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Coloring the Truth: Peltier Killed Two Men; Janklow Had a Traffic Accident

Rep. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) has suggested that pardoning Leonard Peltier for his murder convictions would be a proper gesture to promote white-Indian reconciliation. This suggestion has promoted some noteworthy conversation on his blog, on mine, and on Pat Powers's.

Rep. Hickey encourages the conversation on his Facebook page, reposting Pat Powers's critical response and inviting further comment. In response to a commenter who Bill Janklow got much more lenient treatment for killing a man than Peltier did, Powers responds with this offensive comment:

No, he didn't. He had a traffic accident, and did his sentence. Peltier participated in gunning down two men on a dirt road. Now he needs to complete his [Pat Powers, Facebook comment, 2013.10.28].

Funny how political persuasion can color the truth. Or is the key word there color?

Bill Janklow had a traffic accident. True. But that's like saying Ted Klaudt practiced medicine without a license.

Bill Janklow did his sentence. Also true. But it's also true that many other people have done much harder sentences for lesser crimes.

We know Bill Janklow killed a man. We're not quite as sure that Leonard Peltier did. But we treated these men very differently in our justice system.

Free Leonard Peltier? I'm not convinced. But I am convinced that Rep. Hickey's call to release Peltier can promote a conversation that South Dakota should have.


  1. Roger Elgersma 2013.10.29

    Lawyers should get the same sentences as others even if they were governor. The judge in Janklows case said he would not retire early but did retire early a year later. Do not know the details on that but it happened. Janklow still got off way to easy.

  2. Roger Elgersma 2013.10.29

    Then the state supreme court let Janklow practice law again sooner than the sentence. To much buddy system politics in the courts.

  3. Roger Elgersma 2013.10.29

    Janklow was a habitual offender with his traffic antics. That did not seem to matter either.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.29

    "Free Leonard Peltier" as a stepping stone to a discussion on Indian/White Reconciliation is the wrong cause. It will only serve to deeply divide the races. This states Republicans have no real desire to advance or improve race relations without some jurisdiction strings attached. Did Janklow's last minute pardoning of Russell Means do anything to promote reconciliation? No, it only brought conservative outrage.
    For those that think Janklow only killed one man, I would suggest reading Peter Matthiessen's "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse". Janglow attempted to stop the sale of this book in South Dakota because of compelling evidence of rape and murder.
    Should Leonard Peltier be freed? Absolutely he should be, but not as a starting point Mr. Hickey hopes for. He should be freed because of faulty evidence, prosecution and judicial misconduct and the all important "a shadow of a doubt". How can a Native American anywhere in this country receive justice when they are not tried by a jury of "their peers"?
    Leonard Peltier should be freed because of a corrupt and abusive political and judicial system that fabricated evidence, bullied and threatened witnesses with the sole intent of holding "anybody" accountable for the murders.
    South Dakota Republicans and tea party folks still subscribe to the Native Americans Jim Crow ideology of "okay, we''ll take their money, but keep them in their place".

  5. Barry G. Wick 2013.10.29

    To many people the conversations with Native Americans ended when they lost battles and were forced to reservations. They're opinion is that Native Americans are a conquered people. We still have a reservation system that is often unfair to Natives themselves because there is a two tier system. Natives on the reservations often think of natives who left the reservations as honorary white people. They can't go back to reservations and they sometimes don't do well in the white world. There are messes in every direction. I wouldn't know what to say to natives about these situations other than to thank them for their service to our nation in wars. Thank them for their contributions to our two societies...theirs and ours. Thank them for putting up with some our stupidity...or a lot of our stupidity. Thank them for fighting systems that keep them unequal in many instances. Thank them for their leaders and elders whose wisdom barely permeates the rest of society. Thank them for supporting companies I worked for which fed my family when I needed their business. Thank them for allowing us to jabber on when we should have been listening to them. Thank the majority of them for obeying some of our ridiculous laws during troubled times. Thank them for a tenuous peace that often doesn't benefit them. And thank them for teaching us so many things we didn't know....and for teaching about the depth of families and the meanings of these things when our own families are often falling into disrepair. About Mr. Peltier? I don't know, but there have been judicial reviews....and his incarceration is the product of times that I hope never come back. For every year that passes...the past becomes cloudly and a status quo grows on these lives like a drying of the skin in the sun....toughening with each day. I leave those matters to those more involved than I...more knowledgeable than I. I do know that I've grown to appreciate many of the natives here and wish I could call more of them friends.

