Since the arrival of Columbus in San Salvador during the year of 1492 the native peoples of the country now recognized as the United States of America have been forced to change their way of living through massive culture dumping, oppression, and execution reaching levels that can be considered genocidal. By herding these people onto reservations and forcing them to assimilate through broken treaties, threats of deprivation and starvation, a once strong culture was dissipating rapidly.
Although the U.S. has since apologized for such massacres as Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, true compensation and reparation is still rare indeed. A quarter of a century ago, a new wound was inflicted to add to the insult of the Native American people. Leonard Peltier sits in his cell in Leavenworth Prision incarcerated for crimes that many believe he did not commit. His supporters are sure that he has been railroaded as a scapegoat for the murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge reservation on June 26, 1975. He has become the ultimate symbol representing Native American suppression. .
Peltier was born on September 12, 1944 in Grand Forks, North Dakota to Leo and Alvina Peltier. Four years after his birth he moved with his grandparents to the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota. He began schooling at age six at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding school in Wahpeton ND (Matthiessen, 45). At the time the BIA schools had the reputation of attempting to integrate their students into the white culture, attempting to erase their memories of their Native American culture.
Peltier moved back to Turtle Mountain at age 13. He was arrested a year later at a Sun Dance on the reservation by BIA police on the charge of intoxication, which Peltier denies (Peltier, 224). At fifteen his mother was relocated to Portland and he moved westward to live with the family of his cousin, Bob Robideau.