South Dakota

Victims of the State

1 Case

Map of Counties

U.S. Cases




Date of Alleged Crime


Pine Ridge, SD Leonard Peltier June 26, 1975

(Federal Case)  In Feb. 1973, 200 American Indian Movement (AIM) activists launched a 72-day occupation of Wounded Knee, SD (Site of an 1890 American Indian massacre) to protest living conditions at the Pine Ridge reservation.  During the next three years, the FBI carried out intensive local surveillance, as well as the repeated arrests, harassment, and bad-faith legal proceedings against AIM leaders and supporters.  In 1975, two FBI agents entered the reservation and with tensions being high managed to provoke a firefight between themselves and local Indians.  Both FBI agents as well as Indians were killed.  To avenge the death of the two agents, the government issued arrest warrants against four men, including Leonard Peltier.  It dropped charges against one and tried two, but during the trial a key prosecution witness admitted that he had been threatened by the FBI and as a result had changed his testimony upon the agents' instructions, so as to support the government's position.  The two defendants were acquitted.

Peltier was in Canada and to get him extradited the government submitted an affidavit from a mentally unstable woman who claimed to have been Peltier's girlfriend, and to have been present during the shootout, and to have witnessed the murders.  In fact, she did not know Peltier, nor was she present at the time of the shooting.  She later confessed she had given the false statement after being pressured and terrorized by FBI agents.  At Peltier's trial, the government withheld thousands of documents.  It presented coerced witnesses; though none placed Peltier at the murder scene before the murders occurred or claimed Peltier shot the two agents.  Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences.

Peltier's case is detailed in In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, a 1983 bestseller, and in Incident at Oglala, a documentary produced by Robert Redford.  ( (AJ) (Famous Trials)  [6/05]