Greetings Friends and Supporters:
January 20, 2001, was a sad day for all of us. I know that this denial of clemency has affected many of you as much as it has affected both my family and myself. It is a terrible feeling and disappointment knowing that this nightmare has not ended and will continue for many months to come.
When I received the news, I felt my stomach curl and a feeling of nausea rolled over me. It took a while for me to refocus. For some reason I had thought I might be having dinner with my family that night. It was an especially disappointing day for all of us.
What Bill Clinton did to us was cruel. For eight years he ignored my clemency petition despite the major campaign that was waged. Then, just months before leaving office he publicly promised to make a decision on my case, one way or the other. He said he was aware of its importance. The White House gave my attorneys indications that there was a good chance for my clemency to be granted. I had to prepare myself for being released because there was no sign that my petition would be denied.
The LPDC bought me clothes, my grandson prepared his bedroom for me to sleep in and other preparations were made for my homecoming. My friends on Pine Ridge began plans to build me a house. We were literally forced to get our hopes up because we did not want to be unprepared if I was suddenly set free.
January 19, came and still, they kept us in nervous anticipation saying the more difficult clemencies are still being worked on and would be announced the next morning. Then January 20 came and went! The White House never even told us what the decision was. We had to find out through the press that my name was not on the list of clemencies. To leave a person's life and so many peoples' hopes hanging in the balance like that is truly hardhearted.
Since that dark Saturday, I have managed to get up and dust myself off, and begin to lift my spirits once more. I am just as determined now to fight for my freedom as I was on February 6, 1976 when I was first arrested. I will not give up. This is the second time in the span of my incarceration that I made it to the top of the hill and saw that freedom was in view, only to be kicked right back down to the bottom again.
The first time was in 1985, when the evidence used to convict me was impeached and I was denied a new trial, despite Judge Heaney's finding that I might have been acquitted had the jury been presented this evidence. To be denied a new trial after such a finding shocked our network and me just as much as this denial of clemency has. However, we never lose a battle without making some major gains in the overall struggle.
I want to compliment and thank my staff at the LPDC and all of you grassroots supporters who stood beside me and fought so tirelessly for my freedom. You put on one of the strongest and most memorable campaigns I have experienced. Years from now people will read about the accomplishments you made. People from every walk of life worked on this campaign. People from every denomination and belief prayed from every corner of the Earth. Although it feels like our sentiments were shooed away like an irritating fly by a president who did not want to face the consequences of his own mistakes, I believe we put up a serious challenge. We can see who was granted clemency and why. The big donors to the President's campaign were able to buy justice, something we just couldn't afford. Meanwhile, many political prisoners continue to languish unjustly, proof that this nation's talk about reconciliation is nothing but empty rhetoric.
We now have a number of strategies to continue this struggle for my freedom. These ideas are in the early planning stages. I ask you to remain with us while we regroup and develop a thorough plan. We must carefully consider every option and make sure the strategies compliment each other in order to have the best effect. The LPDC will release strategies as they are developed. Some will be released this week.
I also have my own personal plans. I will continue doing artwork and will be looking at ways to make it more available to the public. I will also be working with my friends, Fedelia and Bob Cross, to build a grade school in Oglala. Before my clemency was decided, I began to dream of the different projects I would like to work on in Pine Ridge if I were free. Now that I have been denied, Fedelia and Bob have said they will take the initiative to begin the projects themselves, with my input. Soon, we will be establishing a board and non-profit status.
Bob and Fedelia are schoolteachers and lifetime Oglala residents, and they have the land on which to build the school. They have told me of the desperate need for an improved school in Oglala. The existing school is severely under funded and inadequate and does not provide the kids with the quality education they need and deserve . We have the highest drop out rate of all ethnic groups in the country and part of the reason is the lack of stimulating and challenging programs for the youth.
Another idea I would like to develop is building a small recreation center for Oglala. As most of you know Native health conditions are also probably the worst in the country. We want to change that, beginning with this center. We want the center to have modern exercise equipment, a kitchenette, and card tables. As everyone gathers here to socialize, have coffee, gossip, and play cards, we can encourage them to try the equipment and to begin getting in the habit of exercising and eating healthy foods. I believe it would be a nice place for people to spend time and a good incentive for them to get into better physical condition and stop the trend of diabetes on the reservation. The reservation currently has no facility like this.
If we are successful in establishing these two services, I believe that the community of Oglala will truly benefit. We will then be able to move on to other projects that will bring people together and raise the quality of life. For example, one day I would like to rebuild Jumping Bull Hall so that there will be a drug and alcohol free place where people, especially youth, can gather. We could set it up for a movie theatre and bring in video games. People can watch movies, hold meetings, have birthday celebrations, community meals and dances here. Right now, our youth have no place to go to socialize and I believe this facility could help prevent the hopelessness and despair too many of our young people feel. I would hope that word of these projects would spread to other reservations and others like Fedelia and Bob Cross will be inspired to take on similar ideas which we could help support.
Your ideas, input, and support are welcomed. If you know people who would donate supplies (books, wood, cement, hardware, etc), make financial contributions, or donate their skills and labor, please get in touch with the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.
In closing, I want to thank you again for your support and ask that you stand with us in this struggle. I believe that one day in the near future we will succeed. But it can't be done without your support.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier Defense Committee PO Box 583 Lawrence, KS 66044 785-842-5774 www.freepeltier.org
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