All excerpts are in italics and from THE UNQUIET GRAVE by Steve Hendricks.
I came across the story of Jancita Eagle Deer spread across several chapters of THE UNQUIET GRAVE by Steve Hendricks. The story so haunting and horrific so much injustice…a story that was all to easy to imagine stepping into and yet in a world so far away. Jancita to me represents the stories of many young girls unnamed and unseen in the unacknowledged places known as reservations in the United States.
It is a story that challenges me to pray rather than be filled with hatred for the injustice of it all. Not easy for me.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Jancita who lived on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Indian reservations were created by very greedy white men and the greedy women who choose to sleep with them. As Americans we know the story of the Brady Bunch isn’t true…childhood is full of pain and hurt, wounds and scars, sprinkled between moments of carefree and wonderful moments. I think that Indians on Pine Ridge lived the Brady Bunch Negative Extreme…instead of families coming together the bad greedy white men rip them apart. Stole their children and sent them to houses of horror called boarding schools. If you can imagine Satan running a boarding school….well it is probably worse than your imagination. Mothers and Father’s are helpless as greedy men and women kidnap their children re-name them in the name of Christianity (although Christ himself would have nothing to do with the insanity of such loveless actions) subjected to all manner of abuse, readily scorned and attempts made to scour their memory of who they really were.
Young Jancita attended one of these little houses of horror and on
“Saturday night in January 1967, Jancita Eagle Deer was checked out of her dormitory at the Rosebud Boarding School in Mission, South Dakota, by Bill Janklow. Eagle Deer was a full-blooded Lakota with bobbed hair of pitch, eyelashes of a length other girls would sell fingers for, a full cheeked smile, and a frame of pleasing proportions. She was fifteen. Her parents had been unable to care for her, owing to the same alcoholism and despair that had cleaved Anna Mae Aquash from her parents she had been placed with foster parents, John and Yvonne Arcoren, With the help of attorneyJanklow, the Arcorens were in the process of adopting Eagle Deer. Janklow had also helped Eagle Deer gain admittance to the BIA boarding school in Mission where he lived, and since the Arcorens lived twenty miles away in St. Francis, Janklow assumed an avuncular posture toward the girl. On that Saturday night, her brought her home for dinner with his family, after which she was to go to a dance. At five minutes before eight-the time would assume some importance- Janklow drove her the half-mile downtown, but the dance hall was unlit: they were too early.
“We might as well drive around until the dance starts,” Janklow said.
“Can I go to a movie?” Eagle Deer said.
He replied, in her version of the story, “Wouldn’t you rather drink with me?”
“I’d rather go to the dance.”
They may have briefly driven around the town, a sprinkling of bruised buildings and rutted streets that would not have sustained much driving, but soon they headed west into the countryside on U.S. Highway 18. A few miles from town, he turned the car north on a dirt section-line track and in the story Eagle Deer told-allof which Janklow has repeatedly and vehemently denied- drove until he reached a small rise where a gate blocked their progress…..
He reached across her seat, pushed a lever, and as the seat fell back pushed her back with it. She tried to get up but he held her down.
“The first time I saw you in my office, I was crazy about you,” he said. “And I have been ever since.” He asked her to come away with him.
She said he had a wife and children.
“To hell with them. I’ll get a divorce.”
Not knowing what else to say, she said his wife was nice and he shouldn’t divorce her, but he was unbuttoning her blouse and seemed not to hear. She hit him and said she wanted to go back to town, but he kept unbuttoning, so she kept hitting.
“Goddamn, what are you so frightened about?” he said. “I won’t hurt you.”
Funny how men think that rape will not hurt a girl….this is common among child molesters and rapists.
he got her blouse unbuttoned, unbuckled his belt, and unzipped his pants. He raised her skirt and tried to pull down her underwear. She was flailing, and it took some doing to get the underwear off, but at last he mounted her. The rape, according to Jancita Eagle Deer of the eighth grade, lasted about ten minutes. What she felt or thought, whether she continued to struggle or went limp, what precisely her assailant was alleged to have done-the sounds and smells and touch of her particular hell-is nowhere recorded.
When Janklow was sated, he got off her and told her to put her underwear on. She did and pulled her skirt back down and buttoned her blouse. He reassembled himself, put the car in gear, and started back to town. The dashboard clock read 8:50
They were silent until Janklow took three dollar bills from his wallet and geve them to her. She wouldn’t tell anyone, would she?
