Statement of Leonard Peltier
on Demonstration March to Whiteclay, Nebraska,
set for July 3, 1999
I know the situation in Whiteclay has reached the boiling point. Once again, our people are being killed. Once again there is a call for justice, for full investigations, for equal punishment for those responsible. Once again, our pleas fall on deaf ears. And once again, violence is erupting. Our people have legitimate concerns that must be addressed, and addressed now. As I write this, my thoughts are with those planning to participate in the march from Billy Mills Hall to Whiteclay tomorrow morning. The whole world is watching. What will you do? I can only hope that everyone involved will read these words and see that we now have a chance to make a change, to make a difference.

As I sit “in here” and read about what’s going on “out there” in places like Whiteclay, I can’t help but be reminded of what happened nearly a quarter of a century ago at Pine Ridge, of the events that put me in this cell in Leavenworth. It seems that we have come full circle. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of time to think back about Pine Ridge. I can still see the faces of those elders, the Traditionalists who asked for our help. They knew who they were and where they came from. They didn’t just talk about their spirituality, they lived it. Those elders knew the power of thought, and they taught us that when we become of one mind, all things are possible. When people look back at what happened there on the Jumping Bull property, they seem to forget that our little camp was a spiritual camp and that we were spiritual warriors. That is, until that now infamous day in 1975 when the sound of gunfire shattered our unity, shattered our world. In an instant, so many lives were changed forever. And I know I’m not the only one doing time because of it. Each and every one of us whose lives were touched, no matter which “side” we were on, is serving a life sentence, because those tragic, mind-numbing events are burned in our collective memory forever. Nothing can bring back those lost lives or take away the pain of grieving families. Nothing can change what happened that day.

We are now back at the beginning. We have come full circle and we have a choice to make. We can either mend the hoop once and for all, or we can go back around and repeat the cycle of violence and destruction. It’s up to us. We have to trust in what our elders teach us. They aren’t just making it up, you know. Our traditional ways have sustained us for thousands of years, through all kinds of adversity, and we’re still here. A little ragged around the edges, maybe, but still here. And in spite of all, we still have our Original Instructions. Isn’t it about time we started following them?

As things heat up and we face off in places like Whiteclay, we must not forget our pipes and our traditional manner. We must not exchange our spirituality for violence and destruction. We are now at a place in time where we have powerful allies throughout the world. If we keep our heads up and follow the spiritual path, we can mobilize these forces. Are we going to let history repeat itself? Will more people suffer pain and loss? And more “Leonard Peltiers” going to be created? Or do we keep our heads together and let the spirit of the old ways guide us to change the outcome going into this new millennium? We can, if we remember who we are, if we quit ignoring the experiences of those who have come before us. It’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Are we living our spirituality, everyday, like those elders, or are we just talking about it?

We must become of one mind, united in thought and action. Not just during Sundance or when we’re in the sweat lodge, but every single day of our lives. Then and only then will change begin and doors be opened. Who knows, one of those doors may even be the door to MY CELL. To those planning to march to Whiteclay tomorrow, I urge you to follow your own spiritual knowledge, not the path of violence. In everything we do, we must think of the seventh generation to come. Mitakuye Oyasin.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier Defense Committee PO Box 583 Lawrence, KS 66044 785-842-5774