An interview with Denise Pictou-Maloney
on the death of her mother,
Annie Mae Aquash

November 24, 2004

Editors' (Paul DeMain) Note - 11.24.04:

The following material was sent to NFIC by Denise Pictou-Maloney and upon her request, we are printing this material on the eve of extradition hearings for John Boy Patton-Graham which begin December 6, 2004, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The original questions were framed by Paul Barnsley of the publication Windspeaker in Canada, and responded too, based upon a request from Pictou-Maloney that only written questions be submitted to her, and that no editing of her answers take place when used. Partial quotes from the interview were later used in a Windspeaker article published in [an] April, [2004 article at] with rebuttal from the John Graham Defense Committee.

Many of the questions are typical questions the public has had of the Pictou-Maloney family over the last year, about Peltier and other AIM leaders, and the answers here, entire answers unaltered or folded into other material are given here as a public service to the Pictou/Maloney/Aquash families.

This interview was published in the November 29, 2004 issue of News From Indian Country.

(Questions presented to Denise Pictou-Maloney follow in bold.)

anna in kitchen with daughters
Anna, daughters and an unidentified friend

1) With all the controversy over the way the Arlo Looking Cloud trial was conducted, can you or do you feel any sense of closure?

Twenty-three prosecution witnesses, the most damning being former AIM members, all provided sworn testimony that demonstrated Looking Cloud's complicity and guilt in the murder of my mother, Anna Mae Pictou Aquash.

Looking Cloud's defense was that he didn't shoot her or know that she was going to be shot, and that he was surprised when John Graham shot her. Witnesses and Looking Cloud's attorney repeated time and again that John Graham shot Anna Mae, so what else can Graham's supporters and attorney do but try to create controversy to deflect people from that fact? Had the verdict in the Looking Cloud trial been "not guilty," John Graham, his attorney, supporters, and Vernon Bellecourt would have been broadcasting long and loud that here was proof that there was no evidence, no case, and that it was all a great U.S. government conspiracy against AIM. As it was, Looking Cloud was found guilty by a multi-racial jury (Lakota, African-American, and white) after seven hours of deliberation.

Should John Graham wish to challenge the credibility of the statements attributed to him, or the statements attributed to others where it is indicated that those comments were made in "a recorded interview," those recorded statements will be aired.

Graham's supporters are spinning the "miscarriage of justice" line for all they are worth, but they ignore the facts and they have ignored the comments of jurors, one of whom said that even though they agreed that Looking Cloud was guilty, some of the jurors were afraid to bring a guilty verdict because they feared reprisals from AIM supporters in South Dakota. Now that really would have been a "miscarriage of justice" for the murder victim, Anna Mae. (The interview with the jurist was in the Rapid City Journal.)

So far as closure, Looking Cloud and Graham are the beginning of the process. We won't feel a sense of closure until the likes of Theda Clark, Dennis Banks, Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt, Bill and Ted Means, Madonna Gilbert, Lorelei Decora Means, Bruce Ellison, David Hill, and Thelma Rios have answered for the parts they played in the last 36 hours of my mother's life.

2) What do you make of the attack on the quality of the defense provided to Looking Cloud or the allegations that the state had a weak case?

Looking Cloud's attorney at trial, Tim Rensch, is a friend and colleague of Bruce Ellison, and anybody familiar with Peltier's case knows that Bruce Ellison has been one of Peltier's most prominent attorneys since his trial in Fargo. Who can seriously claim that Rensch is a fed, or was incapable, when he is that close to Ellison?

Rensch cross-examined every prosecution witness vigorously, and submitted a list of defense witnesses. But this is what Graham's supporters either don't understand or want to ignore: one of Arlo's main defense witnesses was going to be Troy Lynn Yellowwood, but she testified for the prosecution that Arlo had told her that he was present during my mother's ordeal,

December 12, 1975: Annie Mae is reportedly taken from Rapid City after being raped and beaten, (the autopsy report shows she is missing ten teeth) allegedly by John Graham and others, to the Rosebud reservation area where AIM supporters refuse to keep her (Arlo is allegedly now assigned the responsibility to execute Annie Mae being a Lakota on Lakota land).
and that when he and Graham took her out of Theda Clark's car and walked her to where they were going to execute her, that Anna Mae was saying to Graham and Looking Cloud, "You guys don't have to do this." If the best defense witness you can come up with testifies to that, then that tells any rational person all they need to know.

