(The story of Anna Mae Aquash
Arlo Looking Cloud)
I don’t have words to name the anguish I have carried for Anna Mae, Arlo and John. Thirty years ago hope was a luminous butterfly breaking out of her cocoon in my heart. The days of the old movement, the 1970’s brought out the best in us, and the worst.
We flew to the sun and stole light at the occupation of Wounded Knee 1973 as our rag tag band of Indians yanked our history and destiny from the hands of the United States government. Wounded Knee had been synonymous with the death of our way of life. Close your eyes and you can see Big Foot and his people, frozen where they fell, shot by American soldiers.
Open your eyes and there we are, long haired, armed, drawing a line in the snow with our lives. Armed Indian men from across the United States and Canada returned the US Government’s fire. Indian women cooked cleaned and did all the work to keep the camp going. The heart and backbone has always been Woman.
Most of us walked in and out of Wounded Knee through the government forces that surrounded us. We swore an oath to stand for our People. We staked ourselves out for those who were felled by alcohol and drugs. We raised our voices for those who were silenced by corrupt Tribal Councils supported by the federal government.
Pine Ridge chairman Dick Wilson was every corrupt Tribal politician that dragged us into the sludge and left us trapped. The Lakota at Pine Ridge have born the burden of the history of all Indian People. In this the most affluent country that the world has seen, Pine Ridge is the poorest county in the country.
It is impossible for outsiders to understand why we choose to live on our reservations. We could make a better living in the big cities. We would be free from oppression of corrupt Tribal chairmen. It is the land herself that holds us.
It doesn’t matter who has legal title to our land. It is ours. We are responsible for it. We carry it in our hearts. Maybe that’s why Indian hearts are so big.
We feel guilt when we leave it. The borders press against our ribs until we return home. Our land is us and we are our land in a way that the white man will never understand. Reservations were created by Treaties to be our prisons. We were supposed to die there, out of sight, out of mind.
For many years our reservations suffocated us. We grew stagnant. Alcohol and drugs numbed our bodies and minds and spirits. We forgot. We forgot what happened to us and who we are.
Those who should have belonged to the warrior societies turned on each other and forgot to protect The People. The oppressors stole power from our men. In those unspeakable times the men turned and stole power from those in their care, the babies, the old ones, the women. Violence and sexual abuse became authority in our sick defeated state.
Those who should have been our Clan Mothers and Lady Chiefs had their sacredness destroyed. Many forgot it is they that choose the future of our people. They were unable to hold their heads or the men’s above water. Our hearts and backbones collapsed under the burden of poverty and little hope.
It was into this darkness that the Movement reached its hand. It wasn’t Dennis and Russell or Vernon and Clyde. It was the idea of freedom. It was the worm turning into a butterfly. It was the Sasquatch cry in the midnight woods. It was the part of us that never died or surrendered.
The call from the Lakota to come back to Wounded Knee also came from deep within our hearts, the collective soul of our people. It’s time to wake up. The long sleep is over. Your People need you. Hit the ground running.
We came from the four directions. We brought our broken Treaties and our broken hearts to be healed. The gun fire at Wounded Knee in the 1800’s signaled the end of our freedom. The gun fire at Wounded Knee 1973 signaled our awakening.
We made special clothes and Ghost Danced in the open. This time the guns didn’t cut us down. The Creator hadn’t forgotten us. He was just waiting for us to find our way back home.
We also packed in with us the dysfunctional learned behaviors that were destroying us. The cream and the dregs floated to the top.
Men believed the Hollywood version of the Indian warrior. Women were treated badly. They thought we were there to serve them not The People.
There were stars that shown. I don’t mean the media stars. There were those born of earth whose goodness burned from their hearts. Pedro Bissonette and Anna Mae Aquash were such lights. They symbolized the best in us.
Pedro would walk out of Wounded Knee at first light and spend the day negotiating with the government. He fasted in solidarity with us. We were starving at that point. We ate one meal a day. The old lady cooks saved a plate for him when he walked back in at night. He was quiet and humble, a Traditional leader. He was assassinated after the occupation was over.
Anna Mae was a warrior woman. She helped make quilts, packed a gun on patrol and could talk Treaties and strategy. She was assassinated amid jealousy and rumors. She died alone and abandoned. She represented the best of Woman and the worst that could happen to us.
The facts of her murder are cloaked in intrigue and stink of an FBI conspiracy. The description of the body found at Wanblee didn’t fit Anna Mae. She was ten years younger and four inches taller than Anna Mae. The coroner said she had been dead about ten days.
The testimony at Arlo’s trial is filled with confusion. The odyssey that took Anna Mae from Denver to Rapid City began with a call to Angie Begay Janis. She testified that Thelma Rios called her with instructions to bring Anna Mae to Rapid City. Angie then went to Troy Lynn Yellow Wood’s house to deliver the message.
According to Janis’ own testimony she was at the meeting at Yellow Woods house to decide if Anna Mae was an informer. If that meeting actually did happen, was her fate decided there? Incidents appear in this story like magic to support the government’s contentions. Sometimes these incidents make absolutely no sense.
