Who killed Anna Mae?
by Rex Weyler, Vancouver Sun, January 8, 2005
On February 24, 1976, rancher Roger Amiotte walked his fence line on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota. The fence ended at a steep ravine, which had failed to restrain his livestock. Planning to extend the fence, Amiotte paced the embankment until he rounded a curve and came upon the body of a young woman.
The rancher stopped twenty feet from the corpse. She wore blue jeans, a burgundy windbreaker, tennis shoes, and a single turquoise bracelet. Animals had apparently gnawed at her ear. Amiotte returned home and called the Tribal police. Within two hours, a dozen law enforcement officers – Sheriff’s deputies, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) police, and FBI agents – combed the scene.
At the Pine Ridge morgue, a doctor and nurse found blood on the woman’s head. However, BIA pathologist Dr. W. O. Brown, described the case as “awfully routine,” reported no blood, and concluded the woman had died from “exposure” two weeks earlier, in early February. On FBI instructions, Brown severed the victim’s hands for later identification and approved a burial.
“It was the darndest thing I ever saw,” said mortician Tom Chamberlain, “an unidentified corpse buried without a death certificate or burial permit.” On March 3, 1976, the anonymous body rested in a pauper’s grave on Pine Ridge. On that day, the FBI identified the dead woman as 30-year-old Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash from Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). The Bureau notified the Pictou family in Canada that Anna Mae had died “by natural causes.”
The family requested another autopsy, and AIM lawyer Bruce Ellison petitioned the FBI to exhume the body. On March 11, Dr. Garry Peterson examined the corpse, noticed “a bulge in the dead woman’s left temple and dry blood in her hair,” and revealed the actual cause of death: a .32 calibre bullet “shot at close range into the back of her head.”
The FBI now claims AIM executed Aquash as a suspected informer. They possess a video confession from 50-year-old Arlo Looking Cloud, from South Dakota, who admitted being present when John Graham allegedly shot Aquash. Looking Cloud remains in custody, convicted of aiding first-degree murder.
The U.S. wants Graham returned to South Dakota to face the murder charge. His extradition case opened in Vancouver on December 6 and resumes next week before Justice Elizabeth Bennett. Canadian Crown attorney Deborah Strachan represents the U.S.
To prepare this story, I reviewed court transcripts and evidence summaries from the Looking Cloud trial, the Vancouver extradition hearing, and other related cases; FBI memos; and sworn affidavits and public statements by the interested parties. I interviewed Mr. Graham, other native leaders, and attorneys in Canada and the U.S., on both sides; and I reviewed the extensive public record compiled over thirty years.
A U.S. summary of evidence cites witnesses who claim Looking Cloud, Graham, and AIM member Theda Clark kidnapped Aquash from a house in Denver, Colorado in December 1975. Others witnessed Graham and Looking Cloud with the victim on Pine Ridge Reservation shortly thereafter.
“The Judge in an extradition hearing has a very narrow scope,” Strachen explains. “All we have to show is that this is the person the requesting state [the U.S.] is looking for and that, if believed, the evidence could lead a reasonable jury to convict the accused.” This is a “prima facia” argument that on “first appearance” the evidence seems adequate. “We do not argue the quality of that evidence,” Strachen said.
Canada’s extradition treaty with the U.S. presumes that evidence supplied is accurate. A U.S. Attorney – in this case Robert Mandel in South Dakota – certifies the evidence. On first appearance, the evidence against Graham does indeed seem compelling.
However, Graham’s attorney, Terry LaLiberte, pointed out inconsistencies, which he claims the U.S. “deliberately or negligently” failed to disclose. Alleged witness Al Gates “had been dead for nine months,” said LaLiberte, when the U.S. “claimed he was available for trial.” Witness Frank Dillon, to whom Graham allegedly confessed, claims he did not make the statement attributed to him.
