Public Statement on Ward Churchill and John Graham
By some of John Graham’s supporters in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory
John Graham and Arlo Looking Cloud, former members of the American Indian Movement, are currently being framed with the 1975-76 murder of AIM leader Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. Looking Cloud has already been convicted and sentenced in South Dakota to life in prison. Graham is in prison in Vancouver awaiting the final word on his extradition appeals. John Graham lives in Vancouver and has strong support from indigenous sovereigntists here and in other parts of British Columbia. The support campaign for John Graham is one of the main elements of indigenous resistance organizing in Vancouver.
Ward Churchill has made repeated contentious statements regarding the case against John Graham. On October 28, 2007, a few non-Native anti-poverty activists brought Ward Churchill to Vancouver for a forum on anti-Olympics organizing. These people were not representatives of the indigenous resistance movement in Vancouver and this event negatively impacted local grassroots Native organizers.
The Anti-Poverty Committee (APC) asked one indigenous organizer for support of the event beforehand and although APC also tried to contact the John Graham Defense Committee about participation in the event, they did not meaningfully consult key people such as John Graham, his family and his defense committee, or other Natives involved in anti-Olympics organizing. Two other Natives involved in the event were not informed of the contention around Churchill until that night and even then were only informed by those who had come to challenge Churchill.
In 1999, Ward Churchill was part of a press conference in Denver, Colorado, with Robert Branscombe and Russell Means, the purpose of which was for Branscombe to publicly name Graham (AKA John Boy Patton) and Looking Cloud as Anna Mae’s killers.
During the press conference, Branscombe claimed that some AIM leaders, including Leonard Peltier, had been aware of what happened to Anna Mae as far back as March of 1976. Branscombe also admitted to working on the case with Denver police officer Abe Alonzo, while Russell Means admitted to working with long-time law enforcement agent Robert Ecoffey. Now a self-proclaimed graduate of the FBI academy, Ecoffey took part as a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) cop in the June 26, 1975, FBI and BIA attack on an AIM camp at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, leading to the deaths of two FBI agents and AIM warrior Joe Stuntz Killsright. This event became known as the “Incident at Oglala” for which Leonard Peltier was extradited from Canada based on FBI-falsified affidavits and sentenced to two life terms for killing the agents in a frame-up trial in North Dakota. Ecoffey also testified against Peltier at that trial. In 2004, Ecoffey testified as a government witness against Looking Cloud.
Also during the press conference, Branscombe said that he was not an FBI agent as Leonard Peltier had claimed in a recent statement. This was in reference to a public letter Peltier had released in September of 1999, a few days before the Denver press conference, in which Peltier said that Branscombe had visited him in prison in 1998 and offered him his freedom in exchange for signing a false affidavit against Graham, which Peltier refused to do. Peltier wrote that, because of their actions, neither Branscombe nor Ecoffey could be trusted to investigate Anna Mae’s murder, but he did not specifically say Branscombe was an FBI agent in this letter.
Despite these damaging FBI-based accusations and actions against AIM members on the part of Branscombe and Ecoffey, Churchill still went ahead and spoke at the 1999 Denver press conference after Means and Branscombe. Churchill did not counter the FBI-fed disinformation that Branscombe and Means were spouting.
Churchill’s books and writing have also contributed to the FBI disinformation campaign around Anna Mae’s murder. In the 1990 COINTELPRO Papers, Churchill wrote;
“The FBI, apparently proceeding on the belief that the bad-jacketing efforts undertaken against Aquash by certain of the Bureau’s provocateurs (notably Douglass Durham and Darryl ‘Blue Legs’ Stewart) may have caused her death, has consistently – and without success – attempted to build a case that AIM members executed her as a ‘suspected informer.'”
Churchill then made a complete 180-degree turn in the 2002 introduction to the second edition of Agents of Repression;
“Given that Aquash was demonstrably bad-jacketed by FBI provocateur Douglass Durham in the months before her death, it has always been generally understood that she had fallen victim to this most-refined and insidious of the Bureau’s many ‘political neutralization’ tactics. Suspicions have remained rife in AIM circles, moreover, that the role of FBI personnel was far more direct than merely setting the victim up to be murdered.”
He goes on to write that, “Such views were bestowed with a peculiar but substantial appearance of confirmation” when Robert Branscombe held a press conference in Ottawa on September 16, 1999, naming Graham and Looking Cloud as the killers, and when he repeated this at the Denver press conference in November of 1999.
In addition, Churchill’s solidarity network website, wardchurchill.net, used for coordinating his speaking tours, still hosts audio files of two Native America Calling radio shows first aired the days of and after the 1999 Denver press conference, including interviews with Branscombe and Churchill, during which Churchill called for two Grand Juries to be convened on the case. The multiple Grand Juries that were convened before and after the press conference contributed to the 2003 arrests of Graham and Looking Cloud based on FBI fabrications and coercion. Looking Cloud’s 2004 trial was also used by FBI-paid informant and former AIM member Darlene Nichols to accuse Peltier of admitting to his involvement in the killing of the two FBI agents in 1975. After the trial, Nichols married so-called investigator Robert Ecoffey.
The recent Vancouver event with Churchill was supposed to raise awareness of the No 2010 Olympics Convergence. Yet Graham’s supporters and Native anti-Olympics organizers see his case as intrinsically linked to the Olympics. The land struggle in Pine Ridge and the Black Hills in the early 1970s, when Anna Mae and more than 60 other AIM members and associates were killed, was largely over uranium mining and other resource exploitation. Graham participated in resistance there at that time. He also continued to be involved in anti-uranium mining actions and organizing across Canada and Europe in the 1980s. The Olympics is just one claw in a massive government and corporate land grab that has been introduced simultaneously with the acceleration of mining exploration and a lift on the moratorium against uranium exploration in BC.
The No 2010 Convergence (a project of the Anti-Poverty Committee) gave Graham’s supporters 10 minutes at the beginning of the event to challenge Churchill. Chusia Graham spoke about her father’s case while other supporters of Graham attempted to get Churchill to answer to the 1999 Denver press conference and the nature of the investigation carried out by Ecoffey and his FBI partners. Churchill seemed more interested in attempting to belittle and humiliate those who would question him. He has yet to respond directly to challenges about his participation in the 1999 press conference, the dire consequences of the subsequent Grand Juries, or his other writings that support the FBI fabricated story that AIM conspired to kill Anna Mae with Looking Cloud and Graham as the trigger men.
It was the FBI, BIA cops and members of the self-proclaimed “Goon” death squad who initially tried to cover-up Anna Mae’s death as that of an unidentified woman who had succumbed to “exposure”, despite an obvious bullet hole wound to the head that was leaking blood and despite the fact that FBI agent David Price or other people on the reservation who knew Anna Mae could have easily identified her. We must also always remember that Anna Mae was [most likely] one of over 60 traditional indigenous people killed by the FBI-backed death squad that operated on Pine Ridge in the 1970s and that these murders paved the way for the further corporate theft and destruction of Lakota land.
Honour Anna Mae Pictou Aquash
Free John Graham and Leonard Peltier
As an organizer of the 2010 Anti-Olympics Convergence, I wish to clarify the mistaken misrepresentation in this article that the 2010 Convergence is an ‘APC project’. This is misleading & incorrect.
Altho’ some members of the Anti-Poverty Committee are involved in promoting the 2010 Convergence, so too are other groups, including Indigenous organizers.
Dates for the 2010 Convergence were recently announced at a 515 Years of Indigenous Gathering in Vicam, Sonora, Mexico, by Indigenous organizers from ‘BC’. Those dates are Feb. 10-15, 2010. These groups included Warrior Publications and Native Youth Movement.
Gord Hill, Kwakwaka’wakw