Leonard Peltier’s Statement On The Passing Of Chief Billy Redwing Tayac:
Greetings Mark, Gabi, all the Tayac family, the Piscataway Nation and friends.
My deepest condolences to you and I send prayers of solace.
I was deeply saddened when I heard of Billy’s passing. I so wish I could be there with you to honor this great Man.
I know he comes from a great line of Piscataway leaders and his Dad Turkey Tayac was a famous traditional Chief who was powerful and did great things for your people.
Chief Billy Tayac was a uniter and a traditional leader like his father.
I will always be grateful for the things he did for me for all these years. When I was at Lewisburg he was very active in making sure we could sweat and that the prison respected our rights to our religion. I can tell you how grateful we were for that.
And I know he worked in Congress toward my freedom.
There have been many times8 when I heard things that Billy was doing and it brought a smile to my face and pride and gratitude to my heart that he was doing such work.
Billy always made Tayac Territory available to Native people and allies from all over the Americas.
My late Lawyer and Brother Lew Gurwitz always felt welcome with Billy and whenever he would visit me back in those days he shared stories with me about what was going on in the east. Lew was a big eater and he loved to laugh and he told me about your Uncle Joe Tayac and his skills as a cook and a story teller. We would share laughs and I always hoped that one day I could set foot on traditional Piscataway land at Tayac Territory and feel that welcome.
Billy took personal care for the security of Oglala Lakota Chief Frank Fools Crow who I loved, whenever the Chief came to Washington in efforts to help our people. They became very close friends and brothers.
I know that Fools Crow saw something in Mark who was very young and took him to Pine Ridge to teach him and Mark also spent time with my brother Chief Leonard Crow Dog. And they brought the Sun Dance to the east coast. So I know the Tayac Traditional ways are in good hands.
I am sorry if I am going on too long but there is so much to say about such a man.
I remember when Billy founded LISN and held gatherings in the east so that people of all Indian nations could come together.
I heard of one in Mashpee territory where my Grandma Roberta Black Goat met with Wampanoags, Narragansetts, Six Nations people and others. And I know there were many other gatherings that Billy put together.
It was always Billy’s intention to just bring us together and he knew that we would take care of the rest like long lost relatives coming home. He gave us connections and friendships that will never be broken. Those connections have strengthened us as indigenous peoples.
That is the legacy of Chief Billy Redwing Tayac.
I think I am speaking to the younger people now and I hope you will listen. In the days when AIM was founded we did not have cell phones and computers. Our communications were very basic and we often caravaned from one part of the county to another. If a carload of us were separated we always knew there were a few phone numbers we could call to relay messages to our relatives wherever they might be. Tayac Territory was one of those places.
I will close now but I wish I could spend more time with you.
Billy lived a good and meaningful life. I am proud that I knew him and he was my friend and that I can call the Tayac family my relatives. And I hope that the young people will learn more about Billy Tayac’s work and take up his banner for your people.
I wish you all good health and happy lives and I will send my prayers for all of you as long as I live.
My love and condolences to you all.