Leonard Peltier’s Response to Anna Mae Investigation
Open Letter written – 9/29/99
Open letter from Leonard Peltier in response to reports from the recent press conference regarding Anna Mae Aquash:
I have just received and read a report written by Chris Nicholas about the recent press conference held in Canada in regard to Anna Mae. I am very shocked and saddened by what is being said and the misinformation and outright lies that are being spread about what happened to her and what has happened to me. I have not said anything up until now because I do not want to be involved in an investigation carried out in part, by Robert Ecoffey and the RCMP. Ecoffey was responsible for much of the terror and corruption that existed on Pine Ridge in the early 70′s. The RCMP, working with the FBI, submitted a fabricated statement against me over a year after I was arrested by them in Canada.
This statement has been used to justify my continued incarceration. Who would trust such sources to carry out an investigation into one of the many, many, people who were murdered in conjunction with the FBI on Pine Ridge during that era? I did not want to be involved in this, but now it looks like I must submit a public statement documenting my stance because I very much fear that innocent people will be railroaded as I have, into prison, and the governments of Canada and the U.S. will be happy to have given AIM the image of a vicious and corrupt terrorist organization which we absolutely were not. Am I saying that everyone who was in AIM was perfect? No. Am I saying that AIM is today what it was back then? No. But, what I am seeing is a clear attempt to destroy a very valid civil rights movement in order for those involved to both benefit and profit from Anna Mae’s death. Future movements for the rights of our people would always have to fight this unjustified image and work extra hard to be given any validity at all.
First off, I would like to start by offering my condolences to the family of Anna Mae and by expressing my strong desire to have her murder, along with all of the other murders that took place during that era, solved. I have been pushing for this since the beginning. And, though I am aware that her death was possibly carried out by an informer, a pawn of the FBI, I am convinced that justice will not be done until a complete investigation into the FBI’s involvement on Pine Ridge at that time is carried out.
Bob Branscombe, who is leading this investigation, cannot be trusted for several reasons. He says he is Anna Mae’s cousin and this is the reason why he has committed himself to finding out who killed her. However, he only found out about his Indian blood two years ago. Most importantly, he visited me in the fall of 1998 claiming to have a way to get me out. He came in to see me and offered me a deal saying that if I helped them to get a conviction against John Boy Patton, he could assure me the government would look upon this favorably and I would be granted parole. I asked how he knew they would do this. He said that he spoke with the DA in Colorado and she said she was willing to help get me out of prison. I replied that I could not help because I did not know anything. He said that it didn’t matter as long as I was willing to help. I then replied, “Are you telling me you want me to be a Myrtle Poor Bear?” He said, “well, you would be released within ten days if you would sign an affidavit against John Boy Patton.” I told him that I could not believe he was sitting there asking me to be the same type of person who lied against me and cost me my life. I am ready and willing to testify to this in court, under oath and after taking a lie detector test. Furthermore, Chris Nicholas, who is also involved in this, did not know Anna Mae, yet he is trying to portray himself as being her close friend.
He told me that he had only seen her once, briefly. I ask all Native people and the Pictou family to beware of these two men. I am sure they are in this to profit off of Anna Mae’s tragedy. Bob Branscombe’s new book about all of this is clear evidence. What angers me the most is that these men are now trying to force me into being involved in this; they are dragging me into something that I am against and something I know Anna Mae would have been against. They are even trying to use me as some sort of bargaining device against my will, stating that I will be released because of all of this. I would never accept being released in return for imprisoning someone unfairly convicted. Please know, I have seen the tactics they are using and I would refuse my release as a result.
Nicholas is saying that Anna Mae was murdered by AIM members because she was going to announce who killed the agents on Pine Ridge. She was not there and did not know. She signed an affidavit clearly stating this. Anna Mae was murdered because she was a skilled organizer and leader for our people. Independent investigators testified, right after her body was recovered, that there was absolutely no sign of rope burns on Anna Mae’s wrists and that she had gone willingly, either with the police or with someone she knew. They also testified that there was no evidence of rape. So I ask you to look critically upon this latest controversy and to keep in mind what I have told you. Yes, we want justice for Anna Mae. We want justice for all of the people who died at the hands of Dick Wilson, the BIA and the FBI. It is not justice when people need to be coerced into pointing fingers as was attempted with me. It is not justice if a full investigation into the FBI’s role in all of the deaths is not carried out.
In the Spirit Of Crazy Horse,
PO Box 1000
Leavenworth, KS 66048
[Source: Bobby Castillo, Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, posted to the People's Path website]
Leonard Peltier concerning Anna Mae Aquash murder investigation
May 1, 2003
Sisters, Brothers, Friends, & Supporters:
After so many years, it is a relief to see movement in the investigation of the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. It has always been my desire to have her murder solved. However, I caution everyone not to rush to judgment & instead to turn a critical eye to the government’s activities in this case. The government has yet to prove that those indicted for the murder of Annie Mae are guilty of any crime. I very much fear that innocent people may be railroaded, as I have been, into prison.
I am so concerned about another miscarriage of justice because of the visit I received from Bob Branscombe in the fall of 1998. He offered me a deal saying that if I helped to get a conviction against John Boy Patton (one of the men named in the present indictment), he could assure me that I would be granted parole. I couldn’t help because I didn’t know anything. I told him so. Branscombe told me this didn’t matter as long as I was willing to help. He said, “You’ll be released within ten days if you sign an affidavit against John Boy Patton.” I won’t ever accept being released in return for imprisoning someone who is unfairly convicted. But maybe there are others who find this kind of a deal acceptable? You can understand my doubts about how the government, aided by some of the media, will proceed in this case. Yes, we want justice for Annie Mae. But it’s not justice if people are coerced into falsely pointing fingers of blame.
It also is not justice if a full investigation into the FBI’s role in Annie Mae’s death is not included in the inquiry. Because the FBI told Anna Mae that they would see her dead within a year if she did not cooperate with them, & because of the way the FBI handled the incident of her death, I continue to believe that they were at fault for her murder. Any investigation that does not consider the fact that the FBI’s pathologist listed the cause of her death as exposure, despite the obvious bullet hole in her head, & then quickly had her buried before a positive identification could be made must be a bogus one. SA David Price was very familiar with Annie Mae’s appearance & saw her body after it was first recovered. I believe he recognized her & attempted to cover up her murder.
There are others who cry out for justice, too. What about Frank Clearwater, Buddy Lamont, Pedro Bissonette, & Joe Killsright Stuntz – to name only a few?
In the three years following Wounded Knee, Tribal Chairman Dick Wilson had the GOONs enforce his rules & anyone associated with AIM was targeted for violence. Their homes were burned. They were struck by cars, shot in drive-by shootings, & beaten. Between 1973 & 1976, over 60 traditionalists were murdered – Pine Ridge had the highest murder rate in the United States – & many more were assaulted. In almost every case, witness accounts indicated GOON responsibility, but nothing was done to stop the violence. On the contrary, the FBI supplied the GOONs with weaponry & intelligence on AIM, & looked the other way as the GOONs committed crimes.
As I have done many times in the past, I call on all of my supporters to urge the U.S. Congress to investigate the Reign of Terror. I believe Anna Mae’s murder was the direct result of the FBI’s activities on Pine Ridge. I say this not because I believe Annie Mae was an informant. No. I never believed nor took seriously rumors that Anna Mae Aquash was an FBI informant. I believe, instead, that Anna Mae was murdered because she was a skilled organizer & leader for our people. There is no clearer example of FBI misconduct than the Reign of Terror. The events that happened there should not be allowed to be forgotten nor covered up by time.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Responds to the Recent Arrest of John Boy Graham in Vancouver, BC
December 5, 2003
It is obvious to anyone who looks at the past few years with an open mind and a remembrance of COINTELPRO, that the FBI’s program of misinformation and discrediting of activists is alive and well. I encourage all who come into contact with this finger-pointing behavior to also look at the person pointing.