Rensch could not then call Troy Lynn back in Looking Cloud's defense because she would either have had to commit perjury, or made more damaging statements against Arlo when the prosecution cross-examined her. Rensch presented the only possible defense Arlo had, that he didn't know Graham was going to shoot my mother, but it was not credible when the evidence was examined.

That left Rensch with the option of calling a couple of FBI agents, and so he went with Price to try and intimate what Graham is pinning his hopes on, that people believe Price killed Anna Mae under the murky shadow of COINTELPRO, but it didn't work then and it won't work because it is transparent - Rensch had already told the jury that Graham shot Anna Mae.

Rensch had initially intended to call a prominent AIM attorney but this attorney required immunity from prosecution in order to testify, which again demonstrates to any rational person what the reality of the case and Arlo's defense was. Arlo did not have a defense; he had no alibi, and could not produce anybody to lie for him.

The most devastating witness against Arlo was Arlo himself, he just told too many people over the years. The claim that he was drunk and coerced on his video confession is specious; he was read his Miranda rights, he was aware of what was happening, and he knew he didn't have to say anything to Bob Ecoffey on that video.

Anybody with any objectivity would understand that the prosecution would not have rested its case against Looking Cloud after only three days if the case had been weak! That they rested after such a short period of time demonstrates their confidence in the evidence they presented. The trial only lasted four days because Arlo didn't have any witnesses to counter the prosecution's case. If defense witnesses had existed, Rensch would have called them, and the trial would have lasted longer - but he didn't have the witnesses, because by Arlo's own admission on video and to others over the years, he was there when Graham shot my mother and he participated in the events that lead up to her murder.

3) Leonard Peltier has been implicated in the death of your mother. Do you believe he was involved?

Theda Clark

At AIM's 1975 convention in Farmington, Theda Clark publicly accused my mother of being an FBI informer and Leonard Peltier confronted my mother about those rumors. At that convention both Dennis Banks and Vernon Bellecourt made press statements about "hundreds" of agents and informers infiltrating AIM (how many can you name? It was Doug Durham, the Schaffers, and then people like Bernie Morning Gun; hardly crack counter-intelligence agents).

Vernon Bellecourt recruited Peltier to AIM, and Peltier worked security for Dennis Banks, so it's not hard to see where Leonard's order to question Anna Mae came from. My mother told Iris Thundercloud that Peltier had put a gun in her mouth when he questioned her about being an informer. Bob Robideau was there and confirmed that Peltier questioned her. Dino Butler was there and confirmed that Peltier questioned her, but neither of them mentions the gun.

Ka-Mook Nichols and Bernie Lafferty have both said that when they were in the Brando motor home at John Chiquiti's, Peltier told them that he suspected my mother and that he had put a gun to her head but she didn't admit to being an informer, and so he wanted to give her "truth serum." I know for a fact that my mother knew who had killed the FBI agents at Jumping Bull's, but she was not murdered just to silence her on that - they thought she knew too much. She knew what was happening in California, she knew where the money was coming from to pay for the guns, she knew the plans, she knew which of the leadership were drug users, but more than any of that, she knew about the killings.

Anna at Wounded Knee
Anna at Wounded Knee II (picture is a link)

They really feared that she knew who shot Ray Robinson, the African-American civil rights worker killed at Wounded Knee. It is alleged that Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, Crow Dog and David Hill are among those implicated in the Robinson slaying, and it would have been disastrous for AIM, and high-profile WKLD/OC attorneys like Ken Tilsen, had it become known that a man associated with Dr. Martin Luther King had been shot by an AIM member and left to bleed to death by AIM leaders.

Prior to Wounded Knee, Tilsen had persuaded Banks and Clyde Bellecourt to accompany him to the National Afro-American Rights Conference in Chicago, and one of AIM's key protagonists, Matt Eubanks, was a Minneapolis/St. Paul Black Panthers advocate. It would not have looked good, they would have lost vital support among African-American activists, and it would have derailed the money train.

In December 1975 Leonard Peltier was not part of the leadership and did not have the authority in AIM to give orders, but Dennis Banks, Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt did. I have no doubt that Leonard Peltier knows who gave the order to execute my mother and he knows that John Graham, Arlo Looking Cloud and Theda Clark carried out that order.

4) Do you believe Peltier is guilty of killing those FBI agents?

The murder of my mother, Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, is about who kidnapped, interrogated, raped and murdered her in December 1975 - not who killed FBI agents Coler and Williams at Jumping Bull's on June 26, 1975. Leonard Peltier is quoted in We, The People as saying, "I think it was around that December when I heard that Anna Mae was dead. I was in that jail over there in Canada right around whenever they exposed who she really was and what she died from, but I believe I didn't hear about it until December."

