[R-G] Anna Mae [Micmac]
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Wed Feb 4 14:27:44 MST 2004
Note by Hunter Bear:
When my good friend, Duane Campbell, asked my opinion the other day on the
Anna Mae Pictou Aquash murder, this was my reply -- and I stand with it.
Before I quote that, let me add this: John Boy Graham has every good reason
to resist extradition from Canada into the 'States. The two co-defendants of
Peltier, Butler and Robideaux, were tried at relatively objective Cedar
Rapids -- and acquitted. When Peltier, who had resisted extradition, was
tried it was before Judge Paul Benson at Fargo [an anti-Indian atmosphere]
with Lynn Crookes [Assistant US Attorney] and FBI agents doctoring the
evidence. Even at that the evidence presented against Peltier at Fargo was
still essentially that laid out at Cedar Rapids. There was nothing objective
about Judge Benson when it came to the Peltier case.
A key person in Peltier's battle to resist extradition from Canada was
Isabelle Deom ["Lovey"], a Mohawk of Kahnawake [near Montreal]. She had been
a student of mine at Univ of Iowa and was a close family friend of ours.
Several years later, Isabelle was murdered under mysterious circumstances in
central British Columbia. -- Hunter Bear [Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St
To Duane from Hunter
I am not an intricate authority on this, Duane, and frankly I'm not sure
anyone is. AIM, even at its best 30 years ago, was so pervasively chaotic
it would make the IWW look like the Catholic Church of 1910. But I do know
some things: I continue to feel Anna Mae was killed by one of Dick Wilson's
goons [Wilson was the thoroughly corrupt tribal chairman at Pine Ridge,
backed by a corrupt machine -- and by the Nixon and Janklow [state AG]
administrations. It was against him et al that WK '73 was mounted.]
The FBI is capable of murder, for sure, but there'd be no percentage for
them in killing Anna Mae -- although they could have covered for Wilson. I
certainly do Not see her as an informant of any kind. AIM is now two small
factions -- the Means group [I have never, never trusted Means and share the
very hostile Navajo view of him after the messes he made at Chinle and other
Dine' settings]. and the Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt group [to which I lean,
but cautiously.] Both groups spend a great deal of time attacking each
other. [There are a few very tiny AIM groups, which come and go.] Until
someone can really show otherwise, I blame Wilson's thugs for her murder.
But the definitive, and all-around convincing answers -- for most people --
may never be known in the Ultimate sense.
There is a fine film about Anna Mae that is worth seeing -- ca. 1980: Brave
Hearted Woman. I showed it regularly in my Contemporary Indian Issues
Best - H
February 3, 2004
Murder Trial Revives Intrigue of the 70's Indian Movement
By MONICA DAVEY and CHARLIE LeDUFF
RAPID CITY, S.D. - Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, a young mother and American
Indian activist, was shot in the head and left to die on the Pine Ridge
Reservation in the winter of 1975. The trial of one of two men accused of
killing her begins here on Tuesday. Between those moments, decades apart,
lies a mystery, and a bitter struggle.
Law enforcement authorities and Indians across the country are watching
closely, not just for what the trial will reveal about Ms. Pictou Aquash's
death, but for what it threatens to expose about suspicion and violence
inside the American Indian Movement, or AIM, the militant group whose
clashes with federal authorities drew the eyes of the world to the Pine
Ridge Reservation in the 1970's.
Ms. Pictou Aquash was a member of AIM, one of scores who seized the Sioux
village of Wounded Knee in 1973, demanding civil rights for Indians while
holding federal officials at bay for 71 days. The men indicted in her
murder, Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham, were in AIM, too.
Did the movement kill one of its own? Or was Ms. Pictou Aquash a victim of
corrupt, even murderous, federal law enforcement? On the eve of the trial,
Indians are clashing over these questions - in newspaper and magazine
articles, in television interviews, on the Web and in court.
AIM leaders insist, as they always have, that federal agents engineered the
killing as part of their conflict with AIM. Other Indians point the finger
at the movement itself, saying they believe that AIM leaders ordered her
killed because they suspected she was a federal informer.
The editor of a national Indian newspaper has made an even more explosive
accusation: that the trial will lead back to one of the American Indian
Movement's best-known members, Leonard Peltier, whose life imprisonment in
the killings of two federal agents at Pine Ridge has made him an
international human-rights celebrity among those who believe he was framed
by vengeful federal authorities.
The editor, Paul DeMain, has written in News From Indian Country that he
believes that Ms. Pictou Aquash knew too much about Mr. Peltier's case and
may have been killed by AIM members to protect Mr. Peltier. Mr. Peltier has
sued Mr. DeMain for libel, denying any connection to the killing of the
agents or of Ms. Pictou Aquash.
Being at the heart of such fire is familiar territory for AIM, a polarizing
force in Indian country since its birth in Minneapolis in 1968. AIM's
founders demanded civil rights, treaty recognition and a return to
traditional ways. Warlike in attitude and dress, they won admirers and
enemies on reservations.
For many, AIM meant pride and cultural rebirth, but others criticized its
tactics - like the siege at Wounded Knee - as too radical and violent.
Wounded Knee ended in a truce, but the armed conflict at Pine Ridge dragged
for years. Among the bloody incidents, one stirred an intense manhunt. On
June 26, 1975, two F.B.I. agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, were
trying to arrest a robbery suspect on a farm. In a gun battle, an AIM member
and both agents died. The agents, lying wounded by their car, were finished
off by bullets in the head at close range. Several Indians were later
arrested, but only Mr. Peltier was convicted.
Another Pine Ridge killing drew less notice. On Feb. 24, 1976, a rancher
found the body of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash curled in a gully. Ms. Pictou
Aquash was 30, with a broad smile and a sharp, determined attitude. She
believed in AIM, family members said, and was close to AIM leaders.
Indians here and on other reservations immediately suspected federal agents
the Guardians of the Oglala Nation, a security force allied with the tribal
government and federal authorities.
Peculiar circumstances fueled those suspicions: at first the authorities
said they could not identify the body, though they had questioned Ms. Pictou
Aquash in the past. A coroner said she had died of exposure, overlooking the
bullet wound, which was found only when her body was exhumed for a second
Vernon Bellecourt, a longtime AIM leader and its spokesman, said recently
that he still believed federal authorities were responsible for her death.
"How they did it? I don't know," Mr. Bellecourt said. "How they set it up? I
Among Indians, there was another theory. Ms. Pictou Aquash's daughter said
she heard it: that AIM itself might have killed Ms. Pictou Aquash, thinking
she was a spy. At the height of the Pine Ridge conflict, federal authorities
wanted inside information, and AIM members often suspected their own of
Robert D. Ecoffey, now deputy director of law enforcement services at the
Bureau of Indian Affairs, heard the whispers many times, too, in decades of
pursuing the Pictou Aquash case. But they went nowhere, Mr. Ecoffey and
other law enforcement officials said, because most people on the reservation
would not talk, perhaps fearing retribution, perhaps to keep a united front
"The case would be dead for a long time, then it would come back to life and
you would hear something," said James E. McMahon, the United States attorney
in South Dakota. "But then that would not pan out."
Finally, not long ago, Mr. McMahon said, people once inside AIM spoke up.
"Feelings changed," said Mr. Ecoffey, a Lakota who grew up in Pine Ridge.
"There had been a distrust between those who had the knowledge and the
F.B.I. People realized now that justice had to be done for Anna Mae."
Last year, the authorities indicted Mr. Looking Cloud and Mr. Graham. Mr.
Graham, arrested in Canada, will fight extradition in a hearing in March,
said his lawyer, Terry La Liberté. "There's no evidence in this case," Mr.
La Liberté said. "What we have is a bunch of hearsay, innuendo and
Mr. Looking Cloud, who goes to trial on Tuesday, has a straightforward
defense, said his lawyer, Tim Rensch: "He didn't do it."
Law enforcement authorities declined to discuss their theory of the motive
in the case before the trial. But they said they did not believe that Mr.
Looking Cloud, a low-level AIM member who became a drifter after leaving
Pine Ridge, plotted the killing on his own. And even a former AIM leader,
Russell Means, has publicly said he believes that AIM leaders ordered the
Mr. Bellecourt, the spokesman, in turn accused Mr. Means of being a "C.I.A.
snoop." He said his group had posted an "urgent appeal" on the Web for money
for Mr. Looking Cloud's defense after Mr. Looking Cloud's family sought help
to prove his innocence.
