Leonard Peltier, a citizen of the Anishinabe and Lakota Nations, is a father, a grandfather, an artist, a writer, and an Indigenous rights activist. He has spent more than twenty-seven years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Amnesty International considers him a “political prisoner” who should be “immediately and unconditionally released.”
Born on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota, Leonard Peltier’s self-taught style is an outgrowth of drawing and carving lessons he received as a child from tribal elders. Leonard began working with pastels in 1983, proving he had the talent to put what he saw on paper. His spirit began to know a freedom never before experienced. Although limited by the prison, Leonard has emerged as a master of Indigenous Art.
“There is a commissary at Leavenworth Penitentiary where I can purchase limited supplies. They have a small variety of materials available and most are of poor quality. Sometimes I can order supplies through art magazines or catalogs; however, prison approval is usually not given for special orders.”
Leonard’s artwork reflects his beliefs and commitment to Native American culture. He realizes the difficulty his people are having as they try in today’s society to live in the way the Great Spirit set forth for them. It is his peoples’ struggle to survive and the desire to portray their cultural beauty that inspires him to paint.
In 1986, Leonard suffered a stroke which left him about eighty per cent blind in his left eye. “My eye problem has slowed me down considerably, but I am still inspired. Having people buy my artwork and sharing my paintings makes me feel real good.”
Leonard’s Paintings are collected by such noted personalities as Oliver Stone, Peter Coyote, Jane Fonda, Val Kilmer, Michael Apted, Shep Gordon, Oliver Shanti and many international dignitaries and religious leaders.