Anna Mae Pictou Aquash



In Bar Harbor, Maine, Annie Mae Aquash became involved in the Teaching and Research in Bicultural Education School Project (TRIBES), a program designed to teach young Indians about their history. She soon moved to Boston where she met members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who were protesting against the Mayflower II celebration at Boston Harbor, boarding and seizing the ship on Thanksgiving Day of 1970. Anna Mae was active in creating the Boston Indian Council (now the North American Indian Center of Boston).

It was also at that time that she met her second husband, Nogeeshik Aquash, from Walpole Island, Canada. They traveled to Pine Ridge together in 1973 to join AIM in the 71-day armed re-occupation of Wounded Knee, which is where they were married by Wallace Black Elk. A photo of their wedding can be found in the book Voices From Wounded Knee (1974).

She was also involved in the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington, D.C. that led to the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters, and armed occupations by AIM and other indigenous warriors at Anicinabe Park in Kenora, Ontario in 1974 and the Alexian Brothers Novitiate at Gresham, Wisconsin, in 1975. [1]

By the spring of 1975, Anna Mae “was recognized and respected as an organizer in her own right and was taking an increasing role in the decision-making of AIM policies and programs,” according to her biographer, Johanna Brand. [1]

She was personally close to AIM leaders Leonard Peltier and Dennis Banks. She worked until her death for the Elders and Lakota People of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. [1]


On February 24, 1976, Aquash was found dead by the side of State Road 73 on the far northeast corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation, about 10 miles from Wanblee, South Dakota, close to Kadoka. Her body was found during an unusually warm spell in late February, 1976 by a rancher, Roger Amiotte.[2] The first autopsy (reports are now public information) states: “it appears she had been dead for about 10 days.” The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ medical practitioner, W. O. Brown, missing the bullet wound on her skull, stated that “she had died of exposure.” [1]

Subsequently, her hands were cut off and sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington, D.C. for fingerprinting. Although federal agents were present who knew Anna Mae, she was not identified, and her body was buried as a Jane Doe.

On March 10, 1976, eight days after Anna Mae’s burial, her body was exhumed as the result of separate requests made by her family and AIM supporters, and the FBI. A second autopsy was conducted the following day by an independent pathologist from Minneapolis, Dr. Garry Peterson. This autopsy revealed that she had been shot by a .32 caliber bullet in the back of the head, execution style.[3]


On March 20, 2003 two men were indicted for the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash: Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud (a homeless Lakota man) and John Graham (aka John Boy Patton), a Southern Tutchone Athabascan man from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Although Theda Clark, Graham’s adopted aunt, is also alleged to have been involved, she has not been indicted.

In August 2008, a federal grand jury indicted a third man, Vine Richard “Dick” Marshall, with aiding and abetting the murder. It is alleged that Graham, Looking Cloud and Clark had taken Anna Mae to Marshall’s house where she was held just prior to her being driven to her death. This is based on testimony given by Marshall’s wife, Cleo Gates, at Looking Cloud’s trial. Marshall is alleged to have provided the murder weapon to Graham and Looking Cloud. Marshall had previously been incarcerated for 24 years for the shooting death of man in 1975. He was paroled from prison in 2000. Marshall was a bodyguard for Russell Means at the time of Aquash’s murder.[2]

On February 8, 2004 Arlo Looking Cloud was tried before a U.S. federal jury and five days later was found guilty. On April 23, 2004 he was given a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Although no physical evidence linking Looking Cloud to the crime was presented, a videotape was shown in which Looking Cloud admits to being at the scene of the murder but claims that he was unaware that Aquash was going to be killed. In that video, in which Looking Cloud is interviewed by Detective Abe Alonzo of the Denver Police Department and Robert Ecoffey, the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Law Enforcement Services, taped on March 27, 2003, he states that Graham was the triggerman.[4] Looking Cloud appealed his conviction.[5] On August 19, 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment of conviction. 419 F.3d 781. Other witnesses testifed that Looking Cloud had confessed his involvement to them, including his childhood friend Richard Two Elk, Troy Lynn Yellow Wood, John Trudell, and Aquash’s two daughters.[3]

On June 22, 2006 John Graham’s extradition to the United States to face charges on his alleged involvement in the murder was ordered by Canada’s Minister of Justice, Vic Toews. Graham appealed this order and was held under house arrest, with conditions. In July 2007, a Canadian court denied his appeal, and upheld his extradiction order to the U.S. On December 6, 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada denied Graham’s appeal of his extradition. He is presently being held in jail in Rapid City, South Dakota awaiting trial on first degree murder charges. He will be tried together with Marshall.[4]

Graham adamantly denies any involvement in the death of Anna Mae. He claims that the U.S. government threatened to name him as the murderer of Anna Mae if he “didn’t co-operate”. Claiming that he last saw Annie Mae on a drive that took them from Denver to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where he left her at a “safe house” (in his own words, in an interview with Antoinette Nora Claypoole), Graham explains why he believes he is being charged as her murderer:


The FBI showed up at my home in the Yukon, and asked me all kinds of questions about Anna Mae and the death. They were trying to say I was there, or I knew about it, or I was aware of it. And I had to tell them I wasn’t aware, I wasn’t around there and I wasn’t involved in her killing at all.

