Antoni's Wire Service

Date: Sept 03 1999
From: Antoni Wysocki
To: Antoni's Wire Service
Subject: A complex matter of murder

As a rule, I wouldn't bother to cross the road to read any of the four daily newspapers (two local, two national) in general circulation in Halifax. However, another resident in my building takes The Globe & Mail, which means that on those occasions when my fellow tenant leaves her paper lying late in the foyer, I can peruse it and still stay on my side of the street. I had such an opportunity of a recent Saturday - and so it was that I discovered that the case of Anna Mae Aquash (nee Pictou) was the top headline in the August 07/99 edition of The Globe.

Aquash, a Mi'kmaw originally from Nova Scotia, relocated to the United States in the late 1960s. There she became involved in the movement to advance the rights of North American indigenes, distinguishing herself by her courage, compassion and strategic foresight in the struggle. She became known particularly for her work as an organizer with the American Indian Movement (AIM), an association formed in the US in 1968 as a First Nations advocacy and self-defence group. Sadly, Aquash became still better known in March/76 when human remains found on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota were identified - under bizarre circumstances - as hers.

Anna Mae Aquash has now been deceased for more than two decades. Since that which isn't current, isn't news fit to print in the normal practice of the establishment press, I was quite surprised to find The Globe taking notice of her.

On reading the article ('A Badlands trail of secrets and murder', by Erin Anderssen) I learned that after all the story does have some claim to currency. It turns out that though the original Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into Aquash's death was terminated twenty years ago, the case was re-opened in 1994 by other law enforcement personnel. Apparently, the new detectives may bring forward indictments this autumn. Still, I wondered, why had The Globe not held off on the story until arrests had actually been made?

By chance or design, 'Badlands trail' is neatly divided into two main tranches (there are also ancillary "boxes") which are both physically and stylistically distinct. The first segment - which accounts for more than half of page one for August 07 - offers a capsule history of events leading up to Aquash's death, and the judicial aftermath thereof. For the most part, the tone in this section is terse and dramatic.

The second part is considerably larger; with graphics and three supplemental boxes, it makes up a full two-page spread. This section sketches in background detail, employing a slower pace and a more sober voice than the page one material. Regrettably however, rather than supplying information which would allow the reader to better understand the pertinent history, author Anderssen wastes much of her column space on otiose color commentary : "South Dakota, a land of clay hills and hailstorms"; "a rickety house without plumbing or electricity"; "the first door of a one-storey brick triplex at 4494 Pecos St. in Denver"; and so on.

The first part of 'Badlands trail' indicates that Aquash linked up with AIM in 1973; but that by '75, some people within the organization "said she was a snitch." At the same time, supporters of Dick Wilson, chair of the Pine Ridge tribal council, were feuding with AIM, so she was endangered from this quarter as well. The FBI, meanwhile, "was hunting her, intent on finding witnesses to the shooting [of two FBI agents on Pine Ridge]"(1). When Aquash was found dead in the winter of '76, it was supposed that any of these three groups might have been responsible.

The inside spread in The Globe puts some discursive flesh on page one's narrative bones. This section of 'Badlands trail' explains that Aquash was moved to join AIM as an act of solidarity with the occupiers of Wounded Knee. In February of1973, this hamlet - the site of a massacre of approximately 300 unarmed Lakota by the US Army in 1890 - was taken over by AIM. This action came at the behest of traditionalists on Pine Ridge, who objected to their treatment by the US government and its gauleiter, Dick Wilson. The immediate and massive response by Washington - investment of the village by hundreds of military and law enforcement personnel - fixed Wounded Knee as an international icon of aboriginal resistance.

Still, in the end, AIM and the traditionals were compelled to surrender. Although ultimately acquitted of all charges, the leaders of the resistance were effectively sidelined for some time by the legal proceedings arising from the occupation. Further, "shootings became common and scores of Indians" were killed on the Pine Ridge reservation. Matters came to a head "after two federal agents...and one AIM member died in a gunfight", on June 26/75, in the Pine Ridge community of Oglala.

Anna Mae Aquash was not in Oglala on the fatal day, but the FBI pursued her nonetheless, believing that she knew who had shot the agents. In September, and again in November of 1975, she was arrested. The unusually lenient conditions of her release on these occasions is said to have added to prior speculation by some within AIM that Aquash had cooperated with the FBI. These rumors were unfounded but (according to Erin Anderssen) Aquash was left in fear of her life, from both the enemies of AIM and members of the organization itself.

As recounted in 'Badlands trail', on November 24/75, Aquash "fled to Denver to hide out at a friend's house." In the second week of December, three people - at least one being "someone Ms. Aquash knew from AIM" - sought her out at her refuge. Anderssen quotes Troy Lynn Yellow Wood, who had been harboring Aquash, as indicating that, "She did not want to go." From Denver, Aquash was taken to the Rapid City, South Dakota offices of WKLDOC (2) "where she was interrogated [by AIM] about being an informant." Shortly thereafter, "it is believed that she was driven out to the Badlands by the same people who took her from Denver, and shot...."

As indicated above, in 1976-7 the FBI had looked into Aquash's death. The results of that inquest were utterly inconclusive (deliberately so, it has been said) and since then the prevailing view has been that Aquash was murdered by forces opposed to AIM. However, as the preceding paragraph indicates, an alternative theory - which appears to be the main motive force behind 'Badlands trail' - has now come to the fore.

'Badlands trail' names Robert Ecoffey and Abe Alonzo as the main exponents of the view that "the people who shot Ms. Aquash came from within the very movement she left her family to join." Ecoffey, then with the US Marshals Service, re-opened the Aquash file in 1994 and worked on it until his retirement from police work in '96. Alonzo - a detective with the "intelligence" division of the Denver police department, who specializes in monitoring "extremists" - threw in with Ecoffey in 1995. He is still active on the case.

Apparently, Ecoffey and Alonzo have taken statements from certain individuals who had contact with Anna Mae Aquash in her final days - including "one of the men believed to have been present at the shooting." These reports have confirmed the duo in their supposition that the killers were members of AIM. As Erin Anderssen tells it, the murder seems to have been actuated by the belief that Aquash had intrigued with the FBI, and that her revelations had badly compromised - and would continue to damage - the movement.

Although the Ecoffey/Alonzo scenario underpins her feature, Anderssen also gives some consideration to two competing hypotheses. In a box entitled "Motives : three theories on who targeted Anna Mae", Anderssen notes that both the FBI and "the goon squad" (3) were thought to wish Aquash dead. Thus, "[a]mong AIM supporters," Anderssen writes, "the prevailing theory was that she was killed by federal agents as an act of revenge, or to disrupt the organization." For their part, Dick Wilson's goons were "openly at war with AIM supporters" and "Ms. Aquash, a foreigner who moved in and out of Pine Ridge, would have been an obvious target."

