1983 book “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” quibbled with the overwhelming forensic evidence that Coler and Williams were killed by Peltier’s AR-15 rifle.

“The book suggested, instead, that a vast conspiracy involving the FBI, judges, prosecutors, coroners, and the Canadian Mounties had contrived to frame Peltier because he threatened white corporate America’s interests in valuable uranium deposits on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

“Those uranium deposits have never been found.
And Matthiessen’s book was later withdrawn from circulation for several years in the face of libel suits.

“But “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” helped spark the “Free Leonard Peltier” movement.

Oliver Stone purchased the film rights. Robert Redford used it as the basis for a highly-distorted documentary.

“And when the book was reissued in 1991, Matthiessen produced a new piece of “evidence” in the case: a filmed interview with a hooded “Mr. X”, who claimed to be the “real” murderer.

“Except that he wasn’t. In the course of an exhaustive 1995 investigation of the Peltier controversy, Scott Anderson of ‘Outside’ magazine interviewed one of Peltier’s original codefendants, who told him flat-out that

“there is no ‘Mr. X’. Those are all lies.”

“Anderson also made clear that Peltier was never the significant ‘American Indian Movement’ leader his advocates make him out to be — but only a “bodyguard” for AIM, hired “muscle” with a long and frightening history of armed violence.

“None of which seems to matter to the people massed in Lafayette Park…


“…Peltier has never expressed any regret for his crimes and continues to deny the worst of them.

“I was there that day,” he grudgingly acknowledges of the murders for which he was convicted. “But we were attacked, and we had a right to defend ourselves, and so I fired back.”

— though “Mr. X” delivered the coup de grace. Peltier sees himself a martyr and gladly accepts the mythology that has grown up around him. He signs his letters “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse”.

“In a striking departure from common practice, FBI director Louis Freeh has publicly opposed any possibility of clemency for Peltier.

“Leonard Peltier was convicted of grave crimes,” he said in 1994, “and there should be no commutation of his two consecutive terms of life in prison.”

“Organizations representing both current and former special agents of the Bureau also actively oppose clemency, calling Peltier a

vicious, violent, and cowardly criminal who hides behind the Native American Community.”

“…Jack Coler, Ronald Williams, and their families still deserve our sympathy. Leonard Peltier, the man who killed Coler and Williams, deserves many more years in prison.”

–‘The Unpardonable Leonard Peltier’
MARK TOOLEY, The Weekly Standard (Vol. 5, No. 14), Dec 20, 1999
(Mark Tooley is the director of the United Methodist Committee at the ‘Institute on Religion and Democracy’.)



” ‘News from Indian Country’ publisher Paul DeMain wrote in 2003 that an “unnamed delegation” with knowledge of the incident told him,

Peltier was responsible for the close range execution of the agents…”

“DeMain described the delegation as

“grandfathers and grandmothers, AIM activists, Pipe Carriers and others who have carried a heavy unhealthy burden within them that has taken its toll.”

“In an editorial written in early 2003, DeMain wrote that the motive for the execution-style murder of AIM activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash “allegedly was her knowledge that Leonard Peltier had shot the two agents, as he was convicted”. DeMain did not accuse Peltier of participation in the murder. (In 2002 two other AIM members were indicted for the murder.) In response, Peltier launched a libel lawsuit on May 1, 2003, against DeMain.

“On May 25, 2004, Peltier withdrew the suit after he and DeMain reached a settlement, which involved DeMain issuing a statement where he wrote,

“…I do not believe that Leonard Peltier received a fair trial in connection with the murders of which he was convicted. Certainly he is entitled to one. Nor do I believe, according to the evidence and testimony I now have, that Mr. Peltier had any involvement in the death of Anna Mae Aquash.’’

“DeMain did not, however, retract his central allegation: That the murderers’ motive for killing Aquash was the fear that she might inform on Peltier.

“In February 2004, Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud was tried for the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, and found guilty. On June 26, 2007, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ordered the extradition of John Graham to the United States, to stand trial for his alleged role in the murder of Annie Mae Aquash.

“In Looking Cloud’s trial, the prosecution argued that AIM’s suspicion of Aquash stemmed from her having heard Peltier admit to the murders. The prosecution called as a witness Darlene “Kamook” Nichols, former wife of AIM leader Dennis Banks. She testified that in late 1975, Peltier confessed to shooting the FBI agents to a group of AIM activists who were at that time on the run from law enforcement. The fugitives included Nichols, her sister Bernie, her husband Dennis Banks, and Aquash, among several others. Nichols alleged that Peltier said,

The motherfucker was begging for his life, but I shot him anyway.”

