on September 3, 2001
"Prison Writings", by Leonard Peltier, is quite an eye-opener. This political prisoner maintains his innocence and demonstrates it through his heart and compassion. At times, each chapter appears to be a stream of consciousness dependent on his mood (he wrote it in prison where he still remains), but he always evaluated his mood and came back full circle and has come to terms that he may never leave but that his hope in humanity might help lift him and thousands of others wrongfully imprisoned.
His words have compelled me to do further research and there are many related books, articles and even a documentary film by Robert Redford titled "Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story". I encourage everyone to read it and watch the film available through rental or purchase.
Whether you believe in his innocence or not is not the point. The point is that our current system remains flawed despite the cold hearts that are too scared to take a serious look into their conscience.
Leonard Peltier has definitely changed my once hardened heart. I am still a cynic and angry often, but thinking about his struggles through unfair justice keeps me focused. It is an easy read if you don't mind the harsh realities of our justice system, or lack thereof!
"Mitakuye Oyasin!" Learn this meaning from his book - it will serve you well in your life.
on July 12, 1999
Having myself been at one time a skeptic of Peltier's fantastic claims, I became convinced of his innocence after poring over the considerable & incontrovertible evidence that clearly proves this man is a victim of political repression. But this book is only secondarily about how Peltier was purposely made a scapegoat by an out-of-control, Gestapo-esque FBI, and by a few unscrupulous scoundrels within Department of Justice [sic]. (That astonshing, disturbing history has been recounted elsewhere, e.g., "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" or "Agents of Repression".)
Instead, in "Prison Writings" Peltier focuses more on the continuing historical struggle of his people to be treated with dignity and equality; offers insights into the realities of contemporary Indian existence beyond the sham portrayals in popular culture; and shows how his perceptions and opinions have been molded by his own experiences, from childhood to the starkness of prison life.
To be honest, I had not expected Peltier's book to be so well written, profound, and powerful; after all, Peltier's involvement with the American Indian Movement was not that of a fiery public speaker, decision-maker, or clever stager of outrageous stunts for the media (like some of AIM's leaders). Instead, Peltier's work with AIM was characterized by his preference to quietly perform the unglamorous yet neccessary tasks to serve his people (e.g., hauling water to homes with no plumbing, making home repairs, babysitting, fixing cars, chastising teenagers to be abstinent from alcohol and drugs, chopping firewood, etc).
Yet despite his humble background and his avoid-the-limelight personality, Peltier's eloquence, wit/humor, irony, and heart-wrenching passion displayed in this book, betrays a depth of clear-thinking, maturity, and courage that is seldom seen in our world. After reading his book, it is no wonder that among all the infighting and divisions within AIM, it was Peltier who was universally trusted and respected by all those in the movement, and admired by the common people for whom he has now sacrificed most of his life to serve and protect.
From one of justice's greatest tragedies comes this powerful offering of wisdom, and an indictment of the fallacy of "The Great American Dream".
on March 10, 2001
Whether or not you believe that Leonard Peltier really murdered two FBI agents in cold blood, you must read this book. The United States imprisons more people, *and* more people per capita, than any other nation in the world! Leonard's poignant book gives the reader a feel for *one* story of life behind bars. Not a journal or a story, per se, but a series of reflections, of meditations, of poems about life as a prisoner, life as a *political* prisoner in the Land of the Free.
You, who read this, with access to a personal computer, cannot begin to wrap your life around the experience of being caged. Of having every aspect of your life regulated. You, who grew up white, privileged, cannot wrap your mind around the experience of being beaten up simply because you spoke your native language. You, who grew up on land you "owned," have insulated yourself from imagining the pain of having your people destroyed, your culture outlawed, and your identity trampled into the mud.
So don't buy this book. Your will be able to continue your life comfortably. You'll be able to proceed with that warm fuzzy feeling that things are OK with the world, and that even if agent Fox Mulder has died, the FBI is really on *your* side.