Anderssen's unelaborated assumption that Aquash would have been unusually tempting prey for the goon squads because of her alien status is dubious; if anything, the reverse would be true. For all the invective that Dick Wilson directed at the "outside interlopers" from AIM, he well knew that, in the final analysis, the traditionals from his own reservation represented the greatest threat to him.(4) Moreover, as Wilson, during his tenure, controlled all aspects of the Pine Ridge administration - including the court system - he could treat residents with relative impunity. However, each time he moved against outsiders he ran the risk of attracting external censure. In the case of Anna Mae Aquash, a Canadian citizen, there was actually the possibility of an international incident (though, in the event, Ottawa made few overtures on her behalf.)

'Badlands trail' offers a sounder argument for suspecting the FBI of foul play. Therein we learn that on February 25/76, an autopsy was performed on the as-yet anonymous remains of Anna Mae Aquash. W.O. Brown, the coroner retained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (5), determined that the casualty had died from exposure. According to Erin Anderssen, Brown found "no signs of a violent death...[H]e noted that her scalp and skull appeared normal". At the end of his examination, Brown severed the hands from the cadaver. These members were then dispatched to the FBI forensics laboratory in Washington for fingerprinting. On this basis, the casualty was identified on March 03.

Apprised of this, 'Badlands trail' relates, Aquash's intimates immediately became suspicious. For one thing, at least one FBI agent who had viewed the body had known Aquash; why had he not identified the corpse? For another, Aquash was an experienced outdoorswoman - it was inconceivable that she would have been so rash as to venture off into the back country alone and unprepared.

Spurred by these incongruities, a second autopsy was demanded. Gary Peterson, the pathologist who conducted this examination, detected a bullet in Aquash's head "almost immediately"; he soon determined that she had died not from exposure, but from a gunshot. Anderssen adds : "It seemed incredible that [the bullet] had been missed; hospital staff told the FBI that they had noticed dried blood on the back of Ms. Aquash's neck and even felt a wound...."

Naturally, the effect of this bizarre incident was to inculpate the FBI - the more so as the bureau's subsequent inquiry was without result. Until recently therefore the balance of opinion held the FBI responsible for the killing of Anna Mae Aquash. 'Badlands trail', of course, offers a challenge to this conventional wisdom - in Anderssen's words : "a new investigation has developed a shocking theory about how - and why - Ms. Aquash died."

Anderssen is evidently convinced that have the right answer. Outside the "Motives" box, she gives no consideration at all to the possibility that Aquash might have been gunned down by the goons. She pays a bit more attention to the hypothesis that the killer(s) might have been with the FBI, but only so as to show how people could have jumped to this mistaken conclusion, absent the researches of Ecoffey and Alonzo.

In light of the "eyewitness" testimony generated by Robert Ecoffey and Abe Alonzo, Anderssen seems to regard the matter as settled. She does not present the other theses from her "Motives" box as viable alternatives to the Ecoffey/Alonzo hypothesis, but instead cites them for the sake of historical completeness. Apparently, Anderssen believes that her detectives' professional credentials are a guarantee of the quality of their work.

For my part, I see no reason to question these men's vocational competence; for all I know, they can gumshoe with the best of them. However, there are two points on which I take issue with Anderssen.

First, 'Badlands trail' abjectly fails to convey the scope of malversation on Pine Ridge in the 1970s and, in particular, the highly suspect behaviour of the FBI and their fellow travellers in relation to the discovery of Anna Mae Aquash's body. Perhaps Anderssen deems such things immaterial now that it is "known" that the FBI had no hand in Aquash's demise. Be that as it may, I still think that this bizarrerie demands an accounting.

Second, unlike Anderssen apparently, I find her principals in a conflict of interest. I would guess that any police officer would find it hard not to consider the "militants" of AIM more likely culprits than fellow law enforcement agents, but the present duo likely have personal biases as well. Pine Ridge resident Robert Ecoffey, as it happens, was himself a friend of goons and FBI staff alike in the 1970s. Abe Alonzo, though not known to have quite such intimate connections, can be presumed to be suspicious of AIM on principle, in virtue of his preoccupation with "extremists" (often a code word for political activists.)

For some, these cavils may smack of paranoia. However, I believe that the information which follows will vindicate my expression of distrust. Similarly, while I cannot of a certainty say that Ecoffey and Alonzo are wrong, I will show that there is an adminicular basis for such oppugnance. Lastly, I would suggest that finding out who put the bullet in Anna Mae Aquash's head is not the end of the matter.

In Erin Anderssen's article 'A Badlands trail of secrets and murder', one is given to understand that there was but a single major discrepancy in the findings of the two examinations of Anna Mae Aquash's remains. No doubt, it is remarkable that though signs of trauma were obvious even to hospital personnel untrained in pathology, coroner W.O. Brown was unable to observe any such indications, and ruled that Aquash had died from natural causes. Still, knowing this much and no more, it seems there is no need to impute nefarious intent to anyone - certainly not the FBI who (contra Anderssen) had no contractual relationship with Brown.

One possibility is that the coroner was guilty of no more than accidie. There is certainly reason to suppose that he had grown complacent in his sinecure : when queried about his involvement in the Aquash affair, Brown exclaimed impatiently, "Why all the interest in this case? It seems awfully routine, you know. So they found an Indian body; so a body was found."(6)

For all that this statement evinces great callousness and bigotry, it is quite representative of the standard mindset amongst the authorities on Pine Ridge. Scores of suspicious deaths of aboriginals occurred on the reservation in the early and mid 1970s; not one was ever investigated.(7) Indeed, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that if Brown had been in the habit of scrutinizing cadavers closely he would not long have retained his post as coroner. As he himself subsequently charged (8), his performance was doubtless no different on this occasion than in many previous instances when it had been judged acceptable by his employers in the Bureau of Indian Affairs.(9) Unfortunately for Brown, an unusual amount of attention came to be focussed on this case, and the resulting controversy required the creation of a scapegoat.

Mind, Brown never admitted that he had intentionally ignored evidence of foul play. To the contrary - "When questioned later about his autopsy, Dr. Brown was defensive and aggressive: 'Everybody makes mistakes, haven't you ever made mistakes?'"(10) He excused himself with the rationalization that, "A little bullet isn't hard to overlook."(11) All the same, Brown brazenly maintained that, Anna Mae Aquash had died from exposure : "The bullet may have initiated the mechanism of death, the proximate cause of which was frostbite."(12)

Brown's protestations notwithstanding, it is clear that there is more at issue here than a "mistake." Brown reported that he had opened Aquash's skull and removed her brain for tests (13), but the examination conducted by Gary Peterson revealed "what was left of the the chest cavity."(14) Brown claimed that he had dissected Aquash's abdomen, and he made statements about the condition of the associated organs. Peterson found the viscera still intact - not surprisingly therefore, Brown's contentions about these organs proved faulty. While noting that there were indications of coitus from shortly before the woman died, Brown dismissed the possibility that she had been raped; Peterson, however, said that sexual assault could not be ruled out.(15) Brown concluded that Aquash had died about eight days prior to the discovery of her body; Peterson believed that she had been dead for a minimum of three weeks. He further noted that due to the "fluctuating weather conditions" the exact date could not be determined.(16)

It is obvious then that Brown's report was not only grossly inaccurate but - at least in the instance of the supposed stomach dissection - distinctly mendacious. This puts the lie to Brown's asseveration that he was guilty only of having made "mistakes." On the other hand, it does not yet challenge the thesis that the Aquash autopsy was no more than a typical example (which happened to get exposed) of Pine Ridge officialdom's indifference to aboriginal casualties.