  6. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.10.29

    Great comment Barry. Eloquent.

    I often think that white Americans ought to fall on their knees in gratitude to the minorities, Indian and black in particular, that they do not resort to the rage they so logically ought to feel. The government of the USA, that's us, has sanctioned, and still sanctions such horrible discriminatory behavior. This particular example of the treatment of Janklow v. Peltier is only one of thousands. How they managed to endure the deaths and incarcerations of mothers, fathers, sisters, grandparents, children, etc. is completely beyond me. I doubt that I'd have the grace, dignity and fortitude to emulate them. The USA ought to be so ashamed and doing everything possible to allow this to be a nation for all citizens and immigrants.

  7. Winston 2013.10.29

    It's ironic you compare Janklow's time with Peltier's. In the final days of the Clinton presidency, I remember it being reported that Clinton almost pardoned Peltier, but he decided not to after a phone conversation with Janklow over the matter.....

  8. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.29

    That conversation, as I recall, was not with Janklow, it was with the FBI and families of the agents killed at the Jumping Bull encampment.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.29

    Sounds like a typical Janklow, note the word "probably'.

    Seriously, I can't imagine Bill Clinton paying much attention to Bill Janklow on anything.

    I'll stand with the likely hood that he heeded the advice of the FBI director and the agents families.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.29

    Ironic indeed, Winston... and good source! Janklow himself made the claim; did Clinton ever say Janklow's input was crucial?

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.29

    Roger: point well taken. Freeing Peltier, if the facts support the case, need be about nothing other than justice. Any conversation that arises from doing it or even discussing it is secondary.

  12. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.29

    Well said, thank you. Freedom for Leonard Peltier is a call for justice for him.
    Steve Hickey's call for Peltier's release as a foundation to discussion on reconciliation is patronizing and insulting. Surely our state's leadership can start that conversation with or without Leonard Peltier's freedom.
    If and when those discussions happen, they have to start with points of mutual agreement and develop a strategy from those points.
    Unfortunately, the people on both sides of the issue that want to learn will participate and those that want to hold their hate will consider it a futile effort. Sorry for the apathy.

  13. Winston 2013.10.29

    In the book, "Encyclopedia of the American Indian Movement," the author, Bruce Elliott Johansen, gives Janklow the credit for most likely stopping the Clinton pardon of Peltier.

    Point well taken, but Clinton and Janklow were tight. Over the years Janklow had the ears of both Clinton and "Dubya." The Clinton/Janklow relationship goes back to 1978 when they were both freshman governors in their thirties. I distinctly remember Clinton mentioning in January of 1992, when he was in Sioux Falls for a Democratic Presidential debate, that he had called his friend, former governor Bill Janklow, for advise about the debate and the issues which were most important to South Dakotans.

    To add even more irony, Clinton at this debate for his first comments brought-up white/Indian relations do to Janklow's advise, but I cannot remember if he talked about the Lakota claim to the Black Hills or if it was about Peltier. Regardless, Clinton took the Janklow advise or bait and took an anti-Indian position on the issue most likely to try to do an end-around to then Senator Bob Kerrey, who was the favorite in the South Dakota Democratic primary that year; hoping most likely to gardner the conservative Democratic vote in South Dakota at Kerrey's expense, and with an understanding that the Indian Democratic vote maybe doesn't matter if second place is your goal in a primary, and at a time (this was before Perot began to gain significant ground) when you do not believe you can carry South Dakota in the fall.

    My earlier reference to "bait" is because I always thought Clinton's comments were extremely risky, though, primarily because of the importance of the Indian vote to any South Dakota Democratic candidate. I always wondered if Janklow was trying to set-up Clinton with that advise, because Janklow had always been a good friend of the Bush family too and their political interests and maybe he understood better than most the eventual relevance and impact of a Perot candidacy and the need to derail Clinton.... What a friend, huh?

  14. Winston 2013.10.29

    Let me just add, also, that if you subscribed to my view that Janklow led Clinton down a particular path concerning white/Indian relations back in 1992, then this further hints to Janklow's credibility with Clinton as well.....

  15. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.29

    Sorry Winston, while you do present an interesting scenario of a Clinton/Janklow relationship and backstage politicking, after some intense research I could find nothing to suggest that Janklow had any influence on Clinton not to pardon Peltier.
    The only word we have on the Clinton/Janklow meeting that December is Janklow's. Enough said!
    By almost all reports and news articles I read, it was FBI Director Louis Freech who was outraged at Clinton for even considering a Peltier pardon. It was also reported that the 100 FBI agent protest in front of the White House is what Clinton likely responded to in not granting the pardon.
    Now what is more likely, Clinton capitulating to the FBI or a egotistical South Dakota Republican Governor?
    It has also been reported that Clinton simply ran out of time in office and did not even review the pardon request.

  16. Winston 2013.10.29

    Roger, I hope you don't think I am some sort of Janklow apologist, because I am not. But if you subscribe to the belief that Clinton "ran out of time," then how can you credit either the FBI or Janklow for preventing Peltier's pardon back in January of 2001..... But the one thing we can all agree on is that Clinton was obviously more worried about Marc Rich's future than Peltier's.

    I might also add, that given all the FBI inquires into the Lewinsky scandal my guess is that Clinton wasn't real sympathetic to the FBI's concerns, but he probably was worried about how a Peltier pardon in the future could effect Hillary's political ambitions to the degree that a Hillary Presidential run some day could potentially make South Dakota a purple state because of the Clintons popularity here and the "woman card"..... Heck, South Dakota was Hillary's last winning stand against Barack in 2008.....

  17. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.30

    I don't subscribe to the notion that Clinton simply ran out of time on the Peltier clemency, I simply reported as part of my research.
    Granted, Clinton may well have considered a Peltier clemency as a burden to Hillary's future campaign intentions, that would be logical.
    Clinton may well have had a certain amount of animosity toward the FBI for their involvement in the Lewinsky scandal, however an outraged FBI Director and a 100 pissed off agents knocking at his door would likely have a greater impact on his decision than headline seeking governor.
    I'm simply not buying that Janklow had any influence on Clinton's decision, the documentations I've read simply don't support it.

  18. Winston 2013.10.30

    Roger, we can obviously go around and around on this forever, but when it is all said and done, I believe Janklow's opinions were credible to Clinton.
    Even if Janklow did not persuade Clinton to not pardon Peltier, the mere fact that Janklow created that illusion (as you suggest) within the South Dakota media still establishes itself as my aforementioned irony about Janklow's position on Peltier and Janklow's eventual fate with the South Dakota judicial system.

  19. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.30

    Only a part of the Peltier history has been written, the story is still unfolding and will only find closure when Peltier dies in prison or is granted freedom.
    As you are aware, history is about analysis, perception and interpretation.
    There are people in the south that sill believe the Confederacy won the Civil War.

  20. Douglas Wiken 2013.10.30

    And apparently in South Dakota there are Native Americans who think they won the old wars and the rest of us should reconcile ourselves to the terrible defeat.

  21. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.30

    What Native Americans think that Doug? This Native American doesn't

    Oh well! You know more about Native Americans than I do.

  22. Bill Dithmer 2013.10.30

    Forgive me if I'm wrong here but doesn't the law say that if you are committing a felony and a murder occurs you are in fact guilty of the murder even if you didn't pull the trigger?

    "In his 1999 memoir, Peltier admitted that he fired at the agents, but denies that he fired the fatal shots that killed them."

    Does it make any difference after that confession who killed the two FBI Agent? Or should we treat some people different for some reason that I don’t know about?

    The Blindman

  23. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.30

    Leonard Peltier is a special person, a very special Native American Warrior

  24. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.10.30

    Blindman, is that the argument prosecutors used against Peltier? Was he convicted of felony murder? I don't think so. Unless I'm wrong, your argument doesn't have relevance in this case. Does anyone know for sure?

  25. Bill Dithmer 2013.10.30

    In 1977 he was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first degree murder in the shooting of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

    The Blindman

  26. Bill Dithmer 2013.10.30

    "Blindman, is that the argument prosecutors used against Peltier?" No that statement is what he said in his memoirs released in 1999 and that would be some thity three years later.

    It does however point to the fact that he was indeed there when it happened and participated in the crime if not the actual murder. As I said before it doesnt matter if he pulled the trigger or not he was involved in a crime in which a murder happened therefore he is guilty of that murder.

    Roger you are right when you say "Only a part of the Peltier history has been written, the story is still unfolding and will only find closure when Peltier dies in prison or is granted freedom."

    He would have been out of prison a long time ago in my opinion if he had cooperated with the feds in the first place instead of lieing and running. Let's face it, if he didnt pull the trigger he knows who did. He admits he was there for crying out loud. The conviction should stand and if it was retried his memoirs would be introduced to give the same result, guilty.

    "history is about analysis, perception and interpretation."

    Only if you want to change history for some reason. History is about the truth not a perception of what that truth is and deffinitly not what your interpretation of what the truth is.

    "Leonard Peltier is a special person, a very special Native American Warrior"

    Why would that be? If he is guilty of murder and by his own admission he took part in the crime that resulted in the killing of two people he is just another murderer. If that makes him special there are a lot of "special people" in prison today just like him.

    The Blindman

  27. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.31


    That is a very good question. Peltier's admission that he was there and fired shots doesn't seem like it would be felony murder, it would have to be accessory or aiding. Not sure what the federal statues were back then. There were a lot of people firing in that war zone at the time protecting their land from white invasion, why weren't they all sentenced for felony murder. The FBI went into a known hostile situation looking for a fight and they got one.
    History, truth and Native Americans should never be used in one sentence. What truth? The truth given to you by white politicians and law enforcement. Look in the history books and read all the "truths" about Native Americans, including Leonard Peltier.
    It is my hope that as a final gesture President Obama grant executive clemency to Leonard Peltier and let it serve as a slap in the face of "Indian Haters".

  28. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.10.31

    Blindman, it matters very much what he was specifically convicted of. If he was convicted of first degree murder, that is what he would be pardoned of. Other information is not pertinent to his conviction. It is pertinent to public opinion and what people might think ought to happen to him. It is not at all pertinent to the legal working of a court of law.

  29. Bill Dithmer 2013.10.31

    "Peltier's admission that he was there and fired shots doesn't seem like it would be felony murder, it would have to be accessory or aiding."

    Except that law says.

    Felony-Murder Rule
    A Rule of Law that holds that if a killing occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a felony (a major crime), the person or persons responsible for the felony can be charged with murder.

    Generally an intent to kill is not necessary for felony-murder. The rule becomes operative when there is a killing during or a death soon after the felony, and there is some causal connection between the felony and the killing.

    The felony-murder rule originated in England under the Common Law. Initially it was strictly applied, encompassing any death that occurred during the course of a felony, regardless of who caused it. Therefore, if a police officer attempting to stop a Robbery accidentally shot and killed an innocent passerby, the robber could be charged with murder.

    Today most jurisdictions have limited the rule by requiring that the felony must be a dangerous one or that the killing is foreseeable, or both. Statutes that restrict the application of the rule to dangerous felonies usually enumerate the crimes. Burglary, Kidnapping, rape, and robbery are typical felonies that invoke the rule. Under a number of statutes, the felony must be a proximate cause of the death. In other words, the killing must have been a natural and direct consequence of the felony.

    Felony-murder cannot be charged if all the elements of the felony are included in the elements of murder. This is known as the merger doctrine, which holds that if the underlying felony merges with the killing, the felony cannot constitute felony-murder. For example, all of the elements of Assault and Battery with a deadly weapon are included in murder. If a killing, therefore, occurred during the course of this crime, the accused would be charged with murder.

    The future of the felony-murder rule is in doubt. Some jurisdictions have abolished the rule and others continue to limit its application. In the 1982 case of Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 102 S. Ct. 3368, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1140, the Supreme Court ruled that the imposition of the death penalty upon an Accomplice who neither kills, attempts to kill, or intends that a killing occur or lethal force be used in the commission of a felony-murder constitutes Cruel and Unusual Punishment. In those states that have retained the offense, it is usually classified as murder in the first degree, for which the penalty might be death or imprisonment.

    Notice this, " Under a number of statutes, the felony must be a proximate cause of the death. In other words, the killing must have been a natural and direct consequence of the felony."

    So if he was there and fired on the officers he was and still is guilty of those murders.

    And yes his memoirs would now be admisable in a court of law if the case was reopened. If it was in a court of law wouldnt that be called opening the door?

    The Blindman

  30. Bill Dithmer 2013.10.31

    And yes Deb he was specifically convicted of two first degree murder felonies.

    The Blindman

  31. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.31

    "shot at them but didn't kill them"—If I'm ever on trial for murder, I hope I don't have to resort to that defense.

    That said, it is worth noting that an Iowa jury acquitted the other two men charged in relation to the 1975 shoot-out at AIM headquarters.

  32. interested party 2013.10.31

    How is the incident at Ogalala not unlike Somalians rearing to a Blackhawk helicopter landing in Mogadishu?

