- Category: Leonard Peltier
by Paul DeMain (News From Indian Country Editor 2002)
Question to be answered by Peltier Supports:
Which alibi story about where Peltier was on June 26, 1975 is the truth, and which one is a lie. Do you believe what Peltier told Peter Matthesson in 1977, or what he told the picturesome Harvey Arden for Arden's book on Peltier in 1998 around the time President Clinton was considering a Pardon?
#1. To Matthesson: He is in Oglala under a car doing work when the two cars he recognizes as FBI agents come through. And he leaves about an hour before the shoot-out to go back to Jumping Bull Compound.
#2. Interview with Lee Hill: Dorothy Brings Him Back has told another writer that Peltier was at her house in Oglala on the morning of June 26, 1975. Peltier says that it was either that day, the day before, or the day after June 26, 1975.
#3. John Stewart's FBI Statement: Peltier leaves Dorothy Brings Him Back's house about 10:30 am for Jumping Bull Compound June 26, 1975. Jimmy Eagle comes around a few minutes later to say something big is going to happen at Jumping Bull. Sharpfish comes to Oglala around 11:30 and says there is a shoot-out going on.
#4. Dusty Nelson Statement: Peltier arrives coming from Oglala, in the Red and White van he typically drives along with passengers Norman Charles and Joe Stuntz and right after, two FBI cars coming from Pine Ridge pull into the compound driveway and follow him in. They want to know who is in the red and white van that went over the hill, and allegedly ask if Jimmy Eagle is in the vehicle. They jump back in their cars and go over the hill, and the shoot-out begins shortly there-after.
#5. Peltier interview with Lee Hill: Peltier is in tent city, half asleep and is awaken to gunfire. Dresses and runs up to the green shack finding nobody in that house, then to Jumping Bulls house and hearing kids, he tells them, "I got to get you out of here right now."
#6. Peltier to Harvey Arden: Peltier is smelling pancakes in tent city. The shoot-out breaks out in the distance, Peltier grabs his clothes, his gun and runs to the houses. He indicates he checks the Jumping Bull house and finds nobody. He goes to the next house and finds children that are whimpering. Knowing he was drawing fire and bullets skipping near his feet he tells the children, "Man, get under the bed, right now, we'll have to figure out how to get you out later," and runs out of the house to draw the hail of bullets away from the children.
#1. Peter Matthiessen: In The Spirit of Crazy Horse, talking about June 26, 1975.
Though Butler had been careful not to say so, Leonard told me that he was also in the van that went down that morning to Oglala Housing. "We were getting ready to go to Cedar Rapids on the support group for Crow Dog's sentencing the next day, but something was wrong with the ignition on the van - it didn't kick over - so about nine-thirty, I took it in to a guy called Ears in Oglala Housing. And I was under the van when these two cars came in real fast, screeching around from house to house. And Ears says, Look at that! If any skin drove around here like that they'd bust his ass! What the hell gives them pigs the right to come into our community and go squealing around like that! So anyway, Ears located a crossed wire - I felt like an idiot that I never found it - and after them agents left, we stood around a little while and bullshitted about a big deer he had seen a few times, and how to hunt it, and then we went on back to the farm. We weren't gone from Jumping Bull's more than an hour, hour and half, and we must have been back another hour before we heard the first shots."
#2. 4/21/1995 - Interview with Lee Hill talking about June 26, 1975.
Peltier: "Dorothy [Brings Him Back] is a dear friend and a sister as far as I'm concerned. She's a very good person. I wouldn't want to mention her name and have someone retaliate against her, some of the goons or whatever, because of my revealing any one of their names of what they might have participated in... I did stop at Dorothy's that morning. Wait, that is wrong. That was the following morning, the morning before that."
Q: See, that's the point of confusion. He (another writer) understood her to mean it was that morning.
Peltier: "No, that's right. No, that was the morning before, right."
Peltier: Yes, I was mistaken there. It was the day before that I'd stopped there because I remember also stopping at this other brother's place who was helping me rewire the vehicle that we were working on. We had stopped over at Dorothy's house the day before that so I'm sure she was mistaken about that, that's what she was mistaken about. When I was talking, that's what I was thinking about that day. Then I got to thinking, wait a minute, I didn't go no place that morning.
Peltier: I didn't go no place that morning. It was the day before that."
#3. May 14th, 1976: Rapid City, South Dakota, John Stewert affidavit.
Page 1 - I, Estes Joseph Stewart, Jr., voluntarily furnish the following signed statement to Dean Howard Hughes, David F. Price, and Douglas R. Grell, who have identified themselves to me as Special Agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. No threats or promises have been made to me regarding this statement.
In the past I have used the name Darryl Blue Lake, and I am generally known as John Stewart. My wife [Dorothy Brings Him Back] left for Pine Ridge, SD, about 8:30 am, and all of these individuals stayed until about 10:00 am or 10:30 am.
These individuals left about 10:00 am or 10:30 am, and indicated they were returning to their camp at the Jumping Bulls. These individuals left in a red and white van, and I observed Leonard Peltier driving this van.
About five minutes after Peltier and his group left Jimmy Eagle came to my residence driving a white car, a 1959 or 1960 Chevrolet. Eagle asked where Peltier and them guys went and told him they returned to their camp at the Jumping Bulls. Eagle bragged around and said, "you people should get ready, something is going to happen!..."
Subsequently, about 11:30 am, Pedro Sharpfish came to my residence and said there was a shootout at Jumping Bull
#4. University of Albuquerque, New Mexico: Robert Robideau Collection. Unidentified interviewer, with Dusty Nelson aka: John Yellow Wood Star. Regarding June 26, 1975.
Nelson: "And I got, I don't remember what happened then. But then they jumped in their cars and that one, he just went through and the other went down behind him. They went over the hill and then it wasn't very long and then the shooting started."
Q. I wanted to ask you a little bit about if you would kind of focus back on that day when you saw the cars coming to your house. And try to remember again what it was you saw. Describe to me the morning of the shoot-out what you saw. Where you were standing? Go back into that again.
Dusty Nelson: Well, we seen them coming from Oglala.
Q: I'm sorry . When you say "Them" tell me if you the BIA or you mean the FBI.
Dusty Nelson: Well, I was standing there. We was standing on this side, east side of June's house. And we were all talking and that's when Leonard came from Oglala. And then we was talking for awhile and then from the direction of Pine Ridge I seen this brown and white, I think it was, a Chevy and green and white, I don't now what kind it was. They were pulling in. They came and they stopped at the gate and then they started coming down towards the house. And that's when Leonard and I forgot who else jumped in that truck and went over the hill. And that's when June told us to get in the house and get the guns out. So me and Baby AIM (Michael Anderson) went in the house. I don't know where, I know Wanda and the kids were in the house cause she was making breakfast. Then after, after they pulled in, the one pulled in the front of the house and the one pulled in behind the back door. That's when I seen them but I didn't know it was the same two as the day before....
Q. What was the conversation?
Nelson: Well, it was something like "Where's Jimmy?"
Q. Who was talking?
Nelson: One of the agents, he is talking about "Where is Jimmy?" "We know he is here." Or something like that. And Wanda was telling him "He's not here. You have no right on this land. This is private land. You're trespassing." That's what she said, the FBI said, "Who is in that van?" And they went, they jumped in their car and went over the hill. That's the last I seen of them."
Q. So at this point, they didn't know who was in the van?
Nelson: They didn't know.
Q. Had they seen the van on Highway 18 out there?
Nelson: Oh, I don't see how they could have because they were coming from Pine Ridge and those guys were, Leonard and I forgot who was in there, was coming from the housing, Oglala housing, and the FBI was coming from Pine Ridge. Now, I don't see how they could have seen him.
Q. So, the FBI cars never passed the van?
Nelson: Not while I was sitting there. Maybe there was a BIA or something in the housing, radioed it in. Maybe that's how they, they knew because they had to know.
Q. Was there any other Red Pick-Up or Red Van or Red Jeep that you saw that day anywhere?
Nelson: No, I seen the, well, that day I seen the red jeep when we walked down to the camp because it was parked right there with all our junked cars...
Q. Was the Red Scout running on the day of the shoot-out.
Q: So the only moving Red Van or Jeep that you saw was Leonard's?
#5. Interview with Lee Hill (June 8, 1995) regarding June 26, 1975.
"That morning, when I woke up, there was, when I woke up there was some gunplay, gunfire going on. I heard, you know, the girls and everybody were hollering first. They were saying, 'man - let's, what's going on?' You know, I heard some excitement out there in the camp, right. It was one of those mornings when you woke up, and kind of laid back, felt good and comfortable, laid back, cuddled, catnapped, see what I mean? You know, those type of mornings. Wake up, and listen to the girls in the camp - and they were cooking pancakes - and then I'd go back to sleep, not into a real full sleep but, you know, half-sleep. Anyway, I start hearing those shots so I jumped and I says 'what the hell is that?' [Peltier talks about a man who was shooting at fish the day before] "So that morning, I thought that's what it was. But then all of a sudden they started sounding a little bit too close, right. Finally somebody was hollering, man, there's shooting going at the house, at Jumping Bull's. So I picked up a rifle, grabbed a rifle, threw on my shirt, put on my shoes and stuff. It was a regular western-style shirt. It was blue or something, the shirt. I started running up to the house, right, you know, not full speed of course. I was half-jogging and whatever else, and trying to look at the same time. The shooting was very, very heavy. I come walk, running up towards the part there, I seen some of the guys standing around there and I seen the top of some cars and as I was running up there, I felt, I heard some bullets zinging by my head. So I hit the ground I was trying to figure out what the hell, I couldn't see what the hell was going on. I didn't recognize you know, who those cars were
"So I come running up to the houses, you know, kind running round this way, just trying to stay as low as I can. I ran up there and went into the little green shack and there was nobody in there. Then I ran into the Jumping Bull's house and I didn't hear anybody there. You know, like, I just come running in there. I say, hello hello. Nobody, I didn't see anybody... And then I heard some of the kids whimpering, crying. And I said, man, you got to get out of here. I've got to get you out. I don't know what's going on. But I tried not to sound too excited."
Editors Note: With time ticking down with a Clemency Petition in front of President Clinton the alibi story about Peltier waking up in tent city during the shoot-out gets better and more embellished, but Peltier forgets the sequence of which house he went to first, and what he said while there. And somewhere in the narrative, Peltier must have forgetten that he had told Peter Mattheisson something totally different about June 26, 1975 in 1977 when Peltier's memory memory was much fresher about what happened that day. Mattheisson sold several hundred thousand of the books over the years. Individuals that were at Jumping Bull Compound on June 26th, relate that the story that Peltier recites below is a story that Dino Butler told Peltier about his wife, Nilak Butler dropping a pancake that morning. Peltier was in Oglala during the time period breakfast was being made in tent city, not arriving back from Oglala until around 11 am.
#6. Leonard Peltier - 1998 - Prison Writings by Harvey Arden, Chapter 27, pg. 123.
June 26, 1975, started out as a beautiful early summer day, the air sweet and heavy after an especially violent overnight thunderstorm that all but blew our tents away. The downpour had kept us up late, and I'd slept in our makeshift tent city, as we called it, until after 11:00 am. I felt a warming breeze as I lay perspiring on top of my sleeping bag in my tent listening to the women laughing and gossiping outside as they prepared breakfast on the open campfire. I heard one of them say, "Oops, I just dropped my pancake on the ground, it's all muddy," and another answered, "Oh, don't worry about it. Just wipe it off. They'll never know the difference." She meant us men-folk. I laughed quietly with them. They were right, we'd never notice. I could smell the wonderful smell of those pancakes and I was already envisioning the thick syrup I'd soon be trickling over them, followed by several cupfuls of scalding hot black coffee.
But suddenly this beautiful and peaceful morning was cut short by the staccato sound of gunfire. It seemed far off, and at first I dismissed it as someone practicing in the woods. Then I started hearing the screams. My heart nearly leaped out of my chest. Our spiritual camp had abruptly become a war zone. I instantly thought of all the women, children, and old people there at our tent camp, and of our elderly hosts, Harry and Cecilia Jumping Bull, at their house up the hill. This was why they'd call us here - to save their lives. I pulled on my boots, grabbed my shirt and a rifle, and rushed out of the tent. I started running for the house where the Jumping Bulls lived
I finally made it to the Jumping Bull house and, to my relief, found that Grandma and Grandpa Jumping Bull weren't there I ran over to the little shack next door, where I heard children's voices wailing out in fright. Bullets snapped at my heels as I ran, barely missing me - just the way you see it happen in the movies. I realized I was drawing fire to the shack. If I tried to rescue the kids right then, I would only endanger them more. How to get them out of there? I couldn't even tell which direction the shooting was coming from. I called to the young ones that it was time to be brave, time to be warriors. "Get under the bed! Stay there until we come get you!" I shouted, then I made a beeline out of there to draw the gunfire away from the house and the kids inside it.
Editors Note: FBI reports indicated that both agents, Ron Williams and Jack Color fired a total of five shots on June 26, 1975.