Nonetheless, according to Erin Anderssen, "When Ms. Aquash was found dead, the prevailing theory among AIM supporters was that she had been killed by federal agents." Other than the erroneous description of W. O. Brown as an "FBI pathologist", only one instance of FBI involvement in the controversial posthumous treatment of Anna Mae Aquash is recorded in 'Badlands trail' : an agent who had interrogated Aquash "only a few months before" failed to identity her body. Said datum does not sound especially damning. Even allowing that the FBI seems to have harried Aquash, arresting her twice in the months before her death, it is difficult to see why "rumours of an FBI cover-up mushroomed on Pine Ridge" (as Anderssen reports.)

As it turns out, the FBI - though nearly invisible in Anderssen's account - were front and center throughout the Aquash affair. Nor, on examination, was the conduct of the Bureau's agents a whit less controversial than that of W.O. Brown.

On February 24, 1976, about sixteen kilometres outside of Wanblee, South Dakota, a rancher came upon remains subsequently determined to be those of Anna Mae Aquash. He notified the police forthwith. As related by Clarence Kelley, then National Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation : "Within 20 minutes of the receipt of the report, officers of the BIA, accompanied by a special agent of the FBI...arrived on the scene."(17) Less than two hours later, perhaps a dozen law enforcement personnel were at the site.(18)

While it is clear that the total complement of police was unusually large, there is some confusion as to exactly how many officers were present - and who they were. According to one source, six Bureau of Indian Affairs lawmen turned out (including BIA police chief Ken Sayres), along with "several FBI agents" and "Sheriff Helsell from nearby Jackson county and his deputies."(19) Oddly enough, though, only Helsell's party has not attempted to beg off this rota. Contradicting the testimony of his subordinates, Chief Sayres later averred that he had not been present, and that only three BIA police responded to the report.(20) The claims made about FBI participation were more contradictious still.

Chief Sayres - for all that he maintained, against his own constables, that he did not visit the site - felt confident enough in his knowledge of the episode to assert that agent Donald Dealing was the sole FBI representative on the scene.(21) Some considerable time later, William Webster (who in 1977 succeeded Kelley as head of the FBI) continued to maintain this version of events.(22) Norman Zigrossi, Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) at the FBI office in Rapid City, South Dakota, likewise asserted that only Dealing had been dispatched to view the body in situ. However, "under repeated questioning", Zigrossi allowed that additional agents might have shown up "out of curiosity."(23)

Evidently, one of the agents seized with this morbid curiosity was David Price. First of all, BIA constables testified that Price was amongst those who examined Aquash's remains where they were found.(24) Second, if Clarence Kelley is to be believed, an FBI officer arrived on site less than half an hour after notification was received of the discovery of the body. If this is correct, the agent could not have been Dealing, since he is known to have been well over 100 kilometres distant from Wanblee at the time of the rancher's call.(25) Third (but foremost), Price himself conceded that he had inspected the remains "on the day that [Aquash's] body was discovered."(26)

Similar controversy exists with regard to who was present during the autopsy conducted by W.O. Brown. In his report on the examination, Brown indicated that BIA personnel were on hand, but made no mention of FBI officers. Since then, he has in turn both affirmed and denied that FBI agents were in attendance.

In testimony before the US Congress, an FBI representative stated that no Bureau personnel witnessed the autopsy. However, this individual noted that Dealing, Price and William Wood (Price's partner) viewed the body at the Pine Ridge hospital prior to (and agent John Munis after) the procedure.(27)

Once again, BIA constables tell a different story. By their account, two FBI agents - Price and Wood - observed the autopsy.(28) Official Federal Bureau of Investigation pronouncements can be seen to support this contention, in part : the FBI admits that the determination that Aquash's hands should be amputated was made by an officer of the Bureau; however, this agent is said to have been neither Price nor Wood.(29)

In more ways than one, an element of logomachy is evident in all this. To be sure, the exact tally of FBI agents who came out to view the corpse on February 24 may be of little moment - for what is really at issue here is whether the FBI's response was standard or inordinate. By agent count, we may never be in a position to settle the matter; yet, the Bureau's compulsion, in an effort to dampen speculation, to put forth one dementi after another - without regard for mutual consistency, leave alone conflicts with other testimony - has been such as to foster the impression that the FBI has something to hide.

The FBI's insistence that none of its personnel "observed" Brown's autopsy of Anna Mae Aquash appears to make rather more sense - for if any agent could be shown to have monitored the procedure he would thereby be implicated in the coroner's dubious performance. Then again, most of the more outrageous aspects of Brown's autopsy arise from the false claims, propounded in his report, about operations performed in the course of the examination. Clearly, someone who had been a mere onlooker at the autopsy could not be held liable for what W.O. Brown subsequently chose to enter in his write-up on the proceedings.

Moreover, the admission by (amongst other officials) two FBI National Directors, that Aquash's hands were severed on the initiative of one of the Bureau's agents, seems to reduce to a technicality the question of whether or not FBI staff attended the autopsy. By one account, an FBI agent said to Brown, "I need her hands. Sever them at the wrists, would ya, doc?"(30) Whether or not the exchange was really this coldblooded, one is left with the problem of how it transpired at all, if there were no FBI personnel in the examination chamber. Is one to suppose that W.O. Brown - in the midst of his work, dripping gore and potential contaminants from the corpse - absented himself from the morgue to track down an FBI agent, with a view to discussing possible procedures for identifying the body?

However that may be, the decision to amputate is noteworthy in itself. The ostensible justification for this measure was that it was necessary to permit fingerprinting, without which identification would be impossible. Yet, this reasoning fails on several counts.

First, no prior attempt was made to identify the body by other means. Pine Ridge is a small community where most of the inhabitants are acquainted, and Anna Mae Aquash had numerous distinguishing features.(31) Yet the authorities did not allow people to view the remains or pictures thereof (32) before the expedient of mutilation was adopted : Brown's autopsy took place a bare 24 hours after the body was found. Second, expert pathologist Gary Peterson (who was able to examine Aquash's hands, by then returned from Washington, in the course of his autopsy) judged that fingerprints could have been secured locally, without violence to the cadaver.(33) Had this proved impossible, for whatever reason, "normal procedure", Peterson noted, "would have been to sever the fingertips only, placing each in the appropriate finger of a rubber glove."(34)

In 'Badlands trail', Erin Anderssen languidly sets out the details of how a rancher stumbled across the corpse of Anna Mae Aquash in February of '76; but she is sparing in her account of the treatment accorded the body thereafter. She jumps from February 25, when the W.O. Brown autopsy took place; to March 02, when Aquash was interred for the first time; to March 11, when Gary Peterson performed a second autopsy on the newly exhumed remains of Anna Mae Aquash.

This lean narrative misses a plethora of troubling occurences. Following Brown's perfunctory check, the body remained at the Pine Ridge hospital for a few days. Oddly enough, rather than encouraging visits in the hope that someone would be able to identify the remains, hospital staff "tried to keep people out of the morgue during that time."(35) The one exception made was for the relatives of Myrtle Poor Bear, a Pine Ridge woman who had been missing for some time and was feared dead; and there seem to have been additional factors at work in this instance.(36) There is also a story that the FBI spent this period shopping around for a mortuary which would perform the illegal operation of burying the body under a pseudonym.(37)

On or about February 29, Aquash's corpse was sent off-reservation and out of state to Rushville, Nebraska, where it was entrusted to the care of Thomas Chamberlain, mortician. Chamberlain had scarcely stowed the cadaver in his garage (his standard repository) when he received orders from BIA Chief Sayres to bury it. The mortician was flabbergasted : he had neither death certificate nor burial permit for the body, and meanwhile its condition was not such as to necessitate hurried inhumation. Chamberlain later remarked : "It was the darndest [sic] thing I ever saw. I've been doing this for fifty years and haven't run into a case like this yet."(38) It has also been alleged that the FBI told the mortician to allow no one to view the corpse in the meantime.(39)

With some difficulty, Chamberlain was ultimately able to find a qualified individual who, notwithstanding the absence of the proper paperwork, was willing to perform the obsequies. The funeral is generally thought to have taken place on March 02, though some say the date was March 03; due to the aforementioned lack of documentation, the question cannot be conclusively settled. Naturally, few attended the anonymous burial, but amongst those who gathered were two FBI agents.(40)

Whichever date one accepts, the interment more or less coincided with the identification of the dead woman as Anna Mae Aquash - the Federal Bureau of Investigation laboratory in Washington matched her fingerprints on March 03, 1976. The timing can be seen to suggest that the unseemly rush to bury Aquash stemmed from a desire to see her corpse underground before it could be publicly identified.

As previously noted, for those who had known Aquash, the story that she had died from frostbite was simply unacceptable. Suspicions were further aroused when word got round that FBI agent David Price had examined the body - and even taken photographs - all the while giving no sign that he recognized the features of a woman whom he had previously interrogated at length.(41) It also emerged that injuries which made it obvious that Aquash had not died from natural causes had been detected by a nurse and a doctor from the Pine Ridge hospital; and that the latter individual had passed this information along to the police.(42)

In the face of all this, Aquash's family decided that there was a burke afoot. Accordingly, WKLDOC attorney Bruce Ellison was authorized to petition the court for an exhumation order, pursuant to a second autopsy. However, before Ellison was able to file his motion, the FBI submitted a judicial request to have the body disinterred. In this affidavit - which was drawn up by William Wood - the court was advised that there was reason to believe that Anna Mae Aquash might have been killed in a hit-and-run accident; or murdered.

The first possibility mentioned - that of a hit-and-run - is basically incoherent. Aquash's body was found some 33 metres from the nearest road, swathed in a blanket.(43)

In support of the latter thesis, Wood attested that, on February 19, 1976, a member of the American Indian Movement (44) had told him that AIM believed Aquash to be an FBI informant. Consequently, Wood wrote, "she may have met with foul play."(45)

The implication that AIM could have been expected to assasinate Aquash, if it was decided that she had colluded with the FBI, is a sly but outrageous calumny. To the contrary : when it was discovered, in March/75, that Douglass Durham, a member of AIM's inner circle, was in reality an FBI informant, the only action taken was to debrief and then expel him from the movement. This notwithstanding conclusive evidence that Durham had embezzled funds, passed vital secrets to the FBI, issued damaging statements in the name of AIM, and spied on the defence team during the Wounded Knee trials.(46) To the present day, other than Aquash's case, there is only one known or suggested instance of an AIM member being targeted from within the organization - and at that, the attack seems to have been personal, not political, in nature.(47)

Arrestingly, Wood's affidavit noted that an agent who, on February 24, had inspected Aquash's remains where they lay, had suggested "manslaughter" as the possible cause of death.(48) No indication is given of what gave rise to this speculation, or of why the agent supposed that - if there had been a killing - it had been done at chance-medley, and not prepense.

It will be recalled that - by the Bureau's own admission - William Wood was one of the three agents who viewed Aquash's corpse in the Pine Ridge morgue, prior to W.O. Brown's autopsy. Already armed with the knowledge that foul play was suspected, how could Wood have failed to detect the obvious marks of trauma?(49) Further - even accepting the claim that neither Wood nor any of his colleagues scrutinized Brown at his work - this does not explain why they countenanced the coroner's decision to have only Aquash's dentition X-rayed.

At any rate, an exhumation order was granted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the body of Anna Mae Aquash was extracted on March 11, 1976.(50) The FBI had agreed to allow a physician designated by Aquash's family to observe the second autopsy, and WKLDOC had retained pathologist Gary Peterson, St. Paul's Hospital, Minnesota, for this purpose. In the event, the FBI decided not to engage a pathologist of its own, but neglected to inform WKLDOC of the change in plans. Peterson had to wait in the Pine Ridge hospital for some time before it was eventually established that he was on his own. He then had to scramble to locate surgical instruments - in the end, some had to purchased - since he had come prepared to act solely as an observer.

Peterson's findings have already been discussed at length, so there is no need to repeat them here. The Bureau has acknowledged that FBI agents Wood and J. Gary Adams assisted at this autopsy; once again, David Price viewed the body in the morgue, then absented himself for the duration of the procedure.(51)

Aquash's hands had been brought back from the FBI laboratory for Peterson's inspection, but the pathologist returned them to William Wood after the autopsy. Hearing of this, Bruce Ellison approached Wood afterwards. What transpired is described by Candy Hamilton, a WKLDOC legal aide and a close friend of Anna Mae Aquash :

I was with attorney Bruce Ellison when he asked about Anna Mae's hands. Wood said, "Wait a minute." He walked to his car and came back holding a cardboard container. Wood was smiling. "Here," he said, "catch." He tossed the box, as though it were a ball or set of house keys or something. Bruce caught it. I could hear the hands rattling inside.(52)

According to Erin Anderssen's 'Badlands trail', there are three leading theories of how Anna Mae Aquash met her end : she was murdered by the FBI; or by the goons; or by AIM. In formal terms, this is likely correct; substantively, this tabulation serves only to obscure the matter.

To treat the FBI and the goons as autonomous subjects is already to distort observed reality. The record of the FBI on Pine Ridge is absolutely transpicuous : the Bureau resolutely refused to take action against the most flagrant crimes of Dick Wilson's men (see note #17 for an especially apalling exemplum) while committing almost unlimited resources for pursuing AIM.(53) The bitter personal character of the FBI's campaign against AIM is well illustrated by Candy Hamilton's anecdote, related above. In such a climate, it is idle to give separate consideration to goons and the FBI - they were complicit with one another in all things.

Perhaps even more misleadingly, Anderssen presents Anna Mae Aquash's murder as though a specimen of street crime, wherein the determination of personal culpability is of central importance. Historical background is offered only to add sapor to the tale, or as required to educe the presumed motive of the individual(s) responsible for the deed. In short, it forms no part of the haecceity of the thing.

