Anna Mae Aquash Investigation Reopened
November 7, 1994
FEDERAL RE-OPENING OF ANNA MAE AQUASH MURDER APPEARS TO BE AN ATTEMPT TO KEEP LEONARD PELTIER IN PRISON FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE
For the past several months, the United States government has been engaged in an aggressive re-opening of the investigation of the 1976 murder of American Indian Movement (AIM) member Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. The investigation has taken the form of impaneling a federal grand jury in Pierre, South Dakota, and interrogating dozens of current and former AIM members across the United States, by the FBI and US Marshall Bob Ecoffey, once a member of the violently anti-AIM “GOON Squad” on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Anna Mae, a Micmaq Indian from Canada, was murdered in late 1975 or early 1976, her body discovered on February 25, 1976, about ten miles from the town of Wanblee, on Pine Ridge. Initially, federal contract coroner W.O. Brown, of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, ruled she died of “exposure” to the winter elements. After a demand by her family for an independent autopsy, the cause of her death was found to be a .38 caliber gunshot wound in the base of her skull.
Given the violent political climate on Pine Ridge at that time, centering on a severely hostile relationship between AIM and the FBI, there is substantial reason to believe the FBI was, either directly or indirectly, involved with the murder of Anna Mae Aquash. After all, during the period of her death, more than 60 other AIM members and supporters were murdered on Pine Ridge in what the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights officially described as a “reign of (political) terror.” Considerable evidence exists that the FBI was deeply involved in this ugly pattern of atrocities.
The AIM Confederation remains more interested than anyone in seeing justice done to the murderers of our sister, Anna Mae. The current investigation, however, seems especially curious and suspicious. There are many indications that the FBI is more interested in carrying out a vendetta against AIM than in achieving justice in the case.
Why, for instance, is the FBI suddenly so interested in “resolving” the Aquash case and not the scores of other unsolved murders of AIM members dating from the same period? And why, if it is genuinely interested in finding out what happened to Anna Mae , has the FBI never bothered to interview coroner Brown or agents such as David Price, who is known to have threatened her life shortly before she was killed?
The FBI has made it clear that it has never forgotten another infamous date in 1975: June 26, the day two FBI agents and AIM member Joe Stuntz were killed in a firefight on Pine Ridge. As a result of that event, AIM member Leonard Peltier is serving two consecutive life sentences in federal prison. The AIM Confederation believes that, despite Peltier’s unjust imprisonment, the FBI’s desire for revenge will remain unsatisfied until AIM is finally and entirely destroyed. Consequently, we believe that the present investigation, rather than seeking to find the killers of Anna Mae, is designed and intended to cast suspicion upon our leadership and to sow distrust and confusion within our movement and among its allies.
In sum, it appears that, far from seeking justice for Anna Mae, the FBI has gone back to its old COINTELPRO tactics of the 1970s, casting its net far and wide in a concerted attempt to disrupt the work of AIM and to keep Leonard Peltier in prison for th e rest of his life by suggesting that he and AIM are nothing more than “a band of thugs and killers.” This is indicated by two recent ads in the Washington Post and Indian Country Today placed by current and past FBI agents asking President Clinton to reject a petition for clemency for Leonard Peltier. In the ad, the FBI repeats lie after lie, in an attempt to paint Leonard as a cold-blooded killer from a murderous gang – the American Indian Movement.