I'm interested to know how Peltier knew my mother was dead in December when her unidentified body wasn't found until February 24, and our family wasn't informed that my mother was dead until March 5? And I'd like to know how David Hill knew that my mother had been killed in December 1975; Hill is on tape saying that he knew she was dead when he went to testify at Russell Means' trial in Sioux Falls.

How did Dennis Banks know not only that she had been killed, but the cause of death, on February 24? Banks called Ka-Mook, his then wife, and told her that; and at the Butler/Robideau trial in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, June 22, 1976, John Trudell testified to this, quote: "Dennis (Banks) told me she (Anna Mae) had been shot in the back of the head. He told me this in February, about the 25 or 26 of February. He told me this in California." The cause of death wasn't established until March 10, so how did Banks know in February? He knew it was Anna Mae but her body wasn't officially identified until March 3, and our family was informed March 5, but he already knew.

Trudell went on to testify that he didn't even know there was a body, let alone that it was my mother. Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt were in the car with Dennis Banks when he told John Trudell this. How come Graham and his conspiracy theorist supporters aren't raising questions about this cover-up?

5) Graham says he had nothing to do with the killing of your mother. What do you say to that?

When Graham and Looking Cloud were first indicted I contacted several prominent AIM and former AIM members and asked them if the right men had been indicted for murdering my mother. The people I spoke to included John Trudell, Dino Butler, the late-Nilak Butler, and Bob Robideau, and the answer they gave me was yes, the right people had been indicted. They confirmed that John Graham shot my mother and that Arlo Looking Cloud and Theda Clark were with him.

My sister and I talked to Arlo Looking Cloud on the phone and he told us the story, and that John Graham shot our mother and that he was an eyewitness as he stood next to Graham when he did it. I listened to the sworn testimony of former AIM members at Looking Cloud's trial, including John Boy's girlfriend at the time, Angie Janis, who described how John Graham tied my mother up and took her from Troy Lynn Yellowwood's with Arlo and Theda Clark. I listened to Candy Hamilton describe what happened to my mother at the WKLD/OC house in Rapid City before she was taken to Thelma Rios' apartment.

I listened to the sworn testimony of Cleo Gates, Dick Marshall's ex-wife, who shattered John Graham's lie that he left my mother at a safe house on Pine Ridge, when she testified that Graham, Looking Cloud and Clark arrived in the early hours of that December 1975 morning at the house she then shared with Dick Marshall at Pass Creek, in Allen, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They had my mother with them, she was not there by choice, and Graham, Looking Cloud and Clark gave Marshall a note that read, "Will you take care of this baggage," referring to my mother.

Marshall wouldn't do it, and so they asked him for directions on the back roads to Rosebud, and they left with my mother in their custody. For Graham to be telling the truth, all of these people and others must have lied under oath.

A Canadian man charged with killing a former American Indian Movement member in 1975 acknowledged on an audiotape that he was with her moments before she was shot and left for dead in a ravine, according to a transcript obtained by The Associated Press.

Then there are Graham's own admissions in a taped interview he conducted in February 2001, a tape that the Associated Press recently heard and authenticated. On that tape Graham admits in his own words to being present at every location he, Looking Cloud and Clark dragged my mother to before they murdered her.

When they left Cleo and Dick Marshall's they took my mother to the Rosebud, to Bill Means' house. On the tape Graham says, "I don't remember going into Bill Means' house. I stayed in the car (with Anna Mae) I know that. Theda went in. And I don't know if Arlo went in or not, I can't really remember that too clear." On the tape Graham is then asked if Theda Clark took over the driving from Arlo when they left Bill Means' to take my mother to Wanblee where they executed her, and he replies, "Yeah. I do remember that. Theda did some driving. Theda drove from Bill Means.'" At Looking Cloud's trial John Trudell testified that he believes that it was in that house that Graham and Clark were given the order to kill my mother. All of that is only part of what I say to Graham. Why does he refuse to take a

The Associated Press reported Monday, March 1, that John Boy Graham, one of the men indicted for the first-degree murder of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, has refused to take a polygraph.
if he had nothing to do with killing my mother? His refusal demonstrates a consciousness of guilt - he knows he would fail the polygraph.

Interestingly, Graham and his supporters at first denied that he had ever done the 2001 taped interview, then they said they had never heard it, then one of his supporters claimed to have been present when it was conducted, and then Graham finally acknowledged that he did remember the February 2001 taped interview, how it was recorded, and even some details about the interviewer.