She took the money without comment.
He said he was going to Denver on Wednesday and asked if she would come along.
“If I could take one of my girlfriends,” she said.
They drove on in silence.
“What if I wanted to check you out of the dorm. What would you do?”
“I don’t know.”
When they arrived downtown, he let her out at the dance hall and told her to come back home after the dance. She did not. Next morning, he saw her on the street with friends, ordered her into his car, and drove her home. He sent his wife to the store (?? can you imagine??? that’s why I’m not married!!!) and yelled at Eagle Deer for staying out all night. She asked him to take her back to school. At one o’clock on Sunday afternoon he did, and she went directly to a dormitory matron, Catherine Bordeaux, who could see she had been crying. Eagle Deer said she had been raped and told the foregoing story.
“Are you sure what you’re saying is true?” Bordeaux said when Eagle Deer had finished. “A false statement could get you in a lot of trouble.”
“He took advantage of me,” Eagle Deer said. “And I have proof.”
She unbuttoned her shirt, revealing what Bordeaux described as a nickel-sized “discoloration of the skin” on her upper left breast. Another hickey was visible on the right side of her neck. Eagle Deer credited both to Janklow.
While they were talking, the phone rang. It was Janklow, and he asked to talk to Eagle Deer, but Bordeaux said the girl was distraught and didn’t want to speak with him. She hung up and went to tell her supervisor, (Today she should have immediately called the police. And then notified her supervisor.) Kaye Lord, about Eagle Deer’s claim. while Lord and Bordeaux were talking, an aide rushed up to them and said that Janklow had stormed into the office where Eagle Deer was waiting and that it sounded “like big trouble in there”- the girl crying, the man hollering. Lord went in to the office and sent Eagle Deer out. (Should have sent him out) When the tearful girl emerged, she told Bordeaux in the hallway, “Mr. Janklow told me not to get him into trouble. He said he would buy me everything I wanted.”
Inside the office, Kay Lord found janklow pacing. She said, “I think you had better tell me your side of the story.”
He agreed. He said the night before, Eagle Deer had had supper with his family, after which she had asked to have a couple of drinks. He had said no. A little before eight, she asked if she could go to the dance, and a few minutes later he drove her downtown. Because the dance hall was darkened, he wouldn’t let her out of the car. She asked if he would buy her peppermint schnapps, and he said, “Of course not.” They drove for maybe thirty-five minutes.At about ten minutes to nine, he let her off at the dance hall and told her to come home by a quarter of two. She didn’t, and he picked her up in Mission the next morning. In the afternoon he dropped her at her dormitory. That was it. He asked to see Eagle Deer.
Lord said it would be too upsetting and suggested he leave. After he did, she called Eagle Deer back into the office and asked to hear her side. Eagle Deer told the same story she had told Bordeaux and showed Lord the hickey on her breast. Lord called Eagle Deer’s stepparents and the school’s principal, but not for several hours did she call the BIA police, and not until Monday morning, thirty-six hours after the alleged rape, did a doctor at the Rosebud Hospital examine Eagle Deer.(That is so heartbreaking that adults running the boarding school could choose hour after hour to take the wrong action.)
On that Monday an investigator of the BIA, Peter Pitchlynn began an inquiry, and on Wednesday he made a report to the FBI. The FBI made its own investigation and made a report to the U.S. attorney. A month later, an assistant U.S. attorney wrote the FBI that “there is insufficient evidence to support the allegations. of the victims, and said allegations. are unfounded.” Janklow was not prosecuted.
Dennis Banks became interested in the story of Jancita Eagle Deer in 1974…
But there was not proof , no investigative reports from Pitchlynn or the FBI, no medical exam, no physical evidence. The case was a classic he -said/she-said.
…Banks was shown Peter Pitchlynn’s BIA report by officials of the Rosebud tribal government who were friendly to AIM. Whatever the origin and nature of the new discoveries, they convinced Banks to file a claim against Janklow. he did not, in Rosebud Tribal Court, in October 1974…
Because tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over major crimes on reservations (federal courts do), AIM accused Janklow not of rape per se but of conduct unbecoming a member of the tribal bar. (Janklow had been a member of the bar since his legal aid days on Rosebud.) In addition to the rape claim, Banks accused Janklow of drunken driving, disobeying police officers, perjury, and malpractice. Judge Gonzalez received the complaint, ordered a hearing to determine whether the would-be-attorney general should be disbarred, and appointed Banks special prosecutor-a rare turnabout of an Indian prosecuting his white prosecutor.
…a small weekly newspaper of discreetly leftist views called a press conference in Sioux Falls. The featured speakers were Jancita Eagle Deer and Peter Pitchlynn. Eagle Deer, looking exhausted and frail, was given the microphone first. She said, in a voice almost too faint to be heard, (a common occurrence for someone who has had their power taken away.) that seven years ago she had been raped by Bill Janklow. Reporters asked her to speak up. She did for a few moments, but her voice dribbled back down again. The reporters asked again, she tried again, failed again. After a few minutes, the host, publisher Richard Barnes, suggested that Eagle Deer take some time to collect herself and gave the podium to Peter Pitchlynn.
Pitchlynn said that when he investigated the case in 1967 he believed Eagle Deer’s claim that Janklow had raped her, and he still believed her today. He had recommended Janklow be prosecuted. He assumed the FBI agent who had investigated the case after him, and whose investigation trumped his, had disagreed, but he didn’t know. The agent and the assistant U.S.attorney who declined to prosecute were both white; Pitchlynn was Indian.
When the microphone was returned to Eagle Deer, a man named Jeremiah Murphy took over the questioning. Murphy was not a reporter but a lawyer, Bill Janklow’s lawyer to be precise.
“Wasn’t Bill Janklow your guardian?” he asked Eagle Deer.
“No sir,” she said. “It was my foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Arcoren.”
“But didn’t Bill get you into this girl’s dorm, and didn’t he sign as your guardian?”
“No, he didn’t get me-”
“Why do the records show that?”
Eagle Deer said she had no idea.
“Another question. To constitute a rape there must be penetration. According to the prosecutor’s office on the Rosebud Reservation and the doctor’s reports at the Rosebud Hospital, there was no penetration. How could it be rape?”
“There was,” she protested.
“The doctor’s report shows there was no penetration, nothing happened, no physical abuse to you, no marks on your body whatsoever.”
“That’s not true.”
“It’s right there in black and white, on the reservation, in the hospital.”
“I guess Bill Janklow bought the doctor out-and the tribal chairman-” stammered Eagle Deer, clearly grasping at reeds.(This is so sad…I have to keep starting and stopping in order not to become enraged…many prayers for Jancita.)
“The records are still there,” Murphy said. “I looked at them last week.” He changed direction. “Isn’t it also true that you showed up on Bill Janklow’s doorstep since he’s been in Pierre? You’ve been to his house, you’ve called him on the telephone?”
“Yes, I called him once about two years ago.”
“And you’ve been at his house in Pierre.”
“No. I’ve never been to his house.”
“Now, there’s hotel records that show that you were in Pierre.”
“Yes, I was in Pierre.”
“And you were at his house, and Bill Janklow paid for that room so that you’d stay away from his house.” (WOW isn’t this whole exchange indicative of Bill Janklow’s inappropriate behavior??? If someone accuses you of rape do you pay for their hotel seven years later??? Jancita’s behavior is typical of someone who has never received treatment for their victimization.)
“I’ve never been at his house. he told me he would help me if ever I needed help. And so I called him. I was going through a divorce and, uh-”
“Well, if this man raped you, why in the hell would you call him for help? You said he’s threatened your life, you said he’s reaped you. And then you call this man and say, “Would you help me get a divorce?”
Murphy did not subscribe to the theory that victims could become psychologically attached to their victimizers.
“I didn’t ask him to help me get a divorce,” Eagle Deer said. “I figured he would probably do me some good if he would just help me.”
Murphy then begins to question Pitchlynn becoming more and more angry with each question.
Finally he ejaculated, “Somebody’s after Bill Janklow’s ass!…I’ve never been upset in my life, but there’s a man out there with a family, with some kids that he’s got to explain to in the morning things that were put on the television about him.”
Publisher Richard Barnes interjected, “Well, what about Jancita when she was a kid?”