Don't buy this book. You don't want to begin to feel what Leonard feels, caged in Leavenworth. Don't buy this book, it's easier to pretend that *those* people deserve to be locked up, that *those* people are animals, that the *justice* system really works most of the time. Don't buy this book, you don't want to have any inkling about what it feels like when justice miscarries.
Leonard Peltier wasn't (Mark) Rich enough for a Clinton pardon. He has exhausted his legal appeals. Prison Writings tells you what he will probably experience until he dies in Leavenworth. Since he's been sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus seven years, he wonders, will they keep his body in jail after he dies to get that second term?
Enough polemics. The book briefly recounts Leonard's history, the story of the shooting at Pine Ridge, and his trial. It intersperses his poetry with stories. His anger comes across loud and clear. There's a chapter about the massacre at Wounded Knee. I can't read that chapter without the tears rolling down my face. 300 women and children, surrounded by U. S. Cavalry, mowed down with cannon fire & gatling guns. 20 Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded for this atrocity.
Leonard doesn't pull any punches. He conveys, quite effectively, that we live in a land where systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing have nearly destroyed the indigenous people and enabled *us* to benefit greatly. While we look down our noses at the Nazi holocaust, we ignore the American holocaust. I wonder, is it any more *wrong* to lather your body with Jew soap, or to build your home on land soaked with the blood of the people who came before you?
Much easier to point our fingers at the Nazis and to smugly feel that we'd never participate in anything so horrible.
If you're looking for a book with more details about the Pine Ridge shootings and AIM, Peter Matthiessen's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse is a great source. The video, Incident at Oglala, provides an extremely biased presentation of Leonard's story....
on January 14, 2000
Somehow, despite being an activist, I managed to shove concerns of who Leonard Pelltier was to the back shelves of my mind. I've stood up for other causes and have Native friends and thought probably, "it's all too much." In December, was it only December, I read Prison Writings which is honestly written, stark, heartbreaking, brave, all of the superlatives. By the time I finished the book, I knew Leonard Pelltier must be freed. An injustice must be righted. I think everyone in the United States should read this book and then take some action to express their voice on behalf of not only Leonard Pelltier, but all Native Americans who have suffered from twisted and distorted justice.
on February 11, 2001
One summer day I found myself to be extremely bored, so I ventured to my local bookstore hoping to find something worth reading. Suddenly, a book caught my eye, that being "Prison Writings" The grey cover blended in with the shelves, yet the book stood out on its own. I immediately picked it up. It took me about 4 hours to read. I began to think long and hard, it only took four hours to give me a completely different perspective on life, thanks to the inspiring accounts of Leonard Peltier.
Peltier has experienced horror, disappointment, racism, and stripped of his rights, yet this book has an uncanny sensitivity to it, he is not bitter. Rather, he accounts his shortcomings extensively with a tone of hope throughout the book.
Peltier goes into great detail about the fateful June 26 1975 on his Pine Ridge reservation. He was led to escape by following an eagle, showing the spirtuality of the Natives that is often supressed. He also discusses the coercion of the FBI which eventually led to his arrest, and instead of being bitter, he shares his pain with the families of the killed FBI agents. This token of character demonstrates how courageous Peltier is, and why he is a hero to many.
Unfortunately former President Clinton refused to pardon Peltier, which is yet another disappointment. Yet he still has hope and shows great appreciation to his fellow supporters.
Simply put: "Prison Writings" is a detailed and enlightening account of the life of Leonard Peltier. Furthermore, it reveals his indestructible character and love for his people. Instead of writing a book to complain (which too many people do) he stays bold, strong, courageous, and hopeful of the future of himself and his people, therby making him a hero and his book an inspiring and unique read.
on November 26, 1999
This well written book not only makes you have more compassion for Leonard Peltier, it also boils the blood to know he is still incarcerated for a wrong he has not committed.
I could not put this book down once I started reading it. In one day it was finished. It also reminded me of a saying of my generation, "Question Authority."
