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the 1970s & 1980s

  LP case chronology part 1 (1944 - 1969)


  • 8 March 1970: Leonard Peltier and other NA activists occupy the abandoned Fort Lawton, near Seattle, WA - testing an old federal law that gives Native Americans first claim to lands abandoned by federal agencies. The activists are beaten and briefly jailed, but ultimately Ft. Lawton becomes a Native American Cultural Center.

  • 1972: Leonard Peltier recruited into AIM by Vernon Bellecourt in Colorado. He then moves Milwaukee, WI, to work with the local AIM office, combating alcohol abuse among native people. In the fall, Leonard Peltier joins the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan to Washington DC, to bring a list of 20 grievances to the U.S. government. When BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior Dept.) officials "forget" to find the promised accommodations for the elderly, the activists take over the BIA building a few blocks from the White House - just days before the 1972 presidential elections. The Nixon administration avoids violent confrontation by promising to review the grievances list (they never did), and paying the return-home expenses of the activists. Leonard Peltier serves on security during the BIA takeover, and is thus marked a "troublemaker" by the FBI.

  • 1973: During 71 days, AIM occupies the village of Wounded Knee, SD. Leonard Peltier plays no part. The siege ends on May 9th. The infamous GOONs continue their reign of terror against Oglala Lakota traditional people and their AIM supporters.

  • late 1973 - early 1975: Leonard Peltier joins with the Menominee Warrior Society in the takeover of the Alexian Brothers' Novitiate. Peltier heads west and once again joins the Puyallup and Nisqually fishing rights struggle in Washington, and takes part in AIM protests in Arizona and Wisconsin.

  • May 1975: Peltier, Robideau and Northwest AIM attend the American Indian Movement convention in Farmington, New Mexico.

  • late May 1975: Crescendoing Reign of Terror during early 1975 prompts Pine Ridge Elders to summon AIM for protection from attacks by the GOONs. Among those who respond: Dennis Banks, Bob Robideau, Dino Butler, and Leonard Peltier and Northwest AIM. They set up a small tent city on the Jumping Bull family property near the town of Oglala, hoping to fend off further GOON attacks.

  • 26 June 1975: FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, in unmarked cars, drive at full-speed onto the Jumping Bull property, ostensibly chasing a red pickup truck in which they suspect a minor thief is riding. The FBI has never explained why it made such a concerted effort to catch that thief - accused of stealing a pair of used cowboy boots! - when it had failed to investigate the recent deaths of dozens of AIM supporters in the same area. A fire fight erupts between the intruding unidentified agents and the AIM activists. Within minutes, scores of FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, BIA police, and trigger-happy GOONs surround the Jumping Bull property. Many of them had been in place nearby at least 20 minutes before, according to FBI documents that were released years later. The FBI agents Coler and Williams, and one AIM activist, Joe Stuntz Killsright, die during the fierce hours-long fire fight. By late afternoon, Leonard Peltier and more than two dozen others manage to flee the property and escape, despite being surrounded by a thightening cordon of lawmen. Meanwhile in Washington DC, the chairman of the Pine Ridge tribal council, Dick Wilson signs a secret agreement which will lead to the transfer of one-eighth of the Pine Ridge Reservation to the federal government - lands rich in uranium and other minerals. Many people around the world believe the FBI's June 26th attack was a planned diversion to conceal the land transfer - a diversion that went terribly wrong when their agents were killed. Following the escape of the AIM acivists from the Jumping Bull property, the FBI stages a massive manhunt for the escapees, terrorizing the Pine Ridge traditional community.

  • August 1975: Leonard Peltier secretly attends the Crow Dog Sun Dance ceremony on the Rosebud Reservation, SD; then heads northwest.

  • 5 September 1975: In the midst of a new flurry of unexplained murders of AIM members and supporters, the FBI raids the home of medicine man Leonard Crow Dog, spiritual leader of the Wounded Knee takeover, and arrests Darrel "Dino" Butler - another escapee from the Oglala fire fight - along with Crow Dog himself and Micmac AIM activist Anna Mae Aquash. Neither of the latter were at the Oglala fire fight. The FBI threatens Anna Mae with death unless she gives false testimony against Peltier and others from AIM. She refuses.

  • 10 September 1975: A station wagon driven by Bob Robideau, another fleeing escapee, explodes near Wichita, Kansas. From the wreck the FBI discovers a badly burned AR-15 rifle - claiming without any proof whatsoever: 1) that it was the weapon that killed the agents; and 2) that it was Peltier's own rifle. This weapon, and the shell casings supposedly from it, were among the key evidence later used against Peltier in his trial.

  • October 1975: FBI lab reports - not revealed until they were obtained years later through the Freedom of Information Act - state that the Wichita AR-15 rifle "contains a different pin than the rifle used at the Jumping Bull scene", thus flatly disproving that the Wichita rifle was the murder weapon. This and other pieces of exculpatory evidence were hidden away by the prosecution and withheld from the defense at Peltier's later trial in Fargo, ND.

  • 14 November 1975: After a road stop by an Oregon State trooper, peltier escapes capture fleeing to Hinton, Alberta (Canada).

  • 25 November 1975: Four men are indicted by a federal grand jury for their alleged role in the deaths of the two FBI agents. The four are: Leonard Peltier, Bob Robideau, Dino Butler, and Jimmy Eagle (the young man suspected of stealing the pair of cowboy boots whose theft allegedly brought the two FBI agents to the Jumping Bull property the day of the firefight).