“Jancita, when she was a kid, was represented by the man who’s now Attorney General Kermit Sand’s campaign chairman-Harold Doyle, the United States district attorney at the time. She was represented by good people. There was no case. It was a put-up job. You’ve been calling all over the state. Why didn’t you call and check the records on the reservation? You’ll find out that you need the U.S. attorney before you look at the damn things.”
With that, Murphy shoved papers at Eagle Deer, Pitchlynn, and Barnes-summonses for a defamation lawsuit Janklow intended to file against them-and the conference came to a close.
The reporters never asked how Jeremiah Murphy had seen the papers he said he had seen, papers like Eagle Deer’s school and medical records. these were personal documents, protected by law from prying eyes like Murphy’s, as any lawyer would have known. ….
Nor, above all, did reporters investigate the truth or falsity of the competing stories told by Murphy and Eagle Deer. They simply decreed Eagle Deer wrong.
A few days later, the Court of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Judge Mario Gonzales presiding, convened to hear evidence In re disbarment of William Janklow. The only reporter in attendance was Minnesota freelancer Kevin McKiernan. Janklow did not attend either, though Gonzalez had ordered him to appear and show cause why he should not be disbarred. Gonzalez had also ordered a BIA police officer to bring the BIA’s file on the alleged rape, but the officer’s superiors ordered him not to give Gonzalez the “confidential” file.This was a large insult. Virtually every court in the nation was entitled to review police records when relevant to a case at hand. For the BIA to say that Judge Gonzalez could not see the records was tantamount to saying that his court was no court.
There was irony in this turn of events because tribal courts had been created a century before by the Indian Bureau to strip traditional chiefs of power and give it to Indian Judges who could be kept servile.
Gonzalez answered the BIA’s insult by jailing the officer who refused to hand over the file and promising the same for his superiors if they set foot on the reservation. Judge Bogue immediately reversed Gonzalez and, more insult to injury, misspelled his name.
Dennis Banks proceeded with his case, calling twenty witnesses against Janklow.
Eagle Deer testified, in Gonzalez’s words, “in obvious discomfort at reliving old horrors.” He found her testimony entirely credible. Kaye Lord and others recounted the rape as Eagle Deer had told them, and eagle Deer’s medical records, unlike her police file, were produced by the hospital. Contrary to the press-conference claim of Jeremiah Murphy, the records contained evidence of some kind, not made explicit by Judge Gonzalez, that was consistent with a claim of sexual assault.
“Furthermore,” Gonzalez wrote, “the evidence indicates that an obstruction of justice followed the rape. When a complaint was being made to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Special Officer, Janklow was there. No relief or representation was possible through the Legal Services Program since Mr. Janklow ran it…..testimony indicates that as recently as two months ago, Mr. Janklow offered Miss Eagledeer’s grandfather money after inquiring about her. The depth of the suffering which Miss Eagledeer conveyed in her testimony cannot be reproduced through words on paper. Feeling shame, she left the Rosebud Reservation and returned only once until today. Her foster parents testified that her grades and interest in school fell after she was raped. She still feels frightened and inhibited by the beastly act committed against her by Mr. Janklow. It can only be hoped that she will come to realize that she should hold her head up proud for she has not guilt. She is a victim.”
Gonzalez disbarred Janklow from tribal court, then went one better and issued a warrant for his arrest.
The newspapers of the state might have been expected o give at least a few paragraph to the warrant, to the disbarment , or to the finding that Janklow had raped Eagle Deer.
They did not.
On the night of Friday, April 4th, 1975, two weeks after(Doug) Durham was unmasked(by AIM as an FBI informant), two teenagers in a Pontiac GTO were careening across the southern Nebraska plain when they collided with a woman on foot. A suitcase she was carrying was impaled on the bumper of their car, the rest of her belongings were scattered across 70 feet, and her body was thrown 150 feet from the point of impact. When deputy sheriffs arrived, they found Jancita Eagle Deer lying partly across the road, perpendicular to traffic, and had badly mangled-dead beyond question. The boys who hit her said she was standing in the middle of their driving land and appeared to be weaving and disheveled. They hit her, they said, at fifty or fifty-five miles per hour and did not stop to see whether she was alive or dead, or even to move her out of traffic. Instead they continued to a nearby farmhouse and called the police. The deputies believed the boys’ general story but did not find the details convincing. Their survey of the accident scene suggested that Eagle Deer had been standing not in the middle of the lane but much closer to the shoulder and that the boys had been driving much faster than fifty-five. They had hit her because they were driving recklessly. The officers, however, did not issue so much as a written warning to the driver. Coincidentally or not, the driver belonged to one of the more prosperous families of the nearby town of Aurora and, unlike his victim, was white.
