the Soul of Indian Country,” AN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST OR FBI APOLOGIST
In his book, " The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of
Indian Country," Steve Hendricks promotes himself as a supporter of the
American Indian Movement ("AIM") and the American Indian by creating the
appearance of attacking the FBI with respect to its conduct in Indian
Country from the 1970s through the present. However, Hendricks attacks AIM
and its members, and does a great injustice to the cause of the American
Indian, both by the written expressions in his book and the oral expressions
that he has been making during the tour promoting his book. Hendricks both
condemns AIM as "thugs" than lauds AIM as victims. Hendricks’ use of double
speak methodology in both his book and in articles promoting the book
provoke jumbled emotions about AIM. This razzle dazzle style of twisted and
corrupted statements leave the reader wondering about the veracity of
Hendricks’ stated purpose in writing the book – to seek the truth.
In the first half of his book, Hendricks adds little to the information
already made public by, among others, Peter Matthiessen in describing the
"reign of terror," which existed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation from
1973 through 1976. In the second half of his book, he primarily reports on
the trial of Arlo Looking Cloud in connection with the murder of Anna Mae
Aquash, addresses the alleged murder of Ray Robinson during the Wounded Knee
occupation in 1973; and takes an easy shot at a self-proclaimed Indian
hater, William Janklow, as if to create the impression that Hendricks is
supportive of AIM and American Indians. But, this veil of support is lifted
and the true motivation of the book is revealed when Mr. Hendricks reports
favorably on the Looking Cloud trial and even goes so far as to tout the
fairness of the trial and the correctness of evidentiary rulings which are
virtually impossible to justify even to persons unfamiliar with evidentiary
nuances of the law. Then, based on nothing but innuendo and the unsourced
writings of Paul Demain, he smears AIM, its leaders and members, by claiming
that leaders of AIM and its members participated in a cold-blooded murder of
Ray Robinson during Wounded Knee and their subsequent cover-up. Hendricks’
attacks on AIM did not stop in the book. They have continued in articles
promoting his book, not surprisingly creating incidents during the tour.
In a self promotional article appearing in Indian Country Today on November
30, 2006, entitled, "Manhandled by Russell Means," Steve Hendricks claimed
to have been "manhandled by Russell Means." I have known Russell Means for
more than 30 years. If Russ, who is in his 70s, "manhandled" Hendricks,
Hendricks would today be carrying on his book tour from a hospital bed.
According to Hendricks, Russell Means threatened and insulted him during a
speech at Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota because of Hendricks’
accusation that AIM members had killed and buried the black civil rights
worker, Ray Robinson, during the 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.
Russ Means properly insulted Hendricks’ shoddy journalism with respect to
the death of Ray Robinson. If anyone, it is Hendricks who has threatened and
insulted AIM by using unproven rumors to provoke and inflame dissension in
Indian country. Hendricks is promoting unoriginal accusations, first uttered
by Paul DeMain, editor of "News From Indian Country," which have never been
shown to be true. Despite the fact that no one has been charged with this
alleged offense, Hendricks parrots DeMain’s claims of the existence of
unidentified "credible witnesses." But if such credible witnesses exist, we
must wonder why indictments have not been issued.
Hendricks’ call for an apology from AIM for Ray Robinson’s death is
farcical. AIM has nothing to apologize for. If Ray Robinson died at Wounded
Knee, then the accusations should be limited to the individual or
individuals responsible for his death, based on solid evidence, not rumor
and innuendo. It should be Mr. Hendricks who is castigated for his shoddy
journalism, not Mr. Means for properly challenging him.
Hendricks erroneously claims that AIM engaged in violent actions in the
aftermath of Wounded Knee. He then tempers this statement by blaming it on
the FBI: ".it was the FBI’s sabotage of AIM that provoked many of AIM’s
violent deeds." and "[t]hose deeds in turn led to AIM’s implosion, as the
FBI intended." It is well recorded that AIM did not carry out the "violent
deeds," but rather the documented violence was perpetuated by the FBI, a
corrupt tribal government, and it’s hired vigilante force called the
Guardians of the Oglala Nation, known throughout Indian country as the Goon
squad. The period between 1973 through 1976 became known as the "reign of
terror" which was propagated under the Nixon administration. Contrary to
what Hendricks would have you believe, the 300 assaults and 60 murders were
AIM members and sympathizers, as investigated and reported on by two
government civil rights investigators, Maldrow and DeWitt, and serves as the
attestation as to who were responsible for committing these "violent deed
Though Hendricks details the widespread violence and terror on the Pine
Ridge Indian Reservation in his book, he seeks to revise history by somehow
blaming AIM and its members for the killing and terror, another example of
the double speak methodology utilized by Hendricks.
