Despite all the talk about Clinton’s highly questionable pardons, one man who deserved executive clemency was denied a fair chance. The following is excerpted from a statement by Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier:
Jan. 20, 2001, was a sad day for all of us. I know that this denial of clemency has affected many of you as much as it has affected both my family and myself. It is a terrible feeling and disappointment knowing that this nightmare has not ended and will continue for many months to come.
When I received the news, I felt my stomach curl and a feeling of nausea rolled over me. It took awhile for me to refocus. For some reason I had thought I might be having dinner with my family that night. It was an especially disappointing day for all of us.
What Bill Clinton did to us was cruel. For eight years he ignored my clemency petition despite the major campaign that was waged. Then, just months before leaving office, he publicly promised to make a decision on my case one way or the other. He said he was aware of its importance. The White House gave my attorneys indications that there was a good chance for my clemency to be granted. I had to prepare myself for being released because there was no sign that my petition would be denied.
The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee bought me clothes, my grandson prepared his bedroom for me to sleep in and other preparations were made for my homecoming. My friends on Pine Ridge began plans to build me a house. We were literally forced to get our hopes up because we did not want to be unprepared if I was suddenly set free.
Jan. 19 came and still, they kept us in nervous anticipation, saying the more difficult clemencies are still being worked on and would be announced the next morning. Then Jan. 20 came and went! The White House never even told us what the decision was. We had to find out through the press that my name was not on the list of clemencies. To leave a person’s life and so many peoples’ hopes hanging in the balance like that is truly hardhearted.
Since that dark Saturday, I have managed to get up and dust myself off, and begin to lift my spirits once more. I am just as determined now to fight for my freedom as I was on Feb. 6, 1976, when I was first arrested. I will not give up. This is the second time in the span of my incarceration that I made it to the top of the hill and saw that freedom was in view, only to be kicked right back down to the bottom again.
I want to compliment and thank my staff at the LPDC and all of you grassroots supporters who stood beside me and fought so tirelessly for my freedom. You put on one of the strongest and most memorable campaigns I have experienced. Years from now people will read about the accomplishments you made. People from every walk of life worked on this campaign.
We now have a number of strategies to continue this struggle for my freedom. These ideas are in the early planning stages. I ask you to remain with us while we regroup and develop a thorough plan. We must carefully consider every option and make sure the strategies compliment each other in order to have the best effect.
I also have my own personal plans. I will continue doing artwork and will be looking at ways to make it more available to the public. I will also be working with my friends, Fedelia and Bob Cross, to build a grade school in Oglala. Before my clemency was decided, I began to dream of the different projects I would like to work on in Pine Ridge if I were free. Now that I have been denied, Fedelia and Bob have said they will take the initiative to begin the projects themselves, with my input. Soon we will be establishing a board and non-profit status.
Another idea I would like to develop is building a small recreation center for Oglala. As most of you know, Native health conditions are also probably the worst in the country. We want to change that, beginning with this center.
In closing, I want to thank you again for your support and ask that you stand with us in this struggle. I believe that one day in the near future we will succeed. But it can’t be done without your support.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,