  • 6 February 1976: Peltier is arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the Rocky Boy Reserve in western Canada. He is held under maximum security at Oakalla Prison in Vancouver, British Columbia, while lengthy extradition hearings are held.

  • 10 February 1976: the FBI releases a report stating that it had found a match between the Wichita AR-15 rifle and a .223 rifle shell casing found, belatedly, in the trunk of one of the FBI agents' cars. This totally contradicts their own earlier lab reports, which they keep hidden.

  • 24 February 1976: The decomposed body of "Jane Doe" is found in a gulley on Pine Ridge. The BIA coroner reports the victim died of exposure to cold. Her hands are cut off and sent to the FBI headquarters in Wasington DC for "positive indentification", while they could easily have taken her fingerprints on the scene.

  • 5 March 1976: "Jane Doe" is identified by the FBI as Anna Mae Aquash, the AIM activist who had refused, despite FBI death threats, to give false testimony against AIM.

  • 11 March 1976: Anna Mae Aquash's family from the Micmac Reservation in Nova Scotia, Canada, has her body exhumed from Pine Ridge burial. A new coroner discovers a "detail" the BIA coroner had unaccountably missed: she had been shot in the back of the head at close range. Her death leaves a mystery being actively explored to this very day.

  • 31 March 1976: Still trying to find convincing evidence of Peltier's guilt so as to gain his extradition from Canada, FBI agents show photographs of Anna Mae's severed hands to a confused Native American woman, Myrtle Poor Bear, telling her both she and her daughter face a similar fate unless she co-operates. Under duress, she signs an affadavit the FBI wrote for her, stating that she is Peltier's girlfriend - though she had never met him - and also claims she saw him shoot the agents - though, as the FBI knew, she was never there. This affadavit and other fabricated information convince the Canadian courts there is enough evidence to extradite Peltier. He is ordered extradited but his appeals keep him in Canada until December.

  • 7 June - 16 July 1976: Trial of Dino Butler and Bob Robideau in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Allowed to plead innocent by reason of self-defense in firing at the intruding FBI agents, Butler & Robideau win full acquittal on murder charges after a tumultuous trial. Dismayed by the results of the Cedar Rapid trial, the FBI and prosecutors drop all charges against Jimmy Eagle so that, as FOIA documents would later reveal, "the full prosecutive weight of the federal government could be directed against Leonard Peltier".

  • 16 December 1976: Peltier is extradited from Canada to the USA on the basis of false testimony fabricated by the FBI. Under massive security, he is flown from Vancouver to Rapid City, SD.

  • 16 March 1977: Trial of Leonard Peltier on double murder charges begins in Fargo, North Dakota. Government manipulations transfer the trial from Cedar Rapids, IA, where Robideau and Butler were acquitted, to a site renowned for anti-Indian sentiment. Juge Benson rules all evidence must be thightly limited to events of the day of the shootout: June 26, 1975. No mention is allowed of the Reign of Terror preceding the shootout at Pine Ridge, nor of Myrtle Poor Bear's false affadavits; nor of the FBI intimidation and coercion of witnesses, nor of most of the evidence that had led to the acquittal by reason of self-defense of Robideau & Butler. The judge declares: "The FBI is not on trial here". Peltier is not permitted to claim self-defense. In a shocking and flagrant display of American injustice, virtually all exculpatory evidence is hidden from the defense or ruled inadmissable.

  • 18 April 1977: Under an extraordinary kangaroo-court atmosphere of intimidation by the government, an all-white jury, after 8 hours of deliberation, convicts Leonard Peltier of the direct murder of the two FBI agents.

  • 2 June 1977: Peltier is sentenced to two consecutive life terms in federal prison. After a stint at Leavenworth, Kansas, he is sent to Marion Maximum Security Penitentiary in Illinois.

  • 4 July 1978: Peltier is warned by a fellow Native American inmate that he will soon be transferred from Marion to Lompoc prison near Santa Barbara, California, where, he is told, he will be the target of an assassination.

  • 5 March 1979: The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to review Peltier's case.

  • 10 April 1979: Peltier is transferred to Lompoc prison, as he had been warned.

  • 20 July 1979: Fearing an imminent assassination attempt, Peltier - with fellow Native American prisoner Bobby Garcia - climbs over a perimeter fence and escapes from Lompoc prison. Dallas Thundershield attempting to support Peltier, is shot in the back and killed by prison guards. Bobby Garcia is quickly captured, but Peltier escapes and eludes a huge manhunt until he is finally recaptured in a farmer's field, five days later. At the subsequent trial for the escape, he is not allowed to use fear of assassination as a defense. Seven years are added to the original double-life sentence.

  • 4 February 1980: Peltier is transferred back to Marion, IL. He now believes the whole Lompoc "assassination" story was a setup to get him to attempt an escape, giving guards an excuse to kill him.

  • 13 December 1980: Bobby Garcia is found dead in a prison facility at Terre Haute Federal Penitentiary, Indiana. Authorities claim he hanged himself. Many are convinced he was murdered.

  • 1 October 1984: Hearing for a new trial begins in Bismark, ND, before Judge Benson, the same judge who presided at Peltier's Fargo trial.

  • 22 May 1985: Even though the original prosecutor, Lynn Crooks admits the government does NOT know who killed the FBI agents, Judge Benson denies Peltier's appeal for a new trial.

  • June 1985: Peltier is transferred to USP Leavenworth in Kansas.

  • 11 September 1986: Peltier's conviction is affirmed by the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, despite acknowledgement of clear FBI misconduct.

 Chronology continued:


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