He has a little amnesia about what he said, but that's okay as what he said was recorded and as much as he might like to, he can't escape from that. He is yet to admit which AIM leader arranged the interview, and that the interview was arranged to give him the opportunity to present a credible alibi on tape, which he fails to do.

Now Graham and his supporters are attempting to discredit the Associated Press reporter, but any professional in journalism knows that the Associated Press would not have run the story if they had not authenticated the tape of Graham, and independently verified that the tape had not been doctored, and that the transcript of the tape was accurate - not only from a journalistic standpoint, but a legal standpoint.

Graham and his supporters are trying to question the evidentiary value of the tape because the U.S. has not included a copy of it with the documentary summary of evidence to be presented at Graham's extradition hearing, but an extradition hearing is not a trial and the requesting state does not have to present all of its evidence, only sufficient evidence to satisfy the extradition judge.

Graham is not going to know all of the evidence the prosecution has until he is extradited and has a lawyer in the U.S. and the discovery process takes place. That a copy of tape has not been included with the evidentiary summary for extradition would indicate to an objective observer that the prosecution is not lacking for evidence against Graham and that they have only provided the minimum for the Crown to establish the "prima facie" case.

6) Some who believe Peltier was falsely convicted draw parallels to the fact that he, like Graham, was (or may be) extradited from Vancouver to the USA. They rely on the implication that Graham must also be stuck on the FBI frame-up railroad since the two sets of facts have this similarity. Do you buy into this at all?

What's the similarity? That Peltier was arrested in Hinton, Alberta, and Graham was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia, and that to face trial they have to be extradited from Canada to the U.S.? Leonard Peltier was not indicted for murdering a Native woman. Graham is trying to present Arlo Looking Cloud as the second Myrtle Poor Bear and himself as the second Leonard Peltier, but that's just a sign of his desperation.

People from Pine Ridge knew right away that Myrtle Poor Bear had no association with Peltier but few, even among AIM, deny that Looking Cloud was there when my mother was killed. By his own admission Arlo was there, but Graham has gone from calling Arlo "mentally ill" (Graham's interview in Georgia Straight, Dec. 16, 2003) to saying that Arlo was "coerced" into making his March 2003 video-taped admission that was played at his trial - if Arlo was coerced on the video, then he must also have been coerced by Troy Lynn when he told her what had happened to Anna Mae, and he must have been coerced by John Trudell when he told him, and I suppose my sister and I must have coerced Arlo when he told us what happened to our mother; nobody coerced Arlo, he told us willingly, and it was Arlo who asked to see Trudell to tell him!

I for one applaud the verdict of guilty in the Arlo Looking Cloud case.

An act committed by one, a founder of AIM, nevertheless with the heart of a coward ordered Anna Mae's execution. He and those that followed his dictates must pay their dues and I feel in the enemies court is a proper and fitting place for these individuals who would not in the last 30 years show some remorse to their people who had given them their trust and with this act betrayed...Bob Robideau

In his video-taped admission Arlo states what he told us, which is what he told Trudell, and what he told Troy Lynn before that: "John Graham shot Anna Mae in the head as she was praying." Arlo Looking Cloud stood next to Graham when Graham shot my mother, but Myrtle Poor Bear was nowhere near the Jumping Bull property on June 26, 1975. Graham has claimed that the FBI first attempted to interview him about my mother's murder in the 1980s, sometimes he says the FBI agents visited him in the Yukon in 1985 and sometimes he says it was 1989. Either way, if the FBI were trying to interview him the 1980s it shows that he has been a suspect for some twenty years; if they were going to railroad him why didn't they do it then instead of waiting until 2003?

Answer - he isn't being railroaded, they continued their investigation and finally indicted him. Prosecutors don't indict a suspect until they are confident that they have sufficient evidence to present to a jury, and that based upon that evidence the jury will find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Contrary to his claim, prosecutors have never offered Graham a deal; had he only been an accomplice they might have.

Certain individuals associated with AIM have used this "the feds did it" or "the feds set me up" line for over thirty years - here are just two of many examples, both involving one of Graham's mentors, Clyde Bellecourt: when Carter Camp shot Clyde Bellecourt, Ron Petite (Dennis Banks' then sidekick) issued a statement denying that Camp had done it and blaming it on the feds. A decade later when Clyde Bellecourt was arrested for drug dealing he said it was "a vendetta against AIM" set up by the feds, but then he accepted a plea bargain, pleaded guilty, and admitted under oath that on one occasion he traded 500 tablets of LSD for cash and two stolen video recorders.

