, 43-year-old son of imprisoned American Indian activist Leonard Peltier
, stopped by WW's offices Monday to sign a letter to the parole board that's considering his father's parole from the U.S. Penitenitary in Lewisburg, Pa. next week.
The letter invites his father to live in the Portland area, pending the outcome of his
July 28 hearing.
“I used to be nervous [about getting involved in his defense] because I didn't want to end up where he is,” says Peltier, a laborer
living in Banks. “But, I'm 43 now, I'd just like to see my dad out. I want to go on a walk with him, maybe go fishing.”
Leonard Peltier has been in federal prison for the murder of two FBI agents at Pine Ridge Reservation
in South Dakota since Chauncey was 10 years old. Leonard Peltier's supporters have said he was wrongly convicted. But until recently, Chauncey never thought he would see his dad freed.
, Peltier's attorney who has worked on his parole case for 20 years, said in a radio interview that he has never been more optimistic about his client's release, claiming the “atmosphere in the world these days is much more favorable.”
President Obama's election was important to the case after Seitz says Clinton “stabbed us in the back,”
by not granting clemency at the end of his administration in 2001.
It is Seitz's optimism that gives some optimism to Barbara Dills, a member of the local support movement for Leonard Peltier since 2005.
“We're just trying to do all we can,” Dills said, hesitant to get her hopes too high. “The air kind of went out of the balloon after Clinton. And there was zero chance in the Bush era. But now that the chairman of the parole board [Isaac Fulwood] is an Obama appointment, it's promising.”
Regardless of the hearing outcome, Peltier's lawyers will apply for
clemency from Obama.
“There would be restrictions on his release in terms of what he can do and who he can communicate with,” Dills said. “Clemency would clear his name.”
Seitz and Dills agree that his release depends on political support and rebuilding public support that has waned since the 90s.
Peltier's supporters include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and other Nobel laureates. Depending on schedule conflicts, Seitz says Robert Redford, who produced and narrated a documentary on Peltier, may testify at the parole hearing.
To show local support, there will be a 6 p.m. vigil in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Monday, July 27
. The gathering will take place around a central brick in the square that was donated in Peltier's name.
“The point of being there is that we are all believers of positive thinking and prayer,” Dills said. “We want to focus our energy on him.”
Seitz thinks there is a good chance Peltier will be out by his 65th birthday, Sept. 12 because his health and age may become factors in his release.
“He told me he'd like to just build a house on his property,” says Chauncey Peltier, referring to Turtle Mountain, a Chippewa reservation in North Dakota. “After 33 years in a nine-by-five cell I think he is tempted to stay on his 12 acres.”
However, the parole board will have a say in where Peltier relocates. Dills says there are several offers that make the case for parole stronger, including invitations to Portland and Turtle Mountain.
Another strength is Peltier's ability to earn substantial wages. Bonnie Kahn, owner of the Wild West Gallery on NW 23rd, has sold Peltier's pieces in the past
and wrote to the parole board saying that his paintings will command high prices.
Despite the waves of support, there are groups like the No Parole Peltier Association
that, according to its website, exists “to respond to the erroneous statements and allegations made by the International Office of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee