AIM Activist to be Buried in Native Nova Scotia June 21, 2004

[Today is 6/18/04. The following article was written by Carson Walker.]

Sioux Falls, S.D. - Friends and family of American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash plan to bury her Monday in her native Nova Scotia as part of a weekend of activities designed to remember her.

"It is painful but it's not a fresh pain," said Denise Maloney, one of Aquash's two daughters. "It's an uncomfortable pain. And it's a bit resentful because we have had to deal with it for 28 years."

Aquash, a member of Mi'kmaq Tribe of Canada, was killed in December 1975 near Wanblee, on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Her body was found Feb. 24, 1976, and she was buried weeks later as Jane Doe but was disinterred when tests determined it was her body.

Aquash was reburied at an Oglala cemetery but her family exhumed the body in April and returned it to Canada. She will be laid to rest a third time on Monday at the Indian Brook reservation in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia.

"It's outrageous when you think about it, 28 years and here we are burying her in her own country," Maloney said. "The community is just so excited. They've managed the events going on. They're welcoming her back with open arms. But at the same time it's bittersweet."

Krista Thompson is organizing the events, which include a powwow and concert. Monday's funeral is on National Aboriginal Day, a Canadian holiday designed to celebrate the heritage and cultures of the country's native people.

"It's been amazing the amount of community support we've received. Everybody is talking about it," Thompson said. "I just feel humbled that I'm able to be a part of this. She has been such an inspiration to me personally."

After years of rumors and speculation about how Aquash was killed, two men were indicted in March 2003 for first-degree murder committed in the perpetration of a kidnapping. Arlo Looking Cloud was arrested that month in Denver and John Graham was picked up in December in Vancouver, British Columbia.

A federal jury in Rapid City convicted Looking Cloud in February. He was sentenced in April to a mandatory life prison term and is serving time in Florence, Colo. Looking Cloud will be eligible for parole after 10 years.

Witnesses at his trial said Aquash was killed because American Indian Movement leaders thought she was a government informant, something they deny.

Graham pleaded not guilty and plans to fight extradition to the United States, saying he does not believe he would get a fair trial in South Dakota.

His lawyer has said Canadian law would allow him to be prosecuted in his native country.

But according to Lyse Cantin, spokeswoman for the Department of Justice in Vancouver, prosecution and extradition specialists say that is not possible.

"There's absolutely no way it could be prosecuted in Canada," she said.

Graham's next court hearing is scheduled for December. He did not return a telephone call seeking comment on the status of his case and the planned reburial of Aquash.

Aquash's death came amid a series of bloody clashes between federal agents and AIM, which called for treaty rights and self-determination for Indians.

See also Aquash Murder Case Timeline