The only potential eyewitness, Arlo Looking Cloud, now alleges that detectives plied him with alcohol and drugs, coerced the testimony from him, and denied him the right to have a lawyer of his choice. His new attorney, Terry Gilbert from the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York, claims that Looking Cloud’s court-appointed lawyer incriminated his own client. “Looking Cloud was a homeless alcoholic for more than 20 years,” said Gilbert, “vulnerable to manipulation by the detective in Denver.”
Outside the Vancouver courtroom, LaLiberte recalled that in 1976, Canada extradited AIM member Leonard Peltier with evidence coerced from a similarly vulnerable Myrtle Poor Bear, who later testified that FBI agent David Price frightened her into making false statements.
Crown attorney Strachan says the Poor Bear incident, “is history. How is it relevant to this case? Just because the FBI did something once, is not evidence that they’re doing it here.” Aquash’s daughter, Denise Maloney-Pictou, agrees. “This is 2004, not 1976,” she says. “We just want to see Graham stand trial, and for a jury to hear all of the evidence.”
“History is what this case is all about,” replies Matthew Lien from Graham’s Defense Committee. “The FBI wants to rewrite the record. The perpetrators of this crime are behind the prosecution.”
Brave Hearted Woman
Anna Mae Pictou was born on March 27, 1945, on the Mi’kmaq reserve five miles east of Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. Her mother, Mary Ellen, traded housekeeping for a room in a small house and earned babysitting money to feed Anna Mae and two older sisters, Rebecca and Mary. Their father, Francis Levi, died in 1948, Mary Ellen remarried, and they moved to the Pictou Reservation on the Northumberland coast.
At the reservation school, Anna Mae earned straight A’s, but at St. John’s Academy, off the reservation, where she endured racial taunts, her performance slumped. When her stepfather died and her mother left with her third husband, Anna Mae stayed with Rebecca and her husband.
In 1963, with her boyfriend Jake Maloney, Anna Mae drifted to Boston, where she gave birth to two daughters, Denise and Deborah. She earned $200 per month as a seamstress and felt prosperous. However, when Jake had a love affair, Anna Mae left with the girls. She volunteered at the Boston Indian Council, an outlet for her rage concerning the plight of native people. At her first demonstration, she met AIM leader Russell Means and devoted her life to native rights.
In 1973, Anna Mae left her daughters with her sister Mary Lafford and traveled to South Dakota with Ojibwa activist Nogeeshik Aquash. They joined AIM activists protesting tribal council corruption and BIA police violence. The group occupied the hamlet of Wounded Knee, the site of an 1890 massacre of 200 men, women, and children by the U.S. Seventh Calvary. During the ensuing seige, Anna Mae Pictou and Nogeeshik Aquash married in a traditional ceremony.
Anna Mae earned a reputation as a devoted advocate for native people. At Pine Ridge, she became known, in the Lakota tradition, as “a brave hearted woman,” someone who could be counted on to stand up for the weak and dispossessed. She advanced through the AIM ranks in Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.
Traditional Lakota leaders on Pine Ridge Reservation cite their 1868 Treaty with the U.S. as the basis for a 160,000-square-mile territory west of the Missouri River. However, after gold discoveries in the Black Hills, the U.S. reduced Lakota title to five reservations, less than 10 percent of their treaty land. The “traditionals” claimed that the BIA further eroded their land base by granting leases without Lakota approval. In 1972, Richard “Dickie” Wilson, controlled the tribal council and fashioned his own police force, the Guardians of Oglala Nation, the GOONS, who harassed Wilson’s opposition with beatings and drive-by shootings.
When chiefs Matthew King and Fools Crow traveled to Washington D.C. to redress their grievances, vigilantes sprayed King’s modest house with bullets and burned Fools Crow’s home to the ground. “It was those BIA police and those goons,” claimed King.