Even if Aquash was executed by AIM associates (as 'Badlands trail' would have it) this does not necessarily absolve the FBI; indeed, is hardly likely to. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has routinely incited internecine strife in dissident groups, with the express intent of procuring members' deaths. There is also evidence that violence associated with politically active organizations has often been perpetrated by FBI infiltrators, rather than by legitimate members.(54) Yet, absent a thoroughgoing diachronic analysis, these vital data are excluded from consideration.

Regardless of the institutional affiliation of the person who pulled the trigger, Aquash herself would surely have maintained that she was a casualty of the US government's war against indigenes.(55) Nor is it only supporters of the American Indian Movement who cast the struggle in these terms. Norman Zigrossi, FBI deputy commander in Rapid City, South Dakota, spoke of native Americans in the following terms to David Weir and Lowell Bergmann of Rolling Stone magazine :

They're a conquered nation. And when you are conquered, the people you are conquered by dictate your future. This is a basic philosophy of mine. If I'm part of a conquered nation, I've got to yield to authority...[The FBI] must function as a colonial police force.(56)

In fairness, Anderssen was of course constrained by space limitations, and thus was not in a position to go into the subject to the extent that I have here (although, at over two and a half pages, 'Badlands trail' is more than twice as long as the average lead item in The Globe & Mail). All the same - and I have noted this at various points in the present text - it is clear that Anderssen preferred to devote her exiguous column inches to such considerations as the creation of mood and the building of suspense, rather than to the provision of a meaningful context for the events described.

No doubt, in part this approach is borne of pragmatism. A "true crime" story is typically thought to make for more compelling reading than the intricacies of history, and so is likelier to meet with approbation from managing editors (who must always be mindful that their primary task is to sell newspapers.) Further considerations which may have influenced Anderssen are the deference to authority and idealization of "journalistic objectivity" endemic in mainstream newsmedia.

Establishment reporters accord great weight to official sources, state or corporate. Government and big business command the resources to do research (saving journalists the trouble); and likewise, the activity of these "players" is always newsworthy in itself. Either way, it behooves reporters to cultivate contacts in these sectors by assiduously and uncritically covering alike the proclamations and doings of these major actors.

As for the impartiality considered incumbent on journalists, I would suggest that it is chimerical at the best of times. However, when the comprehension of a given subject requires more of readers than an act of apperception, a so-called balanced presentation actually deforms the depiction of the phenomenon in question. This transpires because the more an expressed viewpoint deviates from received opinion in the matter at hand, the more its proponent is required to prove - yet, the stipulation of balance means that the provision of such an opportunity is ipso facto impermissible, since equal time must be afforded competing sides.

These two processes merge in 'Badlands trail.' Inasmuch as Anderssen is obliged, in order to give coherence to her narrative, to discuss the plexus in which Anna Mae Aquash was fatally caught, the G & M writer casts the matter as a feud between native people, into which the FBI haplessly stumbled. In this way, Anderssen elides the root of the internal strife on Pine Ridge - the tension between those who were content to see First Nations wiped out by the dominant society, and those who resisted this imperative - while clearing the way to place AIM and Dick Wilson's thugs on all fours together.(57)

With regard to the acception of persons (predicated of establishment journalists) : the belief that law enforcement agencies are politically neutral entities which "serve and protect" the "public" is a 'sine qua non' of the tale Erin Anderssen tells. Although Anderssen delineates three theories of "who targeted Anna Mae," it is clear that she is really only interested in what police officers have to say in the matter. Thus she quotes an unsupported assertion from Norman Zigrossi, FBI deputy commander in Rapid City, South Dakota - "We were sincerely looking to solve this case" - as if this were an indubitable fact - blithely ignoring the very extensive evidence of gross irregularities on the Bureau's part. The irony of it all is that Zigrossi himself is on record as explicitly rejecting the idea that the FBI is an impartial guardian of all members of society, insisting instead that the Bureau's mandate is to impose the will of the conquerors upon the conquered.

In another instance, in a box entitled "On the trail of a mysterious death", Anderssen states that the June/75 Oglala gunfight developed from the presence on Pine Ridge of two FBI agents who were "investigating a minor theft". This formulation is not only inflammatory (one is left wondering, what sort of people are these AIM operatives that they would shoot down two men over a matter of petty theft?) but is also an outright falsehood.(58)

Anderssen's faith in the constabulary is not limited to the FBI. In the main body of 'Badlands trail' she recounts an incident resulting in the apprehension of Anna Mae Aquash, and other AIM activists, in November/75. As Anderssen tells it, one of Aquash's confederates fired "shots" at the arresting officer. Apparently, Anderssen's zeal for law and order (or taste for the dramatic?) here leads her to go the police one better; for even said officer - Ken Griffiths of the Oregon State Police - did not allege that more than one round was fired by anyone other than himself. Some commentators have suggested that it is most unlikely that an AIM member fired even the single shot that Griffiths believed he had heard. At all events, charges were dropped by the prosecution before the matter was brought to trial.(59)

Of course, the most pronounced example of Erin Anderssen's unswerving belief in the Rhadamanthine quality of law enforcement personnel is her endorsement of the researches of Robert Ecoffey and Abe Alonzo. Anderssen gives no hint that she detects anything at all tendentious about Inspector Alonzo (whose quotidian routine involves keeping tabs on "extremists") involving himself in a case where the prime suspects (as determined by Ecoffey) are past members of AIM - an organization frequently traduced in just these terms.(60) Given that 'Badlands trail' equates AIM with the goons, this is hardly surprising.

Perhaps more remarkable is Anderssen's confidence in Robert Ecoffey. She admits that, "AIM activists tend to associate him with the GOONs : he was friendly with FBI agents, was an officer with the Federal Bureau of Indians [sic; Bureau of Indian Affairs]" and married Dick Wilson's niece.

However, Anderssen is quick to indicate that, as a policeman, Ecoffey's integrity is unimpeachable. Furthermore, his law enforcement credentials mean that he is above partisan strife :

[Ecoffey] was a senior in high school when AIM followers protested at Wounded Knee. He did not agree with the violence back then, though at least, he said, "AIM made us proud to be Indians."

Note also how, in this passage, Anderssen subtly implies that "the violence back then" was the fault of the American Indian Movement.

Lest any residual leeriness might remain, Anderssen establishes that Ecoffey is also in touch with his Lakota spiritual heritage. It emerges that his pursuit of those who murdered Anna Mae Aquash stems from a mystical experience two decades before, interpreted for Ecoffey by a medicine man ("one day he would be in a position to help a woman who was terribly wronged.")

To show once for all that Ecoffey has risen above sectarian strife (and therefore is not simply continuing his in-law's war on AIM) we are told that the quondam BIA constable has carried a sign bearing the slogan "Justice for Anna Mae" in a recent demonstration on Pine Ridge. This march was one of a series uniting "former GOONs and AIM supporters" in a protest against liquor stores built, in an attempt to attract custom from Pine Ridge, just beyond the boundaries of the reservation (the sale of alcohol is banned on the reservation itself.)

Ecoffey's ostensible consultation with the shaman in the late 1970s must have led to considerable tension around the family dinner table - for only a few years earlier, Dick Wilson had used his power as tribal chair to attempt to extirpate the old religion, going so far as to ban the Sun Dance, its most sacred ceremony.(61) As for Ecoffey's support for prohibition, this marks a striking departure from his practice in the mid-1970s, when he supplemented his income as a BIA police officer by running a bootlegging operation on the Pine Ridge reservation.(62)

The brutal reality of Ecoffey's activity should not be confused with any romantic notions of rum-running or the like. To cite one relevant statistic : in 1974, 1,224 aboriginals were arrested in the Nebraska county of Sheridan, which is conterminous to Pine Ridge; of this total, fully 957 cases were related to alcohol abuse.(63) Further, alcohol is said to be "the leading cause of death on the reservation."(64) In fairness, it must be conceded that Ecoffey may have come to resipiscence in the time since; but Anderssen's failure to address this unsavory matter - even where the context demands it - leaves great room for doubt on this score.

It cannot be delicacy on Anderssen's part that she omits mention of spectres from Ecoffey's past, for she is free with tidbits about Anna Mae Aquash's personal life (no matter that the information is not germane to a discussion of the subject at hand.) Nor does she shrink from tossing out insulting (and erroneous) blanket assessments of "women on the reservation."(65)

Most outrageous of all : writing of the chief suspect in the case, Anderssen supplies more than enough detail - biographical data, physical description, current place of residence - to identify the man to anyone who cares to look into the matter. Obviously, this is a gross violation of privacy and due process; but the individual in question is an AIM alumnus, and presumably Anderssen feels he has waived his rights in virtue of his association with "extremists."

As we have seen, 'Badlands trail' makes scant reference to the numerous serious failings of the police agencies and officers involved in the Anna Mae Aquash affair. It is a matter of speculation whether Erin Anderssen chose to omit this information because her faith in the constabulary has a metaphysical quality which renders it impervious to empirical challenge; or because such information runs contrary to her agonistic purposes; or for some other reason. However, there can be no doubt that the effect of this decision is to create a portrayal which strips the American Indian Movement of its political content while grotesquely tumefying the apparent bellicosity of its members.

With the myth of police professionalism intact, Anderssen is free not only to dismiss competing theories and inconvenient evidence, but also to ignore unhelpful witnesses. For instance, the R. Ecoffey/A. Alonzo hypothesis has Anna Mae Aquash "abducted" from Denver in "early December, 1975" and taken to WKLDOC headquarters in Rapid City for an "interrogation," then shot 48 hours later.

One problem with this chronology is that on December 20 (at which point she must have been dead for a week, at a minimum) Aquash is reported to have spoken over the telephone with her friend Paula Giese, a WKLDOC legal aide.(66) Granted, this may be no more than one person's word against another (i.e. Giese vs. the Ecoffey/Alonzo source) but what - other than a parti pris - can explain the summary exclusion of Giese's testimony?

Simply put, it is impossible to provide a meaningful account of the killing of Anna Mae Aquash without extensive examination of the socio-political milieu in which the murder took place. To do otherwise is first of all to demonstrate a profound disrespect for Aquash's own feelings : she believed that conditions faced by First Nations demanded that there be an American Indian Movement, and she was prepared to lay down her life for this belief. In this light, the hypocrisy of Robert Ecoffey and his "Justice for Anna Mae" rhetoric is appalling.

If this is truly what he desires - and if he honestly feels that he had been called to "help a woman who had been terribly wronged" - Ecoffey would be out chasing down his former goon cohorts. It was their murderous conduct which brought Aquash to Pine Ridge in the first place, and scores of slayings committed by them have never even be investigated (thanks in large part to their FBI confederates.) If his promoter, Erin Anderssen, does not see this, it is because she has neglected to inform herself (in which case she is guilty of laches); but it is not difficult to suspect that she has wilfully chosen this course.

Leaving aside its implications for the dead, the living are illserved by the tack taken in 'Badlands trail' (which in turn is reflective of the approach of Robert Ecoffey and Abe Alonzo.) As is shown by Anderssen's ruthless handling of the chief suspect in the current investigation, those whose names are connected with AIM will be deemed guilty until proven innocent. The re-opening of the Aquash case shows that the police are unwilling to let the matter rest. Since the credo (shared, of course, by Erin Anderssen) that law enforcement agencies are above reproach precludes the possibility that the Federal Bureau of Investigation or its cronies might be at fault, only AIM associates will be targeted.

Anderssen does note that "witnesses are said to be inconsistent on certain details" and "there seems to be little physical evidence linking the suspects to the killing." Perhaps, she - or her detective friends - are being a touch coy, but if these asseverations are substantially correct, then criminal conviction appears rather unlikely. Assuming this to be true, the question immediately arises as to why the sleuths are so intent on pursuing the matter. If the events of the 1970s are any sort of guide, the answer is that the police want to impart the message that political dissidence carries a life sentence : even if the constabulary can't make any charges stick, they can and will hound you till the day you die.

In another quote designed to communicate Anderssen's confidence in Robert Ecoffey to her readers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs agent opines that, "There has been some healing in Pine Ridge..." Just what sort of instauration Ecoffey is talking about is not entirely clear, though it seems to have something to do with the "one big happy family" image that Anderssen seeks to promote with her image of "former GOONs and AIM supporters" joined in a common cause. If there is any truth in Ecoffey's assessment, the healing must be that of a recaptured prisoner who - nursing her wounds after a punitive beating - decides that escape is impossible and resigns herself to her fate.

The oppression which AIM contended with still holds the people of Pine Ridge in its grip. Roughly 95% of the Lakota's land base, as guaranteed by treaties, "is illegally occupied by the United States, even in the estimation of its own courts."(67) Due to intensive uranium mining - which, by federal fiat, is not under the control of the Lakota - morbidity associated with radiation is high and increasing on Pine Ridge.(68) The rate of winter unemployment on the reservation runs to 90%.(69)

To top it all off, the crimes perpetrated by Dick Wilson's henchmen were for the most part committed to enforce the policies which gave rise to or perpetuated the aforementioned problems. Yet, these offences have gone unpunished, and even unacknowledged. In this context, to speak of "healing" must be something approaching blasphemy.

In the present work, I have been able to provide only the smallest glimpse of how the baasskap was articulated on Pine Ridge in the 1970s. Yet, as I have been at pains to demonstrate, detailed knowledge of the plexus of these events is necessary to an understanding of any of their constituent elements (e.g. Anna Mae Aquash's death.) Furthermore, as these occurrences are so extraordinary - which is to say, so far beyond the pale of the average citizen's conception of life in North America - a preponderance of evidence is required for any specific allegations to be believed.

With these considerations in mind, I am in the process of drawing up a second essay. I hope that when this latter work is completed it will lend strength to the present one.


AIM - American Indian Movement
BIA - Bureau of Indian Affairs
FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation
WKLDOC - Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee


Erin Anderssen, 'A Badlands trail of secrets and murder', The Globe & Mail (Toronto), August 07 1999, pp. A1, A8-9.

Johanna Brand, The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash (James Lorimer and Company, Toronto,1993).

Robert Burnette and John Koster, The Road to Wounded Knee (Bantam Books, New York, 1974).

Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall Agents of Repression : the FBI's secret wars against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (South End Press, Boston, 1990).

Donald L. Fixico, The Invasion of Indian Country in the Twentieth Century: American capitalism and tribal resources (University Press of Colorado, Niwot, 1998).

M. Annette Jaimes (ed.), The State of Native America : genocide, colonization and resistance (South End Press, Boston, 1992).

Bruce Johansen and Roberto Maestas, Wasi'chu : the continuing Indian Wars (Monthly Review Press, New York, 1979).

Peter Matthiessen, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (Viking Press, New York, 1983).

Jill Oakes et al. (eds.), Sacred Lands : aboriginal world views, claims, and conflicts (Canadian Circumpolar Institute, University of Alberta, 1998).

John William Sayer, Ghost Dancing the Law : the Wounded Knee trials (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1997).

Kenneth Stern, Loud Hawk, (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1994).

Sanford J. Ungar, FBI (Little, Brown & Company, Boston,1975).


(1) All quotations not otherwise attributed are from Erin Anderssen's 'A Badlands trail of secrets and murder'.

(2) WKLDOC (pronounced "wickle-dock") is the rather clumsy initialism derived from the even more ungainly "Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee" (eschewing both of these forms, Erin Anderssen employs the incorrect "Wounded Knee Legal Defence Committee"). A volunteer association formed in 1973 by a group of lawyers, legal aides and lay people to provide support to those charged for their role in the Wounded Knee occupation, WKLDOC ultimately became the principal source of legal counsel for AIM members and associates. With some changes in personnel, the committee remained active until 1977.

(3) "Goon squads" or "GOONs" are terms used to describe the private militias raised and commanded by Dick Wilson, the chair of the Pine Ridge tribal council. Originally a derisive epithet bestowed on them by their opponents, "GOON" was later adopted by the squads themselves, whose membership chose to interpret the sobriquet as an acronym for "Guardians of the Oglala Nation."

(4) Indeed, while AIM leader Russell Means failed to unseat Wilson in the 1973 election for tribal chair, Pine Ridge traditional Al Trimble was successful in his bid in '76.

(5) In a box labelled "Cause of death : two autopsies, two findings", Erin Anderssen wrongly refers to Brown as an "FBI pathologist". While some might argue - given the close collaboration between the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs - that this designation is not wholly inaccurate, it is formally incorrect (see e.g. Brand, Johanna, The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash, p. 14; Johansen, Bruce/Maestas, Roberto, Wasi'chu, p. 104.)

(6) Quoted in Brand, p. 21-2.

(7) Stern, Kenneth, Loud Hawk, p.324.

(8) Matthiessen, Peter, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, p.264.

(9) The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was created in 1824 as an office of the United States War Department. In 1849 it was transferred to the Department of the Interior, with which it remains. In 1871, upon Washington's unilateral revocation of its treaty relationship with aboriginals, the BIA was given a remit to administer all aspects of the lives of native Americans (though there has been some downloading of services to other agencies in the past decade.) The relationship is paternalistic in the extreme : in US law, indigenes are deemed wards of the BIA, as children are of their parents.

(10) Quoted in Brand, ibid.

(11) 'Washington Star', May 24,1976. Quoted in Johansen/Maestas, p. 106.

(12) Quoted in Brand, p. 21.

(13) Matthiessen, p.263.

(14) Brand, p.20. The inconsistencies between the two autopsies, as outlined in this paragraph, are discussed in Brand, pp.20-1.

(15) Matthiessen, p. 262.

(16) Brand, p.21.

(17) Quoted in ibid., p.22.

(18) The scale and celerity of the police reaction is of particular note given that, less than a month earlier, the inhabitants of the same Wanblee had been unable to elicit an effective response from "peace officers" in a situation of far greater instancy. On January 30, 1976, the hamlet was invaded by 15 goons, who discharged automatic weapons into the home of Guy Dull Knife, an elderly critic of Dick Wilson. The gang then gave chase to and opened fire on a car driven by AIM activist Byron DeSersa, who was mortally wounded in the attack. Thereupon the goons returned to Wanblee and spent the night shooting up and fire-bombing the residences of traditionals and AIM supporters. The BIA police observed these events but made no attempt to intervene. On the following day, two FBI agents came to Wanblee but - ignoring the numerous eyewitnesses clamoring to supply the names of the culprits - arrested only one person : Guy Dull Knife! (This summary is based on the descriptions in Matthiessen, pp. 258-9; and Churchill, Ward/Vander Wall, Jim, Agents of Repression, pp. 203-5.)

(19) Brand, p. 22. According to Stern (op. cit., p. 93) and Churchill/Vander Wall (op. cit., p. 206) the FBI contingent was comprised of four agents.

(20) Brand, p. 23.

(21) Ibid.

(22) Matthiessen, p. 473.

(23) Brand, p. 23.

(24) Ibid.; Matthiessen, p. 260. Matthiessen mentions BIA constables Nate Merrick and Doug Parisisan in this regard. In yet another kink, Brand cites BIA Chief Sayres as saying that Merrick was one of the BIA personnel present, but omits Parisian's name.

(25) Brand, p. 23. Brand further notes that BIA officers give Dealing's time of arrival as approximately 16:30. This would mean that a far more reasonable interval of two and a half hours passed between the discovery of Aquash's remains and Dealing's appearance. Note also that Brand quotes Clarence Kelley to the effect that the agent who got to the body within twenty minutes had never before seen Aquash, nor any photographs of her. As Price was previously acquainted with Anna Mae Aquash, the first FBI officer to arrive could have been neither Dealing nor Price (assuming Kelley's statement was correct.) This means that a minimum of three agents were present.

(26) Matthiessen, p. 469.

(27) Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 207.

(28) Brand, p. 24. Stern also states that William Wood attended the first autopsy (Stern, p. 95.)

(29) Ibid.; Matthiessen, p. 473; Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 208. Brand quotes Clarence Kelley (who did not identify the agent in question.) Matthiessen cites William Webster who (in an attempted eclaircissement of FBI treatment of the American Indian Movement) names Thomas Green. Churchill and Vander Wall quote from the deposition of an anonymous FBI prolocutor before the US House of Representatives in 1981; here, the decision about Aquash's hands is attributed to the same Thomas Green.

(30) Quoted in Stern, p. 93.

(31) Brand, p. 25. A number of sources (ibid.; Johansen/Maestas, p. 103; Matthiessen, p. 265) refer to Aquash's "trademark" turquoise jewellery. This jewellery was distinctive enough to attract the notice of hospital staff who handled her remains (Matthiessen, p. 260.)

(32) Johansen/Maestas, p. 104.

(33) Brand, p. 25.

(34) Ibid.

(35) Ibid., p. 15. The reconstruction presented here is based on the account given in Brand, p. 15 ff.

(36) Ibid. As was later revealed, Myrtle Poor Bear was at that same time being illegally held incommunicado by the FBI (Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 313 ff.) It seems probable that the FBI feared that her relatives might have created an uproar if denied access to the anonymous remains in the Pine Ridge morgue, which could in turn have drawn unwelcome attention to the Poor Bear case.

(37) Stern, ibid.