This was a most unfortunate time for Arlo to show up at this house. He was looking for a friend to go have a beer with him. He says Theda Clark asked him to drive them to Rapid City. A request from an older woman would have equated a command.
Angie stated that Arlo was at the meeting. That is doubtful. A meeting of that magnitude would not have included the rank and file. It would have consisted of those considered to be leaders.
Janis stated that Anna Mae was brought from the basement tied to a board. Arlo’s attorney Tim Rensch reminded Janis that she had not mentioned Anna Mae’s hands being tied or being tied to a board in her grand jury testimony. He asked if she had spoken with BIA cop Robert Eccoffey about this.
Simply driving Anna Mae to Rapid City would not be a federal offense. Troy Lynn Yellow Wood testified that Anna Mae did not want to go, but went of her own volition. A charge of kidnapping was needed so the myth of Anna Mae being carried out of the house tied to a board was fashioned.
Yellow Wood stated that she tried to stop them from taking Anna Mae from her house but was ordered by her aunt Theda Clark to mind her own business. Theda was apparently a domineering mean older woman. Few would dare cross her.
When Arlo, John and Theda left with Anna Mae, Yellow Wood called the police. Angie Janis took the phone from her and hung it up. Janis told Yellow Wood to stay out of this.
Although Janis testified under oath that Anna Mae’s hands had been tied and then she was tied to a board that did not alarm Angie enough to call the police herself. She still stated that she didn’t think Anna Mae was in any danger.
If Angie Janis did not tell this story when she testified before the grand jury, then when and why did she invent it? It would seem that this was created to be the lynch pin for the charge of kidnapping.
Janis could not remember the color of the rope or the board. Rensch also asked Amiotte, the rancher that found the Wanblee body, if there was a rope near the body. Amiotte didn’t see a rope. We have another mystery in this story. Where did the rope and board go?
Next we move to the famous alleged interrogation at the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee office. Candy Hamilton testified that she was waiting at WKLDOC for a ride to Sioux Falls to testify at Russell Means trial. Anna Mae was in a room with a group of people.
Anna Mae came out of the room to get a cup of coffee. She talked a while with Candy. There were phones and doors in the office. Anna Mae didn’t try to call for help. Neither did she try to run.
Hamilton states that she told Anna Mae that Oglalla could be a really safe place for her to stay. Candy was offering asylum. She had heard rumors of Aquash being an informer. Candy wanted to let Anna Mae know that she would be protected in Oglalla if she wanted it. She didn’t. The two women spoke for another minute then Anna Mae returned to the room. Aquash had many opportunities to escape if she was being held prisoner.
Hamilton couldn’t remember if it was before or after they heard that Anna Mae had been killed when she spoke to Madonna Gilbert about the incident. She asked Gilbert what became of Anna Mae after they talked with her. Gilbert said, “Oh, we just told her to get out of there.”
The myths that have grown up around this story are volatile. They are fueled by Jordan Dill on his websites and Paul Demain in his newspaper.
Dill and Demain sound like bellowing wrestlers in their proclamations. They have ranted about a ten tooth beating during the alleged interrogation of Aquash. Actually, according to “The life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash by Johanna Brand,” Anna Mae wore partials, which she had lost.
Dill and Demain quote Minnie Two Shoes quoting Iris Thunder Cloud as saying that Anna Mae told her that Leonard Peltier put a gun in her mouth as he questioned her at an AIM conference. There is no eye witness to affirm that this incident actually happened.
During Robert Ecoffey’s testimony he states that Arlo told him that when they crossed the fence, she (Anna Mae) knew what was going to happen. Roger Amiotte had testified that the fence had not been there in 1976, the year he found the body.
Why did Arlo have a detailed memory of crossing a fence that would be built years later? Why did he recall that by crossing that yet-to-be fence Anna Mae knew she was about to be killed?
Ecoffey thinks he sees rope burns on the corpse’s wrists in the crime scene photos. It is here that the kidnapping story is born. There is no mention of rope burns by either medical examiner in both autopsy reports.
Dr. Gary Peterson who performed the second autopsy said that Anna Mae’s severed hands were returned to him. He examined them and rejoined them with the body.
Dr. Peterson also said he examined the genitalia and it appeared normal. He did not mention evidence of trauma or rape.
Many lies and exaggerations have been told by FBI and their spin doctors in this story to manipulate our emotions. One of the worst is the rape of Anna Mae.
Both Arlo and John have been accused of raping Anna Mae by the FBI spinmeisters. Dill and Demain have ranted that six to eight AIM men raped Anna Mae Aquash either while she was interrogated or being held captive. That is a sick male fantasy.
Dr. Gary Peterson did not say there was evidence that Anna Mae had been raped and beaten. How many friends have cried over the years at the thought of their sister being bound and gang raped by her brothers? The thought of her being beaten so badly that ten teeth are knocked out is heartbreaking. Those lies are unconscionable.
This case is classic FBI cointelpro. Anna Mae Aquash was targeted by the FBI for elimination. They think they are wriggling out of their responsibility for her assassination by this sham trial of Arlo Looking Cloud.