Mr. DeMain, the editor, said he once undertook a similar mission for Mr.
Peltier. Mr. DeMain, an Oneida-Ojibwe, said he began researching the case a
dozen years ago, hoping to prove - as Robert Redford, the Dalai Lama,
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others have insisted over the decades - that Mr.
Peltier was unjustly imprisoned.
Mr. DeMain said he believed that ballistic evidence against Mr. Peltier was
flawed, and that a witness had lied. But after years of interviews, he said,
he became convinced that Mr. Peltier, now serving consecutive life terms in
the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., was a murderer.
"What I found was not a case where the government may have framed an
innocent man, but where the government may have framed a guilty man," he
said in an interview at his home in Hayward, Wis.
Mr. DeMain said he had determined from interviews that Ms. Pictou Aquash had
at one point heard Mr. Peltier brag about shooting both F.B.I. agents, and
even re-enacted the crime. That knowledge made her a target of AIM, Mr.
Last year, Mr. DeMain published as much in his newspaper, writing that the
"primary motive" behind the killing was Ms. Pictou Aquash's knowledge of
what Mr. Peltier claimed to have done.
Another person who was once close to AIM leaders and who declined to be
named in this article, saying she feared for her safety, said that she, too,
had seen Mr.
Peltier brag in front of Ms. Pictou Aquash and others about shooting the
agents. That person has been summoned as a witness at the trial.
Mr. Peltier has sued Mr. DeMain for libel in federal court in Minneapolis.
Mr. Peltier's lawyer, Barry A. Bachrach, said that after years of court
appeals, even the government had said it could not prove that Mr. Peltier
executed the agents. The government, Mr. Bachrach said, has argued merely
that he "aided and abetted" in their deaths. The 1975 shootout, Mr. Bachrach
said, was chaotic and confusing, with many people firing guns, some in
self-defense. "It was a war zone," he said.
Eric F. Melgren, the United States attorney in Kansas, argued the
government's side in a hearing last fall. He said that to persuade appeals
courts to uphold the murder convictions, some prosecutors had asserted that
the government needed only to show that Mr. Peltier at least aided and
abetted in the killings. The government still believes that Mr. Peltier
fired the fatal shots, he said.
Mr. Bachrach said his client rejected the government's allegations and any
ties to Ms. Pictou Aquash's death. "He denies shooting the agents and thus
denies that a motive for the murder of Anna Mae was because he supposedly
admitted to her that he killed the agents," Mr. Bachrach said. "You can get
people to say anything. But it's a falsehood that Anna Mae was murdered as a
result of something Leonard supposedly admitted to her."
Besides, Mr. Bachrach said, Mr. Peltier considered Ms. Pictou Aquash a
The 28th anniversary of Mr. Peltier's imprisonment is next week, with events
planned in Boston, Toronto and Tacoma, Wash. His legal battle, meanwhile,
Among Indians, especially here in southwest South Dakota, the coming trial
has stirred painful memories.
"It's awesome to know hundreds of people knew intimate details," said
Richard Two Elk, who grew up with Mr. Looking Cloud. "How the community knew
all this time. And how a massive orchestra was conducted to hide it."
AIM, meanwhile, splintered. Some leaders went off to Hollywood or the
lecture circuit. Nevertheless, Mr. Bellecourt, 72, said AIM was alive and
well. He said its legacy was vast - culturally, economically and
philosophically. "We've changed things forever," he said.
Denise Maloney Pictou was 11 when her mother died. Her mother believed
firmly in AIM values, she said: human rights, treaty recognition, tradition.
Ms. Maloney Pictou said she was struggling to mesh those values with the
thought that AIM could have killed her mother.
"I really do believe in their purpose in what they started out to be," Ms.
Maloney Pictou, now 39, said. "I cannot believe that everything they did
back there is in vain."
Still, she said, she suspects there may be more revelations ahead.
"I truly believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg," she said. "If
Anna Mae opens up the door to the rest of the injustices, I'll be there to
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