Innocently imprisoned for more than 40 years

Indigenous activist Leonard Peltier (Press release)

On June 26, 1975, two FBI agents were killed in a shootout in the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. Soon after, the authorities had identified the then 31-year-old indigenous activist Leonard Peltier as a suspect – who was already known for his commitment to indigenous rights in the United States. In a highly controversial trial, he was sentenced to two life sentences in 1977. He has become an icon of the Native American civil rights movement, and he is sometimes referred to as the Native American Nelson Mandela.

On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the shooting, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) commemorates the fate of the now 75-year-old Peltier. "So far, all appeals to release the seriously ill activist – or at least to have him moved to a less strict prison, where his family can care for him and visit him – have failed," reported Yvonne Bangert, one of the STP's experts on indigenous peoples. "The STP has repeatedly appealed for Peltier's release over the years, most recently also to President Trump."

Numerous celebrities have spoken out and campaigned for Peltier, including the Holocaust survivor and so-called "Nazi Hunter" Simon Wiesenthal, Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. There have been appeals from members of the German Bundestag and the European Parliament, a resolution of the European Parliament, and advocacy from important indigenous organizations such as the National Congress of American Indians and, most recently, the first female indigenous representative in the House of Representatives since 2018: Deb Haaland (member of the Laguna Pueblo). However, not even the democratic presidents Clinton and Obama dared to pardon Peltier. "In order to protect him from the Covid-19 disease, he was recently put in solitary confinement at the Coleman Maximum Security Prison in the state of Florida."

Even in prison, Peltier never stopped fighting for indigenous rights. He paints pictures there, the proceeds of which he donates to relevant organizations. His book "Prison Writings: My Life is my Sundance", published in 1999, was very well received and has also been published in German by Traumfänger Verlag. "We will not give up hope that the many appeals will be heard in time," Bangert emphasized. "We hope that Leonard Peltier will be able to spend the rest of his life in freedom and with his family in his home reservation.