Your commitment to a cause, for the most part has to include a dedication to non-combat with your own people. If you get caught up in a combative cycle you will spend most of your time fighting rumors and accusations and each other. When we talk of sovereignty, we must be willing to solve our own problems and not go running to the oppressor for relief.
Since the Patriot Act was passed, the government has gone back through records and is trying to re-file on anyone it can, in any way. If you look at the history of colonization world-wide, the oppressor always identifies the individuals within the resistance movement that they can buy off and starts funding them. They likewise start neutralizing their opposition by discrediting individual leaders by whatever means necessary; it is the old “Divide and Conquer” routine.
There are a lot of people in Indian Country claiming to know this or that about someone else. Ask for proof, if you’re going to consider their words. All the rumor mongers have scenarios they’ve come up with to, in essence, set a trap for anyone willing to listen.
My father once said that our greatest weaknesses have always been booze, flattery and jealousy. If you look closely, you will find one or more of these at the foundation of the finger pointing. Growing up, I always heard my people say, “Ignore people’s misstatements about you and live your life so that all can see your true character”.
With today’s technology of media, it has been found through surveys that a statement, whether true or not, is taken for truth if not countered within a 24-hour period. As the old saying goes, “A lie will travel around the world, while the truth is just putting its boots on”. I have been in prison for over 27 years because of lies about myself, my people and my culture so I am sensitive to those who would make quick judgments without knowing the facts of a case. Notice that I say “knowing”, not “believing”.
I fear that John Boy will not receive a fair trial in the US anymore than I did. I must remind you, it is court record that the FBI lied to extradite me back to the US. I know that their behavior hasn’t changed just as I know that Anna Mae was not an informant. As much as I want justice for Anna Mae, I likewise do not want an injustice to be enacted against one of our own in the name of crime-solving – so that some finger-pointing government lackey can get a feather in his cap.
The death of Anna Mae should be considered Indian Business – Indigenous Nation to Indigenous Nation. We still have within the framework of our culture the capacity to deal with our own problems and mete out the appropriate punishment, according to the offense. Anna Mae was a victim of the oppressor – any person who had part in her death likewise, in some form is and always will be a victim; for what person can ever feel good about the death of a beautiful young Indian woman, mother and activist for her people? Those responsible for her death, whether they pulled the trigger or not, must surely suffer strongly from their own fears as to want someone as her no longer among the living.
Some of my brothers and I once had a conversation about such possibilities and it was unanimous: we are not here to fight our own people and to take the life of even one of our own would discredit our cause. Likewise, it will not serve us to take the life of anyone. Our battles have always been in defense and to keep the enemy back while using the media to let average Americans know what was being done to our people in their name with their tax dollars.
Someone once said that you can measure the stature of a man by the size of his enemy. With that in mind, I say to our people,
“We have been and still are at odds with the most dangerous, well-funded, strongest military and political organization in the history of the world.”
If you sometimes feel overwhelmed, as I sometimes am, then remember Geronimo, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Osceola, Tecumseh and a host of others – you are in good company.
I am proud to be a Native American because my people before me stood up against overwhelming odds so that I might have a chance to exist. They were successful, as I am living proof. I pray to the Creator that the future generations will feel the same about us because we will stand up and will be successful and they will be living proof.
Stay Strong My Relatives.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
[Source: Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, http://www.freepeltier.org
Leonard’s Reaction to Kamook Banks and the Arlo Looking Cloud Trial
February 10, 2004
By Leonard Peltier
First of all, I want to thank all those who have been standing up for the American Indian Movement and myself. The Arlo Looking Cloud trial was nothing more than an indirect presentation of another Myrtle Poorbear to discredit AIM and myself, and to extradite John Graham. I am an innocent man. The government knows that, and Kamook knows I am innocent as well.
