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Leonard Peltier, a True American Hero

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February 6, 2006, marks the 30th year that Leonard Peltier, American Indian Movement (AIM) leader, has been illegally imprisoned. Like the worldwide movement to free Nelson Mandela, human rights activists have been working long and hard to free Leonard Peltier. Amnesty International calls Mr. Peltier, "a U.S. political prisoner of conscience. " The history of this case is well documented at www.leonardpeltier.org.

Why is this beautiful human-being kept in prison, isolated from his people, silenced within the corporate media, and demonized by the FBI? What is so fearsome to the powerful U.S. Government about this aging warrior of Native American Rights? What threat does he pose, and to whom?

Perhaps the infamous lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, a longtime Republican Party operative who is currently under indictment, could shed some light on this puzzle.

According to Robert Robideau, co-director of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, "Abramoff isn't in hot water for selling political influence. He got caught ripping off his clients--in particular, Native American tribes who run casino and gambling operations. The tribes would hire Abramoff to lobby for them over gaming issues, and Abramoff would tell them which politicians to make political donations to. What he didn't say was that he and his business partner Michael Scanlon were sometimes working for groups whose interests were directly opposed to the tribes. For example, in 2002, Abramoff and Scanlon worked for religious conservatives lobbying the state of Texas to shut down a casino run by the Tigua of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Texas--at the same time that Abramoff was charging the Tiguas millions to lobby for the casino.

Abramoff had nothing but contempt for his Native American clients. In e-mails exposed a few years ago, Abramoff called tribal members "trogdolytes" and "morons." "I have to meet with the monkeys from the Choctaw tribal counsel," he wrote to Scanlon. Overall, the Abramoff scandal is offering a glimpse of how political power is bought and sold in America, but this particular aspect is shining a light on a small part of an injustice that dates back even longer--the U.S. government's genocide against Native Americans, its theft of their land and the crushing of anyone who stood in their way. "

If the American people were truly informed about this travesty of justice; if they had read Mr. Peltier 's poems, letters, words of encouragement to youth, and opinions on sovereignty for indigenous tribes; if they could for one moment put themselves in Leonard Peltier 's place; would not this innocent man be free today?

Leonard Peltier 's poem, "Silence " is printed below, in the hope that readers will open their hearts and minds to the suffering of this humble man, and not rest until he is free.
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Silence, they say, is the voice of complicity.
But silence is impossible.
Silence screams.
Silence is a message,
just as doing nothing is an act.
Let who you are ring out & resonate
in every word & every deed.
Yes, become who you are.
There's no sidestepping your own being
or your own responsibility.
What you do is who you are.
You are your own comeuppance.
You become your own message.
You are the message.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse
Leonard Peltier
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