(38) Quoted in Brand, p. 16.

(39) Stern claims that Gladys Bissonette, "who knew Anna Mae Aquash from Wounded Knee", was barred from viewing the corpse by order of the FBI (Stern, p. 96.)

(40) Brand, p. 19.

(41) David Price has always maintained that he was unable to identify Aquash due to the post mortem deterioration of her body (see e.g. Matthiessen, p. 469.) However, pathologist Gary Peterson was of the opinion that decomposition was not so severe as to have prevented identification, even at the later date at which he inspected the cadaver (Brand, p. 24.) The rancher who found Aquash's body, and the hospital staff who handled it, concurred with this opinion (Matthiessen, p. 266; Brand, ibid.) As matters turned out, acquaintances of Aquash were able to identify her from the very photographs Price took of her (Matthiessen, p. 265) while Myrtle Poor Bear's family were able to ascertain that the remains were not those of their kinswoman (see note #36 above.) Finally, one might suppose that Price, an experienced investigator, would have recalled that turquoise jewellery was an Aquash "trademark"; certainly, these artefacts had not been detrited beyond recognition.

(42) Brand, p. 14.

(43) Stern, p. 95.

(44) Wood attributed this statement to "Anna Mae Tanagale" (also known as Ella Mae Tanegale; AKA Anna Mae Tanequodle; AKA Anna Mae Tonaquodle.) In yet another of the myriad twists convolving this whole affair, "Tanagale" herself is said to have "long been considered [by AIM] to be a Bureau informant" (Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 216.) If AIM was correct in this estimation, Wood's affidavit was patently ingenuous, and clearly calculated to cast suspicion on AIM for Aquash's murder. For her part, "Tanagale" denied that she had ever held such a conversation with Wood (Johansen/Maestas, p. 105.)

(45) Matthiessen, p. 261.

(46) Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 220-9.

(47) In August, 1974, one AIM leader, Clyde Bellecourt, was shot by another, Carter Camp. The shooting took place in broad daylight, in the presence of witnesses, and took place the day after Bellecourt ejected Camp from AIM premises because of the latter's rowdy conduct. Bellecourt recovered from the assault and, for the sake of movement solidrity, declined to press charges against Camp (Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 213 ff.; Burnette/Koster, The Road to Wounded Knee, p. 259 ff.)

(48) Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 208.

(49) When Gary Peterson examined Aquash's remains he observed dried blood in her hair, powder burns on her neck, a bulge in the left temple and an area of dark discoloration at the base of her neck (Brand, p. 20.) All of this was apparent to the naked eye subsequent to the burial and disinterment of the corpse. Peterson further noted that the back of Aquash's head had been washed and powdered (ibid.) Of a certainty, then, whoever performed these functions must have found the entry wound caused by the bullet; did this person not advise the police of the finding, or did law officers ignore the information?

(50) The following account is based on Brand, p. 19 ff.; Matthiessen, p. 261 ff.; Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 208 ff.

(51)(51) Matthiessen, p. 262.

(52) Quoted in Stern, p. 171.

(53) The FBI "ordered an investigation of every AIM member and supporter in the entire United States" in the wake of the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation (Stern, p. 333.) In the course of the siege itself, the FBI drew up 316,000 file classifications on those inside the hamlet (Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 177.) As a consequence of these investigations, 562 arrest warrants were served on AIM members (Johansen/Maestas, p. 88.)

(54) See e.g. Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 199ff.; Ungar, FBI, p. 417ff. I will elaborate on these tactics in a forthcoming annex to the present text.

(55) In September, 1975, in a letter to her sister, Aquash wrote : "My efforts to raise the consciousness of Whites who are so against Indians in the States are bound to be stopped by the FBI sooner or later" (quoted in Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 207.) Erin Anderssen offers a slightly different version of this excerpt.

(55) Quoted in Johansen/Maestas, p. 78.

(57) In discussing the genesis of the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation, Anderssen does mention that allegations of malfeasance were brought against Dick Wilson, and that he had allowed "white [sic] companies" to secure leases on Pine Ridge for dubious ends. However, the very term "allegations" suggests that the validity of these charges is in serious dispute; in fact, they were verified by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, an advisory body to the US Congress (Matthiessen, p. 130.) Anderssen goes on to impute an equivalency to Dick Wilson and his adversaries through the use of such phrases as : "the violence continued between the goon squads and AIM supporters". This implies mutuality, in contradiction of overwhelming evidence that the goons were invariably the aggressors (details will be provided in a supplementary paper.) Anderssen cements this impression by, wherever possible, posing AIM members with weapons (the Oglala gunfight of June/75; Aquash's arrest in September/75 amidst "grenades, dynamite and a sawed-off shotgun"; etc.) while largely ignoring the conditions which had led AIM supporters to arm themselves in this way.

(58) The FBI claimed that its agents came to the Jumping Bull property in Oglala to serve a warrant on a teenager accused of stealing a pair of used cowboy boots. Without going into all the details here (these will be covered in a forthcoming essay) the heart of the matter is that in fact the FBI did not possess a writ for anyone's arrest (Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 436); therefore they were not only not investigating a crime, they were actually committing one themselves (trespassing on private land.)

(59) Stern, p. 6; pp. 16-7. For the dropping of charges see ibid., p.167.

(60) A notable instance of such defamation was the publication by the FBI of the "dog soldiers" teletypes of 1976. These documents purported to detail plans for a campaign of terror to be waged by AIM across the United States. Not only did none of these events ever come to pass, but FBI National Director Clarence Kelley admitted under oath that there was not "one shred of evidence to support the allegations" (Churchill/Vander Wall, p. 285.)

(61) Sayer,Ghost Dancing the Law, p. 95. In taking this action Dick Wilson showed how well he had internalized the ideology of "the conquerors" (to use Norman Zigrossi's terminology) : the Sun Dance was banned until the 1950s by the US government, which deemed it a "relic of barbarism" (ibid., p. 23.)

(62) Matthiessen, p. 434.

(63) Johansen/Maestas, p. 68.

(64) Matthiessen, ibid.

(65) For instance, Anderssen asserts that women at Wounded Knee (other than Aquash) "spent their time rolling cigarettes for the men." While it is true that Anna Mae Aquash was exceptional by any measure, numerous women were active in and influential in amongst the Pine Ridge traditionals, and in both AIM and WKLDOC, before Aquash became involved (see e.g. Jaimes, M. Annette/Halsey, Theresa, 'American Indian Women: At the Center of Indigenous Resistance in Contemporary North America' in M. A. Jaimes (ed.), The State of Native America, p. 328 ff; Sayer, p. 11, p. 99 ff., p.224 ff., etc.)

(66) Brand, p. 138.

(67) Churchill, Ward, 'Yellow Thunder : forging a strategy', in Oakes et al. (eds.), Sacred Lands, p. 235.

(68) Fixico, Donald L., The Invasion of Indian Country in the Twentieth Century, p. 200; Churchill, Ward/LaDuke, Winona, 'Native North America : the political economy of radioactive colonialism' in Jaimes (ed.), p. 253.

(69) Churchill, Ward/LaDuke, Winona, in Jaimes (ed.), p. 245.