Tuesday, February 22, 2011



In Bar Harbor, Maine, Annie Mae Aquash became involved in the Teaching and Research in Bicultural Education School Project (TRIBES), a program designed to teach young Indians about their history. She soon moved to Boston where she met members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who were protesting against the Mayflower II celebration at Boston Harbor, boarding and seizing the ship on Thanksgiving Day of 1970. Anna Mae was active in creating the Boston Indian Council (now the North American Indian Center of Boston).

It was also at that time that she met her second husband, Nogeeshik Aquash, from Walpole Island, Canada. They traveled to Pine Ridge together in 1973 to join AIM in the 71-day armed re-occupation of Wounded Knee, which is where they were married by Wallace Black Elk. A photo of their wedding can be found in the book Voices From Wounded Knee (1974).

She was also involved in the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington, D.C. that led to the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters, and armed occupations by AIM and other indigenous warriors at Anicinabe Park in Kenora, Ontario in 1974 and the Alexian Brothers Novitiate at Gresham, Wisconsin, in 1975. [1]

By the spring of 1975, Anna Mae "was recognized and respected as an organizer in her own right and was taking an increasing role in the decision-making of AIM policies and programs," according to her biographer, Johanna Brand. [1]

She was personally close to AIM leaders Leonard Peltier and Dennis Banks. She worked until her death for the Elders and Lakota People of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. [1]

THE MURDER OF ANNIE MAE AQUASHOn February 24, 1976, Aquash was found dead by the side of State Road 73 on the far northeast corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation, about 10 miles from Wanblee, South Dakota, close to Kadoka. Her body was found during an unusually warm spell in late February, 1976 by a rancher, Roger Amiotte.[2] The first autopsy (reports are now public information) states: "it appears she had been dead for about 10 days." The Bureau of Indian Affairs' medical practitioner, W. O. Brown, missing the bullet wound on her skull, stated that "she had died of exposure." [1]

Subsequently, her hands were cut off and sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington, D.C. for fingerprinting. Although federal agents were present who knew Anna Mae, she was not identified, and her body was buried as a Jane Doe.

On March 10, 1976, eight days after Anna Mae's burial, her body was exhumed as the result of separate requests made by her family and AIM supporters, and the FBI. A second autopsy was conducted the following day by an independent pathologist from Minneapolis, Dr. Garry Peterson. This autopsy revealed that she had been shot by a .32 caliber bullet in the back of the head, execution style.[3]

INVESTIGATIONOn March 20, 2003 two men were indicted for the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash: Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud (a homeless Lakota man) and John Graham (aka John Boy Patton), a Southern Tutchone Athabascan man from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Although Theda Clark, Graham's adopted aunt, is also alleged to have been involved, she has not been indicted.

In August 2008, a federal grand jury indicted a third man, Vine Richard "Dick" Marshall, with aiding and abetting the murder. It is alleged that Graham, Looking Cloud and Clark had taken Anna Mae to Marshall's house where she was held just prior to her being driven to her death. This is based on testimony given by Marshall's wife, Cleo Gates, at Looking Cloud's trial. Marshall is alleged to have provided the murder weapon to Graham and Looking Cloud. Marshall had previously been incarcerated for 24 years for the shooting death of man in 1975. He was paroled from prison in 2000. Marshall was a bodyguard for Russell Means at the time of Aquash's murder.[2]

On February 8, 2004 Arlo Looking Cloud was tried before a U.S. federal jury and five days later was found guilty. On April 23, 2004 he was given a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Although no physical evidence linking Looking Cloud to the crime was presented, a videotape was shown in which Looking Cloud admits to being at the scene of the murder but claims that he was unaware that Aquash was going to be killed. In that video, in which Looking Cloud is interviewed by Detective Abe Alonzo of the Denver Police Department and Robert Ecoffey, the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Law Enforcement Services, taped on March 27, 2003, he states that Graham was the triggerman.[4] Looking Cloud appealed his conviction.[5] On August 19, 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment of conviction. 419 F.3d 781. Other witnesses testifed that Looking Cloud had confessed his involvement to them, including his childhood friend Richard Two Elk, Troy Lynn Yellow Wood, John Trudell, and Aquash's two daughters.[3]

On June 22, 2006 John Graham's extradition to the United States to face charges on his alleged involvement in the murder was ordered by Canada's Minister of Justice, Vic Toews. Graham appealed this order and was held under house arrest, with conditions. In July 2007, a Canadian court denied his appeal, and upheld his extradiction order to the U.S. On December 6, 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada denied Graham's appeal of his extradition. He is presently being held in jail in Rapid City, South Dakota awaiting trial on first degree murder charges. He will be tried together with Marshall.[4]

Graham adamantly denies any involvement in the death of Anna Mae. He claims that the U.S. government threatened to name him as the murderer of Anna Mae if he "didn't co-operate". Claiming that he last saw Annie Mae on a drive that took them from Denver to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where he left her at a "safe house" (in his own words, in an interview with Antoinette Nora Claypoole), Graham explains why he believes he is being charged as her murderer:

" IN THE MID 80'S OR SOMETIME UP IN THERE...."The FBI showed up at my home in the Yukon, and asked me all kinds of questions about Anna Mae and the death. They were trying to say I was there, or I knew about it, or I was aware of it. And I had to tell them I wasn't aware, I wasn't around there and I wasn't involved in her killing at all.

And they wanted me to name leadership that would have given the order to that effect, to kill Anna Mae. And they were trying to tell me they would put me in the witness protection program, they would change my identity, they would relocate me if I would go to testify in front of the federal Grand Jury in South Dakota against the AIM leadership.

So I told them I couldn't do that because it never happened.

I never, ever received orders of any kind like that from any of the AIM leadership. And so I wouldn’t do it; I wouldn't cooperate with them.
And they left. Then they came back a year or so later and said.... if I didn't cooperate with them to put this information on the AIM leadership, then I would be facing all these charges myself."
The question of Graham's innocence or guilt has divided AIM and AIM leadership, with some (including John Trudell and Russell Means) arguing that he was, in fact, the triggerman and others arguing that he is merely a scapegoat.

Leonard Peltier, America's best known American Indian prisoner, has made five public statements on the U.S. government's case against Looking Cloud and Graham. In his first public writing on the case, in 1999, he stated:

“ I have not said anything up until now because I do not want to be involved in an investigation carried out in part, by Robert Ecoffey and the RCMP.

Ecoffey was responsible for much of the terror and corruption that existed on Pine Ridge in the early 70's. The RCMP, working with the FBI, submitted a fabricated statement against me over a year after I was arrested by them in Canada.

This statement has been used to justify my continued incarceration. Who would trust such sources to carry out an investigation into one of the many, many, people who were murdered in conjunction with the FBI on Pine Ridge during that era?

I did not want to be involved in this, but now it looks like I must submit a public statement documenting my stance because I very much fear that innocent people will be railroaded as I have, into prison, and the governments of Canada and the U.S. will be happy to have given AIM the image of a vicious and corrupt terrorist organization which we absolutely were not. ”


Subsequent to these statements, on February 2, 2005, a communiqué was issued through the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC) by Robert Robideau, Co-Director of the LPDC. The communiqué stated:

“ There is compelling evidence that has recently come to our attention regarding John Graham that compels Leonard Peltier to dissasociate [sic] himself and the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee from John Graham and the John Graham Defense Committee… Leonard wants to make it very clear he wants justice to run its course and that he wants to also make it clear that he had no involvement in this matter and hence cannot associate himself with those alleged to have committed this crime against Indian people. ”


In a February 17, 2005, press statement Robert Robideau admitted that the February 2 statement was not issued by Leonard Peltier. He describes a phone conversation he had with Dennis Banks, saying, "Dennis wanted to know, 'Did Leonard issue this Statement?' I told Dennis no that I was issuing the statement because I know that not only the FBI was setting him up but also you [Dennis Banks]." [8]

In a letter from Leonard Peltier to Jennifer Wade of Amnesty International in Vancouver, postmarked May 4, 2007, Peltier explains his position on the matter:

“ Do I support Bob [Robideau] in his efforts to get John [Graham] railroaded into prison? Hell No! I¹d be a goddamn hypocrite if I did. Because I know just about as much as Bob knows about Anna Mae's murder and that is not a goddamn thing. I know Bob is full of shit and that if the truth be known he did not even know her. He my have spoken a casual Hello or something like that, otherwise he did not know her. ”


Robert Robideau had previously resigned from the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee in 2004 because of the committee and Peltier's support for John Graham. "I won’t be a party to the LPDC or to Leonard if he is not going to condemn these people," said Robideau in an interview with the magazine In These Times. [10]

Graham has refused to take a polygraph test,[11] something neither requested by the courts, his attorneys or the Canadian government. An independent group of women known as the Indigenous Women for Justice, convinced of Graham's guilt, demanded that he "take a test".

One of Anna Mae’s daughters, Denise Maloney Pictou is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Women for Justice[12], who are convinced of Graham's guilt. She has stated that she believes her mother was killed by AIM members who "thought she knew too much. She knew what was happening in California, she knew where the money was coming from to pay for the guns, she knew the plans, but more than any of that, she knew about the killings."[13] Aquash’s other daughter, Debbie Pictou Maloney, is a Constable with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and has been active in the Annie Mae Justice Fund.[14]

Denise Maloney Pictou claims that Paul DeMain, managing editor of News from Indian Country, arranged (through Richard Two Elk) for Arlo Looking Cloud to call her at home. She claims that Looking Cloud confessed to her the story that has become known as "The FBI story." Neither Debbie nor Denise personally knew Looking Cloud at the time and cannot verify that the caller was indeed him, although he mentioned speaking to the daughters in his videotaped testimony of March 27, 2003.[15]

The case is rife with rumor. Paul DeMain stated that Anna Mae was killed in part because, she knew that Leonard Peltier actually killed the agents. Peltier sued in an attempt to force DeMain and News From Indian Country to reveal the confidential sources upon which this statement was based upon. Shortly after the trial of Arlo Looking Cloud, during which KaMook Nichols testified that Peltier had bragged to her, her sister and Annie Mae about shooting the agents, Bob Robideau on behalf of Leonard Peltier entered into negotiations with DeMain in order to have the lawsuit dismissed. (see testimony of KaMook Nichols: www.jfamr.org)

The current investigation into Anna Mae's murder and original research from which Pictou bases some of her conjecture came from the efforts of Anna Mae's second cousin, Robert Pictou-Branscombe. Branscombe originally began his efforts in the early 1990s, receiving at least some of his "ground-breaking information" from a Denver Police Department detective named Abe Alonzo.

There are many theories about who may have been behind the murder of Anna Mae. John Trudell fingers Dennis Banks, stating in both the 1976 Butler and Robideau trial and the Looking Cloud trial that Banks told him about the killing before the body had been identified.[16] In Dennis Banks' autobiography, Ojibwa Warrior, he states that he was informed by John Trudell that the body that had been found was Annie Mae. Banks states that he did not know until that time that Aquash had been killed.

Although Arlo Looking Cloud did testify in a video that he was present at the murder and that John Graham pulled the trigger, Looking Cloud did admit on the tape that he was making his statement while under the influence of "a little bit of alcohol."[17] However, trial testimony showed that Looking Cloud also confessed to a number of other individuals in various times and places.[3]

In Looking Cloud's appeal, filed by attorney Terry Gilbert who has replaced his trial attorney Tim Rensch, Looking Cloud has retracted his videotaped confession stating that it was false. He is appealing on the grounds that his trial counsel was ineffective in that he failed to object to the introduction of his videotaped statement, failed to object to hearsay statements of Anna Mae Aquash, failed to object to hearsay instruction for the jury, and failed to object to leading questions by the prosecution to Robert Ecoffey.[18] The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Looking Cloud's appeal.[5]

Though some are alleged to have believed Anna Mae to be a federal agent, no documentary evidence has emerged proving that she worked for the federal government (COINTELPRO).[citation needed]

1.Anna Mae Aquash, Letter from jail (1975) [19]
2.Michael Donnelly, Getting Away with Murder. (2006) [20]
3.Antoinette Nora Claypoole, Interview with John Graham, Southern Tutchone; conducted at the studios of KPFK/Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles) . (2004) [21]
4.Robert Robideau, There is compelling evidence.... (2005) [22]
5.Indigenous Women for Justice, Man Indicted for Anna Mae's Murder Refuses to take Lie-Detector Test. (2004) [23]
6.Paul DeMain, An interview with Denise Pictou-Maloney on the death of her mother, Annie Mae Aquash. (2004) [24]
BIA interview w/Arlo Looking Cloud http://www.jfamr.org/doc/arlo.html

1 The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash by Johanna Brand (1993) Toronto: J. Lorimer
2. "U.S. indicts Richard Marshall in Aquash murder case", News from Indian Country, http://indiancountrynews.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4398&Itemid=108
3.jfamr.org document index
4.Trial for 1975 murder of Canadian woman set for February in South Dakota
5.Looking Cloud Appeal
Claypoole, Antoinette Nora (1999). Who Would Unbraid Her Hair: The Legend of Annie Mae. Anam Cara Press. ISBN 0-9673853-0-X.[25] http://www.antoinettewritings.blogspot.com
Voices from Wounded Knee, 1973, In the Words of the Participants (1974). Rooseveltown, New York: Akwesasne Notes. ISBN 0-914838-01-6.
Hendricks, Steve (2006). The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-735-0. http://www.stevehendricks.org
Smith, Charlie (2007). John Graham says Native chiefs under FBI spell. The Georgia
Straight. July 12, 2007

Posted by Mike (Ali) Raccoon Eyes Kinney at 11:48 AM
Labels: A.I.M, Annie Mae aquash, COINTELPRO, Murder of Annie Mae Aquash

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


February 02, 2011 News » News

EDITOR'S NOTE: It has been my pleasure to know and call Shane Gray a friend for some 11 years in his quest to see Brother leonard Peltier a free man from the System for crimes he did not commit. TEACHING THE VALUES OF PEACE is proud to share this fine piece written by John Geluadi.

Shane's Campaign to Free Leonard Peltier

For years, Shane Gray has been on a singular quest to raise awareness of the jailed Indian activist. But now his ubiquitous signs are drawing the ire of local law enforcement.

Shane Gray has made thousands of posters since learning about Peltier in 1999.
Just past 5 p.m. on a windy January day, Shane Gray rides onto the Central Avenue catwalk that stretches across Interstate 80. He leans his battered bicycle against the fencing, puts a red-tailed hawk feather in his mouth, and begins waving a bright-red placard that reads "Free Leonard" at evening commuters.

Some drivers honk their horns in support even though many don't know that "Leonard" refers to imprisoned Indian activist Leonard Peltier, who was controversially sentenced to life in federal prison in 1977 for the shooting deaths of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

"It's good when they honk," Gray says cheerfully as a chilly wind tosses his thinning blonde hair, "because then the people who don't know who Leonard is will take notice.... They'll ask, 'Who's this Leonard guy, anyway?'"

About twelve years ago, Gray's "Free Leonard" signs with their distinctive red lettering began appearing on freeway fences, abandoned billboards, neighborhood lampposts, and high in treetops. The signs, sometimes augmented with images of a medicine wheel and arrow, have become such a regular feature on the landscape that they have achieved a quasi-iconic status for the hundreds of thousands of people who have seen them as they drive the area bounded by Oakland, Richmond, and the Carquinez Strait.

While Gray's placards are instantly recognizable, Gray himself has remained little more than a hazy figure blurred by the gossamer of freeway safety fences. But in the past year, the Richmond resident has begun to gain recognition — and not all of it good. To some, Gray is a folk hero who risks arrest and personal injury to rail against the unsympathetic goliath of federal government. Supporters have even purchased his signs as folksy artwork. To others, Gray is a public nuisance who should be stopped from littering the landscape with his lost cause. He avoids posting the placards on private property, preferring fences, poles, and trees that are publicly owned and within view of freeways. Nonetheless, after years of friendly warnings, law enforcement has begun to take a hard line.

On a recent rainy afternoon, Gray sits at a table at the Catahoula Coffee Company in Richmond. At 42, he has an athletic build, and his face is tanned from working outdoors as a landscaper, laborer, and house painter. He wraps his calloused hands around a warm mug of coffee and his light-blue eyes brighten as he talks about his commitment to Peltier's case. "I'm not doing this for myself," Gray said. "I do it because Peltier's incarceration is wrong. It's unjust."

Gray committed to Peltier's cause in 1999 after he attended a powwow in Berkeley held in honor of the imprisoned activist. Gray was moved by the stories of poverty and violent oppression on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970s. He was also deeply moved by the persistent questions surrounding the evidence used to convict Peltier as the sole person responsible for killing two FBI agents during a shootout that at least forty Native Americans participated in, according to FBI documents.

The day after the powwow, Gray made his first placard from a discarded cardboard box and paint leftover at a job site. Now, twelve years later, he has painted and posted thousands of signs and says he continues to make each new sign with the same enthusiasm and determination as he did his first. The campaign has become the central theme of his life and he says he's not quite sure what he'd do without it. "I don't know why I got involved in the Leonard Peltier case," Gray said. "I have never been involved in any other activism before or since."

Occasionally, Gray borrows tree-climbing gear from a friend to post the signs high in treetops. They can be hard to see, but have a bigger impact once noticed. "People are surprised to see the signs sixty feet up a eucalyptus tree and that really gets their attention," Gray said.

His biggest coup, he says, was an abandoned billboard just off of Interstate 580 in Richmond. He painted the billboard white, and in his unique cursive painted "Free Leonard" in four-foot-high letters. Taggers would regularly spray paint over his message with their own. For months, Gray returned several times a week to re-paint until Caltrans finally tore the billboard down.

Gray also brings his placards to the scene of major media events in the hopes of getting his message serendipitously picked up by television cameras. He avoids events where there has been tragedy such as the loss of life or injury, but when a massive sinkhole opened up in Richmond last April, swallowing two cars and attracting a fleet of television news vans, Gray was in the background quietly holding one of his placards. During the 2010 World Series, Gray was a regular feature outside AT&T Park, even paddling a kayak covered with "Free Leonard" signs into the home-run waters of McCovey Cove just over the right-field wall.

Hollywood and recording artists made Peltier's case widely known through the 1980s and 1990s. His cause reached the apex of its popularity in 1992 with the release of the Robert Redford-produced documentary Incident at Oglala and the Michael Apted movie Thunderheart, which is based on the Pine Ridge shootout and stars Val Kilmer and Sam Shepard. Musicians such as U2, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, and Rage Against the Machine have recorded songs calling for Peltier's release. His case became an international controversy in the early-1990s when the Italian, Belgian, and European parliaments approved resolutions in support of a Peltier pardon.

But Peltier's cause began to lose momentum in 2000. Attorneys had exhausted all of his appeals, and despite expectations, President Bill Clinton refused to give Peltier a presidential pardon as he left office. Hollywood stopped making films and Peltier's name slowly began to disappear from the headlines. Peltier is now 66 and in declining health. In 2009, a parole commission turned him down in his first hearing in fifteen years, and hope that he might win his freedom diminishes with each passing year.

Gray is not politically savvy nor does he understand the intricacies of the United States Court of Appeals. But the disappointing nuances of Peltier's quest for parole have not lessened Gray's commitment. His signs have served as much needed motivation for Bay Area activists. Aaron "A-Ron" Mirmalek, who produced the 2010 Free Leonard Peltier album, a compilation of hip-hop tracks calling attention to Peltier's case, says Gray is an inspiration. "Shane was at the album release party and I gave him special recognition because he has worked so hard and his commitment over the years has had a huge positive effect," said Mirmalek, who is related to Peltier. "Seeing him on the freeways waving his signs always inspires me."

Supporters regularly offer Gray contributions for paint and other materials. Besides accepting one $20 donation from an acquaintance, he says he has always refused to accept money. But in the past year, there has been some interest in his signs as artwork. Richmond resident Scott Guitteau bought a "Free Leonard" placard for its artistic value. "It's like street-art-meets-folk-art," Guitteau said. "It's more simple as opposed to the urban street work of well-known artists like Banksy or Shepard Fairey. Gray's signs are rural, innocent."

But not everyone thinks so. In years past, Gray was on friendly terms with sheriff's deputies, local police, and CHP officers, many who know him by name. For years they had given him gentle warnings about posting signs in certain areas or waving placards when traffic is particularly heavy. Gray says he has always complied and there was never a serious problem. Typically, he uses any contact with the authorities to promote his cause. "Anytime the police stop me, I ask, 'Are you familiar with the most prominent political prisoner in the United States fraudulently convicted by the FBI?'" Gray said rotely. "And when they say, 'no,' I say, 'Well, that's the reason he's still in prison.'"

But lately, the authorities have not been so friendly. Last summer, the California Highway Patrol arrested Gray near an Interstate 80 onramp, and the evening before Thanksgiving, two Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies showed up at his Richmond apartment and booked him into the county jail in Martinez. He was released with no charges at 1 a.m. though he was twenty miles from his home with no transportation and buses had long stopped running. Contra Costa County Sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee says Gray was arrested because of a citizen complaint, and if he doesn't stop putting up placards, he will eventually face charges.

The arrests have given Gray some pause. Since Thanksgiving he has thought more about retiring, though discussing the idea visibly unsettles him. He gets quiet and looks out the cafe window for a long time. "Or I could expand my territory .... I bet the signs would get a good response in Marin. People there know about Leonard," he said, his eyes brightening. "What I really want to do is find the perfect location for a really big sign. It will be really high ... higher than I've ever put anything before."

John Geluradi-East Bay Express Feb.2,2011