And they wanted me to name leadership that would have given the order to that effect, to kill Anna Mae. And they were trying to tell me they would put me in the witness protection program, they would change my identity, they would relocate me if I would go to testify in front of the federal Grand Jury in South Dakota against the AIM leadership.

So I told them I couldn’t do that because it never happened.

I never, ever received orders of any kind like that from any of the AIM leadership. And so I wouldn’t do it; I wouldn’t cooperate with them.

And they left. Then they came back a year or so later and said…. if I didn’t cooperate with them to put this information on the AIM leadership, then I would be facing all these charges myself.”

The question of Graham’s innocence or guilt has divided AIM and AIM leadership, with some (including John Trudell and Russell Means) arguing that he was, in fact, the triggerman and others arguing that he is merely a scapegoat.

Leonard Peltier, America’s best known American Indian prisoner, has made five public statements on the U.S. government’s case against Looking Cloud and Graham. In his first public writing on the case, in 1999, he stated:

” I have not said anything up until now because I do not want to be involved in an investigation carried out in part, by Robert Ecoffey and the RCMP.

Ecoffey was responsible for much of the terror and corruption that existed on Pine Ridge in the early 70’s. The RCMP, working with the FBI, submitted a fabricated statement against me over a year after I was arrested by them in Canada.

This statement has been used to justify my continued incarceration. Who would trust such sources to carry out an investigation into one of the many, many, people who were murdered in conjunction with the FBI on Pine Ridge during that era?

I did not want to be involved in this, but now it looks like I must submit a public statement documenting my stance because I very much fear that innocent people will be railroaded as I have, into prison, and the governments of Canada and the U.S. will be happy to have given AIM the image of a vicious and corrupt terrorist organization which we absolutely were not. ”


Subsequent to these statements, on February 2, 2005, a communiqué was issued through the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC) by Robert Robideau, Co-Director of the LPDC. The communiqué stated:

” There is compelling evidence that has recently come to our attention regarding John Graham that compels Leonard Peltier to dissasociate [sic] himself and the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee from John Graham and the John Graham Defense Committee… Leonard wants to make it very clear he wants justice to run its course and that he wants to also make it clear that he had no involvement in this matter and hence cannot associate himself with those alleged to have committed this crime against Indian people. ”


In a February 17, 2005, press statement Robert Robideau admitted that the February 2 statement was not issued by Leonard Peltier. He describes a phone conversation he had with Dennis Banks, saying, “Dennis wanted to know, ‘Did Leonard issue this Statement?’ I told Dennis no that I was issuing the statement because I know that not only the FBI was setting him up but also you [Dennis Banks].” [8]

In a letter from Leonard Peltier to Jennifer Wade of Amnesty International in Vancouver, postmarked May 4, 2007, Peltier explains his position on the matter:

” Do I support Bob [Robideau] in his efforts to get John [Graham] railroaded into prison? Hell No! I¹d be a goddamn hypocrite if I did. Because I know just about as much as Bob knows about Anna Mae’s murder and that is not a goddamn thing. I know Bob is full of shit and that if the truth be known he did not even know her. He my have spoken a casual Hello or something like that, otherwise he did not know her. ”


Robert Robideau had previously resigned from the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee in 2004 because of the committee and Peltier’s support for John Graham. “I won’t be a party to the LPDC or to Leonard if he is not going to condemn these people,” said Robideau in an interview with the magazine In These Times. [10]

Graham has refused to take a polygraph test,[11] something neither requested by the courts, his attorneys or the Canadian government. An independent group of women known as the Indigenous Women for Justice, convinced of Graham’s guilt, demanded that he “take a test”.

One of Anna Mae’s daughters, Denise Maloney Pictou is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Women for Justice[12], who are convinced of Graham’s guilt. She has stated that she believes her mother was killed by AIM members who “thought she knew too much. She knew what was happening in California, she knew where the money was coming from to pay for the guns, she knew the plans, but more than any of that, she knew about the killings.”[13] Aquash’s other daughter, Debbie Pictou Maloney, is a Constable with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and has been active in the Annie Mae Justice Fund.[14]

Denise Maloney Pictou claims that Paul DeMain, managing editor of News from Indian Country, arranged (through Richard Two Elk) for Arlo Looking Cloud to call her at home. She claims that Looking Cloud confessed to her the story that has become known as “The FBI story.” Neither Debbie nor Denise personally knew Looking Cloud at the time and cannot verify that the caller was indeed him, although he mentioned speaking to the daughters in his videotaped testimony of March 27, 2003.[15]