When traditionals Raymond Yellow Thunder and Wesley Bad Heart Bull were murdered, the elder women gave AIM permission to occupy Wounded Knee to expose the violence. For 71 days, AIM activists armed with .22 gauge hunting rifles, faced off against the vigilantes and BIA police bolstered by SWAT teams and U.S. Marshals with M16s and grenade launchers. Two Indians – Frank Clearwater and Buddy Lamont – died from bullet wounds.
The siege ended with a promise from U.S. Attorney Leonard Garment to investigate the BIA police and Wilson’s goons, but there is no evidence an investigation ensued. Before 1973 ended, seven more traditional leaders had died violent deaths, including Pedro Bissonnette, head of the Oglala Civil Rights Organization, shot at close range with a twelve-gauge shotgun by BIA policeman Joe Clifford. No charges were filed against Clifford.
Into this maelstrom walked Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash and John Graham, two wide-eyed young Canadians eager to advance native rights.
Armed and Dangerous
While Aquash became a leader of the movement, successfully raising funds from celebrities in Los Angeles, Graham became a loyal foot soldier in AIM security.
Graham was born on August 31, 1955, in Champagne, Yukon, the traditional territory of the Aishihik First Nations of the Southern Tutchone. In the summer of 1969, he came to Vancouver for a Rolling Stones concert. In 1974, he joined a “Native Caravan” to Ottawa, and then headed south, into the U.S., to find his younger sister Joan, who had been taken from their family and placed in a foster home. He did not find her, but a year later, Graham arrived on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota as a full-fledged member of the American Indian Movement.
Since the death of Pedro Bissonnette, fourteen more traditionals had died from gunshots or beatings, including Pedro’s sister-in-law, Jeanette Bissonnette. On March 21, 1975, Edith Eagle Hawk drove toward Rapid City to testify in a federal court about violence on Pine Ridge, when White rancher Albert Coomes ran her car from the road, killing her, her four-month-old daughter Linda, and her three-year-old grandson Earl Janis. The FBI issued no indictments.
The Traditional Council of Chiefs signed a unanimous request for AIM to protect them. AIM had long since crossed the threshold between protest and armed defense of their people. They established a camp on the property of Harry and Cecilia Jumping Bull, a stronghold in the heart of the traditionalist community. Leonard Peltier, Dino and Nilak Butler, Bob Robideau, and teenager Norman Brown lived among this hard-core group of defenders. Anna Mae and John Graham visited the encampment.
The FBI had thoroughly infiltrated AIM by this time. In June, they transferred approximately 40 agents into South Dakota, including Jack Coler, who possessed a detailed map of the AIM camps on Pine Ridge. On the morning June 26, 1975, Coler and agent Ron Williams drove into the Jumping Bull property, ostensibly to look for a teenager who had allegedly stolen a pair of cowboy boots. Williams and Coler carried high-powered rifles and ammunition. A shootout erupted, and by 2:30 that afternoon, Coler, Williams, and Lakota native Joe Stuntz lay dead.
News reports, quoting the FBI, claimed the agents had been “ambushed .. dragged from their cars .. and executed.” According to John Graham, he and Anna Mae heard about the shootout in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “We have to go back in,” Anna Mae said. Graham says they drove all night and arrived in Pine Ridge amidst a massive FBI manhunt. They located Peltier and others hiding in ravines as helicopters passed overhead. “We made it out of there,” Graham says, “and I helped several brothers get into Canada. Then I hung out in Detroit and Denver.”
Aquash and Graham had crossed a legal threshold themselves, vulnerable to charges of aiding and abetting first-degree murder. Both believed the AIM response amounted to self-defense, but the FBI would not see it that way. Within days of the shooting, Ottawa RCMP received an FBI report naming Aquash as a suspect, and an FBI field report described her as “armed and dangerous.”
Aquash took refuge at a tent encampment on the Rosebud reservation adjoining Pine Ridge. Dino and Nilak Butler camped nearby. On September 5, 1975, she awoke to shouting, stumbled from her tent half-dressed, and stared into the barrel of an M16 rifle. “You,” FBI agent David Price said to her, “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
Fifty agents in battle fatigues ransacked the camp. She later told her friend Candy Hamilton, “I heard the agents smashing things and laughing, throwing eagle feathers and beadwork around. They verbally abused me, accusing me of things I hadn’t done.”
