Prison Radio

Leonard Peltier is a 76-year-old Indigenous prisoner and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who’s been unjustly held in detention for over 45 years. Authorities claimed that he was responsible for the murder of two FBI agents, but several witnesses used to convict him have changed their story. They have since stated that they were coerced into testifying by the FBI. Still, Leonard remains behind bars.

The latest update from Carol Gokee, Director of the Peltier Defense Committee regarding his health describes his “aortic aneurysm which may or may not be treatable but without a doctor visit we won’t know that.”

“He has burning in his prostate which may or may not be cancer. And also a enlarged prostate which he does not get proper care for as well. He is diabetic and he’s fed a non-diabetic diet. His glucose readings are high and he is losing weight. He needs 2 knee replacements and hip replacements as well as torn rotator cups in both shoulders. He also needs extreme dental work done, as he has lost most of his teeth and can hardly chew anything. His hearing is going on him. And he is blind in one eye because of a lack of medical attention with the diabetes. He was approved for a transfer to a medium-security prison back in February but they are continuing to drag their heels with that. He also put a request in in February to go to see the doctor, and to this day that has not happened. The list continues, but those are the main concerns. I hope that helps. I’ll do anything to get awareness out there so that people understand what our government is doing to him. The BOP guidelines very clearly show that all inmates are given the same kind of medical treatment as anybody else in the United States. They also say that they’re giving a diabetic diet to diabetics when they are not. They pretty much make up their own rules as they go. But the bottom line is they are trying to execute him by medical neglect. Oh I forgot about the spots on his lungs, which may or may not be cancerous because they have not been checked by a oncologist.” – Carol Gokee

Indigenous activist groups, along with Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, have been demanding his release for decades. His lawyers have been requesting documents via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) over the years, but federal authorities have been slow to give up information. His health has been in decline, and advocates are putting even more energy into freeing him as time is running out.

“Peltier is in need of IMMEDIATE medical attention and has been waiting for his request to get approved for months. We must continue to fight for him by pushing President Joe Biden to FREE LEONARD PELTIER!” – Thalia Yarina Carroll-Cachimuel, Communications Manager, When We Fight, We Win!

With Prison Radio, Mumia Abu-Jamal has advocated for Leonard. Mumia has spoken out about Leonard’s case and his health in 2016, and he also read a commentary that Leonard wrote on Thanksgiving in 2019 so that supporters could hear his words.

Despite the crushing reality of imprisonment, Leonard has flourished in his talents as an artist. Art has given him a purpose during internment, and his paintings are even available for sale online on a site hosted by the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. Sales of his art go to fund his legal defense. You can also donate directly to Peltier’s commissary funds, his inmate number is #89637-132.

On his relationship with art, Leonard stated the following:

“Painting is a way to examine the world in ways denied me by the United States justice system, a way to travel beyond the walls and bars of the penitentiary. Through my paints I can be with my People—in touch with my culture, tradition, and spirit.”

More background information about his case, including the FBI’s “Reign of Terror” against AIM at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, is explained in great detail by his comrades at WhoIsLeonardPeltier.info.

Additional Resources to support Leonard:
Leonard Peltier Freedom Ride 2021
International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
United American Indians of New England
LEONARD: Political Prisoner


When We Fight, We Win!

Tom Riese
Prison Radio Intern