on Pine Ridge
[Associated Press, April 3, 2003]
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A federal grand jury has indicted a second man in the December 1975 slaying of American Indian Movement activist Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a case that has become a symbol of a turbulent time on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
John Graham, also known as John Boy Patton, has not been arrested. He was last known to be in western Canada, according to people familiar with him.
The other man, Arlo Looking Cloud, 49, pleaded innocent this week in federal court in Denver to first-degree murder committed in the perpetration of a kidnapping, according to U.S. Attorney James McMahon in Sioux Falls.
A hearing scheduled for Thursday will determine whether Looking Cloud should be brought back to South Dakota and be tried.
A March 20 indictment accuses Graham and Looking Cloud in the fatal shooting of Aquash, 30, around Dec. 12, 1975. They would serve mandatory life prison terms if convicted.
American Indians have said for years that federal investigators and prosecutors knew who took Aquash from a home in Denver, drove her to Rapid City and then to the Pine Ridge reservation and executed her.
In a 2000 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. show "The Fifth Estate," Graham denied any involvement.
"I wasn't there and I didn't witness it. And that's all I can say about that," he said.
Graham did acknowledge being with Aquash when she left Denver, though he said she was not kidnapped.
"That's all I'm going to say on that. If other people want to put themselves there, let them put themselves there," he told the CBC.
Looking Cloud is a Lakota Indian who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. A former classmate said Looking Cloud moved to Denver after high school. Most recently he was homeless.
In the 1970s, Graham and Looking Cloud did low-level security at AIM events, said Paul DeMain, editor of News From Indian Country. DeMain has collected volumes of information and written about the Aquash case.
"These guys would be the guys to show up and say, 'We're escorting you out of here,'" DeMain said.
The indictment comes after several grand juries took testimony about the case, including one this spring that heard evidence in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
McMahon said he could not comment on the case or say why charges weren't filed sooner.
Bernice Bull Bear of Denver said she is Looking Cloud's cousin and grew up with him on the Pine Ridge reservation.
"He's a very good person. He's a very gentle man. The children like him and he's really good with my mother. He helps her. He's not a bad person," Bull Bear said. "He's never harmed anybody around here."
Aquash was killed during a turbulent period on the reservation when tensions between AIM members and government-backed factions ended in numerous deaths.
Aquash, a member of Mi'kmaq Tribe of Canada, was among Indian militants who occupied the village of Wounded Knee for 71 days in 1973.
Some speculated she was killed by AIM members because she knew some of them were government spies, while others said Pictou-Aquash was killed because she herself was an informant. Federal authorities have repeatedly denied any involvement.
On Feb. 24, 1976, rancher Roger Amiotte found her frozen body on his ranch north of Wanblee while working on fences.
"I got around right there and the body was laying right there," he said in February, pointing down a 30-foot crevice.
Because Pictou-Aquash was Canadian, the long-unsolved case has been closely followed in Canada. AIM leaders often cite the case and other unsolved slayings to suggest U.S. federal authorities don't aggressively pursue murders on reservations.
Aquash's daughters released a statement Wednesday saying they were pleased there had been an arrest. They said there were making contact with authorities in order to be part of the case.
"We have known for a long time that people have discussed amongst themselves the events that led up to her death, yet publicly have remained silent," wrote Denise Maloney Pictou of Ontario, Canada, and Debbie Maloney Pictou, who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.
"We are inspired with the actions of those who choose to courageously stand on their own and honor our mother's spirit with truth and integrity."