|Anonymous account of '75 Pine Ridge Events printed one day before Peltier parole hearing|
|by Jon Lurie
Reprinted from The Circle
An article based on an anonymous source that claims to have witnessed the shooting death of two FBI agents at Pine Ridge, and the killing of Anna Mae Aquash, was published one day before Leonard Peltier’s parole hearing. The articles were written by staff writer Mary Pierpoint and appeared in the July 8 issue of Indian Country Today. “An eyewitness to Wounded Knee ’75 speaks out, at last,” contains the testimony of an anonymous “Native American Man,” who says he witnessed events on the Pine Ridge Reservation, including the Oglala shootout and the murder of Anna Mae Aquash.
Pierpoint reveals little about her source, except that he “chose to step forward at this time only because of information released by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee regarding the agents’ murders.” She doesn’t specify what information caused him to come forward. Pierpoint says that the 22 paragraphs of testimony were unedited. She states, “I did nothing to it. In order to not be biased, I didn’t alter what he says.”
“It looks like it’s madeup,” says Robert Quiver, a coordinator for the Lakota Student Alliance, an organization advocating non-violent change for the Great Sioux Nation. “If it wasn’t fake, the source was either FBI or GOON [Gaurdians of the Oglala Nation],” he says. The timing of the article, coming out one day before a scheduled Peltier parole hearing, further calls its motive into question, says Bruce Ellison, an attorney who has represented Peltier and other AIM members for over 25 years. Ellison may know more about FBI involvement on the Pine Ridge reservation than anyone outside of the Bureau. He says Pierpoint’s article “reads like an FBI press release. It looks like pure propaganda. It fills in all the holes in their case.”
Some of the piece’s more inflammatory statements include:
•“If the traditional people were being abused and persecuted, it was by AIM.”
(The historical record clearly shows that AIM was asked to come to Pine Ridge by traditional elders, and they were asked to stay by traditional elders.)
•“I mean if AIM can put out the execution of their own people and Anna Mae was not a narc like AIM branded her. If they wanted an example, they should have made an example out of Peltier. They should have executed him."
(Despite numerous high-profile investigations into the Aquash case, there has never been a single indictment.)
•“There were so many bullet holes in the police vehicle that you couldn’t even begin to count. I stopped at 3,000.”
(Of the claim that there were over 3000 bullet holes in the agents’ car, Ellison says, “That’s ridiculous. I personally inspected every car that came out of here that day and there weren’t more than 150 bullet holes in all of them combined.”)
Sylvan Duez, International coordinator for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, says the Indian Country Today piece is particularly damaging to the cause of gaining Peltier’s freedom because it was printed in a Native publication. “We know the FBI will use this article against Leonard. They’ll say, ‘Look, it’s printed in an Indian newspaper – look what his own people think of him.’”
Duez says the article is full of journalistic mistakes. “Even the title was wrong. There were no events at Wounded Knee in ’75. Wounded Knee occurred in 1973. The Incident at Oglala happened near Oglala in 1975,” he says. Jennifer Harbury, one of Peltier’s attorneys, filed an ethics complaint with Attorney General Janet Reno on June 27, asking for a full investigation of allegations that a number of FBI officials made intentionally deceptive and inflammatory statements regarding the Peltier case, “with the object of depriving him of a full and fair consideration of his requests for clemency and/or parole.”
Pierpoint defends the article and the legitimacy of her source. “I knew he was credible because I’d heard the story before from other people,” she says. As for the timing of the story, she says the source came forward after the LPDC released the names of 64 victims of unsolved murders in South Dakota. “My research uncovered only five unsolved murders,” she says. “If this stuff had been going on everybody would have known about it. It would have been all over the nightly news, and it wasn’t,” she says. Pierpoint says she hadn’t followed the Peltier case very closely over the years, but then she “talked to the FBI and they enlightened me on some things. I also read a copy of the LPDC press kit,” she says. Pierpoint says she feels it’s important to remember, “Two people did die that day.”
“The FBI is always saying, ‘two people died that day,’” Ellison says. “I think it’s important to remember that three people died that day. What does that say when they can’t acknowledge the death of the Native American man who died? We should have the courage to look into dark moments in our history and see what the truth is.” “Almost all the dead out here are AIM people or their children and friends, yet the victims have been labeled as the violent ones,” says Ellison.
Ellison met with Indian Country Today editor David Melmer on June 23. “I talked with him about the facts, and the unprofessionalism of not checking the integrity of this so-called anonymous source,” he says. Ellison quotes Melmer as saying he printed the article because he was “trying to spark debate.” Ellison says Melmer offered to print a response.
David Melmer refused to comment on the record for this story. Indian Country Today Publisher and executive editor Tim Johnson did not return phone calls.
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