At the Federal Building in Pierre, South Dakota agents charged her with illegal possession of dynamite, which they claimed to have found at the scene. When she asked for a lawyer, an agent told her, “You’re not going to get a call through unless you talk to us first.” They asked her about June 26th, “where two men were killed.”
“Three men,” said Aquash.
The agents insisted that she had witnessed the shooting of the agents, although Aquash denied it. She later told AIM lawyers that agent David Price threatened that if she did not cooperate “you won’t live out the year.”
“You can either shoot me or throw me in jail,” the FBI account quotes her. “That’s what you’re going to do with me anyway.”
Dino Butler reported that agents told him flatly: “Cooperate and live, don’t cooperate you die.”
Aquash spent the night in jail, made bail the next day, and called her sister Rebecca Julian in Nova Scotia. Speaking in their native Mi’kmaq, she told her sister that she feared for her life. Rebecca urged her to come home. She promised she would, but added, “If you could see the people, they way they’re treated here, you’d understand.”
The FBI added firearm possession to their indictment, and Anna Mae faced two felony charges. Court-appointed attorney, Robert Riter, relayed the FBI’s deal: testify against Dino and Nilak Butler for shooting agents Coler and Williams, and they would drop one charge and allow her to plead out on the second charge. Otherwise, she faced a long jail sentence.
Anna Mae and Nilak Butler fled to Los Angeles where they organize a vehicle to spirit Peltier and AIM leader Dennis Banks into hiding. In November, they headed north in a Dodge Explorer motor home, owned by actor Marlon Brando. The fugitives included 20-year-old Ka-Mook Nichols Banks, eight months pregnant and carrying her one-year-old daughter. Friction had developed among the group. Anna Mae had had an affair with Dennis Banks, alienating Ka-Mook Banks. More seriously, each fugitive harboured fears about informers.
Eight months earlier, Dennis Banks had discovered that AIM security chief, Douglass Durham, worked for the FBI. Anna Mae had suspected Durham when he arrived at Wounded Knee claiming to be “one-fourth Chippewa.” She noticed that he died his hair and provoked gratuitous violence. She had expelled him from the Los Angeles AIM office, but Durham endeared himself to Banks and infiltrated the Defense Committee the Wounded Knee trial in St. Paul.
The former Marine had served as a CIA operative in Cuba and Guatemala. In Iowa, he worked on the police force while engaged in drug smuggling. The Des Moines police fired him after a violent fight with his pregnant wife over his pimping. He boasted that he headed “the largest criminal organization in Iowa.” He flew AIM leaders around in U.S. Army planes and framed AIM members with violent crimes.
In one chilling assignment, he seduced Jancita Eagle Deer from the Rosebud Reservation. At the age of 15, Eagle Deer had reported to her school principal that reservation public defender William Janklow had raped her. Janklow denied the charge but the Rosebud Council barred him from the reservation. Janklow became a U.S. senator and is now serving jail time for vehicular manslaughter. Eagle Deer announced to AIM members that she would marry Durham.
In January 1975, she accompanied him to Gresham, Wisconsin, where Durham instigated a shootout with local sheriffs, arousing an armed citizen’s vigilante group. When Aquash and others expelled Durham, he fled with Eagle Deer. She was last seen alive staggering along a deserted road near Aurora, Nebraska, just before a speeding vehicle ended her life. No charges were ever filed in her death.
A month later, AIM exposed Durham at a news conference in Chicago. His disruption of AIM fit the FBI’s strategy, documented in memos from the era, to "disrupt or neutralize" leftist, black, and American Indian groups. William Sullivan, former head of FBI Intelligence stated that, “We were engaged in COINTELPRO [counter intelligence] tactics to divide, confuse, weaken … an organization.”