Leonard has in these writings opened his soul and presented the reader with a look into his life as U.S.P. #89637-132. The reading saddened me, but at the same time it stirred emotions of anger.
The documented lies that led to his arrest and conviction have done nothing to speed his release. Mr. President, you have the power with the touch of your pen to right this terrible wrong.
In the Spirit of Leonard, ho!
on January 24, 2003
United States Prisoner #89637-132, a hero and a brave man,
full of spirit. Nothing, not even false imprisonment
can take that away from him. This book will bring you to
tears and warm your heart, as does the traditoinal but
improvised sun dance. The miscarriage of justice may
anger you, and my prayers are that enough of the readers
of this book will contact their congressmen, anyone that
will listen, and hopefully free this innocent man. In the
meantime, he lives his life with dignity and shines with
honor. His ancestors would be proud of him.
I read this book in one sitting, as I was unable to put
it down, and neither will you. May God Bless Mr. Leonard
Pelletier and all Native Americans that continue to endure
what the white man has done to all of the Indian tribes!
on June 9, 1999
A compelling look at imprisoned Native American activist, Leonard Peltier. So many people have come to understand a bit of his case involving the deaths of two FBI agents in a shootout on the Pine Ridge reservation in 1975, which resulted in now over 23 years of incarceration. Now, take a look at Leonard the man, a view from a place many consider to be the darkness of a political prisoners cell. This book provides a basic understanding of some of the circumstances leading to the tragic shootout in South Dakota. More importantly, Leonard's own words demonstrate dramaticly, his compassion for all people and the need for healing with Native American peoples.
on July 29, 2015
I LIVED IN NEBRASKA WHEN "INCIDENT AT OGLALLA" RESERVATION IN S.DAKOTA HAPPENED. (SEE THE DVD).
HUNDREDS OF INDIANS KILLED- MEN,WOMEN,CHILDREN,BABIES . AND, WE KNEW IF THAT REZ WASN'T SITTING ON ONE OF THE LARGEST URANIUM DEPOSITS IN THE U.S., THEY COULD HAVE LIVED IN PEACE.
THEN 2 CIA AGENTS GET KILLED, MAYBE BY THEIR OWN OPERATIVES. THREE INDIANS CHARGED..JURY IN IOWA FOUND TWO INNOCENT OF ALL CHARGES. SO THEY MOVED THE PELTIER TRIAL TO THE MOST HOSTILE OF ENVIRONMENTS, GAVE FALSE EVIDENCE, THREATENED WITNESSES, BLATANTLY LIED UNDER OATH... AND FOUND A CLEARLY INNOCENT MAN GUILTY-- OF STANDING UP FOR INDIAN'S RIGHTS AGAINST "THE MACHINE OF THE MAN" THE CIA.
TEARS READING OF THE TORTURE AND TREATMENT IN PRISON. MORE TEARS WHEN I REALIZED HE IS STILL ALIVE; MOVED AGAIN AND AGAIN- LATEST TO ONE OF THE MOST CORRUPT AND ABUSIVE FEDERAL PRISONS IN AMERICA.
MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON OUR SOULS FOR ALLOWING THIS FOR OVER 40 YEARS AND COUNTING.
on August 22, 2005
This book is poignant. Leonard Peltier expresses himself very well about the injustice of his people for hundreds of years and still is continuing to this day. He didn't write this book for sympathy but to right a wrong that has been done to him over a quarter of a century ago. He delves into the past, about his ancestors and the origin of the "Sundance", which I thought, years ago, was just a festival that actor/producer Robert Redford sponsored.
Leonard puts his whole soul into writing this book. He tells of the pain inflicted upon him by the system as well as the progress he's made, behind bars, to be active into helping his people. He also expresses his feelings which is difficult for men to do regardless of their race, color, or creed. He is extremely positive that he will be a free man soon. He is still a warrior.
I finished this book in one sitting. It was provocative, honest, and spiritual. Yes, Leonard, "MITAKUYE OYASIN", we are all related!!!