Nov. 22 will mark 13,439 days of incarceration for Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier. This year’s commemoration of the National Day of Mourning, to be held in Plymouth, Mass., will once again honor Peltier, a hero-in-the-struggle who has been unjustly imprisoned since 1976.
The so-called “Thanksgiving” holiday is a stark reminder of the centuries of horrific assaults unleashed against Native peoples, first by European colonizers and then by U.S. administrations. Their lands were stolen, their people killed and their cultures and languages under siege.
The myth of the “benevolent Pilgrims,” so glibly portrayed in U.S. history books, sharing their bounty with Indigenous peoples, is shattered when the truth is revealed. The real story is one of bigotry, injustice and violence aimed at this country’s original inhabitants.
Racist discrimination, oppression and exploitation continue today, at the hands of corporations and by governments at all levels. The economic crisis has exacerbated the Native workers’ unemployment crisis. Since the recession began, the jobless rate has doubled for these workers in the Midwest. Moreover, in the Northern Plains region, only 44 percent of the Indigenous were employed last year. Accessible jobs are often low paying and come with few benefits, if any. At least one-third of Native people are impoverished.
Banks and corporations get mammoth bailouts from this capitalist government, and trillions of dollars are spent to wage war and occupy lands abroad, yet workers and oppressed people here suffer. The Washington politicians who determine national budgets should ensure living-wage jobs, housing, health care and nutritious food to Indigenous and other super oppressed communities.
At the traditional National Day of Mourning ceremonies, Native speakers tell of their history, pay homage to their ancestors and speak of their struggles throughout the Americas. They relate their efforts to survive today in the face of this anti-people system.
Yet, they will also celebrate their militant history — the many struggles for political, economic and social rights, and for the recognition of their sovereignty and right to self-determination. Their basic tenets of international unity and solidarity always shine through.
The call for “Freedom for Leonard Peltier” has echoed worldwide as millions of people have demanded that he be released from his nearly 37-year ordeal. They deplore the many violations of his civil liberties since his arrest. Prosecutors withheld crucial evidence from his attorneys at trial, and he was then railroaded to prison, charged with shooting two FBI agents.
Since Peltier’s arrest, he has had much support from Native communities and other progressive forces in the U.S. and worldwide. His supporters are now organizing a “Bring Leonard Peltier Home 2012 Concert” at the historic Beacon Theater in New York City on Dec. 14.
They are working hard to raise awareness of Peltier’s cause and garner public support for him as they step up their campaign to win him clemency. There has been no response from President Barack Obama, who has been deluged with petitions with thousands of signatures for Peltier’s freedom.
The ailing 68-year-old Peltier is imprisoned in a U.S. penitentiary in Florida, thousands of miles from his nation, the Turtle Mountain Band in North Dakota. His defense committee asks supporters to send letters and messages of solidarity to Leonard Peltier, #89637-132, USP Coleman I, U.S. Penitentiary, P.O. Box 1033, Coleman, FL 33521.
The struggle goes on. Workers World Party stands in solidarity with all Indigenous peoples on the 43rd National Day of Mourning, as we loudly demand, “Free Leonard Peltier!”