Leonard Peltier #89637-132
U.S. Penitentiary - Leavenworth
P.O. Box 1000
Leavenworth, Kansas 66048-1000
February 28, 2003
Greetings Sisters, Brothers, Friends, and Supporters:
I would like to begin my statement by first assuring you that the words you are reading are my own, written by my own hand. You know, when I begin to tire my handwriting becomes difficult to read. Also as I write down my thoughts, I tend to skip words. I make corrections, but what I've written becomes too messy to release to the public. That's why I intend to have this statement typed for distribution. I'm telling you this because I suspect there will be some people who will claim these are not my words. This happens sometimes -- when certain people are unhappy with what I have to say.
Also before I begin, I want to give the benefit of the doubt to two people who I still believe had only minor rolls in what has happened. Ms. Gina Chiala is an intelligent young woman who proved over and over what a great organizer she has become. And she studied my case to where I'd be willing to bet she knows more than some of my lawyers do. She knows my case inside and out, without a question. Natsu Taylor Saito is a law professor and a former member of my Board of Directors. I respect her politics and she has and will continue to give good legal advice and assistance. I see no evidence of these supporters' full involvement in the events I will tell you about. Perhaps they are only guilty of being overly protective of me and of being too easily manipulated.
As you probably know, the LPDC has been inactive a great deal of the time since the 2000 Clemency Campaign. What you may not know, but what I know for certain, is that the LPDC has been closed since December 2002. We are finding unopened letters dating from October and November, too. So, it now appears that the LPDC has been shut down since before December.
As the LPDC began to grow into a major organization with worldwide recognition, I started to think more and more that it was time to start pursuing my dream. I have the vision of making the LPDC into a world class human rights organization. I just can't see my 27 years of sacrifice going for nothing -- whether I get out of prison or if I pass on to the Spirit World before then. If either of those things happens, I at least want to leave my young supporters a strong, working organization so that they can continue fighting the many injustices that Indigenous Peoples still face every day.
With Gina's help and very hard work, I created a Board of Directors and had the LPDC incorporated in the State of Kansas. This all took place in the summer of 2001. The people who agreed to be Board members all had impressive credentials as activists and seemed well connected. The organization looked very professional.
At the same time, the then LPDC staff had made their own decisions to resign and move on with their lives. Gina wanted to return to school and study law. I hope and pray she has all the success she is looking for in her life and career. Patricia Benabe… well, because of her years of complaining about being over worked or just plain burned out, I admit that I saw her departure as a kind of a blessing. So the search for new LPDC staff people also began. With Benabe's daily complaints, I knew we needed to find someone fast.
Deb Peebles -- a long-time friend and activist -- responded to my call. I was very happy when I heard Deb was considering taking the position as the LPDC communications director. She was interviewed and hired.
In no time, because she couldn't control Deb, Benabe began to conspire to have Deb dismissed. Complaints were made about the way she wrote statements, for example -- statements I had dictated to Deb. There were more complaints but very little in the way of evidence. Benabe had Gina's support at this time and, together, they finally convinced the Board to dismiss Deb. I tried to stop this from happening, but I admit my arguments to the Board were not as strong as they should have been. I regretted it then. I regret it now. This whole turn of events cost me dearly.
Another person who answered my call is Delaney Bruce. Delaney has an impressive resume and moved her whole family to Kansas from Maryland at her own expense. She was never offered a position at the LPDC but worked every day for six months as a volunteer -- folding papers and stuffing envelopes, licking stamps, and folding t-shirts. After about three months of this, I began to get upset and I asked why this was happening. "Give her a chance," I said. "Assign Delaney to a project so we can see what she can do." But because Benabe had decided she did not like Delaney, my wishes fell on deaf ears. When I demanded answers from Benabe, she only became infuriated. She began to really hate Delaney and tried to drive her off. Benabe made life pretty unbearable for Delaney at the LPDC and treated her like a non-person. Finally, Delaney did take on a project or two for me, but from home. She stopped going to the LPDC to work.
When Benabe began to hear about my anger over these events, she tried a new tactic to pacify me. Gina was about to leave for California by this time and Deb Peebles was going too. Benabe had long been friends with my daughter, Marquetta Shields, so she secretly had Marq move to Kansas. I was later told that Marq moved to Kansas to go to nursing school. I was not aware or even suspicious of how much control Benabe had over Marquetta, but I was soon to learn how truly manipulative Benabe is.
With the mess I found myself in, I asked Marq -- even pleaded with her -- to run the LPDC for me. She agreed.
Soon after, I learned that Benabe and Gina had decided to bring Denis Moynihan to the organization. Gina was impressed by some of his past organizing. And Benabe loved this guy. She believed Moynihan walked on water and he could do no wrong.
After speaking with Denis a couple of times, I became leery of him. I told myself I just didn't know him all that well and ignored those feelings. I met him, finally, and I asked him how long he was committing himself. He said six months. I convinced him to stay a year.
What a terrible mistake this guy was. Denis stayed about five months and he did nothing but argue with me. He even screamed at me over the phone. I have to take that kind of disrespect from the other side, but do I have to take that from my own people?
