Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tim Giago: Courageously Speaking Truth in the Face of Violence

"I wrote articles questioning the leadership and the tactics of AIM [American Indian Movement] 27 years ago and have written several articles since then. For my efforts my newspaper had its windows blasted out and an attempt was made to burn my building to the ground in 1982 and my life and that of my family was threatened. My articles questioned the continued violence and confrontations between the different factions on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It took the courage of Oglala tribal president Joe American Horse, standing up on the council floor to defend my newspaper, that finally brought the assaults upon the Lakota Times to an end.

As it was then and it is now, my only purpose in writing about AIM, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Government and the FBI in those days was in an effort to seek out truth and justice."---Tim Giago

A series of articles about the involvement of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the mid-December 1975 murder of Anna Mae Aquash, the February 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee at Pine Ridge Indian reservation, and other contentious issues have been posted at the Woodland Indians Forum. At this writing, there are four posts on the topic of Mr. Giago's article.

The first post is a 9-4-07 article by Tim Giago called "AIM Responsible for Anna Mae's Death," which was originally published here. Mr. Giago is an Oglala Lakota who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. I first wrote about Mr. Giago here.

Mr. Giago's article is attacked by "Friends of Leonard Peltier" (8-31-07) and by Bill Means (9-6-07) in the second and third posts.

Mr. Giago responds eloquently to Bill Means in the fourth post, which was originally published here on 9-10-07:

Ordinarily I do not respond to attacks upon my column unless the attacks are laced with untruths. A response to my column about the American Indian Movement and its involvement in the death of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash by Bill Means does deserve a response.

A member of AIM, Arlo Looking Cloud, was convicted as a participant in the death of Anna Mae. This is a fact. Most of the items in my column about events leading up to her death and after are well documented in the court records of the Looking Cloud trial. Anyone wishing to have access to those court documents will find them readily available.

John “Boy” Graham will eventually be extradited from Canada and he will stand trial for Anna Mae’s murder. Bill Means will then have the opportunity to defend AIM in a court of law and as he suggests, “AIM will stand before any court and compare our record with the FBI.” The trial will determine the righteousness of his comment.

Means also claims, “Over eighty Oglala tribal members were killed by the ‘goons’ between 1973 and 1976 and no one was ever charged and many of these deaths were not investigated. The only reason these people were killed is because they were identified as AIM members.” I have a lot of respect for Bill Means, but this statement is not true and is one of the main focal points of AIM’s distortion of the facts.

When I was the editor of the Indian Country Today, we published a list of every member of the Oglala Lakota tribe killed from 1973 to 1976. Only a couple of the deaths were questionable. Nearly every death was related to domestic violence, suicide, accidents or killings while the perpetrator was intoxicated. Every death was thoroughly investigated by the Oglala Tribal Police and the FBI. In most of the cases the killers were identified, tried and convicted. This information is also readily available to anyone interested in obtaining it.

Although undermanned and under funded, the Oglala Public Safety Commission has done an excellent job in their efforts to maintain law and order on the Pine Ridge Reservation since the occupation of Wounded Knee.

...I believe that the occupation of Wounded Knee by AIM in 1973 was wrong. For some to call it the “Liberation of Wounded Knee” is patently ridiculous. An entire village, trading post and a church were completely destroyed. Nearly 30 families were left homeless. No one, not AIM or the tribal government, has made an effort to rebuild the homes that were destroyed and members of the Wounded Knee community have pleaded and begged for 34 years to get the help so that they can move home.

The occupation of Wounded Knee did nothing to elevate the lives of the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation. In fact, the violence and appearance of lawlessness had just the opposite effect. Many programs earmarked for the reservation were canceled and several businesses wishing to build on the reservation withdrew their applications. Seven years after the occupation the Pine Ridge Reservation earned the dubious distinction by the U. S. Census Bureau of being declared the “Poorest County in America.”

The trial of John “Boy” Graham will, in all likelihood, reveal many more moments in the history of AIM that will not be appealing. The trial will probably take place in the federal courthouse in Rapid City, SD in 2008.

I wrote articles questioning the leadership and the tactics of AIM 27 years ago and have written several articles since then. For my efforts my newspaper had its windows blasted out and an attempt was made to burn my building to the ground in 1982 and my life and that of my family was threatened. My articles questioned the continued violence and confrontations between the different factions on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It took the courage of Oglala tribal president Joe American Horse, standing up on the council floor to defend my newspaper, that finally brought the assaults upon the Lakota Times to an end.

As it was then and it is now, my only purpose in writing about AIM, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Government and the FBI in those days was in an effort to seek out truth and justice.

I notice that Mr. Bill Means writes:

There was never any "observation by Bruce Ellison or Candy Hamilton" that anyone was ever held captive at my home in Rosebud, SD. Check the records of the trial of Arlo Looking Cloud.

I read an account on the Internet of what purports to be the testimony of Candy Hamilton at the trial of Arlo Looking Cloud. It does seem to me---provided this is an honest transcript---that Candy Hamilton does testify that Anna Mae was at Bill Means' home.

I also have written about Candy Hamilton because Ward Churchill claims that she told him that FBI-backed "goons" had killed 342 Indians, not 80 as Bill Means claims in his article.

Churchill wrote in the Summer 1985 issue of the Covert Action Information Bulletin:

[I]n the post-Wounded Knee context of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation, independent researcher Candy Hamilton established that at least 342 AIM members and supporters were killed by roving death squads aligned with and supported by the FBI. (The death squads called themselves GOONs, "Guardians of the Oglala Nation.") This was between 1973 and 1976 alone.

Of course, Ward Churchill has been fired from the University of Colorado for his dishonest research, so I don't know if Candy Hamilton really made the claim that Ward Churchill attributes to her in his 1985 article in the Covert Action Information Bulletin.

I have read that this Covert Action Information Bulletin was associated with the Soviet-era KGB, the Cuban intelligence, and with a man named Phil Agee, who was fired from the CIA and ended up as a communist propagandist in Cuba.

The documents in the Mitrokhin Archive demonstrate that the purpose of this C.A.I.B was to discredit the CIA and FBI. It sure seems to me that communist intelligence agencies wouldn't care about solving the problems of American Indians; they would only have an interest in exploiting or even creating tensions within Indian communities and between Indians and law enforcement.

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