Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Peter Matthiessen's Dirty Little Secret

“The American Indian Movement [AIM] is a revolutionary organization which is committed to violence…has cached explosives and illegally purchased arms…and whose opponents have been eliminated in the manner of the Mafia.”--U.S. Congress, September 1976

The Rapid City, South Dakota trial of AIMster John Graham for the December 1975 execution-murder of the young Canadian Indian Anna Mae Aquash begins on October 6, 2008.

Aquash was the mother of two young daughters. I hope Anna Mae's daughters, who are now grown women, will finally get justice for their young, murdered mother and the closure they deserve. I hope that John Graham's trial will strip away the hypocritical mask that hides the true face of the old AIM leaders who ordered this young mother's murder.

Retired FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph H. Trimbach and his son John M. Trimbach also pray for justice and closure. That's why they co-authored American Indian Mafia: An FBI Agent's True Story about Wounded Knee, Leonard Peltier, and the American Indian Movement (AIM). Joe Trimbach was the Special Agent in Charge in Minneapolis when the AIM attacked the Lakota village of Wounded Knee on the night of February 27, 1973.

Trimbachs post on a blog titled AIM Myth Busters. The latest post, Peter Matthiessen's Dirty Little Secret (9-23-08), predicts that John Graham's trial will implicate the leadership of AIM in Anna Mae Aquash's murder.

In their 9-23-08 post, the AIM Myth Busters also criticize author Peter Matthiessen for cynically wrapping the vicious killer Leonard Peltier in the mantle of the famous Indian warrior Crazy Horse:

Peter Matthiessen's Dirty Little Secret

What’s in a name? For some people, apparently, the difference between having basic knowledge and being basically uninformed. The “Mafia” in American Indian Mafia has made a few readers positively apoplectic with concerns over slighting American Indians. If only they would flip a few pages to the Introduction, and the origin of the term: Congress’s reasoned conclusions after evaluating the criminal history of the American Indian Movement:

“The American Indian Movement is a revolutionary organization which is committed to violence… has cached explosives and illegally purchased arms… and whose opponents have been eliminated in the manner of the Mafia.”

Since that hearing in September 1976, evidence that the AIM leadership indeed operated “in the manner of the Mafia” has become too much to ignore. In fact, in a few weeks the leadership will be put on trial, in a sense, because one of their former lieutenants must defend himself against murder charges. John Graham is the alleged triggerman in the murder of AIM member Anna Mae Aquash. Anyone familiar with the case will tell you that Graham was just following orders. Again, the book’s Introduction and our last blog bear repeating:

“Anna Mae Aquash was executed by a single gunshot to the back of her head on orders from the American Indian Movement because they believed her to be an informant for the F.B.I.”

This statement is also borrowed. It is quoted, word for word, from the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. On June 26, 2007, the Court stated the above as fact and as more than sufficient to extradite Graham from his home country back to South Dakota. If found guilty, he will join his accomplice, Arlo Looking Cloud, in a life sentence. But that is far from the end of the story.

On August 20, 2008, AIM leader Russell Means’s former bodyguard, Richard Marshall, was indicted for aiding and abetting the Aquash murder. This tends to implicate Means far more than the whispered conversations that have floated around the Pine Ridge Reservation for the last 33 years. This time, it appears the big fish might fall. Means’s role in the murder is less clear than that of his former colleague, Dennis Banks, the AIM leader who allegedly made the final call to end Anna Mae's life. Banks spoke too soon, when on February 24, 1976, he informed his wife that "They found Anna Mae." Trouble was, the body had been left in a canyon for over ten weeks, and it took the FBI until March to indentify the remains. Banks has never been able to explain his forensic insight. Very soon, he may have to in front of a jury.

So, what’s in a name? Well, possibly a lot when there is evidence of genuine dishonesty. And when a name is shamelessly denigrated. Take for instance, author Peter Matthiessen’s use of the name “Crazy Horse.” Matthiessen’s book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, seeks to elevate another AIM criminal, convicted killer Leonard Peltier, to the status of the great warrior chief. Peltier was found guilty in the 1975 murders of two FBI Agents. As is the case with his former leadership, the evidence against Peltier has only grown since his incarceration in 1976. Peltier is, in fact, the antithesis of every principle attributed to the noble and brave Crazy Horse.

That leaves Matthiessen with a problem of accountability. Not only did he receive accolades for his book, much of it falsified in support of Peltier, he has never had to answer for the abomination of comparing a genuine Indian warrior to a ruthless, cowardly thug. Matthiessen has gotten away with truly astounding effrontery against all Indians.

Peltier will stay in prison because he is guilty and because he is completely without remorse. Justice has been served. Matthiessen's abomination, however, remains. Native Americans should be outraged. Peltier’s chief defender needs to come clean and apologize to all of Indian Country, and perhaps, the entire country. Until then, he should expect ridicule and derision for dishonoring what many consider the greatest Indian name in history. Some people really do judge a book by its cover, or in this case, misjudge.

Posted by James Simon

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