Around that time, a lot of good things began to happen around my case. Andrea Hornbein and my Boston-area supporters succeeded in getting Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) to demand that the FBI release all of the documents they had withheld illegally for over 26 years. The number of documents had risen from over 6,000 to over 30,000. I do not need to tell you how excited all of us were over the release of these documents.
I knew we had to come up with a system to properly analyze all of these documents. I was told of the technology was available to do this, so I told Denis to find the best equipment at the best price. I began to spread the word of our special need and a lot of you responded with donations and advice. Denis gave me extremely high quotes for the equipment - one quote was for $50,000. I knew from my own research that this price was unreasonable. I suggested to Denis that we tell manufacturers about the specific machine we needed and then let them bid for our business. We've done this before at the Committee and it has worked. I was given every excuse about why we couldn't get the scanner. Finally, when I took matters into my own hands - asking for help and funds from friends and even devoting royalties I had recently received from Prison Writings - Denis found a scanner.
Then I told Denis to spread the word that we needed volunteers to help us scan all of the documents. Cathy McCarthy, a friend, has years of experience in doing this kind of work for libraries and other organizations. She offered, at her own expense, to head a team to scan and analyze the documents. But, because Cathy is Delaney's friend -- someone Benabe hated -- Denis did not even so much as contact her. When I asked about this, I was lied to and told Cathy had not responded to calls.
At the same time, Tamara Carter (one of our lobbyists) -- who also has years of experience in doing this kind of work -- was discouraged from operating the scanner. Dennis claimed she had no knowledge of the equipment, so Tamara flew back home and took a two week course in operating the scanner. At her own expense. She even returned with a certificate. As luck would have it, Denis was gone and Tamara finished scanning the 30,000 documents. She also spent many hours comparing our documents with those in the National Archives. Due to her hard work, we discovered that the FBI has still withheld some of the documents.
Meanwhile, Benabe had been told to only work on the newsletter. I insisted that there be certain conditions to her continuing as part of the team. Over the next six months, I said, she was to work at home. I told the Committee that I expected Benabe to increase the number of subscriptions, too. We had been given a hearing before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on my petition on a sentence reduction. I asked for but never received cooperation from the Board and from the office staff. I wanted people at the court house, in the court room. I had to organize this myself -- from a prison cell. Around the same time, the Private Members Bill was introduced in Canada's Parliament by Mr. Bill Blaikie. I asked my staff and the Board to give Mr. Blaikie their full support. That Bill might have passed if the politicians had been pressured by my supporters in Canada - the Union members and Native tribes there. This Bill was a way for Canada to condemn my extradition as unacceptable. Again, there was no cooperation from my own people. Just recently and at her own expense, Cathy McCarthy went to Canada as my envoy to carry a personal letter from me to Mr. Blaikie and to discuss how I and the LPDC can support his efforts.
Because of his resistance, I made it very clear to the Board that I wanted Denis out and that I would not accept anything less. Months later, he was asked to resign. Of course, by then the damage he had caused was beyond repair. There were no support efforts going on - how could there be with everyone working banker's hours -- not even around the sentence reduction hearing in Minnesota or the actions of the Canadian Parliament. The LPDC wasn't being run efficiently and wasn't at all effective any more. Late this past summer, I invited Cathy McCarthy and Standing Deer Wilson to join the Board of Directors because I knew they each would look out for my best interests. My brother, Standing Deer, was accepted by the Board right away. But Cathy's appointment was delayed by the Board until the end of January, as was my later appointment of Robert Free.
It was through Standing Deer's observations that I learned that, more than ever, Benabe had full control of the LPDC Board and the staff. It seemed like no one could do anything without getting her approval first. I learned that the Board, through Benabe's manipulation, was planning to "placate" me by pretending to listen to me. The whole time, they said the staff needed their approval to do anything I wanted done. And they almost never approved. And every new person that was hired by the Board to work in the office seemed to, after a week or two, win Benabe's disapproval. She immediately conspired to have those people dismissed.
Marquetta told me about things that were happening in the office -- like that Benabe would scream at the new bookkeeper and even made her cry. When I demanded it, the Board finally ordered that Benabe was not to go to the LPDC at all without Marquetta being there and then only to pick up newsletter materials. Then I started to notice that Marquetta visited me less and less. She began to answer the phone at the office less often too. What I discovered was that Benabe was not only back in the office but was running it. When I finally was able to question Marq about this, she told me the bookkeeper had been dismissed and that she needed Benabe to help her in the office. So, Benabe had manipulated her way back into control and I was no more than a symbol to be used as an organizing tool for the LPDC.
Months before this I had learned from a number of different people, including Standing Deer, that Benabe had been spreading rumors. I've gone stir crazy, she told people, and anything I say should not be taken seriously.
I have an appeal pending in the Tenth Circuit of Appeals in Denver, Colorado. You'll hear about that in more detail soon. I asked the Board go to work, get someone to file an Amicus Curaie Brief. If you don't know, this is a very long process. The Board did nothing. I asked them to mobilize. We have a large network of supporters in Colorado just waiting for something to do but the staff, as far as I am aware, didn't even contacted these people. Again, I was told the Board had to approve this first. In frustration, I named Russ Redner to be the new director of the LPDC office. The Board ignored me and secretly sent an e-mail message to Russ that said that only the Board could do the hiring in my organization. Then they told him, "Thanks, but no thanks."
