Leonard Peltier Speaks on the Occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Jumping Bull Shootout
I know this is a dictated speech that is going to be read to you, however, I want to speak to you as if I were there, or should I say. here with you. Every year someone or some people at Oglala remember the sacrifices of the people who were there trying to make a difference for our people. And every year I remember the ones who aren't with us, the ones who can no longer be with us, and the sacrifices that they made. Sometimes I'm at a loss for words for the heartfelt appreciation I have- that you would remember all of those that gave their lives - as Joe Stuntz did; and, all of those who continue to strive in so many different ways to serve the people.
I deeply regret that I can't be there with you. But yet in a way, I have to count my blessings. I have lived to see changes take place for our people. Though they are not as good as I would wish, there have been changes brought about by Joe Stuntz and others who have sacrificed in some way for our people. As I said, I have to be grateful because, although in a limited way, I have had the chance to get to know my children, some of my grandchildren, and they in turn have gotten to know me; something that my brother Joe and so many others who lost their lives fighting for the people, did not have an opportunity to do.
When I first came here, I was considered a young warrior and now within my circle, I am looked upon as an Elder- Something that hopefully all of you will come to be a part of in your lifetime. I had a friend once, an Elder who has since gone on, who once said to me that every person that he had consulted with on their death bed had spoken of the Creator and their family. That became the highest priority in their life and what was left of it. And he spoke to me of many because he had been an emergency room technician at one time. In thinking and remembering this, it always reminds me of the Sundance and the Sweat lodge and how the extremes of pain and sacrifice always seem to bring those same concerns to mind. Each of us - from the day we are born, to the time that we pass on, should remember to talk to the Creator and pray for our relatives.
Forgive me if I sound a little sentimental or dramatic, but I've experienced thirty years of dying, thirty years of hearing that some of my relatives have gone on, thirty years of praying for our people, and I am so grateful that the Creator has allowed me to talk to you in some way and let you know that you are my family. You are my relatives. You are my young warriors and my Elders. And, if I am remembered for anything at all, I want it to be that I never gave up - for you. I want you to know that I have faith in you, that one day your efforts will bring about a stronger nation; a nation where alcoholism, diabetes, suicide, and poverty do not control the lives of our people.
I know lately there has been a lot of concern and rumors about various individuals who have collaborated in some way with the government against their own people, people who are giving away some of our sovereignty; giving away our right to determine our own destiny and to handle our own affairs. With this in mind, I want to encourage you to remember always who we are and I want to ask you to remind yourselves that this is our land, given to us by the Creator, and our freedom was given to us by the Creator. The forest, the trees, the animals, the prairie - were all given to us by the Creator. No man of any nation or color or origin has the right to take that away. We have the right, given to us by the Creator, to resist; to protect our own; to stand firm on the principles and the teachings the Creator has given our people for thousands of years.
We are a beautiful people; we have a beautiful culture, and we should seek to join with all our brothers and sisters and relatives of other Indigenous nations who are faced with the same dangers of loss. There is an old Cheyenne saying I once heard that a Nation is never defeated until the hearts of it's women are on the ground. The hearts of our women may be low, but they are not on the ground and I damn sure ain't gonna let it happen on my shift. I love you to the nth degree. I always will. You will always be in my prayers. Do what you can, where you can, from where you stand and - to quote Sitting Bull - let's see what kind of nation we can make for our children. I don't say I love you easily but I want you to know that I love you - my heart is with you and never, never, never .give up !
Before I finish, I want to say thank you, though I was told by an Elder that it was better to show your thanks with your deeds and your gifts, rather than just speaking it with your mouth. I apologize that I have nothing to give but I want you to know that you have my prayers, my thoughts, and what is left of my life. I will always be with you.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Learn more about Leonard Peltier: http://www.leonardpeltier.org/
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