This wide spread violence and terror is what caused the Elders and
Traditionals of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to request protection by
AIM which in turn is what brought Leonard Peltier, myself, and other
warriors to join the communities of the Oglala Nation. We were at the Pine
Ridge Indian Reservation to serve and protect our people whom the United
States Government and the tribal government were trying to wipe-out to
further their own economic gain.
Our presence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and our purpose of
protecting our people is what led the Oglala firefight of June 26, 1975, and
the deaths of two FBI agents and Joseph Stuntz, a young American Indian.
Hendricks portrays this as an act of AIM violence when in fact we acted in
self-defense in what can be best characterized as a war zone. In fact, I was
tried and acquitted by an all white jury in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the summer
of 1976, on self-defense grounds contrary to what Hendricks wants his
readers to believe.
The FBI thereafter targeted Leonard Peltier, who was unfairly tried,
convicted and sentenced to two life sentences. The United States Court of
Appeals for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals called his conviction "a
clear abuse of the investigative process by the FBI" and gave credence to
the claims of Indian people that if the FBI is willing to fabricate evidence
to extradite a person in this country, it is willing to fabricate evidence
to convict those targeted the enemy. As recently as 2003, the United States
Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit acknowledged: "Much of the
government’s behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution
of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It
intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed."
The Eighth Circuit discussed this critical evidence which was withheld by
the FBI as "newly discovered evidence indicating [that the government’s
ballistic expert] may not have been telling the truth," and that the
evidence withheld by the FBI created "inconsistencies casting strong doubts
upon the government’s case." Under our system, if there is a reasonable
doubt, then Leonard Peltier is not guilty, yet he still remains in prison
after 30 years for a crime he too should have been acquitted and freed.
After Leonard Peltier’s attorneys discovered that the government fabricated
the ballistics evidence, among other things, the government has had to admit
several times in open court that it had no credible evidence Leonard Peltier
killed the agents, that it could not prove who killed the agents, and
speciously claimed it never tried to prove he shot the agents and that the
conviction could be upheld on aiding and abetting grounds. But no one has
ever explained who Leonard aided and abetted which is a prerequisite to such
a charge. He could not aid and abet Dino Butler or me who were acquitted.
Hendricks fails to inform the reader of these issues, and essentially
affirms that Leonard Peltier should be imprisoned which is a farcical
presentation of the facts found by the Courts.
Though Hendricks is correct that the FBI tried to destroy AIM by dirty
tricks and lies, the so-called "implosion" of AIM never has happened as
reported by Hendricks. AIM has, as most other political groups in their
history, gone through struggle and re-alignment. AIM remains alive and well
to this very day. Besides the many AIM chapters that actively continue
challenging racism, desecration of our scared places by multi- national
corporations, environmental issues, AIMs International Treaty Council, and
the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee have all shown that AIM is very much
alive and well.
The government prosecuted unsuccessfully hundreds in the aftermath of
Wounded Knee in hopes that it would destroy the strength and resources of
the Movement. Yet, even before these trials failed, the FBI concluded that
this approach was insufficient. As one FBI document stated, "There are
indications that the Indian militant problem in the area will not be
resolved or discontinued with the prosecution of these insurgents."
Mr. Hendricks presentation of the case of Anna Mae Aquash was very
disappointing. Instead of aggressively pursuing the case based on the FBI
documents that were produced to him, he essentially reported on the farcical
trial of Arlo Looking Cloud which revealed nothing about the FBI’s
misconduct in the murder of Anna Mae Aquash and its after math. A recently
discovered foia document in the form of a FBI report shows that the FBI knew
30 years ago who killed Anna Mae. It appears that the FBI decided not to
expose or use their findings in the case of Anna Mae Aquash because there
was a greater need to protect and hide their informant/ provocateur, than in
resolving the case. In this regard, Hendricks has adopted much of the
propaganda propounded by people such as Paul Demain and John Trudell.
Moreover, despite producing its Anna Mae files to selective people, the FBI
has engaged in a continuing effort to block production of informant files
pertaining to the Anna Mae and Leonard Peltier, despite the passage of 30
years, based on the ludicrous basis that such production would hamper the
"war on transnational terrorism."
Yet, while giving credence to the ramblings of those like Demain and
Trudell, Hendricks wrote in his book and continues to state to the media
that David Hill, "has long been accused of being a spy – perhaps entirely
unfairly." The qualification shows Hendricks lacks the evidence that David
Hill is a spy, but does nothing to cure the charge once made. Such an
unsupported accusation which attacks the reputation of a man in the front
lines must be strongly condemned as pure mumbo jumbo and is befitting the
work of a provocateur. I have spoken with Hendricks on many occasions in
regard to these unfounded accusations, and he has at no time provided any
proof that would withstand the simplest of scrutiny. Yet, without a scrap of
evidence, Hendricks perpetuates the attacks on David Hill.
In the face of Hendrick’s attacks on David Hill, he leaves unscathed John
Trudell, the major proponent of the unsubstantiated rumor that David Hill is
an agent He does so even though there are many unanswered questions about
John Trudell and his role in the death of Anna Mae Aquash, who has stated
that he became a witness in the Anna Mae case "only after meeting and
talking with the FBI." The part of John that should concern everyone is how
easily he has cooperated with the feds and his total support of Kamook.
After all that the FBI has done to the American Indian Movement, one must
question why he would ever meet and talk with the enemy, let alone testify
on their behalf.
John always wanted to be a celebrity. Wives and children were ruined for the
price of fame. His love songs are full of abuse, "that’s the way I run,
baby." He is true and violent to his women. All the stuff that features real
big in his bio, the fire death of his family stands out the most and has
come to serve him as tools in his promo kit. He often says in his interviews
that if we can’t change our behavior at least we should be honest about it.
I would rather hear him say that if we can’t change we should seek medical
Over the years, Trudell’s behavior is typical of being a provocateur,
particularly his eagerness to snitch jacket people such as David Hill, and
many others in AIM and it supporters, as being "FBI spies," and how easily
he testifies for the various prosecutions. I think he is playing to many
ends against the middle. Russell Mean’s challenge of Hendricks in defense of
David Hill is testimony to AIMs long standing position with Hill who has
always been a dedicated, committed and honorable man to AIM and Native
Michael Donnelly, a friend of Trudell, wrote an article "Getting Away with
Murder Killing Anna Mae Aquash, Smearing John Trudell," in the January 17,
2006, issue of Counterpunch, defending him despite the landslide
condemnation from AIM.
Michael Donnely’s article again highlighted that Trudell’s accusation of
Dennis Banks being a party to the Anna Mae killing, to which he testified at
my trial in 1976: "Dennis (Banks) told me she (Anna Mae) had been shot in
the back of the head. He told me this in February, about the 25th or 26th of
February. He told me this in California. I was sitting in the car with
Dennis and he said, ‘You know they found Annie Mae.’ No, he said it this
way. He said, ‘You know that body they found? That is Annie Mae.’ I didn’t
know about a body. Then he said that."
Why did Trudell plant this seed against Dennis Banks in my trial? Such
testimony had no relevance to my trial, so why did he say it. John must have
anticipated bad days ahead after Anna Mae was killed. These are the brazen
actions of an informer setting the stage for the trial for the killing of
Anna Mae, albeit that it was delayed for too long for some reason that has
not yet been discovered. So, we must ask again, who is John Trudell and what
does he have to do with the FBI, and just what role has he played in the
smearing of Leonard Peltier which took place in connection with the trial of
Arlo Looking Cloud.
Given that there has been no credible evidence presented by either Demain or
Trudell, why has Hendricks given so much credence to them. Both have been
publicly exposed for their relationships with the FBI. Some, including
myself, believe that Trudell labels others to divert suspicion from himself.
Trudell’s behavior creates the strong impression that he had more to do with
the FBI provocateur activity that lead to Anna Mae’s death. Jim Page once
wrote me, in regard to this, "I think about this every time I sing my Anna
Mae song. Mr. Hendricks fails to explore lingering questions about John
Trudell’s role in her death.
Hendricks’ book reads like a dime novel. He plays a cat and mouse game
throughout, leaving most all he says suspended, empty of the veracity of
truth and proof. This is best shown by his own statement to me where, even
though he acknowledged that there were errors in the book, it was published
nevertheless. After sending Hendricks my Book Review of his book, ”The
Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country.”
Hendricks wrote, "Thanks, Bob. No doubt I got as many things wrong as right,
but hopefully it’ll do more good than harm." And, I am not the only person
to whom he acknowledged the existence of errors. Just what type of
investigative journalist with any integrity would allow the publication of a
work he knows has errors.
I submit only a person with an agenda would do so, an agenda offensive to
the people he purports to support Those of us who have dedicated our lives
to right the wrongs waged against us strongly condemn Hendricks’ campaign to
smear and degrade the many sacrifices made in the course of our struggles
while pretending to be a friend of native American struggles.
Co director Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
E mail: email@example.com
LPDC and NYC LPSG rally in front of the Court House On December 7, 2006.
Video Montage created by Wayquay and Unknown Soldier: