January 20th, 2017
I am stunned by President Obama’s denial of pardon to Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who has been in prison now for 41 years after having been railroaded into a murder conviction by the FBI in a sham trial.
There are serious questions about Obama’s decision which must be answered, one of which is whether he was under the boot of the FBI, or of a shadow-government nobody knows about or has the courage to talk about?
And if so, why/how did they allow Obama to pardon Chelsea Manning and Oscar López Rivera? (I champion and salute every act of clemency Obama made.)
I’m deeply concerned that these questions, and the tragic story of Leonard Peltier, not die, and be discarded as old news, and buried under the storm of chaos we will have now from the White House.
Obama should not get a free ride on this. I had believed, since it became clear early last year that we were headed toward the United States of Absurdity, that Obama would be our moral anchor in negotiating the uncharted waters ahead. Now I wonder if he has lost that mantle.
An Appeal from Paul Winter
Amnesty International considers Native American Leonard Peltier a political prisoner of the U.S. government.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated in 1999: “I support passionately the campaign to have Leonard Peltier freed. It is a blot on the judicial system of this country that ought to be corrected as quickly as possible.”
Leonard Peltier is America’s Nelson Mandela. Both men were members of subjugated races, and each fought for the rights and dignity of his people. Mandela was released after 27 years; Peltier is still incarcerated after 41 years.
ALL MY RELATIONS is a musical offering to honor the heritage of the First Peoples of this continent; to celebrate their relationship with the community of all beings, as expressed in the traditional prayer: “I venerate all my relations,” and to encourage participation in the ground-swell of voices urging President Obama to pardon Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who has been unjustly imprisoned for 41 years. A presidential pardon of Leonard Peltier would be a great symbolic act of atonement for the horrible history of our government’s genocide against the Indians, over the centuries.
“One of America’s longest-suffering political prisoners, Peltier is an Anishinabe-Lakota Native American who has wrongfully spent nearly 40 years in prison for the alleged murder of two, armed FBI agents in a shoot-out on the impoverished Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Peltier was brought up on murder charges on the word of a young Indian woman whom he had never met. That woman, Myrtle Poor Bear, retracted her testimony in 2000, issuing a public statement to explain that her testimony was forced after months of abuse and intimidation at the hands of FBI agents.
Despite international outcry and an abundance of evidence that the FBI coerced, harassed, and manipulated testimony as well as ballistics evidence at Peltier’s trial in 1977—and the FBI’s subsequent admission that they have no idea who was actually responsible for the deaths–Peltier has been denied parole repeatedly.” – Silja J.A. Talvi/Alternet
The best summary of Leonard’s story I know is that by Peter Coyote, in an interview with Amy Goodman on her program “Democracy Now.” (transcript of video)
The greatest, most comprehensive and in-depth chronicle of the saga of Leonard Peltier is Peter Matthiessen’s 1983 book “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” (Viking). This documents convincingly that Peltier is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.
ALL MY RELATIONS
VOICES FOR LEONARD PELTIER
Paul Winter Consort & Friends
A 13-minute EP
1. “Witchi Tai To” (featuring John-Carlos Perea)
2. Wolf/Sax Duet
3. “Wolf Eyes” (with audience howl)
(live at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine)
Notes on The Music
Witchi Tai To
“Witchi Tai To” is a water-blessing song, based on a traditional chant that Native American jazz musician Jim Pepper learned from his grandfather. It’s a celebration of the healing power of water spirits. I hear “Witchi Tai To” as a song of healing, for our nation, celebrating the communing of spirits of the peoples and creatures who have, and who will, come together on this land Native Americans call “Turtle Island” (North America).
John-Carlos Perea, vocalist
John-Carlos was born on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in New Mexico. He sings in the style of the Northern Plains Indian tradition, learned while studying with Barney Hoehner-Peji (Lakota) and singing with the Blue Horse Singers.
The howl of the wolf is an iconic voice of the family of life of North America. It is this community of all beings in which the traditional peoples have lived. Respect for this community is the great message the Indians offer to all those who have come to this continent over the past 500 years.
Why Music of Affirmation and not Protest?
A great inspiration for my vision for this project is the example of the 1970 album Songs of the Humpback Whale. The yearning beauty of the whales’ voices touched the hearts of millions of people, allowing the unheard to be heard, and possibly doing more for the cause of the endangered whales than all the print and symposia and legal efforts put together (with all due respect to these latter endeavors).
My premise is that music can touch people more deeply, and stay longer in memory, than perhaps any other medium.
For a broad perspective on government transgressions on Indian land and life all over the United States, I highly recommend Peter Matthiessen’s 1984 book “Indian Country.” Peter writes with his customary eloquence about his experiences with Indian communities in nine areas of the U.S.: the Miccosukke in Florida; the Hopi in Arizona; the Cherokee in Tennessee; the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayura, and Tuscarora in New York State; the Yurok, Karuk, Tolowa, and Hupa in northern California; the Lakota of South Dakota; the Chumash of southern California; the Paiute, Shoshone, and Ute of the Great Basin; and the Navajo of Big Mountain.
“My hope is that these Indian voices, eloquent and bitter,
humorous and sad,
will provide what history and statistics cannot,
a sense of that profound “life way”
which could illuminate our own dispirited consumer culture.
Hear these voices, listen carefully:
the Indian spirit is the very breath of the Americas.”
– Peter Matthiessen, INDIAN COUNTRY
My Involvement in Leonard’s Cause
New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where the Consort and I became artists-in-residence in 1980, has long been a forum for speaking out against injustice. The Cathedral embraced Peltier’s cause early on, filing an amicus brief on his behalf in 1980. For many years, the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend James Parks Morton, called Leonard in prison every Sunday. Throughout these years, a painting by Leonard Peltier has hung in the Native American bay in the Cathedral’s Nave.
In August 1990, Peter Matthiessen accompanied our recording expedition around Siberia’s Lake Baikal. During that journey, Peter told us of additional information he had learned which further convinced him of Leonard Peltier’s innocence.
At the end of President Clinton’s second term, in late 2003, Peter Matthiessen catalyzed a network among many of us to urge Clinton to pardon Leonard, whose name was on the President’s list for consideration. The FBI picketed the White House that week with 200 agents, warning Clinton not to issue the pardon.
In July of 2014, a memorial concert entitled “The SeegerFest” was held at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors in New York, to honor both Pete and Toshi Seeger. During this concert, daughter Tinya Seeger read a very moving letter from Leonard Peltier to Pete Seeger, expressing his gratitude for all the support Pete had given him over the years. (To view the letter — from the SeegerFest website — click here.)
Near the end of that concert, the Consort and I played “Wolf Eyes,” and I invited the audience to join us “in a howlelujah chorus, for Pete and Toshi, and for a free Leonard Peltier.” This chorus howl of 5,000 voices, in the heart of New York City, was memorable.
That September, I was invited by my friend Peter Yarrow to play in the Black Hills Unity Concert in South Dakota, a two-day gathering of Native American musicians from many regions, along with Peter, Arlo Guthrie, and David Amram. The event was to mark the ceremonial beginning of standing in unification with the Great Sioux Nation to reclaim their guardianship of the Black Hills as their rightful homeland. Again I played “Wolf Eyes,” and invited the people to join in a chorus howl for Leonard. Someone sent a video of this to Leonard, and he responded to me with a thank you.