Graham is singing an old song. Arlo Looking Cloud was there when Anna Mae was killed, and John Graham shot her in the head. The consistent theme, and Looking Cloud's defense at trial was that Graham shot Anna Mae. Nobody needs to railroad Graham into prison, the evidence will put him there should he ever stand trial. Graham talks about being "railroaded" and "sham" trials, but what kind of trial did our mother get? I'm sure Graham remembers what her appeals process was, when she was begging him and Arlo Looking Cloud not to kill her as they pulled her out of Theda Clark's Ford Pinto on Highway 73. Arlo Looking Cloud is no Myrtle Poor Bear and John Graham is no Leonard Peltier.

7) If Looking Cloud is guilty, then AIM was either a collection of confused and paranoid activists or they were turned against one another by government infiltration and COINTELPRO tactics. Would you agree with that statement? If so, which is it? Did an honorable Indian rights movement lose its way or was it forced off the rails by the government's counter-intelligence operation, in other words?

It's not "if Looking Cloud is guilty," Arlo Looking Cloud was found guilty of first-degree murder on February 6, 2004, and was sentenced on April 23. My mother's death was more about a power trip for a few egotists who called themselves leaders than any counter-intelligence program. Ken Tilsen, Clyde Bellecourt's then attorney, formed the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee inside Wounded Knee in March 1973. During Wounded Knee, Tilsen identified Jill and G.I. Shaffer as FBI informants, and from that point on the theory was that informants worked in man-woman teams, Joe Banger and his wife were "outed" soon after. In Wounded Knee, FBI operative Doug Durham managed to become Dennis Banks' aide-de-camp, and then Banks started his affair with my mother during the Wounded Knee trials. Whispers started about Durham, and they were then reflected onto my mother, as both were now close to Banks.

In Wounded Knee, Tilsen developed the confidence of the women from the clinic, including Theda Clark, Madonna Gilbert and Lorelei Decora Means, and it was these women who approached Tilsen with concerns over Doug Durham; they believed he was an informer but said Banks wasn't taking it seriously, and so they asked Tilsen to visit Banks at the Alexian Brothers Novitiate take-over in January 1975 to discuss the matter.

Ken and Rachel Tilsen started investigating Durham, and Tilsen met with Banks at the Novitiate in January 1975 and presented his evidence against Durham. Banks was convinced and according to some AIM leaders who were there, a plan to kill Doug Durham was formulated. Using Tilsen's theory that informers worked in pairs like Jill and G.I. Shaffer, my mother was then identified as an informer by women from Russell Means' AIM faction, namely Theda Clark and Lorelei Decora Means. They believed she was Durham's partner, and a public spat between the two shortly before Durham was exposed convinced them of it, believing that the argument between my mother and Durham was just for show.

Vernon Bellecourt and Ted Means were then the heads of "AIM Security and Intelligence," charged with rooting out informants, and they followed Ken Tilsen's theory. Durham evaded execution but Vernon Bellecourt and Margaret Brigham located him in Des Moines, Iowa, and Banks, Bellecourt, and Dino Butler were among those who confronted Durham at his home. Durham took the option of a press conference over death.

Banks was severely undermined, the leadership was embroiled in a constant power struggle, and the rumors about my mother started and Vernon Bellecourt began his "investigation" and eventually concluded that she was one of the infamous "Informants A or B." You don't have to talk to many people in AIM to learn that Vernon Bellecourt was obsessed with identifying informers and remains so today; anybody who disagrees with Bellecourt is branded an "extremist informer," and anything negative about AIM is part of a "counter-intelligence program."

Calling himself the head of "AIM Security and Intelligence" must have made Vernon feel important, and I've been told that in the 1970s it justified his existence when he was standing in the shadow of Russell Means, Dennis Banks, his brother Clyde, and others who had more supporters. My mother was a strong woman, she was not an informant, and she would not back down. They could not control her, and so they silenced her.

8) If you agree with the above statements (Question 7), then isn't it logical to attach some blame to the U.S. government regardless of who fired the fatal shot or why?

Towards the end of his videotaped admission Arlo Looking Cloud says of my mother's murder, "If you want to know why it happened ask Bellecourt... Vernon Bellecourt." He doesn't say ask the FBI about COINTELPRO. Bob Robideau says we should ask Dennis Banks too. Is it just coincidence that Clyde Bellecourt was allegedly at Bill Means' house when my mother's fate was decided, and that Vernon Bellecourt is on the record as saying that he called Bill Means' house many times, but he can't remember if he called him from California on that day? Is it just coincidence that Vernon Bellecourt was in California, where Dennis Banks was hiding at Lee Brightman's? Is it just coincidence that the Bellecourts and Banks informed John Trudell that my mother had been shot in the back of the head before her identity had been established and before the cause of death had been found?

