Ken Fourcloud, organizer of the Leonard Peltier Freedom Ride 2018. Photo courtesy Angela Ohmer

'Release our brother': Riders seek justice for Leonard Peltier

'Release our brother'
Riders on 1,500-mile journey for imprisoned activist Leonard Peltier
By Kevin Abourezk $ti

The riders began in a place with a dark past, where in 1862 President Abraham Lincoln – emancipator of slaves and mender of unions – hung 38 Dakota men in the largest mass execution in American history.

They started their 1,500-mile horse ride on July 28 in Mankato’s Reconciliation Park – today a monument to the state of Minnesota’s bloody Dakota uprising – and plan to arrive in late September in Coleman, Florida, where a 73-year-old Anishinabe, Lakota and Dakota man has spent the past 41 years of his life.

Those taking part in the Leonard Peltier Freedom Ride 2018 want to raise awareness of Peltier’s plight in the hopes of winning clemency for him from President Donald Trump.

“We come in peace and we come in prayer across this nation,” said Frank Rider, a 46-year-old Hunkpapa Lakota man who helped organize the ride. “We come with a plea to ask President Trump to release our brother so he can come home and have a meal with his family.”

Leonard Peltier is serving two life sentences in federal prison for the June 1975 murders of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He has been repeatedly denied parole. Photo by Jeffry Scott

Rider said Peltier has been suffering from health problems and should be released so he can spend his last days with his family. Peltier – whom many Native people consider a political prisoner – was convicted in 1977 for the murder of two FBI agents following a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation two years before.

Peltier's conviction, Rider said, was built upon fabrications by government prosecutors and should be overturned.

Ken Fourcloud, a 58-year-old Crow Creek Sioux Tribe citizen and an experienced rider, came up with the idea for the ride nearly eight years ago. He had taken part for the past nine years in the Dakota 38 + 2 Memorial Ride from the Lower Brule Reservation in South Dakota to Mankato, a ride hosted to honor the 38 Dakota men hung in Mankato, as well as two other Native men hung three years later.

“He wanted to do something,” Rider said of Fourcloud.

Participants of the Leonard Peltier Freedom Ride 2018 roast hot dogs over a fire at a campsite near Rockford, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Angela Ohmer

This past week, the three riders and their four horses crossed Iowa, with significant support from the people of that state, Rider told Indianz.Com by phone from a cornfield east of Waverly, Iowa.

Strangers have brought the riders hay for their horses and offered them shelter, and a Boy Scout troop from Waverly even gave them a place to sleep and shelter for their horses on Wednesday night.

“The people of Iowa have been great to us thus far,” Rider said.

The riders have only experienced one negative interaction when a man tried to get his dog to attack to the riders, he said. The riders stay in the ditches and switch off horses and riders about every 5 miles.

They are seeking the support of additional riders, or even runners or bicyclists, who want to participate. They are also seeking financial donations through a GoFundMe page:

Rider said any donations raised beyond those needed to pay for food and other necessities for the horses and riders will be forwarded to Peltier.

Those wanting to follow the riders’ progress can do so on their Facebook page: Leonard Peltier Freedom Ride 2018.

“We want to bring about clarification,” Rider said. “We want to bring about facts with what happened with Mr. Peltier.”

“It’s about time he comes home now.”

Leonard Peltier Freedom Ride 2018
The Leonard Peltier Freedom Ride began in Mankato, Minnesota, on July 28, 2018. Participants are riding 1,500 miles to the federal prison in Florida where Leonard Peltier is being held.

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