For months, the Board promised a new fundraising campaign -- our funds were running low -- but they never came through for me. This is something that will hurt the LPDC for a long time to come. I had no choice. I asked the Board members to step down. Only one Board member immediately did as he was asked -- Standing Deer. That would not have been permanent. I wanted the Deer to help oversee the transition and to sit on the new Board. His passing was a loss for me personally and a greater loss to the organization. To her credit, Natsu Saito also resigned. I understand that the Deer pleaded with his fellow Board members to do the right thing. Ms. Saito also told them what I wanted from them. Most of the other Board members chose to hang on until just recently.
Now I'm told that Dawn Hill, who was managing my Web site, is refusing to release it to the LPDC. She claims it as her personal property or that it belongs to this Barefoot Connections program called Degiya'goh Resources. My Web site was created and registered in 1999 by the son of a brother, Bobby Castillo, and paid for by the LPDC from that day until now. There is proof of this. Ms. Hill has also been paid for her services. There is proof of that too. I also have not given her permission to reproduce any pictures of me, my writings, or my paintings on "her" site. So, she's violating not only the LPDC's rights but my personal rights too.
Believe me, despite what some may claim, I'm not ignorant about the internet. I know how important my Web site is to my fight for freedom. With a minimum of 400,000 hits a month, how could I not understand? I consider Ms. Hill's actions a direct attack and a deliberate attempt to prevent me and my Defense Committee from moving forward with our organizing and fundraising plans. I can tell you something else… She won't succeed.
Cathy McCarthy and Robert Free, as well other folks who are the original founders of the LPDC, are helping me during this transition period. These people are upset, as I am, by what all has happened but are full of determination to rebuild the LPDC. With me, they will do whatever is necessary to make it a better, stronger, and more effective organization. Please give them your full support. I have reopened the office, too. At the moment, there is just one volunteer running the office -- Delaney Bruce. Two other volunteers will begin working in the office soon.
I could go on about what all has gone on in my organization but before I reveal any more, I want the new staff to analyze and do a proper and fair investigation of what was done to close down the LPDC. As I said, as soon as I have the facts, I intend to release this information.
There is very little doubt that all of the above was done with intent and malice. Why? Well, I cannot truthfully say. I mean, I have strong suspicions. Perhaps this is the work of COINTELPRO, or at least a cousin to this program. Was it, as some said, Feds or Freaks? Or was it just a few people who did not want to lose control of what was a good thing and were afraid of going out in the world and having to provide for themselves?
Whatever it was, I will say this… Although they were successful in temporarily closing down the LPDC and leaving me with less than $100 in operating funds, I will not let them defeat me.
I learned a very valuable lesson here. I will never again give anyone so much power over my life to where anything I may say becomes meaningless. This whole mess left me completely defenseless and very vulnerable to attack. My protection comes from you, my supporters, and the LPDC's job is to keep you all informed about my welfare and safety.
I have accepted my error in not resisting these people more and allowing them to do what they did. I have also accepted the fact that I have likely lost a daughter, and maybe a son, because my children were manipulated by Benabe to support her and the former Board. When I was growing up, I was told that parents should never favor one or more of their children over the rest because the ones you favor will always be the first to turn against you. Well, this has happened to me now. What hurts the most is the loss of some of my grandkids. I may not ever see them again in my lifetime.
But this mess is even bigger than me. There was so much lost this past year and a half. We should have been out there supporting the peace marches all over the world. My voice could have been heard by millions. Using my case, we could have started and fanned a new fire under the injustices that the poor and Indigenous Peoples are going through daily. The war cry is not just against Iraq, but against all of us -- anyone who doesn't dance to the tune of the new world order.
We will rebuild. You and me. We are warriors. This small group of Freaks will not be allowed to destroy our 27 years of work. Let's show them just how fast we can rebuild, how rapidly we can get the LPDC mobilized and working more effectively.
Please help us in any way that you can. Our immediate need is money to continue the struggle. Some of my supporters -- those with the fewest resources -- have found simple ways to support the LPDC's work. For example, prisoners from institutions around the country contribute postage stamps to help us lower our operating costs. Every little bit helps, my friends. And every contribution -- large or small -- is deeply appreciated.
There are other things that you can always do to help. Please continue writing to your members in Congress and President Bush. Also write letters to the editors of your local newspapers. In short, take full advantage of every opportunity to educate others about the "Reign of Terror" and the plight of Indigenous Peoples everywhere. You will find that you will make modest strides, but don't be discouraged that you reach only a few individuals at a time. They also will tell others and the circle of my supporters will grow ever wider.
I encourage you to frequently visit our NEW Web site at "http://www.freeleonardpeltier.org" for campaign information, case updates, and other suggestions for how you can help.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continuing support and commitment. Mitakuye Oyasin.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,