"He shot her in the head" as she was praying, Looking Cloud said. "And then he gave me the gun and I thought if they ... killed her, they're going to kill me. So I emptied what was left in the gun."

There is no excuse for matricide, and that is what this is, even though Graham wants people to believe that there was some sinister political motivation behind my mother's death. This isn't a battle between what's left of AIM and the FBI, this is a struggle to bring justice for a First Nation's mother who was kidnapped, brutalized, and murdered.

[jsd note - added 12.7.04:

Denise has used the word matricide to describe violence against Native women in her presentations over the course of the last year, in particular, violence and murder against Native mothers by members of their own family, or extended family, as John Graham and other members of AIM have on occasion described their relationship with her mother, Annie Mae.

Denise is entirely aware that her use of matricide is not gramatically correct. As regards her Mother though, its usage is considered to be apt.]

Like Arlo Looking Cloud, Troy Lynn Yellowwood, Angie Janis, and his aunt Theda Clark, John Graham was a member of "Denver AIM," the chapter Vernon Bellecourt established in 1972. In Graham's 2001 taped interview authenticated by the Associated Press, Graham says he left AIM's 1975 Farmington convention with Vernon Bellecourt, and he refers to Theda Clark starting the rumor that my mother was an informant there. In the same recorded interview, as Graham is discussing how he, Theda Clark and Arlo took my mother from Troy Lynn's, then to Rapid City, then to Pine Ridge, and then to Bill Means' and on to where they executed her, the interviewer asks Graham if during that sequence he had wished that he had never got involved and Graham replies, "As with all of this, I was free to leave any time I wanted. There was nothing forcing me to stay there."

Graham could have left but he didn't, and it was just as Troy Lynn testified, my mother was telling Graham and Looking Cloud that they didn't have to do it, they didn't have to kill her, but they did. There is no excuse for that. They had a choice and they made it. The rest of the blame lies with those who ordered them to do it.

9) If AIM did lose its way, does the organization have any credibility today?

It is important to make the distinction between AIM, the true leaders who came out of AIM, and those so-called leaders who think AIM begins and ends with them. Shortly before she was murdered my mother wrote, "I'm Indian all the way and always will be. I'm not going to stop fighting until I die, and I hope I'm a good example of a human being and of my tribe."

She was, and I'm sure a lot of people who associate themselves with AIM are representative of that statement, and that they have a lot more in common with my mother than they do with Dennis Banks, the Bellecourts, or their kind.

There were a lot of genuine people from AIM who were interested in cultural and spiritual revitalization, in truly working for their people without honorariums or the enticement of "power" and celebrity, and those people had nothing to do with killing my mother and it is wrong for them to be categorized with those who did just so that Vernon Bellecourt and Graham's defenders can manipulate the "us against them" line.

Traditional elders of the Lakota Nation have drafted a press release, in response to the recent information from the elders of the Mi'qmaw Nation about the involvement of the American Indian Movement (AIM) leadership, in collaboration with the FBI and other US governmental agencies, in the murder of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash in 1975.

AIM is in the hearts of many Native people - it will be there when Banks, Bellecourt and company have gone, just as it was there before they came - AIM is just a name, it's not the movement, the movement is the inherent spirit of the people, a spirit my mother represented.

There are good people and bad people in every movement, and those who were involved in killing my mother have learned that you can't get away with murder and still carry the pipe, you can only pretend. People have told me that when the AIM Grand Governing Council holds its conferences today the room isn't full and half of those who attend are wannabees and far-Left white activists, it's easy to pretend to an audience like that. Credibility?

I don't know how much credibility a leader can have after they have pleaded guilty to drug dealing, particularly when you consider how drug abuse is devastating many of our communities. If I ever meet Clyde Bellecourt I'll ask him. Dennis Banks and Vernon Bellecourt have no credibility at all when they talk about my mother. I was told that the CBC didn't include any of the interview they conducted with Vernon Bellecourt for the "Fifth Estate" program about my mother's murder because they didn't find him credible.

