Message to Youth from Leonard Peltier

January, 2006


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

     This year will mark more than three decades of my unjust imprisonment. Behind bars I have aged from a youth myself, into an elder. As an elder I have become increasingly encouraged by the potential and promise of indigenous youth from all First Nations. Today indigenous youth have greater opportunities than possibly ever before in our peoples history. However, these opportunities were not attained without sacrifice. They arose from great struggle. They came from ordinary men and women; your relatives who made extraordinary sacrifices. These warriors’ struggle to ensure a better future for generations to come can never be taken for granted.

     I am especially pleased to hear of the rising numbers of indigenous youth who are graduating from high school and entering institutions of higher learning; universities, colleges, and technical schools. Other youth are taking advantage of social programs that will assist them in each of their respective futures. These are all opportunities that as a youth I could have only dreamed of. Yet, even though we have made much progress and advances for our people we still have a long path ahead to attain justice for First Nations.

     I strongly believe that the first step on that path is to always be conscious of our people’s history. Irregardless of what nation we belong to we have shared a combined history of struggle against a more than 500-year long genocide. It has been a genocide focused not only on the death of our relatives, but of our spirituality, culture, and language. All will be lost if we do not honor our ancestors by learning about their sacrifice so that the people may live. We must never forget our ways, our traditions, and our wisdom.

     Each one of you must acknowledge your capacity and ability to bring about positive changes for our people. This is done not only by bettering yourself, but by helping your brothers and sisters who have wondered off the Red Road. I am deeply pained by the numbers of youth who have prematurely lost their life to gang violence and suicide. It is just as troubling to hear of those who continue to suffer from drug and alcohol abuse. I ask you to bring your brothers and sisters who need guidance and medicine to our ceremonies. It is our spirituality that has always sustained us as a people.

     Throughout history there have been countless attempts to rob us as a people; our lands, our history, our language, and our culture. However, they have never been able to take our future from us. The future belongs to the Creator only and it is the Creator who gives it to the youth. As a youth it is your responsibility to honor all your relations, our Mother Earth, and the Creator by committing yourself to the struggle for a future of justice and a better tomorrow for all peoples.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier

Music selected and performed by Thomas B. Maracle, Mohawk, Iroquois Confederacy

Graphics provided by Sam Silverhawk: