THE LIFE AND DEATH OF ANNA MAE AQUASH, Johanna Brand, second ed. 1993 (original, 1978), James Lorimer and Company, Publishers, Egerton Ryerson Memorial Bldg, 35 Britain St., Toronto, Ont, Canada, M5A 1R7, paperback, $14.95 US, $19.95 Can. 172 pp, source notes, photos, forword by Warren Allemand MP, chronology, map. 1-55028-422-3
Reviewed by Paula Giese [Date of review unknown]
Here’s another book — long unavailable after supplies of the original were exhausted, and never well-distributed in the U.S. — that not a single NA [Native American] Studies academic mentioned on their top 10 essential books list. Anna Mae Pictou Acquash was a Canadian Micmac woman who became active in the cause of Indian rights and was murdered by the U.S. government in early 1976. For the short time I knew her I considered her a good friend and a brilliant person. Apparently others — officials — considered her from the point of view that she was a threat to entrenched interests. The FBI’s entire file on her and on whatever they call investigation of her killing remains in Minneapolis, inaccessible to Freedom of Information attempts, because, the FBI says, they’re still investigating. Of course they’re not, they’re preventing any clues which might slip through whatever purging they gave those old files from getting into the hands of someone who might use such info to identify the killers. There have been some attempts to force a reopening of the investigation, but in my opinion, if the government arrested someone, their case against such a person would most likely be a frameup of someone they still considered a threatening Indian leader today.
Brand (who was a researcher for CBC in the 1970’s) is nowhere near the writer that Matthiessen is, so this book does not qualify as litrachoor, only history — history of a woman who was assassinated by the U.S. government, which also covered it up afterwards. Many of the same events are covered ( in less detail) as in Matthiessen’s book as regards the “incident at Oglala” but Johanna (and Mohawk Shirley Hill Witt, who wrote an eulogy for her after her death) are the only ones to try to show Anna Mae alive, as a person, from her early life to what led her into the activism, and an intellectual leadership, which caused her to be targeted and killed. Anna Mae’s sister, Becky Julian, writes in a 1993 afterword: “I believe that the knowledge Anna Mae accumulated did in fact lead to her execution-style killing…The courage and spirit that my sister Anna showed should be brought out in each of us.”. So maybe even if the NA Studies profs don’t think this is an important book and you can’t find it in your campus bookstore, you’ll get it anyway. It can be ordered through Native Book Centre. This is another one that should be read by every Indian person. Wouldn’t hurt any white people, either, except those with blind faith in their governments.