The case is rife with rumor. Paul DeMain stated that Anna Mae was killed in part because, she knew that Leonard Peltier actually killed the agents. Peltier sued in an attempt to force DeMain and News From Indian Country to reveal the confidential sources upon which this statement was based upon. Shortly after the trial of Arlo Looking Cloud, during which KaMook Nichols testified that Peltier had bragged to her, her sister and Annie Mae about shooting the agents, Bob Robideau on behalf of Leonard Peltier entered into negotiations with DeMain in order to have the lawsuit dismissed. (see testimony of KaMook Nichols: www.jfamr.org)

The current investigation into Anna Mae’s murder and original research from which Pictou bases some of her conjecture came from the efforts of Anna Mae’s second cousin, Robert Pictou-Branscombe. Branscombe originally began his efforts in the early 1990s, receiving at least some of his “ground-breaking information” from a Denver Police Department detective named Abe Alonzo.

There are many theories about who may have been behind the murder of Anna Mae. John Trudell fingers Dennis Banks, stating in both the 1976 Butler and Robideau trial and the Looking Cloud trial that Banks told him about the killing before the body had been identified.[16] In Dennis Banks’ autobiography, Ojibwa Warrior, he states that he was informed by John Trudell that the body that had been found was Annie Mae. Banks states that he did not know until that time that Aquash had been killed.

Although Arlo Looking Cloud did testify in a video that he was present at the murder and that John Graham pulled the trigger, Looking Cloud did admit on the tape that he was making his statement while under the influence of “a little bit of alcohol.”[17] However, trial testimony showed that Looking Cloud also confessed to a number of other individuals in various times and places.[3]

In Looking Cloud’s appeal, filed by attorney Terry Gilbert who has replaced his trial attorney Tim Rensch, Looking Cloud has retracted his videotaped confession stating that it was false. He is appealing on the grounds that his trial counsel was ineffective in that he failed to object to the introduction of his videotaped statement, failed to object to hearsay statements of Anna Mae Aquash, failed to object to hearsay instruction for the jury, and failed to object to leading questions by the prosecution to Robert Ecoffey.[18] The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Looking Cloud’s appeal.[5]

Though some are alleged to have believed Anna Mae to be a federal agent, no documentary evidence has emerged proving that she worked for the federal government (COINTELPRO).[citation needed]


1.Anna Mae Aquash, Letter from jail (1975) [19]

2.Michael Donnelly, Getting Away with Murder. (2006) [20]

3.Antoinette Nora Claypoole, Interview with John Graham, Southern Tutchone; conducted at the studios of KPFK/Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles) . (2004) [21]

4.Robert Robideau, There is compelling evidence…. (2005) [22]

5.Indigenous Women for Justice, Man Indicted for Anna Mae’s Murder Refuses to take Lie-Detector Test. (2004) [23]

6.Paul DeMain, An interview with Denise Pictou-Maloney on the death of her mother, Annie Mae Aquash. (2004) [24]

BIA interview w/Arlo Looking Cloud http://www.jfamr.org/doc/arlo….


1 The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash by Johanna Brand (1993) Toronto: J. Lorimer

2. “U.S. indicts Richard Marshall in Aquash murder case”, News from Indian Country, http://indiancountrynews.net/i…

3.jfamr.org document index

4.Trial for 1975 murder of Canadian woman set for February in South Dakota

5.Looking Cloud Appeal

Claypoole, Antoinette Nora (1999). Who Would Unbraid Her Hair: The Legend of Annie Mae. Anam Cara Press. ISBN 0-9673853-0-X.[25] http://www.antoinettewritings….

Voices from Wounded Knee, 1973, In the Words of the Participants (1974). Rooseveltown, New York: Akwesasne Notes. ISBN 0-914838-01-6.

Hendricks, Steve (2006). The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-735-0. http://www.stevehendricks.org

Smith, Charlie (2007). John Graham says Native chiefs under FBI spell. The Georgia Straight. July 12, 2007


  1. however, please read the posting rules again.  I have posted the pertinent part for you below.

    I cannot tell what are your words and what words you are quoting.

    Please use the quote button by selecting all the words that you are quoting and clicking the quote button.

    You need to edit all your diaries here using the rules below:  

    1. Copying and pasting complete copyrighted articles without permission from the copyright holder is absolutely prohibited by both this site’s policies and copyright laws. Copyright infringement can expose both you and the site’s owners to financial liability. Just don’t do it. And if you see someone else doing it, please politely ask them to edit their diary accordingly. This is a bannable offense.

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  2. Navajo,

    Thank you so much! I am new to blogging scene {I’m Elder}. So I have a lot to learn here at the site. Thank you so much much. I tried to go back and clear the grey shaded for the quote from the newspaper, because I only partially got it shaded, how do I clear it so I can get the whole area shaded? Than you again, Cousin Navajo.

  3. I attempted to remove the Annie Mae piece, however I was not able to do as such. I simply did not know what do. If you feel that this piece should not be up on Native American Netroots, feel free and and delete the piece from your side. I will continue to sumbit my own pieces, and again thank you for your help regarding this.

    Mike Raccoon Eyes

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