Indigenous Leaders Call for Compassionate Release of Leonard Peltier

By Shaolien Chen-Graf, Audrey Sawyer

RAPID CITY, SD – NDN Collective and Native Organizers Alliance are advocating for the release of Leonard Peltier, a longtime Indigenous political prisoner, after news of the emergence of “severe health conditions and medical needs” to the incarcerated.

The groups are asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to release Peltier, citing comments that Garland made during the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit.

“Attorney General Merrick Garland stood in front of hundreds of Tribal leaders and committed to making Native American civil rights a priority to the Biden administration,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective.

Tilsen added supporting Peltier’s release after “nearly five decades of imprisonment” would be a signal that the Biden administration really was prioritizing Native American civil rights.

Judith Blanc, executive director of the Native Organizers Alliance, urged the Dept. of Justice to support the release of Leonard Peltier.

Blanc argued, “As the longest-serving political prisoner in the United States, Leonard has become a symbol of resistance. At a time when democratic values are being questioned, the DOJ should take action as he nears the end of his life and allow him to return to his family and his ancestral homeland. We implore the DOJ to grant Peltier compassionate release.”

According to Tilsen and the NDN Collective, Peltier’s “continued incarceration should be considered cruel and unusual punishment” because his “civil rights were violated repeatedly throughout his prosecution and imprisonment.”

Tilson said, “Given the recognition of the many prosecutorial and constitutional violations from every level of those involved in his prosecution, the only morally and legally sound action is to release Leonard Peltier now. Will Attorney General Garland be known for being humane and releasing Leonard Peltier, or for letting him die behind bars on his watch?”

About The Author

Shaolien Chen-Graf is a fourth-year student at the University of California, Santa Barbara studying Sociology and minoring in Professional Writing. With hopes of pursuing a career as a writer for issues of social justice or simply within the NGO sector she is excited to hone her skills as a reporter and journalist. She currently advocates for reproductive justice as the Outreach Coordinator for Students for Reproductive Justice at UCSB, and promotes access to higher education through her role as a financial specialist for a nonprofit organization called CalSOAP. Shaolien is excited for the opportunity to witness the court system inaction and to draw attention to everyday injustices that are infringing on people's rights. In her free time she enjoys being out in nature, spending time with loved ones, and birdwatching.

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