Lakota woman,
Ka-Mook Nichols,
Yolo Country California, 1982.
( Michelle Vignes)

It's painful to read and listen to Dennis Banks speak of my mother as over the years he has contradicted himself so many times and there are so many inconsistencies in his story that it's like listening to John Graham. Banks has called his book Ojibwa Warrior, but what kind of warrior lets his pregnant wife (Ka-Mook), his infant daughter, and his ex-lover (my mother) risk being shot just so that he can get away? Dennis Banks when the Brando motor home was pulled over near Ontario, Oregon, in November 1975 did exactly that.

(November 18, 1975, Annie Mae Aquash, left and Darlene P. Nichols, walked handcuffed from federal marshal's car into overnight quarter's Monday in Vacouver's Clark County Courthouse.
(Journal photo by Ralph Perry)

What credibility does a leader have who stands back and watches as his ex-lover is forced to make bombs, and then takes his pregnant wife along as his ex-lover is made to plant the bombs? What kind of leader bombs the reservation of people who have given him their trust?

Dennis Banks did when he, David Hill and Leonard Peltier bombed the Pine Ridge Reservation in October 1975. What kind of traditional Native leader would put himself first and do anything to save his own skin? None, but Dennis Banks did. Is that credible leadership?

10) What is the one most important lesson that should be learned from this sad and tragic chain of events?

There are many, all of equal importance, from acknowledging that violence against women is not traditional, through to how twenty-eight years of misinformation orchestrated by Vernon Bellecourt and Bruce Ellison, assisted by Ken Tilsen's speculation, has helped turn a man indicted for murdering a Native mother into a martyr in the eyes of some so that they are blind to the real victim, the woman he is charged with murdering.

They've done it effectively; they convinced Peter Matthiessen, and to a degree Robert Redford, and they have used those documentaries, movies, and best-selling books to help cover-up what happened to my mother. Looking Cloud is not the only one to indicate that Vernon Bellecourt knew that he, Graham, and Clark took my mother out - Bellecourt was AIM's head of "Security and Intelligence," his job was to bust informants, and they killed my mother because they believed she was an informant - how could it have happened without him?

Ellison knew because he was at the WKLD/OC office in Rapid City when she was interrogated, and a witness places him at Thelma Rios' apartment.

I find it hard to believe that Tilsen didn't know, or that he didn't find out soon after. As a Native woman, would it have been easier for me to believe that a suit with a gun and badge killed my mother and that she was killed resisting an enemy in war?

Violence against women, the life givers, is not traditional. Mental, physical, and sexual abuse against indigenous women is rampant throughout our communities. ...Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, suffered all of those brutal indignities in the last 36-hours of her life.

Of course it would, but that's simply not true and so not only have my sister and I had to come to terms with losing our mother, we've had to face the fact that Native people killed her, people from the movement she believed in, that she sacrificed for, and to which she committed the last years of her life.

For all of those who refuse to face the reality, just think of how it has been for us - this is our mother - she was a strong, beautiful, gifted Native woman, she is not just a topic of debate, a focus of speculation, or a pawn for political exploitation. Don't hide from the truth, however painful, and don't let our mother continue to be the victim of injustice to make a political point or to vent your frustration at the U.S. government. Remember Anna Mae? She was a First Nation woman, a Canadian citizen, the victim of kidnap, rape and murder - she was my mother.

11) Forgive me for mentioning such a graphic point, but I still find it hard to believe that the FBI pathologist "missed" the bullet wound the first time around. That, more than anything else, makes me wonder about the FBI's role in your mother's death. If you believe that AIM is responsible for the death then how do you deal with the doubts raised by the botched autopsy?

If John Graham, Arlo Looking Cloud and Theda Clark had not executed my mother, an autopsy would not have been required and she might still be alive today. Ken Tilsen engaged Dr. Garry Peterson to represent WKLD/OC, AIM, and our family at the second autopsy.

Dr. Peterson ended up conducting the second autopsy on my mother's body, and from that day to this he has been questioned about this theory that FBI collusion lead to the "botched" first autopsy and that it was part of an FBI cover-up, a theory Dr. Peterson has dispelled and consistently said that he does not believe.

"I doubt any knowing cover-up or conspiracy in that first autopsy," Dr. Peterson told pro-AIM author Peter Matthiessen. "I think the oversight was due to haste and lack of careful observation - not that I condone the oversight," he said.

Dr. Peterson's testimony at Arlo's Looking Cloud's trial reflected that, and I think his expert opinion is more credible than that of the John Graham Defense Committee. Had our family not contacted WKLD/OC, they would not have pushed for a second autopsy on behalf of AIM, and it was my aunt who insisted that they find an independent pathologist.

