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The Day of Mourning: Peltier Statement, 25 Nov 2010


Greetings, my relatives.

It seems another year has gone by since the last time we gathered like this. I say we, although I am not there with you in body, my spirit certainly is. We have coined this day, a day of mourning, as opposed to a day of thanksgiving. It’s a shame that for the most part thanksgiving is relegated to only one day. And mourning is something that relates to unhappy circumstances that have taken place. We certainly can’t change what has happened. This very day is ours and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet and, is uncertain. I really don’t like to dwell on the mourning aspects of life but instead, on what we can do to prevent those unhappy and sometimes terrible times in our history. I may have mentioned it once before but I once read about a union organizer named Joe Hill that was framed by the copper mine owners to be executed. And I believe he said what really needs to be said upon his death. His words were “don’t mourn, organize”. And those are also my sentiments.

There are a lot of things that happened in the past that can be prevented in the future. There are losses that can be regained. But we must organize to do it. We must find it within ourselves to be in touch with the Creator for I can tell you from a heartfelt fact that when they’ve pushed you away, into a dark corner, not just your body, but your mind, your soul, your spirit, there is no one that can sustain you but the Creator himself. Dark moments come and go in all our lifetimes. And there are those in political office, who will try to turn your head away from the obvious truths. They will lie to you about what they believe. They will try to get you to follow what they consider politically correct while ignoring the truth, such as protests against the Mosque being built within blocks of the fallen Trade towers, which incidentally was a monument to wealth and wealth seekers. I am not trying to demean the innocent people whose only cause of their death was seeking a place of employment to feed their families. While they protest the Mosque, no one mentions the Native American sacred places that by treaty are seriously violated daily. Our Sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, sacred to many tribes, have the faces of many of our oppressors carved on them. The place of vision seeking, Bear Butte in South Dakota, sacred to us for millennia, has a bar built at the foot of it and there is talk of having helicopter flights around it to attract tourism. And, there is even talk of drilling for oil and gas.

Every time I have to write or I should say dictate, one of these statements, I try to think of what I would say if this was the last time I got to speak. The thing that comes to mind in some of our sacred ceremonies and that is thoughts of our relationships with the ones we love and the Creator of all life. Not to take away from the theme of this day, but if you can hold the person you love, be thankful. If you can walk on green grass, touch a tree, be thankful. If you can breathe air that didn’t come through a ventilation system, or a window with bars, be thankful. If you can stand in an open field or some other place at night and look up at the heavens, be thankful. No one appreciates the simple things as much as a man or woman locked away. I know sometimes some of my friends may have thought I had become institutionalized and there may be some element of my thinking behavior that has become calloused from this continued imprisonment. But I have not for a moment forgotten the needs of my people and the atrocities committed against them or the circumstances that all the poor and impoverished face in this world at the hands of those who take more than they need and exploit for gain, the futures of our children. I paint pictures of them sometimes, people I’ve known, people I’ve met, places I’ve seen, and places I’ve only seen in my minds eye. And if my paintbrush was magical, rest assured I would paint for myself one open door.

I wrestle with what to say to you and words are sometimes so inadequate. So if you are free today, un-imprisoned, be thankful. Give the person next to you a hug for me. May the Great Spirit bless you always in all ways with the things you need. May you find joy in doing what is right and righting what is wrong and seek to be the best example of what a human should be in our lifetime.

In the Spirit of those we mourn, those who gave their lives and those whose lives were taken from them.

I really don’t know what else to say because in writing this, my heart has become heavy with the emotions of this time.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, who gave his life for what was right and tried to right what was wrong.

Your Brother,

Leonard Peltier

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