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Editors Note: The following transcriptions produced by Southpaw Media was edited by News From Indian Country to eliminate most information from general callers. Editors additions have been bracketed for clarification or corrections to the record.
The entire program from November 3rd and 4th, 1999 is available in its unedited form from Native America Calling.
Harlan - show intro-Talks about receiving a press release on Monday regarding the upcoming press conference. He reads the press release.
The time has come for that press conference to begin, joining us right now is Paul DeMain, he is a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, also the publisher and editor of the award winning paper News From Indian Country, also the former president of the Native American Journalists Association. Now he has logged countless hours into the investigation or lack thereof into the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. Welcome back to the show, Paul.
Paul - Yeah, thanks Harlan.
Harlan - Perhaps you can just sort of set the stage for us, Paul, I know that when we received this press release on Monday, [Nov. 1, 1999] a lotta mixed emotions, so perhaps you could tell us whats going on in Denver today.
Paul - Well, theres a lot of movement on this case and a lot of movement certainly in the last couple years in terms of people coming forward and telling different pieces of what occurred here, because it involved a number of people. I was just listening to the press release, theres a few factual errors there.
Harlan - Yeah, I read it verbatim though.
Paul - Indeed, its because the case is so intense, so many names and so many dates that its been difficult for a lot of people unless theyve practically lived this and there have been a number of journalists who have done this for a number of years, reviewing many, many FBI files, reviewing cases, doing many interviews with many people, so what our expectation is today is that the journalists that have come here to Denver to hear the presentation by Russell Means and other members of the American Indian Movement, either Colorado AIM or formerly affiliated, some of them might not be now days, is that we will hear their testimonies live as to their involvement in the pick up of Anna Mae Aquash in late November of 1975 here in Denver, from the home of Troy Lynn Yellowwoods home.
She was then taken by a number of other people to Rapid City for questioning at least two locations there and this would have taken place toward the end of September [November] early December, and our time line basically puts her death on or around the 11th, 12th or 13th of December of 1975. Her body wasnt found till February 24th 1976, over at Wamblee south of Kadoka on the Pine Ridge reservation.
Harlan - So two months later, her body was found, almost three months later. Paul, youve known Anna Mae through your journalistic investigations, and I want to point out to our listeners that were trying to get Robert Pictou-Branscombe and Minnie Two Shoes on the line, they knew Anna Mae personally. [Robert Branscombe did not know Annie Mae personally] Let me ask you this Paul, you have spent countless hours interviewing people, tell me why Anna Maes murder stayed on your journalistic agenda when there was so many other murders going on at that time.
Paul - Well, its kind of ironic because itd probably be the one murder that many in the American Indian Movement who would like to go away, but Anna Mae had a legacy of doing things differently, in 1975 she was alcohol and drug free which made her stand out within the movement boldly because many people were still using and partying and there were many things going on in that area. In addition, Anna Mae seemed to be futuristically oriented, she began to develop curriculum materials for the teaching of Indian history, she was instrumental in helping to work at the Red School house in St. Paul, Minnesota, helping to set up curriculum there, she attempted to start a ribbon shirt making business in Minneapolis, she was someone who was known as someone who did a lot of organizing for bingos and fund raising, so she had this legacy that she left where she had contact with people that was very good natured and she was heading in a direction that I think would have taken her to a level such as people like Ingrid Washinawatok, Rigoberta Menchu, people who later made their mark as their careers grew and their ability to affect politics and stuff like that, I think absolutely thats the direction she was going in.
But I think theres something more to this Harlan, some of it cant be explained, theres been many songs written about Anna Mae, she was friends of Buffy Sainte Marie, she was personal friends with Minnie Two Shoes, having made the first pair of moccasins for her first born over at Crow Dogs and theres something I think spiritual that has moved this thing along and hopefully its the beginning of the resolution of a number of events that occurred in 1975 in the height of that violence and terror that occurred in Pine Ridge in which numbers of peoples on both sides lost their lives.
Theyre definitely going through a period of reconciliation up there and people are coming much closer and it may lead to the resolution of other things, but Anna Maes name seems to hold another power. In 1975, I was in my freshman year of college at UW Eau Claire, I kept files on her, I kept articles on her, I think considering what has occurred with her case and how the FBI was involved in this case has also made this a pedestal case for the American Indian Movement, because of the shoddy way the first autopsy was done, they didnt even find the bullet hole in her head, it was a FBI contracted pathologist that had cited many deaths at Pine Ridge as coming from exposure and basically said she probably fell down and froze to death, she had a bullet wound in the back of her head, the bullet was lodged in her cheek, there was disfigurement and colors all kinds of things that would have indicated a head injury yet he didnt find any of that.