Candy Hamilton, who at the time worked for WKLD/OC, has said that Ken Tilsen did not want a second autopsy conducted because it would only cause trouble. This is the same Ken Tilsen who ended up with my mother's billfold after she was murdered, but he can't remember how he got it.

Bill Means is on the record talking about conversations he had with Tilsen regarding the second autopsy prior to Dr. Peterson performing it. Why would that be? Because it might "cause trouble?"

If the FBI had been involved in a cover-up why were they trying to identify my mother's body? It was the FBI who filed to have my mother's body exhumed so that x-rays could be taken and a second autopsy performed, it was not Bruce Ellison and AIM who filed for the second autopsy. If the FBI had been responsible for my mother's murder they would have known who she was and how she died, so they would not have wanted a second autopsy, and they certainly wouldn't have wanted a pathologist employed by WKLD/OC and AIM to perform that autopsy and to discover how she died!

For the record, W.O. Brown, who performed the "botched" first autopsy, was contracted by the BIA to perform autopsies on Pine Ridge and his contract was cancelled after the autopsy he performed on my mother's body. Brown was not contracted to the FBI and Norman Zigrossi, who was then in charge of the FBI's operations on Pine Ridge, is highly critical of Brown and the "botched" autopsy.

Why doesn't John Graham tell us why his aunt Theda Clark drove all the way from Denver to Pine Ridge when Dr. Peterson was performing the second autopsy to find out "if they found anything," and when she got her answer turned around and drove straight back. The salient question is who ordered Graham to put the bullet in my mother's head, not how an incompetent pathologist missed it.

12) Are there any lingering mysteries that you feel still need to be cleared up?

Asked if Clark took over the driving when the four went to the place near Wanblee where Aquash was killed, Graham said on the tape: "Yeah. I do remember that. Theda did some driving. Theda drove from Bill Means'."

I'd like to know if Dick Marshall handed Arlo the .38 that they used to kill my mother or if he gave it to John Graham. I'd like to know if Theda took John Graham to a house in Wanblee to clean himself up after he shot my mother, or if he waited until they got back to Rapid City. I'd like to know if Theda Clark kept the gun, and when she took my mother's jewelry why did she leave her bracelet?

Arlo Looking Cloud has said that Graham raped my mother at Thelma Rios' apartment, and Graham is on tape admitting that Arlo was guarding the door to the room my mother was held in, and so you would think that Arlo would know who went in and out of that room, and what was happening it, and so I'd like to know if more than one person raped her there, and who they are, and who other than Thelma Rios' beat her there.

...are the witnesses who were at Thelma's and Dave's when Anna Mae was held there all lying when they say that you, John, raped Anna Mae there? It's not only Arlo Looking Cloud who says that.

It is a mystery to me how John Graham can stoop so slow as to say that he was my mother's friend; in Graham's 2001-taped interview he is asked if he ever had a relationship of any kind with my mother, to which he replies, "No."

He is then asked again if he had a relationship or friendship of any sort with her, to which he says, "No. I never ever did." John Trudell, Matheline White Bear, and others have told us who our mother's real friends were, but Graham's defense committee have even tried to take things my mother said to John Trudell and present them as if she said them to Graham! That claim is one of the many fabrications and inconsistencies highlighted in the IWJ's "The Lies of John Graham ."

It's some "close friend" who doesn't contact the family of their murdered friend for twenty-eight years. Until John Graham finds the guts and compassion to state publicly who ordered him to kill my mother, and who was at Bill Means' house that night, we will continue to challenge him.

Would he have shot my mother if he hadn't been ordered to? I don't know, but I doubt it. If he started to tell the truth I would be prepared to believe that the person he is today is different to the person he was in December 1975. Graham could bring closure and healing to our family but he chooses not to, just as he made the wrong choice when he shot Anna Mae.

He said he could have left at any time during her ordeal, but he didn't. Sworn testimony has revealed that in the last minutes of her life my mother said to Graham that he didn't have to kill her, but he did.

See also:

Support the extradition of John Graham

Indigenous Women for Justice

Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash and Ray Robinson Jr. Justice Fund

One of the first AIM people to suspect that Douglass Durham was some sort of government agent was Anna Mae Pictou Aquash...

Ostriches Awakened, AIMster Pomp and Circumstance, Dues Being Paid While the Sharks (and Remoras) Come Out to Play

Anna Mae and Indigenous Poppycock

Allow No Muddying of the Water as Justice Comes to Anna

26 Years, Her Hands, Lies and Foundations Shifting

Anna Mae Archive

This site is administered by Jordan S. Dill.