In a 1968 memo, the FBI described a tactic called “snitch-jacketing,” to “create the impression that leaders are informants for the Bureau.” Ka-Mook Banks testified at the recent trial of Arlo Looking Cloud, John Graham’s co-accused, that by 1975, many within AIM suspected Aquash was an informer.
The FBI knew about the fugitives in the motor home, and on the night of November 14, 1975, Oregon police stopped the vehicle near the Idaho border. Peltier and Dennis Banks escaped into the night, but Aquash, Ka-Mook Banks, her daughter and unborn child, and two other native men remained in custody.
“My efforts to raise the consciousness of whites,” Aquash wrote to her sister, “is bound to be stopped by the FBI.” She told an Idaho reporter, “If they take me back to South Dakota, I’ll be murdered.” Aquash returned in chains, but was released. Fearing for her life, she fled west. The FBI filed a ten-count indictment against her for a variety of violent crimes.
In Los Angeles, she uncovered information about Douglass Durham’s involvement in framing two AIM members with a gruesome murder. She promised to meet her journalist friend Paula Griese in Minneapolis in January, but never arrived. The last weeks of Anna Mae’s life are the subject of the cases against John Graham and Arlo Looking Cloud, and their counter-charges against the FBI.
Someone shot Aquash in the back of the head with a .32 calibre handgun, between December 20, 1975 and early February 1976. The prosecution’s theory states that AIM executed her, and that Graham pulled the trigger. The defense theory is that the FBI killed Aquash, and that David Price, Douglass Durham, or someone from the Pine Ridge goon squad pulled the trigger.
U.S. prosecutors claim that Graham, Looking Cloud, and Theda Clark kidnapped Aquash from the home of Troy Lynn Yellow Wood in Denver, took her to South Dakota, interrogated her with other AIM leaders, and executed her. Yellow Wood and four others witnessed the party leaving the Denver home. Two of those witnesses recall Aquash bound with rope, but Irving told a reporter in 1999, “Anna Mae walked out on her own.” Witnesses Cleo Gates and Candy Hamilton testify that they saw Aquash with Graham on the Pine Ridge Reservation in December, and Hamilton says Aquash seemed upset. Graham acknowledges that the four drove from Denver to Pine Ridge, visited Cleo and Dick Marshall, and travelled to Bill Means’ home in Rosebud.
Here, the stories diverge. Graham says they dropped Anna Mae at safe house on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The U.S. attorney’s summary of evidence states that Graham told his friend Frank Dillon, “We had to off her.” The summary states that native spiritual leader Al Gates will testify that Graham admitted being present at Aquash’s death. However, Dillon now claims he did not say this and Gates is dead.
Asked how the U.S. certified the dead Gates as a witness, U.S. Attorney Jim McMahon, replied, “I’m not sure how long he’s been dead.” McMahon would not comment on the impact to his case of losing the testimony of Gates, Dillon, and Looking Cloud.
Looking Cloud’s eyewitness account is the evidence that Graham killed Aquash, but he has recanted and stated that he will not testify against Graham.
AIM is sharply divided over blame for Aquash’s death. Ka-Mook Nichols Banks, Russell Means, John Trudell, and Bob Robideau have stated that someone in AIM may have ordered her death, and that they believe Graham might have carried out the execution. Others, such as Peltier, Vernon Bellecourt, and Dennis Banks claim that the FBI has intimidated witnesses, fabricated evidence, and planted media stories to create this impression. In either case, the FBI has clearly succeeded in their stated effort to disrupt, neutralize, and divide AIM.
“In Canada,” said Graham’s lawyer, Terry LaLiberte, “I’d drive a truck through the holes in this case.”