On a personal note, Kamook’s testimony was like being stabbed in the heart while simultaneously being told your sister just died. I cannot convey enough, the shock and hurt that I felt. Of all the fabrications that the government has used to keep me imprisoned, this one hurt so deeply. I would have laid down my life to defend Kamook and her people and I did risk it several times. If there has ever been a time during my 28 years in this hole that I have felt disheartened, it is now. I loved Kamook as my own family. I can’t believe the $43,000 the FBI gave her was a determining factor for her to perjure herself on the witness stand. There must have been some extreme threat the FBI or their cronies put upon her.
If you want to know who is responsible for Anna Mae’s death, just look around and see who else has been irresponsibly pointing fingers at proven warriors. This kind of behavior is doing the dirty work of the F.B.I. and the corporate entities that seek to control or own Native lands and resources. All of those who took part in this abortion of justice in Rapid City should be ashamed. I would say more, but my emotions are overwhelming at the moment.
We as a people and a nation need to honor those who sacrificed for the people and not forget them as they become elders. In every generation we must stand strong. The enemy has many masks and the ideologies that drive it are centuries old now, the gluttonous appetite for money and power of those addicted. I will not give up and it’s not over until it’s over. Speak, organize, demonstrate, pray, help the poor and oppressed, be a good example, and most of all “don’t ever give up!”
In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse,
Peltier Statement on Graham Extradition Hearing
December 6, 2004
Today, the U.S. government will seek John Graham’s extradition to stand trial in South Dakota for the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. I urge all of you to closely monitor the proceedings and ensure that Canadian authorities thoroughly examine all the evidence presented by the U.S. government in this case.
Never forget the role of U.S. law enforcement officials in incidents that took place in the 1970s on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tirelessly tried to prejudice the fair trial rights of American Indian Movement leaders charged with serious crimes during that turbulent period and knowingly presented false evidence to illegally obtain my extraction from Canada in December 1976.
You may be thinking “That was then, this is now.” Yes, many things have changed since the 1970s, but one thing has not changed, I assure you: Indians in the U.S. continue to struggle against the most dangerous, well-funded, strongest military and political organization in the world. I know the behavior of the FBI and other government officials has not changed. I fear that Graham will not receive a fair hearing in Canada or a fair trial in the U.S., anymore than I did.
To the Canadian officials I say, justice cannot be achieved if a full investigation into the FBI’s role in Annie Mae’s death is not included in the inquiry. Annie Mae’s death was the direct result of the FBI’s activities on Pine Ridge. The FBI told Anna Mae that they would see her dead within a year if she did not cooperate with them, used their puppets to spread rumors that Annie Mae was an informant when she refused to cooperate, and mishandled the investigation of her death. Your investigation must consider the fact that the FBI’s pathologist listed the cause of her death as exposure, despite the obvious bullet hole in her head, and Annie Mae’s quick burial before a positive identification could be made.
Your investigation also must include examination of FBI Special Agent David Price who was very familiar with Annie Mae’s appearance and saw her body after it was first recovered, yet failed to identify her. I believe he attempted to cover up her murder. When this was no longer possible, due to the findings of an independent pathologist, the FBI issued a false press release implying that some of her own people murdered Annie Mae because they believed she was an informant. Look for and find the truth. In so doing, remember that officials of the U.S. violated your sovereignty in 1976 by deceiving your courts and using you to wrongfully convict an innocent man. Remember. And be vigilant. The First Nations of the U.S. and Canada want justice for Anna Mae, but also do not want an injustice done in her name.
Leonard Peltier’s Affidavit Submitted to John Graham’s Extradition Defense
I, Leonard Peltier, of Leavenworth USP, in the City of Leavenworth, in the State of Kansas, hereby make oath and say as follows that sometime in or about 1998 or 1999, Robert Branscombe and his wife visited with me here at the Leavenworth penitentiary. Branscombe stated that he was investigating the death of Anna Mae Aquash and he had a proposition to make to me. About this time, Shannon got up and went to the bathroom. Branscombe said he was working with Ecoffey and the Denver police, including Abel Alonzo. He asked if I would help in their investigation. I told him that I knew nothing about her death, so how could I help them. I told him I suspected the FBI had some involvement because of records I had seen. Branscombe told me that they were after the leadership of AIM, including Dennis Banks and Vernon Bellecourt. I repeated I knew nothing and did not believe they were involved. Branscombe said that because of my credibility he had spoken with the U.S. attorney who had indicated that they could help me get out of prison if I cooperated. I asked him whether they wanted me to lie and become another Myrtle Poor Bear. Branscombe replied that, “We can help you. All you have to do is name names and testify against the leadership.” I repeated that I would never lie and become a Myrtle Poor Bear like the government did to me. I told him the visit was over and I refused to say anything else to him.
