Vigil and prayer circle mark Peltier's 40th year in prison | National Union of Public and General Employees

Vigil and prayer circle mark Peltier's 40th year in prison

Leonard Peltier’s continued incarceration in a U.S. prison is a strong reminder of the historical and modern mistreatment of North America’s Aboriginal peoples.

Toronto (08 Feb. 2016) — Over the February 6 weekend vigils and prayer circles took place around the world to mark the 40th year that Aboriginal rights activist Leonard Peltier has spent in a US prison.

On-going support for Peltier demonstrated with worldwide events

In Canada, a vigil was held in Toronto on February 5, followed the next day by a prayer circle at the Longhouse of the Oneida Nation. For more background on the Peltier case click here and here.

Darlene Ritchie from the Oneida Nation acted as MC in Toronto with the speakers and presenters including

  • Bruce Elijah, Elder and Faithkeeper of the Oneida Nation
  • Frank Dreaver, Leonard Pelter Defence Committee Canada (LPDCC)
  • Greg Keelor, Blue Rodeo
  • Sarah Beamish, Amnesty International
  • Len Bush, National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
  • Jimmy Dick, Traditional Cultural Educator, Eagle Heart Singers
  • Mohawk Women Singers Carrie Lester and Sigrid Kneve

Speakers and presenters in Toronto took time during the vigil to remember the thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada.

Speaker turned back at the border

One of the planned speakers at the event, Edgar Bear Runner, an Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, and survivor of the conflict that led to Peltier’s arrest, was turned away at the airport in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The LPDCC and NUPGE are following up on the reasons for blocking his flight to Toronto.

Leonard has spent 40 years in prison

Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence demonstrating that evidence against Leonard Peltier was tampered with and falsified by police and the U.S. legal system, he remains incarcerated in the United States Penitentiary Coleman in the state of Florida. He has developed a number of serious health conditions while in prison and many supporters are fearing for his life.

In a statement released on the anniversary of his incarceration, he thanks his many supporters for their continued efforts on his behalf.

“Looking back on the 40 years of efforts on my behalf, I am overwhelmed and humbled. I would like to say thank you to all the supporters who have believed in me over the years. Some of you have been supporters since the beginning. You made sure I had books to read and commissary funds to buy what I may need to be as comfortable as one can be in this place. You made donations to the defense committee so we could continue fighting for my freedom, too. You all worked hard — are still working hard — to spread the word about what is now being called the most outrageous conviction in U.S. history. There are good-hearted people in this world, and you’re among them. I’m sorry I cannot keep up with answering all of your letters. But thanks for the love you have shown me. Without it, I could never have made it this long. I’m sure of it.”

Peltier remains a symbol of the continued oppression of First Nations people

For many people Leonard Peltier’s continued incarceration in a U.S. prison is a strong reminder of the historical and continued mistreatment of North America’s Aboriginal peoples. Peltier himself recognizes this connection.

“I believe that my incarceration, the constitutional violations in my case, and the government misconduct in prosecuting my case are issues far more important than just my life or freedom. I feel that each of you who have fought for my freedom have been a part of the greater struggle of Native Peoples — for Treaty rights, sovereignty, and our very survival. If I should be called home, please don’t give up on our struggle.”

He ends his statement “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse…”


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE


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