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Free Leonard Peltier

Published Nov 23, 2011 7:16 PM

The so-called “Thanksgiving”holiday will mark the 42nd commemoration by Native peoples of the National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, Mass. The event is once again dedicated to Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier.

This “holiday”is a reminder of the brutal policies that European colonizers —and then scores of U.S. governmental administrations —have carried out against Native peoples for centuries: the genocide of millions, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their cultures and languages.

The true history of the treatment of Indigenous peoples shatters the myth of benevolent European “Pilgrims”generously sharing food with this country’s original inhabitants. It reveals systematic injustice, bigotry, terror and violence directed against the Indigenous peoples.

At this year’s commemoration, as is the tradition, Indigenous people honor their ancestors, speak about their history and struggles throughout the Americas, and demonstrate their international unity. They tell of their efforts to survive today under an unjust system in the face of so many forms of discrimination.

Their oppression has not ended. Government and corporate policies still discriminate against and exploit Indigenous peoples. Additionally, the economic crisis has taken its toll: In many areas of the country, more than half of Native workers are unemployed or have given up looking for work, while often the jobs, when they are available, pay low wages and have few benefits. More than a third of Native people live in poverty.

This capitalist government is paying trillions of dollars for weapons and military aggression, and for bailouts to banks and other financial institutions, while the superrich get off tax-free. The priorities should be reversed. Jobs and other human needs should come first. The members of Congress who vote on the federal budget should guarantee living-wage jobs, adequate health care, education and all essential services to all members of Native and other oppressed and working-class communities.

The National Day of Mourning also celebrates the political strength of Native peoples in fighting back. For example, participants in this annual commemoration have come in strength, even burying the Plymouth rock in sand several times. Historically, Indigenous peoples have militantly organized and acted to demand their political, economic and social rights, and for the recognition of their sovereignty and right to self-determination.

Millions of people here and worldwide are today demanding Leonard Peltier’s freedom. This ailing political activist has been unfairly imprisoned for nearly 36 years, having been railroaded to jail on charges that he shot two FBI agents. The prosecution withheld evidence from the defense, among many other violations of Peltier’s civil liberties.

The 67-year-old Peltier was recently moved from Lewisburg, Pa., to the U.S. Penitentiary in Coleman, Fla., 2,000 miles from his nation, the Turtle Mountain Band in North Dakota. His supporters are demanding that he be moved to a facility at Oxford, Wis., closer to his nation and family.

Petitions containing 12,000 signatures calling for President Barack Obama to grant Peltier clemency have been sent to the White House, but there has been no response.

On this National Day of Mourning, Workers World Party stands in solidarity with and honors all Indigenous peoples. We join in their call for an end to all forms of racism, inequality and oppression. Additionally, we unite with our Native sisters and brothers in demanding freedom for our hero-in-the-struggle, Leonard Peltier.