A few months later AIM’s Paula Giese made a more thorough investigation. She apparently spoke with the boys, who said that Eagle Deer had been “trying to flag them down. They assumed she had been pushed from a car by ’some guy she wouldn’t put out for’ and had a few laughs about this. As they sped toward her, they expected her to jump out of the way, but they struck her.” Giese concluded that the boys had been criminally reckless but did not kill Eagle Deer intentionally.
She wondered, however, about Doug Durham . During her investigation, Giese learned that on Eagle Deer’s final afternoon, she had left South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation for Des Moines with a dark-haired man in a late-sixties blue Chevrolet. The two of them were last seen in Valentine, Nebraska just south of Rosebud. The logical route from Valentine to DesMoines passed a hundred miles north of where Eagle Deer was killed. no one could explain her presence outside Aurora. Giese suspected that the dark-haired man was Durham and that if Eagle Deer had indeed been unsteady and disheveled just before her death, it was because Durham had beaten her and kicked her out of his car, perhaps while it was moving.
Giese had reason for her suspicions: eight months before her end, Durham had taken Eagle Deer for a lover and had quickly become her batterer.
The two had met in the summer of 1974. When Johnny cake came to AIM that July with his story about the rape of Eagle Deer, it was Durham whom Dennis Banks sent to investigate the claim. By coincidence, Durham and Eagle Deer both lived in Des Moines at the time.
Durham brought Eagle Deer to the AIM office in St. Paul, seducing her en route.
“About fifteen seconds after I first laid eyes on her,” Paula Giese wrote, “Jancita blurted out to me the story of the rape, the fact, as she saw it, that she was going to marry Durham, a few facts about his twenty-thousand-dollar a year salary in AIM, which caused my jaw to drop even further, and some facts about the near-fatal illness for which she was going to help him get cured. I felt it was hopeless to enlighten her, although in seven months of working ‘under’ Durham at the AIM house, I already knew he was a rotten character so far as women are concerned and I also knew he didn’t have leukemia, although he had for a while conned me into excusing a lot on the grounds that he’d soon be dead.”
Eagle Deer told AIM the story of the rape, and AIM declined at first to press it. when Eagle Deer dropped out of sight, Giese assumed Durham had taken her back to Des Moines. In fact, he had set her up in a Twin Cities apartment. “She was kept drunk,” Giese later claimed, “and a few Indian women became aware that Durham was, in effect, pimping for her.” He was also beating her. Once, when she threatened to leave him, he said if she did so, AIM would take her daughter and raise her “as an Indian” on a reservation.
Eagle Deer stayed put.
Three months after Eagle Deer was killed, Paula Giese received a call at the AIM office from a man who would not give his name but whose stiff manner and diction made her think he was a lawman.
“I understand you are interested in Doug Durham and are investigating the death of a young Indian girl, Jancita Eagle Deer,” the man said. “You might like to know that the license of the car that picked her up on the afternoon of April 4″-the day of her death-”was checked. the car belongs to Durham’s father.”
The man did not explain how a license plate number had been found for the car, nor did he say anything else before hanging up.
…the Sheldahls, (Jancita’s relatives) told Giese that when the Nebraska police gave them Eagle Deer’s personal effects, her address book was missing. Eagle Deer had always kept the book with her and, according to one witness, had it when she left rosebud on the day of ther death. The Sheldahls said the FBI had questioned them more than once about the adderss book’s whereabouts. They also said that not long after Eagle Deer’s death, their house was broken into. Nothing of value was taken, but Eagle Deer’s papers had been gone through and some may have been removed. The Sheldahls were certain that Durham or his colleagues were responsible for the break-in. “But what can we do?” one of the Sheldahls said. “Those people have so much power.”
For more on this story and the alleged rapist Bill Janklow please see the page THE TALE OF KILLER AND ALLEGED RAPIST EX-GOVERNOR AND CONGRESSMAN BILL JANKLOW