Leonard Peltier: ‘Apartheid exists in America’
Taken from a Dec. 5 statement which can be read in its entirety at Native News Online at tinyurl.com/q7rcsnp. Political prisoner Leonard Peltier has been incarcerated for 37 years.
It saddens me to hear that a great man like Nelson Mandela has departed from this lifetime. He was a man who was truly inspirational and showed us the possibilities of how a continued struggle by Indigenous people could manifest itself in levels of freedom that have been marred by centuries of oppression.
Our Native people suffered the same types of oppression many times. It is not as overt and as easily distinguished as in some places; however, if you are dead because a policeman shot you, or dead because you could not stand the racial and cultural genocide, so you committed suicide — you are just as dead either away.
Nelson Mandela is known for leading the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. America talked about ending apartheid and put sanctions on South Africa. Not being all that adept at the English language, it is my understanding that “apartheid” means to keep someone apart from something. My people have been kept apart purposely from the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota. There were, and still are, measures that keep us apart from our true history, perpetrated by an education system that limits the truth of our being.
Right now in Canada, Native people are struggling to protect their aboriginal lands from fracking, which destroys the water tables and disturbs the natural balance of the Earth. With an apartheid mentality, they seek to build pipelines across Native lands that have the potential of great ecological destruction.
Right now, there is an apartheid that seeks to separate us from the protection of the Constitution of the United States, which says treaty law is the supreme law of the land; which also says you have a right to an unbiased fair trial; which also says you have a right to a jury of your peers. Right now our young Native people are tried as adults THREE times more than other groups and kept “apartheid” from their families and kept “apartheid” from competent legal representation.
We must all consider Nelson Mandela an inspiration, but I am also inspired by the least of our people who stand up for what is right, like the young man or young woman who peacefully mans a roadblock against developers or fracking companies or some factory that hurts our air.
I want to remember Wanbli Tate who tirelessly championed the rights of Indigenous people to bring attention to the wrongdoers represented in government and corporations.
I remember my brother Russell Means who was also tireless in his efforts in trying to bring about an end to this American version of apartheid that faces Native people.
In the spirit of all those who have gone before us in this struggle, stay strong and NEVER, NEVER give up.
In the spirit of Crazy Horse,