LEONARD PELTIER: STATEMENT FOR THE OPENING CEREMONY
U.S. SOCIAL FORUM-DETROIT
June 22, 2010
Welcome to the traditional lands of my people, the Anishinabe. Greetings, my brothers and sisters. Greetings also to my relations from the many different Indigenous Nations who now call this place “Home.” Thank you for your warm welcome.
Hello to all the people of conscience in attendance at the US Social Forum. Thank you for taking the time and expense to attend an event that people will talk about for years to come. I know if you focus and believe, this event can be a major step in the development of a new society—one that turns away from fossil fuels, war and the rampant destruction of our universal home and, instead, focuses on the betterment of all… as opposed to the enrichment of a select few.
I ask that you work this week, in particular, toward full recognition of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an essential component of a just and honorable U.S. human rights policy. As many of you may know, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was developed over many years with the participation of thousands of Indigenous Peoples. It is consistent with human rights principles as contained in international law, as well as the U.S. Constitution. And, yet, two nations with the largest Indigenous populations—Canada and the United States—have failed to endorse the Declaration. We call upon the United States government to finally endorse the Declaration in its entirety—without qualifications or exceptions—and to work in full partnership with Indigenous Peoples, Tribal governments and Nations to ensure its implementation.
I am Leonard Peltier, an American Indian political prisoner who fought against some of the same ideas and mechanisms many of you are fighting against today. Perhaps it was in a different way and a different time, but many years ago we were warning against the very realities many of you face today. The energy companies were raping Indian Country years ago—long before the oil spills, the mining disasters, and the poisoned waters America has come to know so well. So perhaps you can spare a few minutes to listen to the admonitions of an old man, an old warrior whose wisdom has come at a very high price.
I encourage you to find unity in your various causes, because all of your struggles are linked. Actually, you don’t just find unity, you create it—each of you individually. Create unity within your specific organizations. And between them. Link your efforts and find ways to network and maximize those efforts.
Making change has never been more important. Make the most of every second, for time is growing short, as so many prophecies have foretold. Educate others about the realities you are struggling for and against. Especially focus on educating the young people who will further your efforts tomorrow. Know that your sensibilities are a gift from Creator intended to wake up and shake up the world so that we may improve how we treat the Earth and each other.
We Indian people like to say “we are all related”. I pass that truth on to you now. Each and every one of you and the work you are doing are related. Let that be your greeting between groups and persons, as well as an ethic—the very spirit of what gatherings like this are intended to be. Practice thinking and saying it until it is automatic. We are all related, so put aside whatever differences you may have and make solidarity a new and constant reality. Remember, this is not your struggle. It is for everyone.
I thank you for taking the time to remember an old activist and perhaps learn from the experiences of another people from another time.
Now go out and change the world! Make it a place you’ll be proud to hand to the next seven generations!
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,