“AIM did not execute informers,” he says flatly. Anna Mae’s biographer, Johanna Brand, concurs, “There was no precedent for such treatment of informers.” When AIM exposed Durham, they brought him before a public press conference. They did not execute or harm Bernie Morning Gun, Virginia “Blue Dove” DeLuce, or any of the dozens of informers they uncovered. AIM leaders supported Norman Brown, the teenager whose mother begged him to cooperate in fabricating evidence.
On the other hand, Brown himself now believes AIM may have been involved in the slaying. “As for the Movement leaders,” he says, “I have seen them and experienced their b.s. as so very few people saw and or could ever imagine.”
During the 1975 trial of Dennis Banks and Russell Means, Judge Fred Nichol found prosecutors guilty of counseling witnesses to commit perjury, suppressing evidence, infiltrating the defense team, and lying to the court about their activities. Nichols grew so distraught, he dismissed the charges, commenting, “The waters of justice have been polluted.” The following year, a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights examined Lakota complaints and, according to investigator William Muldrow, found the FBI guilty of “threats, harassment, and search procedures conducted without due process of law.”
The defense points to the handling of the Leonard Peltier extradition from Vancouver as a shameful precedent. In 1976, RCMP and Hinton, Alberta Municipal police arrested Peltier at the camp of Cree leader Robert Smallboy. Canada extradited Peltier to the U.S. on the basis of two affidavits signed by Lakota woman Myrtle Poor Bear, who claimed to have witnessed the shooting of the two agents.
Myrtle Poor Bear had been a radio dispatcher for the BIA police at Pine Ridge, a single mother struggling with alcoholism and depression. Hotel receipts show that between February 19 and 23, FBI agents David Price and William Wood held her in a hotel room in Nebraska. Poor Bear says they bullied her to sign the affidavits against Peltier. Her first affidavit, from February 19, alleges she was Peltier’s girlfriend and that he confessed to her. The two affidavits signed four days later claimed she witnessed the murder first hand. Crown prosecutor Bill Halprin presented the last two versions to a Canadian court, which sent Peltier back to the U.S., where he remains in prison today.
Before Judge Paul Benson in Fargo, North Dakota, Poor Bear testified that she had been coerced, that she had not witnessed the shootings, had not been Peltier’s girlfriend, and had never met him. “I was forced to sign those papers,” she said. She claims Price and Wood showed her pictures of the dead Anna Mae Aquash. “The agents are always talking about Anna Mae … about the time she died.” A year later, in Canada, she said, “He [Price] showed me pictures of the body and said that if I don’t cooperate this is what may happen to me.” She claims that agent Wood “said that they could get away with killing because they were agents.”
FBI agent Nicholas O’Hara acknowledged to the Rochester, Minnesota Post-Bulletin in 1992, "Myrtle Poor Bear’s affidavits were falsely made and were then used to help extradite Peltier from Canada."
Judge Donald Ross, during Peltier’s appeal in 1977, said the Myrtle Poor Bear affidavits show “the United States is willing to resort to any tactic in order to bring somebody back to the United States from Canada.”
Former Canadian Minister of Indian Affairs, Warren Allmand, declined to intervene in the Peltier extradition on the advise that, “justice would take its course.” He now feels “betrayed and insulted … [by the] FBI’s deliberate use of fraud.” In 1992, fifty-five Canadian MPs filed a brief to a U.S. court affirming that Canada had been duped.
Paul DeMain, editor of News From Indian Country in the U.S., and Anna Mae’s daughter Denise Mahoney-Pictou both claim, “There’s no Myrtle Poor Bear in this case.” DeMain believes the phoney affidavits are irrelevant. “The FBI framed a guilty man,” he says of Peltier.
“That’s not how our legal system is supposed to work,” says Graham in Vancouver. He claims FBI agents visited him in the Yukon in 1989 and urged him to accuse others of murdering Aquash. “They told me that if I didn’t cooperate, they’d go after me.” In 1995, former BIA policeman Bob Ecoffey visited Graham in Whitehorse with an RCMP officer present. Graham claims Ecoffey offered him “immunity,” if he cooperated. “Immunity from what? I asked him.”
