The natives demand that Biden pardon Leonard Peltier, their Mandela

If you talk to Native Americans, whether in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, one of the largest “Indian” reservations in the United States, or anywhere else, their particular version of ‘what about mine’.

Particular because it has a first and last name: “What about Leonard Peltier?”

President Joe Biden created his second national monument last Wednesday with the protection of 450,000 acres (1,821 hectares) of Navajo territory, lands considered sacred and whose protection will prevent future urban development.

That was another of the White House moves to demonstrate the current president’s commitment to indigenous peoples. The announcement came to coincide with the inauguration of the summit of tribal nations, the first time it had been convened in person in six years, after the cataclysms of the Trump presidency and the pandemic.

Hollywood senators and artists ask the president to commute the sentence to the symbol of the natives

“No one has done more for the natives than this administration,” Biden stressed, praising his efforts on economic issues, education, and environmental protection, in clear recognition that the US government has not always complied with the signed treaties. with Native Americans.

But despite his pronouncements, there is still a priority for the natives that Biden has not addressed and that the tribes consider key: the Peltier case, their Mandela.

Leonard Peltier, an activist with the American Indian Movement, has been in prison for 46 years after being convicted of the deaths of two FBI agents in a shootout at Pine Ridge. He was given two “consecutive” life sentences in a trial in which the prosecutors showed more shadows than lights. Peltier acknowledged having participated in that shooting, but always claimed that he did not kill the agents.

For many, this Native American is the political prisoner serving the longest sentence. The government never proved that Peltier committed the double crime and his trial was riddled with irregularities. The accusers hid exculpatory evidence and the FBI coerced witnesses as well as jurors.

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In parallel to Biden’s celebration, seven Democratic senators, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, signed a letter urging the president to grant Peltier clemency on the grounds that “there is clear evidence of misconduct” in the oral view. “His continued imprisonment of him defies the promises of justice and the power to exercise mercy in this case lies solely at your discretion,” the text of that letter remarks.

In turn, more than 200 indigenous artists and Hollywood celebrities begged Biden in another letter to commute his sentence. They recalled that Peltier, at 78, is not in good health and noted that his trial was riddled with racist manipulation. “Leonard is not only a symbol of indigenous pride – it reads – he is one of our relatives. His return to his home is one of the imperatives for collective healing ”.