[Text from affidavit of Leonard Peltier, filed by John Graham’s legal defence, from the decision of “The Honourable Madam Justice Bennett Ruling on an Application to Stay Proceedings”, January 31, 2005, U.S.A. v. Graham, Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada]
Outside the courthouse, Vancouver, Feb. 21, 2005, Photo: Joni Miller
Centre: Elder-warrior Harriet Nahanee and Chief Te Kapilano of the Squamish Nation
Text of Leonard Peltier Letter on John Graham and Robert Robideau
[Letter from US prisoner Leonard Peltier to former UBC professor and Canadian Amnesty International worker Dr. Jennifer Wade, written April 18, 2007; postmarked in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, May 4, 2007; received May 10, 2007 in Vancouver, transcribed with notes and spelling corrections by Rex Weyler, journalist, The Institute for Citizen Journalism, Vancouver, BC, Canada]
Box # 1000
Lewisburg, PA, 17837
Dr. Jennifer Wade
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Please allow me to begin by apologizing for not responding to your letters, it was not [that] there is anything personal etc, al, it’s just that I have so much on my plate at times I don’t know if I’m coming or going, and to even have the time to answer my friends becomes a hassle!
“Do I support Bob [Robideau] in his efforts to get John [Graham] railroaded into prison? Hell No! I’d be a goddamn hypocrite if I did. Because I know just about as much as Bob knows about Anna Mae’s murder and that is not a goddamn thing. I know Bob is full of shit and that if the truth be known he did not even know her. He my have spoken a casual Hello or something like that, otherwise he did not know her.
What is his alternative(s)? Well, in his mind, which as far as I’m concerned is very small!, this keeps his name in front of the public and he has an issue to keep his name in Indian issues. You will notice Bob does not go and make these statements on Pine Ridge or anywhere in Indian Country. He would get his ass beat down bad! A dry snitch is just as bad as a snitch! And that is what he is doing, dry snitching, saying shit he has no proof of. Hey, if he had real proof, he would have sold it along time ago, because this is his real motive, $ $.
Bob got hooked up with B[arry] Bachrach while he was still living in Spain. He actually became Bob’s lawyer more than mine. I told them repeatedly I did not want any involvement in what they were trying to do with John G. [Graham]. Finally last month I accepted Barry’s resignation, and I’m waiting for Bob to do the same. Remember Jennifer, I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t, and believe me that is one Hell of a burden to have to endure. So I have to wait for his [Robideau’s] resignation. [small angry face drawn on original]
The government does not want the whole truth to come out about Indian peoples’ struggles. Clear up to the current day & time, they have always denied their genocidal attacks and continue to do so today. And any Indian who works with them supports their claims [that] the genocide never happened.
Look, I don’t know if John is guilty or innocent. What I do know is this: He will not receive a fair trial if he is returned, so we will not know any more than we know now what happened to her [Anna Mae Aquash]. I don’t know how I can help. I cannot even help myself. It looks more & more every day that I will die in prison. Personally, I know the government was involved some how? This is how COINTEL works.
Well my friend, I need to end this. Please contact the director Toni of the L.P.D.C. [Leonard Peltier Defense Committee; phone # withheld, available on request]. We need to keep in touch. Take care.
In the spirit of Crazy Horse,
P.S. Yes, I heard Harriet died.
[Harriet Nahanee, Salish elder; small sad-face drawn on original.]