The FBI has used Indian journalists to plant their lies and shine the light away from their culpability. They claim to have lost all evidence connected with the murder of Anna Mae Aquash. They continue to release new accusations of a nonexistent beating and rape.
There was no evidence presented at Arlo’s trial linking him to the murder of Anna Mae Aquash. By their own testimony some of those who turned state implicated themselves. They appear guiltier than Arlo.
Angie Janis admits being a part of the Denver AIM meeting that decided that Anna Mae Aquash was an informant. She physically stops Troy Lynn Yellow Wood from calling the police to save Anna Mae.
John Trudell claims to have received a distress signal from Aquash in the form of a ring. A letter supposedly from Anna Mae was recently released on the internet. The letter states the ring was given to AIM attorney Beverly Axelrod to mail. That letter was supposedly written while Anna Mae was in a Vancouver Washington jail after the Brando motor home bust on November 14 of 1975.
There was plenty of time for Trudell to intervene on Anna Mae’s behalf if she had been killed on December 12 1975 as the FBI asserted in Arlo’s trial. There would have been more time if she had been killed in the middle of February as stated by the FBI’s first press release of her death.
Kamook Nichols Banks Ecoffey stated in her CBC interview with Anna Marie Tremonti that she learned one day that Anna Mae was having an affair with her husband Dennis Banks. The next day Anna Mae was interrogated about being an informant.
Dennis Banks stated to Tremonti that if he had a choice of who he would spend the rest of his life with, he would have chosen Anna Mae.
Kamook testified that Dennis Banks and Leonard Peltier forced Anna Mae to make bombs. They wanted to frame Aquash with her own fingerprints on the bombs. It would seem that fingerprints would be destroyed when the bomb detonated.
There seems to be descriptions of at least two different bodies in the crime scene reports and the two separate autopsies. Anyone who points this out is ridiculed by the FBI apologists. Yet the strongly differing descriptions are in their own reports in their own words.
No evidence of any kind was presented during the trial to prove that Anna Mae Aquash was kidnapped, held prisoner, beaten and raped. There is no evidence linking Arlo to a kidnapping, rape, or murder. All testimony was hearsay. Most of it was about the American Indian Movement, not Arlo.
Arlo’s new attorney Terry Gilbert filed an appeal on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel; plain error of the court in admitting into evidence non-probative information that was highly prejudicial and not relevant to the case, admission of hearsay evidence and failure to give appropriate jury instructions and insufficiency of the evidence.
The eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Arlo’s appeal. They ruled that Rensch did not provide ineffective assistance by failing to move to suppress the taped police interview because Arlo was intoxicated. The police did not test the level of alcohol and drugs in Arlo’s system. There was no evidence that he was incapacitated.
The most damning testimony was that of Darlene “Kamook” Nichols Banks Eccoffey. They deduced from Kamook’s testimony that several AIM members (including Kamook) took Anna Mae away for weeks to “watch her.” Kamook said that Aquash was constantly watched, was not allowed to go anywhere alone, and was not permitted to go home despite her requests to do so. According to Ken Stern’s book “Loud Hawk” Anna Mae had the power to deny Russ Redner’s request for a weapon on that caravan.
The trial of Arlo Looking Cloud is frightening for several reasons. The American Indian Movement appeared to be on trial not Arlo. The Movement was found guilty of a propensity for violence. That was primarily based on Kamook’s testimony. There was no physical evidence presented against Arlo himself.
Angie Janis testified that Anna Mae was carried from Yellow Wood’s house tied to a board. Yet she did not see Anna Mae’s hands tied. Yellow Wood testified that Anna Mae walked out and left of her own accord, though unwillingly. The court accepted Angie Janis’ version, the kidnapping story. The court deduced that since Aquash was tied to a board, Arlo knew she was going to be killed.
Kamook Nichols Banks Ecoffey claims that Anna Mae was her best friend and she was a prisoner on the Brando motor home caravan. Kamook did not try to help her escape. She was part of that cell. Did she aid and abet in the kidnap and imprisonment of her best friend? She did not use her influence as the wife of AIM’s cofounder and top leader to stop the rumors or to protect Anna Mae.
If a kidnapping did occur in Denver then Angie Janis aided and abetted by stopping Troy Lynn Yellow Wood from calling for help. Angie Janis received the phone call and carried the message to Denver AIM that Anna Mae was to be returned to South Dakota. She admits to sitting in on a meeting that decided that Anna Mae was an informant.
The American Indian Movement dies in a snake pit from its own venomous bites. Members point fingers at each other and hurl accusations.
John Trudell testified that he was told of Anna Mae’s murder by Dennis Banks. Trudell says this was before the FBI announced that the Wanblee body was Aquash.
Dennis Banks stated in his memoir “Ojibwa Warrior” that Trudell told him that the Wanblee body was Anna Mae. This was also before the FBI announced the name.
The trial transcripts read like a bad script for a really bad movie. The federal government may have convicted Arlo Looking Cloud of aiding and abetting a murder. Without concrete evidence against Arlo, the federal government did not acquit themselves of the murder of Anna Mae Aquash.