13th ANNUAL NORTHWEST REGIONAL
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH LEONARD PELTIER
MARCH. RALLY AND AFTER RALLY GET TOGETHER FOR JUSTICE
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2006, TACOMA
“There are a lot of nights I lie in my cell and I cannot understand why this hell and this terror I have been going through for 21 years (30 years now) hasn’t ended. But yet I know in my heart that someone has to pay a sacrifice to make things better for our people. The sacrifice I have made, when I really sit down to think about it, is nothing compared to what our people of 100 years ago, or 50 years ago or 25 years ago made. Some gave their lives. Some had to stand there and watch their children die in their arms. So the sacrifice I have made is nothing compared to those. I have gone too far now to start backing down. I don’t give up, not until my people are free will I give up. If I have to sacrifice some more then I sacrifice some more.”
Rain has been pouring down on us most every day this winter. The sun has been like some distant relative that we know is out there somewhere, but seldom seen. In the days leading up to our event the weather forecasters warned us that on Feb. 4th would be the most powerful storm of the season. On the morning of our event the news shows told of sustained winds of 50 miles per hour in some places and there were reports of wind gusts of 78 miles per hour north of us. There were pictures on the news of high waves pounding homes, of many downed trees and of thousands of homes without power. I wondered if anyone would come out to march with us.
I remembered back to a march in the mid-1990s when our march was hit by another powerful storm and only nine of us came out for the march. In a moment of weakness we talked about getting into our cars and driving down to the rally site. Among the nine people was the Elder Gloria Bean who told us that we were meant to march. It was something we had to do. Even though we had small numbers and it was pouring down rain, this was the sacrifice we had to make. Though it was nothing compared to the sacrifice of Leonard Peltier or the sacrifice of the people throughout the ages, still we understood why we had to march. We struggle for justice and a better world. We call this a struggle because it ain’t easy, it takes sacrifice. From the sacrifice we make in working for the struggle when we would really like to be doing something else, to marching in the wind and rain, we do it because it must be done even though it ain’t easy.
I always get down to the park, where our march starts from, early and I did not expect there would be many people who would be marching with us. But people just kept coming in for it seemed that many good hearted folks realized that it was even more important to march when it is hard than when it is easy. I cannot put into words the feeling I had in seeing all these people. The spirit of the people that cannot be broken.
Our security team had their meeting then lined up and marched out into the street creating a line between the cops and our people. The message there is that we take care of our own. Then the marchers came out into the street and we began to march to the courthouse. Along the way many more people joined into the march and by the time we reached the courthouse we had a large spirited march.
There was heavy wind and rain to the south, to the north, to the east and to the west of us. But as if some force of Mother Earth knew we would march no matter what took place, it acknowledged our willingness to sacrifice and very little rain or wind came our way. Right after there was a small bit of rain, I saw the sun looking down on us through the clouds as if to tell us we were doing what was needed and right.
When we reached the rally site the Aztec Dancers were doing their ceremonial dance and drumming that has met the march at the courthouse for the last five years. Then Lakota Elder Dorothy Ackerman opened up the rally and the drummers did the Peltier Honor song. We had the honor again of having Harold Belmont as our MC, even though he had been very ill and coming out was another sacrifice made. I cannot tell you much of what the speakers said because as co-coordinator I am busy working. I do not think much about what I am going to say before I speak, rather I let the spirit of the event carry out my words. I had seen that the people there were from different communities and different struggles so I talked about the connections between all of us and how Leonard’s case and the continuous struggle of indigenous people was directly tied into all social struggles. For the policies that create wars, exploitation and oppression in this land started off and continue from the policies of conquest, that will never succeed, against Native people. And that we hear of military occupations around the world, this land that we stand upon here, is also occupied land. I told the people there that we do not seek pity, sympathy or charity, but rather we seek allies in common cause and struggle. We do not struggle for Leonard just because who he is and what happened to him, we also struggle for him because that struggle is for each of us and the generations to come.
When the rain started up again we moved to the church where our speakers continued. We heard fine words from Juan Jose Bocanegra, Zoltan Grossman, Fr. Bill Bichsel: and
Josh Reisberg. We heard from a number of other people who had come out for our event, I wish I would have been able to write down all of their names. Among them included a very good talk by Ramona Bennett who spoke about the past struggles here where we were meeting and about Leonard Peltier and what type of person he is. She also spoke about Chief Leschi and all could see that what came before us we do continue today. She also spoke of thinking, not of the moment, but thinking of generations.
The church, which is a large church, was packed from end to end. The group that got the church for us and hosted the meal was the local Tacoma People for Peace, Justice and Healing group. How can we even begin to tell these people how we feel about what they have done for three years in a row? They have opened doors for us that were closed in the past. They have worked hard on the meal. Though we did do an acknowledgement for them at the event. Let me say how much of an honor it is just being around them. Some times people are unable to live up to the name they give themselves, but this local group has made their name into a living testament of their name, good will to all people and their commitment to peace, justice and healing for all who dwell upon Mother Earth. Because of them people of different communities and from throughout the northwest are able to come together and connect.
After the end of the rally speakers at the church the meal was served and Tacoma LPSG co-coordinator Steve Hapy opened up the focus on youth. B.J. Gleason spoke on the troubles Native youth face and read from Leonard’s book that clearly showed that as we struggle for Leonard, that like Leonard, we need to struggle and be there for the young people of our communities. Some members of United Nations Native rap group had to leave because of a relative had just gone into the hospital, but two members of the group stayed and did two very powerful rap songs. Then Steve and Albert ended things with a drum song.
We view this event as very successful and a good continuation of our annual event. Though we work every year as if that year will be the year that Leonard is freed, but we do so with the comment to continue for how ever long it takes.
I realize that because of the weather many people could not attend the event. We know that up north our people were faced with gusts of winds that were of hurricane force and thus the Bellingham caravan could not make it. But still we had a very good turnout. We wish to thank all those who got out the fliers, posters, and publications out and forward our e-mails. All this is not just for our event but is also to get Leonard’s name and case out throughout our region. Leonard will never be forgotten as long as such people are doing that work.
We wish to thank everyone who helped in any manner. We wish to thank the
Chief Seattle Club for their support, work and food for the meal. We wish to thank the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace for their speaker and help. We wish to thank United Nations for helping with the security team. We wish to thank all who made up our security team for looking after the well-being of our people. We wish to thank the speakers for sharing their words. We wish to thank the local Tacoma Wobblies that helped and I did notice a number of Wobbly pins though I don’t know from which towns they all came. We wish to than Jobs With Justice for their support. We wish to thank Jeff and Tom for their help. We wish to thank our old Friends Jim and Red for their help. We wish to thank the sound person. We wish to thank everyone who helped and came out. Our events are not about one group or a few people, but rather they are about everyone involved and everyone makes up the total event. Thank you all.
In the Spirit of Real Solidarity
Arthur J. Miller