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Rush to Judgement — The Poisoning of a Potential Jury Pool

American Indian Movement (AIM)
Grand Governing Council - Ministry for Information

December 16, 2003

An Editorial by WaBuninini, Indiz-Ni-Kaz
Anishinaabe Ojibwa Nation

AKA - Vernon Bellecourt, Member of the Executive Committee
American Indian Movement
International Director, Council on Foreign Affairs


Under the United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Judicial System imposed on Sovereign Indian Nations, and peoples by the United States one is supposed to be cloaked with a mantle of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. While most of the mainstream non-Indian media, newspapers, television, and radio journalists uphold the highest standards of journalistic excellence, in that they almost always refuse to print or publish information based on rumors, innuendos, conjecture, misinformation, gossip, half-truths, and lies. While most journalists of the Native American media also uphold these high standards, I am sorry to say that over the past several years I have observed that some journalists of the Indian media have lowered the bar of journalistic standards. The result has been to cloak these Indian people in a mantle of guilt, rather than a mantle of innocence even before an all-white jury, a jury not consisting of their peers, would pass judgment in a court of law.

The case in point is the indictments of two Indian men. Arlo Looking Cloud is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation who has been apprehended, and is being held in the Pennington County Jail in Rapid City, South Dakota. The other, John Graham, is a citizen of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations of the Yukon, Canada, and a Canadian citizen who has also been apprehended on December 1, 2003 by Canadian authorities, and is being held in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is expected to fight extradition. They are alleged to have been involved in the tragic death of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, a member of the Mikmaq First Nation of Nova Scotia, Canada, whose body was found on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota twenty-seven years ago. These two men, along with an elderly woman, who is also a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, has not been indicted, and is currently living in a convalescent home suffering from a stroke and Alzheimer's Disease, have steadfastly maintained their innocence.

Yet, some unscrupulous and unprincipled journalists of the mainstream press and Indian media, and others who may have been misled have recklessly thrown their names around, and have publicly accused these three individuals and others of being responsible for this crime. They parrot the same message of the FBI; and Federal Marshals such as Robert Ecoffey, and Denver, Colorado Detective Abe Alonzo. Included are Russell Means; and others like Robert Branscombe and Fred Youngbear who claim to be private investigators who have all been overbearing and intimidating in their interrogations and harassment of Indian people. Because of their actions, we realize there are some AIM members and others who have been coerced and intimidated into cooperating. Some have given statements to federal authorities, or may have testified to one of the many grand juries connected to this case. Some of these people did not know that you do not have to talk to either the FBI or Federal Marshals, or anyone else, and that one can refuse to testify to a grand jury unless given a grant of immunity. For those who have been coerced and intimidated into making statements, we understand and we respect you. On the other hand we realize that all of our tribes have always had “hang around the fort Indians,” traitors, Indian scouts and collaborators who would rather ride with the U.S. cavalry, the FBI in this case. We had them in the past, we have them today, and we will have them in the future.

The principal misinformation specialist who publishes these accusations is Paul Demain. Demain is currently being sued by attorneys representing Leonard Peltier. Everytime attorneys and people of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee embark on an effort such as Executive Clemency, or other legal actions, Paul Demain, in his newspaper, accuses Leonard Peltier of shooting the two FBI agents, and of being complicit in the death of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. He lines up with the hundreds of FBI agents, former South Dakota governor, Bill Janklow, South Dakota Senator, Tom Daschle, and others in opposing Leonard’s freedom. He says he gets his information from confidential sources. At the end of this month, he will be deposed by attorneys for Leonard. As expected, Demain continues to avoid court ordered depositions.

In another clear example of Paul Demain’s misinformation campaign is how he characterizes the two indicted men as security agents for the American Indian Movement. Other journalists, of course, then pick this up and also report this exaggeration. The reality is that for the past 35 years during all AIM functions such as powwows, conferences, feasts, weddings, funerals, and community events, we always have young men and women volunteer to “pull security,” nothing more, nothing less. It is likely that these young men served in that capacity in the past, and they were usually rewarded with a good meal, an AIM Security t-shirt, and gratitude from the people they served. There was nothing as sinister as Paul Demain would have you believe. The result of their reporting is to paint, with a negative stroke of the brush, all American Indian Movement members past and present who have today become presidents and council members of their tribal governments; heads of local, regional, and national organizations, and college professors; doctors; and lawyers, etc.; all who continue to serve their communities and people.

We see self-hating white men like Ward Churchill, Jordan Dill, and others who are seemingly infatuated romantically and mystically with being Indian to the point that they are willing to fraudulently take on the identity of being Cherokee. Both of these individuals have white grandfathers and grandmothers, and consequently, white mothers and fathers. Our investigations have shown that these misinformation specialists have much more sinister motives. Jordan Dill declares that he is the editor of Native American Village on the Internet. Would you agree with me that if there is to be a Native American Village Website, the editor should be a real Indian?

Other people who fraudulently misrepresent themselves as Indian and AIM representatives, and are putting out false information on the Internet are Bob Rocha, Santos Suarez, Carl Wittaker, Lawrence Sampson, Derek Diskin, and Glen Morris to name a few. These people are in some way or another connected to Russell Means and Ward Churchill.

Ward Churchill is best described as a ventriloquist to erstwhile former personality of the American Indian Movement, Russell Means who has resigned from the American Indian Movement in favor of making cheap Hollywood movies. He has made statements that Pocahontas was the greatest movie ever made about Indian people, and referred to wild Bill Janklow, the former governor of South Dakota, as an "old friend.” The quote was “old friends are true friends when he said I beg your pardon.” Did Russell Means forget what Bill Janklow was quoted saying while the governor of South Dakota? “The only way to deal with AIM leadership was to put a gun to their heads and pull the trigger.”

Most grievous is his standing outside the federal building at FBI headquarters on November 3, 1999 with his ventriloquist, Ward Churchill and with Robert Branscombe, Richard Two Elk, and Paul Demain present. Russell Means made public accusations against the three previously mentioned people, and other members of the American Indian Movement as having been complicit in the death of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. He has continually collaborated with the FBI, federal marshals, and the witch hunts of the all white South Dakota federal grand juries.

This misinformation campaign is a continuation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s covert extra judicial programs that first targeted the American Indian Movement by the Nixon administration during the Trail of Broken Treaties March on Washington D.C. in 1972, and during the struggle at Wounded Knee in 1973. These programs involved the recruitment of extremist informants, agent provocateurs, and mercenaries, Indians and non-Indians alike to infiltrate the American Indian Movement for the purpose of misrepresenting, misdirecting, disrupting, and discrediting its leadership in an effort to neutralize the Movement. The Bureau of Indian Affairs Police and the FBI also implemented a program to train, arm, finance, and direct their mercenaries to unleash a campaign of terror against the American Indian Movement, the Oglala Lakota Oyate (people), friends and supporters at Wounded Knee, and across the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

This program led to numerous assaults and murders of Indian people such as the FBI/BIA sniper killing of Vietnam veteran, Buddy LaMont, and Frank Clearwater at Wounded Knee. Also the murders of Anita Wilcox, Byron DeSersa, Pedro Bissonette, Jeanette Bissonette, and Jancita Eagle Deer. Jancita Eagle Deer was found dead on a Nebraska highway while in the company of FBI agent/informer, Doug Durham who was exposed by the American Indian Movement. These are just a few of many people in addition to Anna Mae Pictou Aquash who lost their lives during this reign of terror.

Joe Stuntz was murdered by FBI or BIA snipers in the aftermath of the gunfight sparked by FBI extremist/informants at the Jumping Bull residence in the Oglala community on June 26, 1975. This led to the deaths of FBI agents Ronald Williams and Jack Coler. According to sources, BIA Policeman Robert Ecoffey was present. With the exception of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash and the deaths of the two FBI agents, there have been no Justice Department or grand jury investigations into these many other deaths, why not? Rather, the FBI and U.S. Justice Department officials coerced Myrtle Poor Bear to sign perjured statements that she was Leonard Peltier’s girlfriend and present at the Jumping Bull residence, and saw Peltier shoot the FBI agents. This, of course, was a lie. Yet U.S. Justice Department officials submitted these false affidavits to the Canadian Justice Minister in order to illegally extradite Peltier from Canada.

In a trial that reeked with manufactured evidence, coerced testimony by witnesses, and other prosecutorial wrongdoing, Leonard Peltier was then wrongfully convicted. U.S. prosecutors have stated that they do not know who shot the agents, yet Leonard remains in prison after 28 years.

Asked about these indictments for the past several months, one must ask why after 27 years. The answer becomes transparent. It represents the continuation of a 32-year campaign to neutralize the American Indian Movement.

Remember it was the American Indian Movement, along with hundreds of Indian people of many tribes, and Hank Adams of Survival of American Indians Association, who was one of the principal architects drafting the Trail of Broken Treaties 20-Point Manifesto. This visionary document called for restitutions, reparations, and restorations of land for the construction of an Indian future in America.

$137 billion and counting has been stolen for more than 100 years to date from U.S. Government Treasury Individual Indian Money Trust Accounts. This is money owned by individual Indian people from leases for petroleum, timber, mineral, grazing, and water rights. The Trail of Broken Treaties 20-Point Manifesto first raised the issue of sovereignty as the basis for true Indian government, and self-determination that has enabled all Indian nations to exercise their political and economic power. AIM bumper stickers read, AIM FOR SOVEREIGNTY.

The leadership of the American Indian Movement have been consistent in speaking out against U.S./CIA involvement and support for the death squad governments of Guatemala, and those responsible for the counter-insurgency campaign that have slaughtered at least 150,000 civilian Mayan people in the past 15 years. The death squads continue to operate to this day. These crimes against humanity are well documented in the Historical Clarification Commission Report released in 1999 by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission. We continue to demand that the various United States government officials and their Guatemalan counterparts responsible for this genocide be held accountable for these war crimes, and other high crimes against humanity.

We also stand in firm opposition to the U.S. government war against the people of Iraq, an illegal war that has taken the lives of our young men and women. We also oppose the Bush Administration’s support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and crimes against the Palestinian people. We, of course, continue to work to free Leonard Peltier.

These are some of the reasons that the United States government, through its agents, continues these attacks against the American Indian Movement leadership. This represents the implementation of the so-called Patriot Act.

Finally, prominent attorneys who have studied this case have stated that they do not think this case will ever go to trial. However, we caution the media to discontinue being a part of the process of poisoning a potential jury pool preventing a fair and impartial jury should this case go to court.

Respected elders of the American Horse, Black Crow, Bull Bear, and Looking Cloud families have requested that the American Indian Movement assist them in organizing a competent legal defense team to defend those indicted in hopes of guaranteeing a fair and impartial jury, and a fair trial. Studies have shown that a fair trial for Indian people is not obtainable in South Dakota. A change of venue is an absolute option. The American Indian Movement is honoring this request from the families.

We request that First Nation leadership, friends, and supporters across Canada, in view of the misconduct by U.S. authorities in lying to the Canadian Justice Ministry to illegally extradite Leonard Peltier, to now come to the support of the John Graham family by providing legal support to resist the extradition of John Graham to the United States.

Tecumseh, the great martyred leader of the Shawnee Nation teaches us that, “we should never underestimate the deceit and treachery of the white man.”

© Copyright 2003 American Indian Movement