Washington, D.C. – On Nov. 29, 2022, seven senators including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) co-signed a letter to President Biden requesting the president grant clemency to political prisoner Leonard Peltier.
“We write to request that you grant clemency to Native American rights activist Leonard Peltier by commuting the remainder of his sentence. Mr. Peltier has spent more than half of his life behind bars. Now, at seventy-seven years old, he suffers from numerous health conditions, including a potentially fatal abdominal aortic aneurysm.”U.S. Senators’ Letter to President Biden
The senators state that the very officials that put Peltier behind bars are now advocating for his release; this includes former U.S. Attorney James H. Reynolds, and the late Judge Gerald Heaney, who said “a healing process must begin.”
The letter continues with commending the Biden administration’s attempts to “right past wrongs of our government’s treatment of Native American’s, particularly through Secretary Haaland’s leadership and her Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.”
The senators conclude by saying “Mr. Peltier’s continued imprisonment defies the promises of justice, and the power to exercise mercy in this case lies solely within your discretion. Thank you for your attention to this matter.”
Peltier has been in prison since 1975, when the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office successfully prosecuted him for allegedly murdering two FBI agents based on mostly falsified evidence. The trial was marred by misconduct and Peltier’s decades-long parole process has been so problematic that United Nations legal experts called on Biden to release him immediately.
The more time that’s gone by, the more people have demanded Peltier’s release. This includes Native American elected officials, celebrities, and human rights leaders.
STAND UP and #FreeLeonardPeltier #executiveclemency !!! We all will continue to stand together to bring our brother home @PeltierHQ @KevinHSharp @wefightandwin @ByPositiveLaws pic.twitter.com/riJzOkC7S0— Taboo Nawasha (@TabBep) November 30, 2022
Tuesday’s letter marks the first time that some senators have publicly pressured Biden to release Peltier. Senators Warren (D-MA), Markey (D-MA) and Smith (D-MN) have now added their names to the cause.
The full letter can be seen below.
Unicorn Riot spoke with Jean Roach who is a board member of the Leonard Peltier International Defense Committee. She is a “survivor of the 1975 Oglala shoot-out.” Roach says she was 14 when the firefight happened. She describes how the letter came about:
“Okay, so basically, Ruth Anne Buffalo who represents North Dakota representatives did a lot of work. Got like, got all the Democratic caucus of American Indians deciding unanimous resolution last summer. She got several members, representatives and senators before. But we have the whole national Democratic membership by unanimous resolution to present it at their next national convention. So we have a lot of support, but they still continue to ignore this.”Jean Roach, Survivor of the 1975 shoot-out at Oglala with Leonard Peltier
At the White House Tribal Nations Summit on Nov. 30, there were zero remarks or mentions of Leonard Peltier made by President Joe Biden. Many took to social media to express their views.
The man missing from Biden’s Tribal Summit remarks: #LeonardPeltier.— UAINE (ndnviewpoint) (@mahtowin1) November 30, 2022
7 senators have urged Biden to grant clemency, citing “evidence of clear misconduct” during his trial that “has warranted outcry from the very officials who put Mr. Peltier behind bars.”
Each day Leonard Peltier remains in prison is unjust.— Senator Tina Smith (@SenTinaSmith) November 30, 2022
He should be granted clemency. https://t.co/PKG0rjgFpq
Leonard Peltier To Joe Biden: ‘I’m Not Guilty. I Would Like To Go Home.’ | HuffPost Latest News@POTUS @WhiteHouse @WaterIsLifeWPLC@SDonziger@TabBep@mahtowin1 #FreeLeonardPeltier #LeonardPeltier #RiseUpForPeltier https://t.co/btFIuF2o0V— Rep. Ruth Anna Buffalo (@Ruth4Nd) November 30, 2022
Three weeks before the senators sent Biden the letter, activists on the Leonard Peltier Walk to Justice arrived in D.C. after walking 1,103 miles from Minneapolis. The walk’s aim was to raise awareness to Peltier’s case and demand clemency and his release from prison. Unicorn Riot covered the walk at the beginning and ending stages.