The 3 day symposium in Heidelberg, Germany for human rights activist, Leonard Peltier and the situation of the Native Americans, received national and international support.
Initiator and coordinator: Lynn Elms
Conference team: Lynn Elms, Dr. Michael Schiffmann, Dr. Michael Koch
Representatives from the US, Canada, Switzerland and Germany took active part in the 3 day symposium from Oct. 7-9 2016 in the German-American Institute in Heidelberg. Guests included indigenous activists, international human rights activist organizations, authors, journalists and musicians.
The main focus was the case, history and the current situation of the 72 year old indigenous human rights activist, Leonard Peltier. He was charged with the killing of 2 FBI agents in 1975 during a shootout between the agents and members of AIM (American Indian Movement). He has already sat out over 40 years of a double lifelong sentence behind bars.
Presentations and discussions were given by:
Mitch Walking Elk, (Cheyenne-Arapaho) who gave a moving account of his own experience of being taken from his family at a very young age and put into a boarding school, a system which was accompanied by devastating mental and physical abuse. His life story is a documentation of the history and consequence of the several hundred years of systemized Genocide of the indigenous people in North America.
Jeneda and Clayson Benally (Dinè-Navajo), with their father, Jones (a spiritual leader). Together they perform, inter alia, as the rock-punk music group known as Sihasin. Their discussion was focused on the damage and destruction of their spiritual lands (burial grounds) through corporate greed, the most current conflict being the Dakota Access Pipeline. Other issues brought to light were human rights violations on the reservations, especially against indigenous women. Unfortunately most of these problems rarely reach the general public.
Other guest and speakers included:
Monika Seiler (Munich), journalist (Coyote magazine) and activist
Claus Biegert, /Munich) Journalist/ film maker who through his extensive work with the history and struggles of the indigenous peoples since the 1970’s, has worked directly with Leonard Peltier to produce a documentary film about his case.
Frederick Cedar Face, Lakota, (South Dakota) took part by Skype and a PowerPoint presentation about the current poverty level and general situation on the reservations.
Michael Friedman, musician/activist-supporter, (Vancouver, Canada)
Dr. Michael Schiffmann, linguist, translator and longtime supporter and human rights activist for Mumia Abu-Jamal (imprisoned African American Journalist/activist) and Leonard Peltier.
Dr. Michael Koch (Offenbach,Germany) founder of the Tokata-Leonard Peltier Support Group – German chapter.
Together they wrote, after years of research and with personal contact to L. P. and other support groups all over the world, a documentary book about the history of AIM and the detailed case of Leonard Peltier, the first book on this subject to appear in German.
Jakob Köllhofer, our host, is director of the DAI – Deutsch (German) American Institute.
The purpose of our efforts was and is to reach clemency for L. Peltier from Pres. Obama before he leaves office. With this symposium, our goal was to spread the information and internationally unite our strategies for a last „push“ for Leonard Peltier’s freedom, not only for a man whom we believe is innocent in the first place, but because it would set a signal in the US for reconciliation between the government and nonindigenous people on the one hand, and the Native American Peoples on the other.