Trial of John Graham Native Land Defender Begins: Reports from Rapid City (Nov.29th)
Today, November 29th, jury selection begins for the trial of Tuchone
native John Graham. As many who have been following this case know, John
Graham has been charged with the 1970's murder of his friend and comrade
in the American Indian Movement, Anna Mae Aquash.
We understand the real intentions of this so called "investigation" to be
two-fold. The first is an attempt by the State to rewrite history in order
to cover up the crimes they themselves committed. The second intent is to
neutralize Native American struggle for survival in the face of colonial
and economic domination.
No news is objective and we are not here to pretend.
<strong>To receive email updates during the next few weeks of trial contact:
Background About the "Case":</strong>
In 2003, the US government charged Vancouver resident, John Graham with
the 1970's execution style killing of his friend and comrade in the
American Indian Movement (AIM), Anna Mae Aquash. He was extradited from
Vancouver in 2007 to stand trial in South Dakota. The trial begins
November 29, 2010. He is facing life in prison. He maintains his
John Graham is a Tuchone native from the Yukon, Canada. Among other
things, he is a father to eight, a pipe layer and a community organizer.
In the 1970's, Graham was involved with AIM.
In 1975, Anna Mae had confided in Graham and other friends that she had
been threatened by FBI agent David Price who told her she would not live
out the year if she didn't become an FBI informer. She refused.
When Anna Mae's frozen body was discovered on Pine Ridge Reservation, FBI
agent David Price was one of the first to examine her body. Price claimed
he could not identify the body, despite having interviewed her multiple
times. Her hands were removed and sent to Washington for "identification."
The government coroner listed her cause of death as exposure and she was
quickly buried as a Jane Doe without a death certificate.
After the identity of her body was confirmed, a second autopsy by an
independent coroner was demanded. This autopsy determined her cause of
death to be the obvious bullet wound in the back of her head.
In the 1990's, John Graham was visited four times by law enforcement
officials at his home in the Yukon. He says they asked him to sign false
statements implicating AIM leaders in the death of Anna Mae. When he
refused, he was told he would face the murder charges himself.
In an affidavit sent to Graham's extradition hearing in Vancouver, Canada,
Leonard Peltier stated that he was offered release from prison if he
agreed to sign false statements implicating John Graham in Anna Mae's
death. Leonard refused.
In 2004, a Lakota man, Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted for the murder of
Anna Mae. Looking Cloud "admitted" to the murder in interview with law
enforcement agents Abe Alonzo and Robert Ecoffey. During the interview
Looking Cloud also admits to being heavily intoxicated.
At Looking Cloud's trial, the prosecution called Darlene Nichols to the
stand (the ex-wife of AIM leader Dennis Banks). She said she was paid
$43,000 to cooperate with the so-called investigation. Shortly after the
trial she married lead investigator, Robert Ecoffey. One witness was
called to the defense, FBI Agent David Price.
In April, 2010, Richard Marshall, former AIM member and Lakota, was tried
and acquitted as an accomplice to the murder. His case was won largely on
the basis that the testimony of Looking Cloud was unreliable and the
State's evidence too weak.
John Graham is being targeted because he fought for the survival of Indian
ways of life, ways that are in conflict with resource exploitation, thus
in conflict with the interests of profit. The railroading of John Graham
is just another attempt to cover up acts of brutal repression committed by
<strong>Why was Anna Mae Killed?</strong>
In the Lakota's Fort Laramie treaty land, corporations found a good deal
of gold, coal and uranium. Some Lakota resisted (and still resist) the
ensuing resource exploitation and even refused to take money for land that
had already been stolen from them.
In the 1970's, major uranium deposits were located on the Pine Ridge
Reservation. The South Dakota and tribal governments sought to suppress
the traditionals and the American Indian Movement supporters in order to
secure the land for profit.
During the early 70's a paramilitary group called the GOONS (Guardians of
the Oglala Nation), funded by the tribal government and supported by the
FBI, shot up people's homes and cars and engaged in other acts of
brutality, intimidation and murder.
While the FBI orchestrated the Oglala shoot-out, 133,000 acres of the Pine
Ridge Reservation (treaty land) was signed away in Washington D.C. The
shoot-out followed nearly three years of extreme violence against the
traditional Lakota's and AIM. Over 60 leaders and supporters were murdered
in this period of political violence referred to as the "Reign of Terror".
This was the context of the death of Anna Mae Aquash. She was a respected
warrior whose life was dedicated to fighting for the land and people.
Responding to her arrest and interrogation by FBI agents on the Rosebud
Reservation in South Dakota, September, 1975, Anna Mae said:
<cite>"They offered me my freedom and money if I'd testify the way they
wanted. I have those two choices now. I choose my kind of freedom, not
their kind, even if I have to die."</cite>
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