Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daughters of Anna Mae Aquash Still Seeking Justice

Debbie and Denise Maloney Pictou

"The daughters of Annie Mae Aquash and authorities have long held that Aquash died because [American Indian Movement] AIM leaders ordered her death out of suspicion that she was a government spy."---Rapid City Journal (2-21-11)

South Dakota's Attorney General Marty Jackley and Anna Mae's daughters seem to be keeping the pressure on leaders of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who were complicit in the December 1975 murder of Anna Mae Aquash.

For more information about the crimes of the AIMsters read American Indian Mafia by the retired FBI special Agent in Charge Joe Trimbach and his son John:

Mafia is the long-awaited book that fills the void in an often misunderstood chapter of American history. Judge William H. Webster, former Director of the FBI and the CIA, says Trimbach’s hard-hitting exposé is “…an important contribution to our understanding of what actually happened.”...

Indian Country will find Trimbach’s book a welcome addition to the historical record. Native publisher Paul DeMain (Oneida-Ojibwe), editor of News from Indian Country, says Mafia is a “must-read” for understanding those turbulent years. Award-winning Native journalist, Tim Giago (Oglala Lakota), declares that Trimbach not only challenges popular beliefs, he “takes apart Peter Matthiessen’s In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, movies like ‘Thunderheart,’ ‘Lakota Woman,’ and ‘A Tattoo on My Heart - The Warriors of Wounded Knee 1973,’ and exposes them for the frauds that they are. It is refreshing to finally hear the other side of the story." With common sense and wit, Trimbach likewise explores the historical deficiencies of Ken Stern’s Loud Hawk, John Sayer’s Ghost Dancing the Law, the Wounded Knee Trials, and Steve Hendricks’s The Unquiet Grave.

The Rapid City Journal (2-21-11) reports:

After three trials, the search for answers continues in the late 1975 slaying of an American Indian Movement activist, an incident that epitomizes the clashes between federal agents and Indian activists.

The daughters of Annie Mae Aquash and authorities have long held that Aquash died because AIM leaders ordered her death out of suspicion that she was a government spy.

Now, the death of a key potential witness in the case could further complicate the investigation of a crime that still stirs passions in Indian Country.

Observers saw Thelma Rios, another former activist, as someone who could answer lingering questions about the case and identify others involved. But the 65-year-old Rios' death earlier this month from lung cancer deprives prosecutors of a witness who has said she heard others saying Aquash should be killed.

"If Rios identified just one of them, it would be a link into the leadership," said Paul DeMain, an Indian journalist who's long researched the Aquash case.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said he remains confident in what he called an open investigation.

"Not every piece of evidence that a prosecutor has gets in for a variety of reasons," Jackley said. "Those evidentiary issues, I feel, don't affect the overall resolution of the case."

Authorities believe three activists killed Aquash on the orders of someone in AIM's leadership. Witnesses said the three activists took Aquash from Denver, where she was living in November 1975, to Rapid City and eventually to the Pine Ridge reservation, where she was shot with a .32-caliber pistol and left to die.

One of the activists, Arlo Looking Cloud, was convicted of murder in 2004. Another activist, John Graham, was found guilty of felony murder in December. The third, Theda Clark, has never been charged.

Rios is believed to have called someone in Denver to have Aquash brought to Rapid City. Just before Graham's trial, she pleaded guilty to having a role in Aquash's kidnapping. As part of the plea, she signed an agreement with a summary of what she knew about the crime.

The statement includes the following details:

- Rios overheard two people discussing informants "more than once." She was told by two people to relay the message that Aquash should be brought to Rapid City.

- She gave Clark access to her Rapid City apartment, where Aquash was allegedly taken by the three activists.

- She overheard two people discussing how "the b---- should be offed."

The names Rios mentioned were redacted in court documents. Jackley and Matt Kinney, one of Rios' attorneys, declined to disclose the names.

One witness at Graham's trial, Candy Hamilton, said she overheard Rios talking with three people linked to AIM in the past: Bruce Ellison, Lorelei DeCora and Madonna Thunder Hawk.

DeCora and Thunder Hawk did not return messages seeking comment. In an interview, Ellison said he doesn't remember having any conversations with Rios about the incident.

"I have no idea what Candy Hamilton's talking about, either," he said. "All I can say is she's got a great imagination."

But Rios' death means prosecutors will have to bring any future charges without a crucial witness...

Denise Maloney Pictou, Aquash's elder daughter, has said she believes others with responsibility for her mother's death remain at large.

"It's always been our family's hope that the truth would get revealed during these proceedings, and it's unfortunate that (Rios) didn't get to see the results of that," Maloney Pictou said in an interview.

Aquash, a member of the Mi'kmaq tribe of Nova Scotia, was 30 when she died. Her death came about two years after she participated in AIM's 71-day occupation of the South Dakota reservation town of Wounded Knee. [See full text.]

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