Message from Leonard Peltier
Following are excerpts from a statement made by Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier to the 41st National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, Mass., on Nov. 25.
Another year has gone by since the last time we gathered like this. I say we, because although I am not there with you in body, my spirit certainly is. We have coined this day, a day of mourning, as opposed to a day of thanksgiving. It’s a shame that thanksgiving is relegated to only one day. Mourning is something that relates to unhappy circumstances that have taken place.
This very day is ours. Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet and is uncertain. I don’t like to dwell on the mourning aspects of life but instead on what we can do to prevent those unhappy and sometimes terrible times in our history. The union organizer, Joe Hill, was framed by the copper mine owners to be executed. He said what really needs to be said upon his death: “Don’t mourn, organize.” Those are my sentiments.
There are many things that happened in the past that can be prevented in the future. There are losses that can be regained. However, we must organize to do it. Dark moments come and go in all our lifetimes. And there are those in political office, who will try to turn your head away from the obvious truths. They will lie to you about what they believe. …
Our Sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, sacred to many tribes, have the faces of many of our oppressors carved on them. The place of vision seeking, Bear Butte in South Dakota, sacred to us for millennia, has a bar built at the foot of it and there is talk of having helicopter flights around it to attract tourism. There is even talk of drilling for oil and gas.
Every time I write a statement, I think of what I would say if this was the last time I spoke. The thing that comes to mind is in some of our sacred ceremonies, and that is thoughts of our relationships with the ones we love and the Creator of all life. … If you can hold the person you love, walk on green grass, or touch a tree, be thankful. If you can breathe air that didn’t come through a ventilation system, or through a window with bars, be thankful. If you can stand in an open field, and look up at the heavens, be thankful.
No one appreciates the simple things as much as a man or woman locked away. I have not for a moment forgotten the needs of my people and the atrocities committed against them or the circumstances that all the poor and impoverished face in this world at the hands of those who take more than they need and exploit for gain the futures of our children.
I wrestle with what to say to you and words are sometimes so inadequate. So if you are free today, un-imprisoned, be thankful. May you find joy in doing what is right and righting what is wrong and seek to be the best example of what a human should be in our lifetime.
In the Spirit of those we mourn, those who gave their lives and those whose lives were taken from them.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, who gave his life for what was right and tried to right what was wrong.
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