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#1 Jan-05-2011 03:56:pm

anneekarpiak
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From: Waterport New York
Registered: Oct-23-2008
Posts: 12

Anna Mae

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From: Miketben@aol.com
To: HAUDENOSAUNEE_AKWEKON@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2011 6:59 PM
Subject: [HAUDENOSAUNEE_AKWEKON] Murder conviction sheds light on 'cult of Indian secrecy'



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FROM: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/INDIAN … story.html
Murder conviction sheds light on 'cult of Indian secrecy'


By Richard Foot, Postmedia News January 4, 2011 Comments (5)



Aquash's adult daughters, Debbie and Denise Maloney, at their mother's gravesite at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 2004, before Aquash's body was exhumed and reburied in Nova Scotia.

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Aquash's adult daughters, Debbie and Denise Maloney, at their mother's gravesite at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 2004, before Aquash's body was exhumed and reburied in Nova Scotia.
Photograph by: Handout, Denise Maloney

HALIFAX For 35 years, Denise Maloney has lived at the centre of one of the most sensational aboriginal crime stories in Canadian history.

Now that a British Columbia man has recently been convicted of kidnapping and killing her mother, Maloney, a Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq, is finally ready to talk about the case and about the cult of "Indian secrecy" that kept the murder unsolved for so many decades and still, she says, contributes to the abuse and mistreatment of women and families in native communities today.

Maloney was only 10, growing up with her younger sister Debbie and their father in Nova Scotia, when she learned in 1975 that her mother native activist Annie Mae Pictou Aquash had died in South Dakota.

The girls didn't learn until years later that Aquash had actually been murdered, execution-style with a bullet fired into the back of her head, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation near the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

Wounded Knee is an important, historical symbol for American Aboriginals, the site of a massacre of Sioux people by the U.S. Cavalry in 1890.

Nearly a century later, in 1973, armed native activists with the American Indian Movement (AIM) a militant group with a high profile in the 1960s and '70s took control of Wounded Knee to protest various Aboriginal grievances. A 71-day standoff ensued, sparking an explosion of violence that lasted several years at Pine Ridge.

Among the victims of that violence were two FBI agents gunned down by AIM member Leonard Peltier, who is serving a life sentence for the murders and whose crime and controversial imprisonment has been the subject of numerous books and Hollywood films.

Another victim was Aquash, a young Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq who had moved to Boston, like many Maritimers, in the 1960s looking for work. There she became active in the Indian-rights crusades of the time, became a senior member of AIM and took part in the occupation of Wounded Knee.

Maloney remembers her mother coming home to Nova Scotia to visit her children in between various AIM protests around the U.S. She says Aquash was unusual for an Indian woman of her generation: she was a feminist and was unafraid to use her intelligence to challenge AIM's male leaders, whose critics have called them an Indian mafia more interested in drugs, guns and power than in native rights.

"My mom was very quick on her feet, very intellectual," says Maloney. "That worked against her in her own group, because there was jealousy. People were intimidated by her.

"In their world, she was a troublemaker. These guys were gangsters, and they had a big problem with her because she knew too much information."

In 1975, according to prosecution documents and evidence presented in U.S. courts, three AIM enforcers including a Yukon Aboriginal named John Graham were ordered by the group's leadership to kidnap Aquash in Denver, where she was then living, and bring her back to Wounded Knee.

She was raped and interrogated, and one morning at sunrise was driven to a remote clifftop overlooking the badlands of the Pine Ridge Reservation. She was taken from the car, walked to the edge of the cliff and shot in the head.

Her partially decomposed body was found two months later by a rancher. A sloppy autopsy ruled the cause of death as exposure, and Aquash was buried as an unidentified corpse. First, however, the FBI had cut off her hands and sent them to a crime lab, where they were later identified using Aquash's fingerprints. A second autopsy found a .32-calibre bullet in her temple.

For years the case went cold. AIM leaders, including Peltier, claimed Aquash was an FBI informant, and that the government had killed her and then tried to cover it up.

"There was so much silence, and so much fear, people just didn't want to talk about it," says Maloney. "Indians were not willing to go and talk to the authorities, because the authorities were always portrayed as the bad guys.

"For my family it was frustrating. We didn't know who our friends were, and we didn't know if we could even trust the FBI."

Then in the late-1990s aging former AIM members started talking. Some told Maloney that Peltier himself had interrogated Aquash at gunpoint, and that he knew who had ordered her execution, and who had carried it out.

Maloney started corresponding with Peltier in prison, but he refused to open up.

"I said, 'You need to help us . . . who did it?' And he sent me back an email that said he would not participate in 'incarcerating another Indian man.'"

Although Peltier wasn't talking, others were, including Arlo Looking Cloud, another former AIM member, who confessed to taking part in Aquash's slaying, and who is now serving a life sentence for the crime.

Before his arrest, Looking Cloud called Maloney to clear his conscience and explain what happened. In also telling the story to U.S. authorities, he pointed the finger at Graham, saying it was the Canadian who had actually fired the fatal shot.

It took a decade of court proceedings in both countries, but Graham who insists on his innocence was eventually extradited from British Columbia. In December last year, with testimony from other witnesses, he was convicted by a South Dakota jury of Aquash's murder.

"It was bittersweet for us," says Maloney, who attended Graham's trial with her sister. "I actually felt bad for (Graham's) daughter and family. They were there sobbing after the verdict.

"We weren't high-fiving each other. It was very surreal, very bittersweet for us. Thirty-five years is a long time to wait for justice."

Maloney knows others were likely complicit in the crime, including senior AIM leaders, some of whom are still alive today.

She expects there may be further indictments. But whether or not any others are successfully prosecuted, "justice was all about (convicting) the trigger man, John Graham . . . the rest is just gravy as far as I'm concerned."

Equally important, she says, is the light her mother's case has shone on what she calls the "dirty little secrets of the Indian brotherhood," in both the United States and Canada.

Maloney, whose relatives still live on the Nova Scotia reservation where Aquash was born, says an unwritten code that Aboriginal men must protect each other at all costs pervades many native communities today, and prevents people from speaking out about the mistreatment of others, particularly women and children.

"There are still a lot of communities where people don't want to rat each other out," she says. "Why does telling the truth and talking about injustice make you a rat against your collective group? This goes against our traditional upbringings."

Maloney says that same secrecy coupled with a deeply ingrained mistrust of the justice system prevented aboriginal people from telling the truth about her mother's murder for decades. But she says Looking Cloud's confession, and Graham's conviction, disprove both those notions.

"Indians tried to paint my mother's murder as some sinister, 'Big Government' conspiracy, when in fact it had nothing to do with that. She was killed by her own people," she says.

"And this idea that no Indian will receive justice in the white man's court. Well guess what? Somebody did. My mother was an Indian, and her family did receive justice in the court system.

Aquash's story, says Maloney, "is a testament to what we deal with today in our communities: with the level of violence and domestic abuse, and with the premise that, above all costs you have to protect the brotherhood.

"Well, that kind of idea should never out-trump the life and dignity of a human being, regardless of the colour of their skin."
Copyright (c) Postmedia News


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