The existence of martyrs has a profound effect on the people who know them, and on those who feel them to be symbols of grand injustices. A martyr is all it may take to radicalize a movement and to push otherwise peaceful people into violence. A martyr in the making is a man named Leonard Peltier. He is known to the MTV generation as the subject of a Rage Against the Machine video. But to Native Americans, Peltier has long stood as symbol that there is no equitable treatment of American Indians in the American judicial system. Peltier, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, is serving his eighteenth year in a Levenworth, Kansas, federal prison for murdering two FBI agents. He and his defenders claim that they are innocent, and that they have the ballistics tests to prove it. They say they can also prove that there was immoral and illegal conduct on the part of the FBI during Peltier's trial those eighteen long years ago.
On June 26, 1975, two FBI agents entered the Pine Ridge Reservation without proper jurisdiction in order to arrest Jimmy Eagle, who was charged with stealing a pair of cowboy boots. For reasons that are currently unclear, a gunfight broke out, and the FBI agents were killed along with one Native American. Within a half an hour the farm where the fight had taken place was overrun with 200 FBI agents and federal police. The gunmen fled into the reservation. Convinced that he would not receive a fair trial in the United States, Peltier hid in Canada. In order to extradite him, the FBI produced an affidavit from Myrtle Pooh Bear, who had supposedly witnessed the killing. She later said that she was not at Pine Ridge the day of shooting,