Seven U.S. Senators Ask President to Release Leonard Peltier

Former U.S. Attorney James Reynolds speaks on behalf of Leonard Peltier at the American Indian Movement's Grand Governing Council's Walk to Freedom on Sunday, November 13 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Darren Thompson for Native News Online)
Former U.S. Attorney James Reynolds speaks on behalf of Leonard Peltier at the American Indian Movement's Grand Governing Council's Walk to Freedom on Sunday, November 13 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Darren Thompson for Native News Online)

Washington—Today, seven U.S. Senators submitted a letter to President Biden requesting clemency for American Indian Movement (AIM) activist and Turtle Mountain Chippewa citizen Leonard Peltier.

Senators Tina Smith, Mazie K. Hirono, Patrick Leahy, Edward J. Markey, Bernard Sanders, Brian Schatz, and Elizabeth Warren co-wrote the letter, citing President Biden's steps towards addressing the wrongs committed by the U.S. federal government towards Native American people. 

"Over the past several decades, clemency for Mr. Peltier has received sweeping support from many faith and human rights leaders, including Pope Francis, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Saint Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, the Dali Lama, and Coretta Scott King," the letter stated. "Each has articulated the moral imperative of granting Mr. Pelter clemency."

Peltier, 77, is convicted of aiding and abetting the murder of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on June 26, 1975. He has been incarcerated for 47 years. There have been many attempts by organizations, politicians, and community and tribal leaders asking for Peltier's release. Peltier currently suffers from numerous critical health conditions, including a potentially fatal abdominal aortic aneurysm. 

James Reynolds, a former U.S. Attorney who oversaw Peltier's appeal in the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, has also called for his clemency. Reynolds participated in the Walk to Justice rally in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 13 with thousands of Peltier's supporters and advocated to various Senators on Capitol Hill in the following days to submit a letter to President Biden. 

"At the end of the Walk to Justice, we met with senators and staff on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., requesting support and solidarity through a letter and pressure on the administration to grant clemency for Leonard," AIM Chapter Director Rachel Thunder told Native News Online. "The letter is one of many asking our elder Leonard Peltier to be granted clemency and finally released after 47 years of injustice. As AIM, we will continue to work toward the freedom of Leonard Peltier."

The letter comes a day before the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit convenes in Washington at the Department of Interior. Earlier this year, the Democratic National Committee unanimously passed a resolution asking President Biden to consider clemency for Peltier. The White House has not released a statement on whether President Biden is considering granting clemency for Peltier. 

Organizers with the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee shared with Native News Online that various Tribal leaders attending the White House Tribal Nations Summit are going to lobby President Biden for Peltier's release.

About the Author: "Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor\u2019s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "

Contact: dthompson@nativenewsonline.net