June 26, 2015 marks the 40th Anniversary of the “Incident at Oglala” that took place on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota during what has become known as the “Reign of Terror” amongst the Lakota and other Native American tribes. Greed by both local tribal members and the United States Federal Government which included the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were responsible for this act of domestic terrorism. Both the United States Geological Survey and the United States Bureau of Mines were hopeful to find potential mineral resources of oil, gas, uranium, and more. Not all residents of Pine Ridge and surrounding areas were in favor of degradation to the land and disruption to their lives. Guardians of the Oglala Nation known as the GOON squad along with the FBI were in place to keep order but instead they became the initiators of increased incidents of violence, brutality, and death as witnessed by Pine Ridge residents. Anyone who was not in favor of mineral mining and/or drilling of oil/gas in and around their home became a target including elders and youngsters. A call for HELP came from the traditional elders and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) including Leonard Peltier answered that call. On June 26th all hell broke lose in a “Fire Fight” initiated by the FBI. They were looking for a young Native man who they say stole a pair of cowboy boots.
I’m old enough to recall a few news stories back then. Thru the years I’ve heard of stories far different than what was reported by news media from my friends who had family and friends living at Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations at the time. Back then news stories were biased and did not necessarily report the truest facts, although few knew of this deception. None of that has changed 40 years later except for the fact that deceptions in news reporting now are in fact much worse….and more people recognize this.
In 1976 Leonard Peltier was arrested and then in 1977 tried and convicted for the murders of 2 FBI agents that happened as a result of the Fire Fight at Pine Ridge back on that fateful day in June of 1975. Not surprising a young Native man was also murdered but neither the tribal police nor the FBI looked into his killing. Both Leonard’s arrest and subsequent trial were fraught with inconsistencies and outright lies; his constitutional, civil, human, and treaty rights were violated (and continue to be). Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) duplicitous behaviors by agents of the United States Justice Department were uncovered and no actual guilt could lawfully be placed upon Leonard. Still 39 years later Leonard Peltier an awarded Human Rights & Environmental Rights Activist, a Nominee for 6 Nobel Peace Prizes, an Acclaimed Artist, a Mentor, an Author, a Great-Grandfather and a Humble Man remains wrongfully incarcerated. 7 Presidents including current President Barack Obama have allowed the concept of Justice to deeply fester and transmute itself into Injustice.
I’ve no doubt that many individuals who were living in and around Pine Ridge remember June 26th 1975 as if it were yesterday and for others that day is but a whisper of a thread of memory; severe trauma does this to people, it’s called Post Traumatic Stress. Today 40 years later I sit back pondering and wondering. I need to ask >> How is it that in the world of 2015 where we have advanced technologically to know and see events around the world thru the Internet and Social Networks and where [almost] everything seems to be corporation-based and supposedly “for the good of all” that………
• Native Americans whether living on reservations, in cities, or elsewhere continue to remain discounted and virtually invisible?
• There is an absurdly high rate of imprisonment for Natives Americans in both Federal and State prisons, yet no one has the actual numbers?
• Poverty rates, infant mortality, disease rates and other perils to health and well-being for Native Americans living on reservations equal that of 4th world nations in a country that is considered a 1st world nation?
• Native Americans are still regarded in negative stereotypes both nationally and internationally no matter where they reside or what their education, career, and socio-economic status is?
• Land belonging to Sovereign Native Nations is still defiled, stolen in secret land grabs, and blatantly trespassed upon regardless of treaty rights?
• Leonard Peltier a soon-to-be 71-year old respected Elder with chronic severe illness from the negligence, abuse and ravages of his wrongful incarceration despite the long-time pleas from dignitaries, human rights groups and everyday people calling for clemency remains imprisoned?
Yes it is 40 years later and then as now I remain sickened by the United States of America’s endless war against Native Americans, people who were here long before the rest of us. I think of Leonard Peltier, a scapegoat for the violent follies of the FBI who have admitted to wrong-doings yet stand by them as if they are a badge of honor; I remain disgusted.
Perhaps it is my naivety to hope that one day sooner than later the United States of America will sincerely own up to the wrongs it has put upon Native America in such a way as to actually honor past and present treaties and to actively work to right the wrongs of its continued institutional racism and imperialism. I further hope that Leonard Peltier will soon walk in Freedom; it is far past his due!
For more information about the Incident at Oglala and the case of Leonard Peltier please go to > https://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/
I remain committed to actively do what I can in seeking Executive Clemency for Leonard Peltier; it has always been a promise made in good faith. Thank You. In Peace. Bonnie F. Walker, RN, BS, LNC