Ecoffey and Denver detective Abe Alonzo arrested Looking Cloud in 2003, and a South Dakota jury convicted him of aiding first-degree murder. Looking Cloud’s new lawyer, Terry Gilbert, says his video testimony was coerced. An appeal will begin on January 10 in St. Paul, Minnesota. On October 19 last year Looking Cloud refused to testify against Graham before a Grand Jury and claims he will not testify against Graham in the future.
David Seals, with a Lakota human rights group, interviewed Looking Cloud at Pennington County jail in South Dakota, and writes that Looking Cloud told him, "It was a set-up … I was drunk. They were giving me drugs and alcohol." Seals claims the video confession is “almost incoherent, and the police were asking a lot of leading questions.”
In the Vancouver courtroom LaLiberte said before Justice Bennett, “My lady, you are being misled by the United States of America. Evidence certified by [U.S. Attorney] Robert Mandel appears not to exist… They have been negligent, if not deceitful. Canadian courts should and can demand more.” Outside court, LaLiberte declared, “This whole case has been concocted by Ecoffey.”
“Bob Ecoffey was a BIA cop at the height of the reign of terror on Pine Ridge," Graham says. Ecoffey, claims that in the BIA office in 1976, he heard “a young woman crying” through the intercom and that a “medicine man” told him this was the spirit of Anna Mae seeking justice. Janis Schmidt from Pine Ridge claims Ecoffey is “a fraud. He never said who the medicine man was. He tried to claim Selo Black Crow as his Grandfather, which he isn’t. Selo said that Bob came around and asked a lot of questions, even accused him of killing Anna Mae. How does he know the cyring voice wasn’t Jeanette Bissonnette or Edith Eagle Hawk looking for justice?”
In September of last year, Ecoffey married witness Ka-Mook Nichols, who has testified that Aquash feared AIM. At the Looking Cloud trial Nichols admitted to receiving $25,000 in 2004 in connection with her cooperation on the case, money she maintains is compensation for her expenses in traveling to collect evidence.
Amnesty International has not commented on the details of Graham’s case, but has expressed “concerns about ... apparent efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigations to prejudice the fair trial rights of AIM leaders.”
Anna Mae’s daughter, Denise, is now the executive director of Indigenous Women for Justice, seeking resolution in her mother’s murder. She believes AIM ordered the execution and that “John Graham murdered my mother.”
Graham’s daughter Naneek feels differently. “My dad never hurt anybody,” she said outside the Vancouver courtroom.
“I don’t blame Anna Mae’s daughers,” says Graham. “They’re being led to believe that by the FBI. They want justice for their mother. But they don’t know the history of the FBI. This whole thing is a rerun. If I go back to South Dakota, I’ll get railroaded just like Leonard.”
Retired Hinton, Alberta police officer Bob Newbrook, says he now regrets participating in the arrest of Peltier. “I’m afraid that Canada will get duped again with the same sort of trumped-up evidence that the U.S. used to get Mr. Peltier.”
In the Vancouver courtroom, Judge Bennett will decide whether or not the evidence supplied by the U.S. is sufficient to return Graham to South Dakota for trial. If she rules that it is, Graham’s case will go before Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler. The Minister has more leeway than the judge to assess the history and quality of the evidence before him. In any case, Canada must decide, in light of its previous experience with Leonard Peltier, if it trusts the U.S. with the fate of a Canadian First Nations citizen.
Norman Brown, a teenager when he met Anna Mae, recalls, “the times when she stood with the warriors, when very many men didn’t … [they] have no idea the sacrifices we all made for each other.”
One thing we know: Anna Mae did not deserve what happened to her.
Rex Weyler received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his 1982 book Blood of the Land, recounting the clash between native groups and law enforcement throughout the western hemisphere. His most recent book is Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists, and Visionaries Changed the World (Raincoast Books, 2004).