Harlan - At the beginning of this investigation, a lot of fingers were pointed at the FBI but at the same time, as youve pointed out there were people who felt that members of AIM were involved.
Paul - Absolutely, and theyre not all FBI agents or FBI informers like some members of AIM are trying to make it out. This was a case that seems to be the case that the FBI should have wanted to resolve very thoroughly and adamantly especially with some of the names that are being thrown out there in terms of who gave the pick up order and who gave the execution order, were expecting to hear some of those names spoken today and News From Indian Country has printed those names at indiancountrynews.com, listed them on the web page.
But indeed, I always believe, or perhaps I wanted to believe that the FBI was involved in this and certainly during our investigation the names began cropping up indicated that large numbers of people within the American Indian Movement were very much aware that there was a lot of people not only believing that she was an informant for the FBI when she was questioned and interrogated, they made the decision that she was and had her executed.
But I dont think my feelings about the FBI have changed at all, because we know now during the time period in which Anna Mae was being questioned in 75, there was a lot of things going on post Jumping Bull compound shoot out, where the FBI picked her up and questioned, identified her, David Price and William Wood, other FBI agents knew her very visibly. David Price was allegedly on site when they found her body, he would have recognized her, other people would have recognized her at Pine Ridge because they would have looked at those photos.
Even the severing of the hands seems to be a dramatic warning or message or something because the severing of hands is typically not the way that homicide detectives operate and Ive talked to many over the years, you take a surgical glove and you take the fingertips off and you put them in the corresponding gloves and you send them in for identification and Peterson, the second doctor who did the second autopsy said that her fingerprints were very, very well preserved when he looked at them. There doesnt seem to be any reason why the severing of the hands and sending to Washington for identification should happen in that way.
Harlan - I started to read Leonards new book and he said he believes that the FBI did that to intimidate Native people and their beliefs.
Paul - Sure, and Harlan, the FBI had a program called COINTELPRO, Counter Intelligence Programs and it allegedly came to a halt in 1971 by an official order by, I believe of J. Edgar Hoover or Clarence Kelly, one of those people in that time frame, but there isnt any reason to believe, in fact weve looked at files where it indicated there was further COINTEL activities directed at AIM.
One is a basic one which is snitch jacket or bad jacketing individuals by making sure that other people within the organization think that they are informers within the organization, which there were, the American Indian Movement was very well infiltrated.
Anna Mae had contact with Al Running, who testified in the Leonard Peltier appeal trials about the AR in Wichita, Kansas, she had contact with John Stewart, later found out to have been working with the FBI. She had a lot of contact with Doug Durham before his exposure in 1975 and she was literally surrounded by FBI informers and yet the focus of who the FBI informer was focused on her, for a number of incidents and reasons. The FBI was using her as a beacon, following her around in order to track leadership people and the suspicions arouse, particularly because of her handling because she would be picked up and released and she wasnt charged like a lot of other people, she was from Canada, she probably should have been deported which raised questions, so a lot of things happened during that time which raised suspicions about her and she was not able to overcome those accusations.
Harlan - O.k., hey Paul, let me give out the phone number, and invite them into our conversations. Were talking about the press conference that is going to take place soon in Denver. The question is after all this pain and suffering, will anything good come out of this or will it open up more accusations. Were also waiting for Robert Pictou Branscombe.
Caller - Tanya - rally announcement about march and rally regarding Chiapas.....
Harlan - Announcement about free Leonard Peltier rally in Washington. Lets bring in Minnie Two Shoes right now.
Minnie - Were in the hall waiting for all the people to show up and weve got Branscombe on the line.
Harlan - Minnie, I had this question for Paul and Ill ask you, why after 24 years is the death of Anna Mae still an issue in Indian country.
Minnie - Well, Ive said this before and to me its always been very true. Part of why she was so important is because she was very symbolic, she was a hard working woman, she dedicated her life to the movement, to righting all the injustices that she could, and to pick somebody out and launch their little cointelpro program on her to bad jacket her to the point where she ends up dead, whoever did it, lets look at what the reasons are, you know, she was killed and lets look at the real reasons why it could have been any of us, it could have been me, it could have been, ya gotta look at the basically thousands of women, you gotta remember that it was mostly women in AIM, it could have been any one of us and I think thats why its been so important and she was just such a good person.
Harlan - And you knew her personally?
Minnie - Oh yeah, she made my oldest boys moccasins, I made a pair but they were too big and she made the new born size for him and then she cooked for me. Over the years, hard workers, it seems your paths will cross.
