The Life and Death of Anna Mae
by Our Freedom editor, August 2007
“The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash”, a book by Johanna Brand, is one of the best sources of information on the context of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash’s murder and her life’s struggle.
The book shows that Anna Mae was a national leader of the American Indian Movement and a brave, fully-committed warrior, not merely a victim or a ‘friend’ of people in AIM, as US government prosecutor James McMahon tried to portray her in Arlo Looking Cloud’s trial.
Brand explains that Anna Mae did not at all fit the profile of an FBI infiltrator or informer and that rumours about her to that effect were thought by some AIM members to have been started by a real FBI informer, infiltrator, and Goon Squad member, John Stewart.
“Whatever the accusation against her Anna Mae never acted according to the usual informer pattern, ” wrote Brand. “It was more common for a spy to be an unobtrusive person on the periphery of AIM or, if active, a disruptive force. Anna Mae Aquash was neither; the work she did undoubtedly benefited AIM and the accusations against her were based entirely on speculation.”
Brand also describes in detail the FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs’ attempt to cover up the cause of Anna Mae’s death as “exposure” and later blame her murder on AIM.
“…On March 11 , before the results of the second autopsy were known, a story appeared in the Rapid City Journal, captioned ‘FBI Denies AIM Implication That Aquash Was Informant,'” wrote Brand. “In this way the Bureau, responding publicly to charges that AIM had not made public, set the stage for its interpretation of a murder that had not yet been officially discovered.”
As Brand’s book and many other sources make clear, the FBI and the Goon Squad they supported are more likely responsible for Anna Mae’s murder than AIM.
In her book, Brand wrote that one of the BIA cops who was present when Anna Mae’s body was found was Paul Herman. Goon Squad member Duane Brewer admitted in an interview with reporter Kevin McKiernan that there was strong evidence linking Herman to Anna Mae’s murder, according to Ward Churchill’s essay “Death Squads in the United States”, based on the interview. Herman later pleaded guilty to “voluntary manslaughter” after murdering and torturing 15-year-old Sandra Wounded Foot and was sentenced to only 10 years in prison, and likely served less time than that.
Another BIA cop Brand says was there when Anna Mae’s body was found was Glenn Littlebird, who had also worked with Bob Ecoffey and FBI agents Coler and Williams when they went to the Jumping Bull area of the Pine Ridge reservation the day before the infamous June 26 shoot-out of 1975. Ecoffey also took part in the shoot-out, testified against Leonard Peltier during his frame-up trial for murdering the FBI agents, and worked with the FBI in the 1990s to frame-up Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham for the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. Ecoffey repeated a story at Looking Cloud’s trial, that he had told a Canadian “Fifth Estate” TV reporter previously, about Anna Mae being brought up to a fence before she was killed and that Looking Cloud had said that she knew then what was going to happen to her. In the same trial, the rancher who found Anna Mae’s body said there was no fence there at the time.
(It’s worth noting that Ward Churchill was involved in a 1999 press conference, alongside Russell Means and Robert Branscombe, calling for the Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham’s arrest)
Graffiti in Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver, Canada