LEONARD: Political Prisoner

LEONARD: Political Prisoner

In 1977, Native American activist Leonard Peltier was sentenced to consecutive life terms for killing two FBI agents. Then in 2000, a Freedom of Information Act disclosure proved the Feds had framed him. But Leonard's still in prison. This is the story of what happened on the Pine Ridge Reservation half a century ago—and the man who's still behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.

Episodes

June 22, 2020 3 min

Leonard Peltier has spent the last 44 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. This is the story of how he ended up behind bars, and the people who’ve been working for decades to set him free.

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On the morning of June 26, 1975, a firefight broke out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and members of the American Indian Movement. By noon, three people lay dead: AIM member Joe Stuntz, and special agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams. But why was the FBI shooting at AIM activists on sovereign Lakota land in the first place? 


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July 3, 2020 18 min

To commemorate July 4, 2020, President Trump is traveling to the Black Hills of South Dakota to give a speech in front of Mount Rushmore. But for the Lakota, the Black Hills are sacred. And the carvings of the four Presidents represent a desecration of their history and culture. As Edgar Bear Runner, a Lakota tribal historian, puts it: “Mount Rushmore is a shrine to racism. A shrine to genocide.” 

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July 16, 2020 40 min

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation—full of gold, uranium, and oil—contains some of the most valuable land on the planet. But the Federal Government didn’t know that when they originally granted the territory to the Lakota in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. So for the next 100 years, the U.S. secretly took back the land piece by piece: ultimately with the help of Dick Wilson, the dictatorial Tribal Chairman of Pine Ridge, and his pr...

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July 30, 2020 46 min

Edgar Bear Runner, the newly elected President of the Porcupine District of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, was just 25 on the morning of June 26, 1975. When shots rang out on the Jumping Bull ranch between the FBI and members of the American Indian Movement, Edgar visited a Lakota medicine man, said a prayer, and went in to help negotiate a truce. But he also had an ulterior motive: to help buy time for the AIMsters to escape.


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August 13, 2020 41 min

In June, 1975, reporter Kevin McKiernan traveled to South Dakota to cover the trial of AIM leader Dennis Banks who was standing trial for his role in the 1973 Custer Courthouse Riot. But as the hearing got underway on June 26, word spread that shots had been fired 100 miles away on the Pine Ridge Reservation between Federal agents and members of AIM. So McKiernan jumped in his truck and raced into the center of the firefight. 


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August 27, 2020 53 min

The Bureau of Prisons makes it deliberately hard to interview federal inmates. In the case of political prisoners like Leonard Peltier, they make it even harder. But in this episode, we get around all their procedural barricades and finally speak with Leonard himself—about his health, his hopes, and his future. We also interview Kevin Sharp, the lawyer petitioning the Trump Administration to grant Leonard clemency. And we talk with...

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October 15, 2020 41 min

Political prisoners are often forgotten because the government disappears them into the system. Leonard’s art draws attention back to his story, which is why some would rather silence him. In this bonus episode we speak with UCLA professor Dr. Tria Blu Wakpa, who explains why Leonard’s art is a powerful example of indigenous resilience, and Larry Hildes, the civil liberties attorney fighting for Leonard’s right to free speech. We a...

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December 3, 2020 40 min

According to the documentary’s director, accomplished filmmaker Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Thunderheart, The World Is Not Enough), Robert Redford ruined “Incident at Oglala” out of fear of upsetting the powers that be. Although Redford was scarcely involved in the production of the documentary, he became heavily involved in its post-production, exercising his authority as executive producer to censor the final cut. When ...

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June 7, 2021 50 min

Over the course of his tenure, President Trump issued 143 pardons, but he showed no mercy to Leonard Peltier. In this episode Leonard reacts to Trump’s snub; filmmaker Kevin McKiernan joins us for a conversation with Indian treaty expert Charles Wilkinson; and Carol Gokee from the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee shares important updates on Leonard’s case and medical condition. 

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June 24, 2021 19 min

To avoid the tragic fate of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull who were killed after surrendering to the US government, AIM leader Dennis Banks was persuaded to leave Wounded Knee the night before the federal stand down on May 8th, 1973. The warrior selected to lead his escape party was Lenny Foster, a Diné Navajo who has since become Leonard Peltier’s spiritual adviser. Hear how Lenny was able to evade detection and smuggle Dennis Banks...

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October 21, 2021 48 min

In the early morning hours of June 28th, 1975, daylight was breaking on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation when Leonard Peltier, Bob Robideau, and Dino Butler discovered they’d been hiking in the wrong direction. Instead of finding themselves in Manderson, a nearby community home to numerous allies, they were in Pine Ridge village, the command center for the largest manhunt in American history. Hear how a handful of unsung local her...

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