Harlan - Minnie, this press conference is gonna be held, accusations are gonna be made, do you think anything good come out of this press conference, will it bring some closure or will it set off a new set of attacks?
Minnie - I would say that its going to be a little bit of both, News From Indian Country printed a time line 3 years ago, we were actually the first media to start looking into this. Because of what News From Indian Country did theres been this intensification, especially when, 3 years ago it was 20 years that they found her body. Im real curious to see if theres going to be anything new. I dont know if there is or not, quite frankly what is there really to solve, there might be a little clarity to it, but what I worry about is that people arent going to focus on the reality of this that this was all a set up by the FBI and their COINTEL program and focusing on these poor little flunkies following orders, I knew a lot of these people, these are just peoples names I knew Arlo, I knew Theda, I knew Anna Mae, I know theres thousands of people who claim to know her, but I truly did as a friend.
Harlan - Going to a break, will bring in Robert after the break.
Harlan - Welcome back, today were talking about the unsolved murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, and our question is will this divide the American Indian Movement even further or bring closure. Were going to bring in Robert Pictou Branscombe.
Robert - Thank you, appreciate it, I wish I could spend a little more time, but were probably looking at about 10 minutes so get what you need.
Harlan - First question I have is, Ive seen lots of evidence that people know who did it, why has it taken so long for you to come forward publicly today?
Robert - Basically, what I feel we needed was somebody from AIM leadership to make a statement, and Russell Means of course, today will make that statement. I will also put the history together as far as a timetable as far as Anna Mae, leading up to Wamblee where she was shot. I have stated in Canada in Parliament, basically stated all the names and who I feel basically gave those orders and who followed them out.
I have met just about everybody personally as far as the three killers of course, and Ill say their names, John Patton, better known as John Graham living in the Yukon, Theda Nelson Clark, living in Nebraska, and Arlo Looking Cloud living here in Denver. Theyve also been invited to be here today, Im hoping that Arlo will make some kind of statement, we also have to be aware that he has been given immunity and that will of course be proven today from a statement of a gentleman very close to him and what we wanna do is put this whole case right out so everyone can see it and let folks make their decisions.
Thats what this was about in the beginning, it was truth and today of course, Anna Maes daughters Debbie and Denise are very involved, the Micmaw nation is very involved and we will read a resolution from the Assembly of First Nations of Canada today in total support of what were doing. What I feel good about is that Denver AIM is making a stand, way over due, but hey, its happening and we appreciate it.
Harlan - Well Robert, I can understand how this can put an end to a chapter thats been tragic in your life, but the bigger question in Indian Country is, her death has divided the American Indian Movement, do you think this can reunite after all these years.
Robert - What I personally think is, when we look at the American Indian Movement as far as AIM heart, o.k.? Were talking about the people of AIM. A few of the leaders, not to include Russell, but what Im saying is there is a few of the folks here that basically have to be held accountable, the situation is no matter what kind of business, not just as Indians, were talking anybody that is in charge of any organization.
You have to be accountable for what you do, you are the role model, the leadership model, when things go bad, that goes along with leadership also and I do not want to take away by any means from the good things that the American Indian Movement has stood for since 1968, the stand they made at Wounded Knee was compatible to situations that weve had to do in other combat areas, World War one, World War two, Vietnam and whatever.
These folks are heroes and where would we be today without the stand they made, and thats what I believe, I think its going to take this for us to heal as a nation, Anna Mae is a daughter of North America, the killers are to be held accountable to both Canada and the United States and the decisions theyre making today, I will stand beside them and try my best to help them through this, but the point is, theyve got to help us.
Harlan - Besides the three names you mentioned, who else should be held accountable for her death?
Robert - Youre about 15 to 20 minutes ahead of schedule. What were going to do is Russell is going to make a statement here, some other people are going to make statements, were trying to climb a major mountain here, lets look at Abe Alonzo, [Denver Detective recently removed from Aquash case] hes done an excellent job over the last five years, the case was taken away from him, supposedly given to homicide and then the FBI grabbed jurisdiction again, o.k.? Theres some stuff going on here, major cover up, nobody has been accountable to the family with the exception of Abe Alonzo, Im going to throw those questions out there today. Im not just looking at AIM leadership, Im looking at FBIs conduct, misconduct, those folks up there between 1973 and 1976 made that place look like a continuation of Vietnam and Ill tell you what, that does not happen on this soil. Ive gotta run, unless youve got something real quick. Im going to put Russell on with you.
Harlan - O.K., weve got Russell Means with us. (gives out number and question..)
Harlan - Russell you know our audience, this is a great opportunity, give us your thoughts and perspective on whats happening today.