“Bernie Nichols-Lafferty also gave the same account of Peltier’s statement. Other witnesses have testified that once Aquash came under suspicion of being an informant, Peltier interrogated her on the matter while holding a gun to her head. Peltier and David Hill later had Aquash participate in bomb-making so that her fingerprints would be on the bombs. The trio then planted these bombs at two power plants on the Pine Ridge reservation…

Bruce Ellison – who has been Leonard Peltier’s lawyer since the 1970s — pled the fifth amendment against self-incrimination and refused to testify at the grand jury hearings leading up to the Looking Cloud trial in 2003, or in the trial itself. During the trial, the federal prosecutor named Ellison as a co-conspirator in the Aquash case. Witnesses state that Ellison participated in interrogating Annie Mae Aquash on Dec. 11, 1975, shortly before her murder
“In 2007, Peltier became a figure in a political controversy when billionaire David Geffen, a Peltier supporter, detached his financial support for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and funded Barack Obama’s campaign, instead. This caused an immense furor in the Clinton camp, and Geffen admitted he switched his support because he became disillusioned by Bill Clinton’s refusal to pardon Peltier…”
“On January 13, 2009, Peltier was severely beaten by fellow inmates following his transfer from USP Lewisburg to the United States Penitentiary, Canaan. He was sent back to Lewisburg after the assault…”


THE COURT: “Mr. Peltier, do you desire to make a statement in your own behalf or present any information to the Court which the Court might consider in mitigation of punishment in your case?”

Judge Benson, there is no doubt in my mind or my peoples’ you are going to sentence me to two consecutive life terms. You are and have always been prejudiced against me and any native Americans who have stood before you. You have openly favored the Government all through this trial, and you are happy to do whatever the FBI would want you to do in this case.

“I did not always believe this to be so. When I first saw you in the courtroom in Sioux Falls, your dignified appearance misled me into thinking that you were a fair-minded person who knew something of the law and who would act in accordance with the law — which meant that you would be impartial and not favor one side or the other in this lawsuit.

“That has not been the case… My people nor myself do not know why you would be so concerned about an organization that has brought so much shame to the American people, but you are. Your conduct during this trial leaves no doubt that you will do the bidding of the FBI without any hesitation.

“You are about to perform an act which will close one more chapter in the history of the failure of the United States Courts and the failure of the people of the United States to do justice in the case of a native American. After centuries of murder of murder of millions of my people, brothers and sisters, by the ‘white race’ of America, could I have been wise in thinking that you would break that tradition and commit an act of Justice? Obviously not, because I should have realized that what I detected was only a very thin layer of dignity and surely of not fine character.

“If you think my accusations have been harsh and, unfounded, I will explain why I have reached this conclusion and why I think my criticism has not been harsh enough.

“…You do not have the ability to see that the conviction of an AIM activist helps to cover up what the Government’s own evidence showed: that large numbers of Indian people engaged in that fire fight on June 26th, 1975. You do not have the ability to see that the Government must suppress the fact that there is a growing anger amongst Indian people and that native Americans will resist any further encroachment by the military forces of the capitalist Americans, which is evidenced by the large number of Pine Ridge residents who took up arms on June 26th, 1975, to ‘defend themselves’.

“…I stand before you as a proud man. I feel no guilt. I have done nothing to feel guilty about. I have no regrets of being a native American activist. Thousands of people in the United states, Canada and around the world, have and will continue to support me…

“I do feel pity for ‘your people’, that they must live under such a ugly system. Under your system you are taught greed, racism and corruption, and the most serious of all, the destruction of our mother earth. Under the native American system we are taught all people are brothers and sisters, to share the wealth with the poor and needy; but the most important of all is to respect and preserve the earth…

“No, I am not the guilty one here and should be called a criminal. The ‘white race’ of America is the criminal for the destruction of our lands and my people. To hide your guilt from the decent human beings in America and around the world, you will sentence me to two consecutive life terms without any hesitation…

“You do not have the ability to see that such a conviction is an important part of the efforts to discredit those who are trying to alert their brothers and sisters to a new trick from the white man, an attempt to destroy what little Indian land remains in the process of extracting our uranium, oil and other minerals…

“Finally, I honestly believe that you made up your mind long ago that I was guilty and that you were going to sentence me to the maximum sentence permitted under the law, but this does not surprise me because you are a high-ranking member of the white racist American establishment which has consistently said “In God we trust” while they went about the business of murdering my people and attempting to destroy our culture. The only thing I am guilty of, and which I was convicted for, was of being Chippewa and Sioux blood and for believing our sacred religion.”

THE COURT: “Mr. Peltier, you were convicted as charged –”

DEFENDANT PELTIER: (Interrupting) “I was railroaded.”

THE COURT: (Continuing) “– as charged in the indictments of two counts of premeditated murder. You were convicted and found guilty on each of those counts. The evidence is clearly sufficient to support the verdict of the jury.
You profess an interest and a dedication to the native people of this country, but you have performed a great disservice to those native people…

“You are advised, Mr. Peltier, that you do have the right of appeal; and if you were financially unable to pay the cost of the appeal, you can make application for appeal in ‘forma pauperis’.”

MR. TAIKEFF: “We make that application at this time, your Honor, to continue the finding of the Court of his status as a person without any financial means.”

THE COURT: “The application will be granted.”

–‘Leonard Peltier’, Murderpedia



‘Remembering Jack Coler and Ron Williams — Two Human Beings Murdered by Leonard Peltier’

“In 1975, Rom Williams and Jack Coler, Special Agents of the FBI and young men both, were ambushed and murdered by Leonard Peltier and other accomplices at Pine Ridge American Indian reservation.

“The FBI, through its retired agents program, has created a moving video tribute to these two men… It is a moving and relevant portrait of their lives, narrated by friends and family members. Speaking for myself, it is very moving and relevant to see these tow men as the human beings they were. Personalities in conflicted historical events are often lost, their lives and humanity eclipsed by arguments and details of the tragedy that took them from the human family.

“As a representative of American Indian religious and spiritual values, I share with their families and colleagues the honorable lives they lived and share their sorrow in the murder and senseless behavior that took place on American Indian land.

“The men who took their lives are criminals and cowards. On that day, they disgraced the American Indian community by their thoughtless rage. Leonard Peltier has somehow managed to hijack society’s interest and concern about American Indians. Over the years, he has worked to create a mythology that he is somehow a hero to American Indians. He is not. We are all ashamed of him. I have never met another American Indian who believes his story or who respects him. He should never be, and will not be, released from prison.

“If you visit the Ed Woods project (No Parole Peltier Association),


you can study the detailed history and facts about the circumstances of Peltier’s crime, read about his many incriminating statements, follow all the legal arguments and appeals that keep him in prison for the crime of first degree murder. This is the best source right now for the facts of the case and real time updates about the legal arguments.

“Peltier has a web site, of course, filled with pleas for money that no one knows what it is used for. It is the digital crying stone for a coward.

“Mr. Woods is a retired Special Agent In Charge of the FBI. He was the senior agent in charge of the investigations of the FBI in the region that includes Pine Ridge. Pine Ridge is a federal American Indian reservation housing members of the Lakota Sioux tribal nation…

“Please take a moment to find out about the lives of these two fine young men and share it with others.”

–Turtle Heart
Ojibwe Wabeeno Jessakid
Keeper of the Sacred Pipes of the Eastern Gate


Anna Mae Aquash

‘Letters from Leonard’

“In 1999, shortly before indictments were issued for the murder of my mother, Leonard sent me a letter from Leavenworth, warning us to be wary of what the feds told us regarding his involvement in my mother’s murder, that he had not interrogated my mother who he considered to be like a sister to him and that he loved her very much. The irony at that time was that I had not talked to any authorities or “feds”.

“Shortly after that, I would have contact with John Trudell, Dino Butler, Nilak Butler and Rob Robideau who all confirmed that, yes indeed, it was members of AIM who carried out the execution orders to execute Annie Mae, on false accusations that she was a ‘Fed’. Robideau (who was there) also would re-confirm the gun-in-the-mouth interrogation of my mother by Leonard (my mother had told our family of her interrogation when she came to see us last in the fall, a few months before her death). 


“When I replied to Peltier’s letter, I stated that if he seemed so convinced that my mother was murdered by the FBI, he would surely have no problem in helping “his sister’s” daughter’s campaign for her justice, and sharing the details and proof that he had to support those claims. His response to my requests for help was that he “would not participate in incarcerating another NDN man” and that he had indeed interrogated my mother but he did not use a gun… 

His co-accused cousin, Robideau, said ‘Leonard was an idiot and he deserved to be where he was’. During the five years I had corresponded with Robideau, he confirmed many suspicions and details I had been told by other witnesses over the years.

“When I specifically asked him if Leonard shot those agents, he paused for a few seconds and blurted out “I can’t answer that! I am Leonard’s first cousin”, and I responded “You just did”, and he nervously laughed and said I didn’t understand what was going on then and that it was a war… it was self defense.

“It was during Graham’s trial that Kamook Banks Eccoffey testified that Leonard had bragged to my mother, her sister Bernie and herself about shooting one of the agents point blank while he begged for his life.

“Leonard Peltier, Dennis Banks, Russell Means, the Bellecourt Brothers, David Hill, Leonard Crow Dog, Bruce Ellison, Madonna Gilbert, Loralie Decora Means, and at least a dozen other witnesses watched as my mother was interrogated, kidnapped, beaten, raped, dragged off to her death and then dumped on the side of the road like a bag of garbage.

They have all known for 36 years it was not the FBI who murdered Annie Mae and they chose to lie and deceive NDN country to save their own asses.

“Currently, Leonard and ‘AIM’ support Graham, who was convicted in Dec. of 2010 for the kidnapping felony murder of Annie Mae.
Heroes?? I think not.

“For 28 years, our family sat in silent mourning while these cowards postured and reinvented history, and not once did they bother to contact their so called “friend’s” family. For those with the courage to learn the real truth and not the lies that I am a Fed (AIM and Peltier’s only rebuttal towards me is to call me a ‘Fed’, the same title I will remind everyone that they gave to my mother before they executed her), please feel free to contact me with your questions and for more details.”

~Denise Pictou Maloney~


AIM's Skeletons In The Closet -- Marty Two Bulls
AIM’s Skeletons In The Closet —
Marty Two Bulls

U2 Song Supporting Leonard Peltier:

“There was a telling moment toward the end of U2’s set at RFK Stadium on Monday night. After dedicating “Please” to Native American activist Leonard Peltier…”:
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