By Jane Waide

Leonard PeLtier

Photo by Jeffry Scott

“I am an Indian man. All I want is the right to live as one.”

By Jane Waide

ADS: The subjects of your artwork are clear expressions of your cultural background. Has this always been the case? LP: I have always loved painting my People... or cultural subjects, scenes. I have always believed that we have a very unique culture, and that’s true of all our tribes—from south to the north. I am particularly fascinated w/the culture of the Aztecs and Mayans. They were so far advanced in many things. No one was sick or when someone did get sick, these ancient cultures knew what herb to use for a cure. They had the best agricultural system in the world. They were practicing brain surgery. They invented the syringe to inject medicine. Their tools weren’t like those of today, of course. They used the bone of a small humming bird, sanded it down... and the bladder of a small animal. They ground up the medicines and added water and injected it. So-called modern medicine didn’t use this technique until the 1800s. I

recommend that your readers go to Washington, DC, and visit the American Indian museum there. They can see everything I’ve written about here and plenty more. (http://www.nmai.si.edu) I have always wanted to be an artist... all my life... from day one of school. But, as I said, life for us on those reservations was not a pleasant life and we were lucky to even get through school. I had to quit and find a job at 15 years old; I had finished the 9th grade. Then, I went to work in a potato house at $1.10 an hour, 10 hours a day. Since then, I have earned a GED and some college credits. I have been painting now on and off for over 35 years. There are some murals I did in Seattle, at the El Centro de la Raza (I think)... should still be there. I did other things, too. So there are a few pieces of my work out there from over 35 yrs ago. My art gives me freedom and I love it.

A Distinctive Style: Mr. Peltier, thank you so much for your time and for the opportunity to interview you. We’d like to first ask you about your Native American heritage and background. Leonard Peltier: I am an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians—my father’s tribe. My mother was Dakota. I was adopted in traditional way by a Lakota family, as well as by a First Nation in Canada. Adoption in Indian way isn’t an honorary thing. It is an honor, of course, but it’s real. I guess you could say I have a very large extended family.

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