  33. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.31

    interested party,
    During the post Wounded Knee occupation there was constant helicopter surveillance of not only of the Jumping Eagle encampment, but of innocent family gatherings. Our family went to a local lake for a picnic for fun and targeting with a single 22 rifle. A helicopter hovered over us for hours. There were a few of those birds shot down during that period.
    What many Americans fail to understand about many Native Americans is that they do not accept U.S. citizenship. They don't vote in state and national elections and some don't vote in tribal elections, they regard the IRA government as greedy and poisonous.
    Thus was the case with the incident at Oglala and why the FBI and bunches of Marshals were regarded as the enemy. They were literally protecting their sovereignty.

  34. interested party 2013.10.31

    you may call me larry, mr. cornelius.

  35. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.10.31

    I think Blindman, we may be at cross-terms. I'm not talking about murder as a crime that rises to the level of felony. I'm talking about a specific type of killing. For instance, there is first degree murder, manslaughter, and other levels of conviction for killing. One of those levels is for killing or death that happens in the commission of a felony. I'm not a lawyer and certainly may be using the wrong term. What Peltier apparently confessed to was that killing happened as part of a felony he was committing.

    If Peltier was not convicted of that, but rather something like manslaughter or first degree murder, then his confession is not applicable to a possible pardon.

    Blindman, do you understand what I'm saying? I may not be clear enough since I am not familiar with the correct legal language. This is the best I can do.

  36. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.31

    interested party, thank you and I will call you Larry and please call me Roger.
    The link you provided to Professor Newquist post was interesting and informative. I would add, as I previously stated about tribes, is that if you understand tribalism, you will understand why the Sioux continually reject payment for the Black Hills.
    Deb, I follow your logic on charges and convictions. If Peltier was there and had some culpability in the crime, he should have been charged for that crime and not two counts of felony murder. Like Cory stated, others were charged and acquitted for basically the same crime.
    As a follow-up to a comment you made on another post, my mother grew up with Zona Fills The Pipe, they were life long friends.
    One of the greatest treasures of my life was to be able to call her a friend, to sit and visit with her about tribal customs and culture were some of the best times of my life. Even with a now sketchy memory, I recall so many of those visits and her contagious sense of humor.
    She was often referred to as the Lakota Ambassador, for her commanding presence and the qualities that embody greatness.

  37. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.01

    Oh Roger, wouldn't a Zona Fills the Pipe School be wonderful?! Who else would you recommend to be a school namesake?

  38. interested party 2013.11.01

    Good eye, Deb!

  39. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.01

    There are so many Native Americans that have made significant contributions to education, both on and off the reservation.
    Among them are Evelyn Whirlwind Horse, she wasn't Native was married to one. She spent her entire career teaching and doing administrative work in Indian education.
    There is Gerald One Feather, a former tribal president and one of the principal founders of Lakota College.
    With bias, I would also include my mother, Bessie Trimble Cornelius a Lakota tribal member. She began her teaching career in one room schoolhouse outside Manderson, she worked for over 20 serving the entire reservation as an Economic Home Demonstration Agent for the state of South Dakota and wrapped up her career as one of the first educators at Lakota College teaching Home Economics and Lakota History and Culture.
    There are so many Lakotas and non-Lakotas that have contributed to Indian education with professionalism and dignity.
    A Zona Fills the Pipe school is a tremendous idea. Did you know that Zona was a descendant of Chief Red Cloud and Chief Youngman Not Afraid of His Horse? She was true Lakota Royalty.

  40. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.01

    Thanks IP.

    And thanks for all the suggestions and educating me. I do know that Zona FtP was in the Red Cloud clan. Aren't many of the OST from Red Cloud?

    The US military academies ought to study Red Cloud as a military genius, statesman and leader. Wonder if they study him at all?

  41. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.01

    Fortunately there are plenty of descendants that proudly inherited the Red Cloud name.

    There was a time when West Point Military Academy taught the war strategies of both Chief Red Cloud and Crazy Horse, both were great war chiefs.

  42. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.04

    Larry, that was a very interesting link. Thanks

  43. interested party 2013.11.04

    My pleasure, Roger. In you view: how would the release of Mr. Peltier alter the future?

  44. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.04

    I don't know that it would alter the future that much, what it would do is give Leonard Peltier his freedom and point out the inequities of American jurisprudence, as it should.

    It would also infuriate the self-righteous like Wilken and Dithmer. I can already see them spitting and sputtering when President Obama grants Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier.

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