SD Governor Elect 'Wild Bill' Janklow
An Old Indian Fighter or a New Native Advocate?

By Jon Lurie
1995 Reprinted from the Circle (Minneapolis Native News Magazine) Reprint Permission granted by the Author.
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Photo: circa 1976 Kevin B. McKiernan
Oliver North lied to Congress and lost his bid for a Virginia seat in the US Senate. William "Wild Bill' Janklow allegedly raped a young Lakota woman and was elected Governor of South Dakota.

On November 8, 1994, Bill Janklow defeated former Wesleyan University professor Jim Beddow by a 55%-41% margin, elevating him to the Governorship for the third time.  He formerly served as the state's top official from 1978-'82, and from 1986-'90.

Janklow began his career in the late 1960's as head of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's legal services program. He built a reputation as an excellent poverty lawyer who had come to the ale of many destitute Rosebud residents.

AIM veteran Russell Means remembers Janklow as a "great guy," who was humorous and fun to be with, but who didn't like Indian people, and who gave up on Indian Law when he realized there was no future in it.

American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks says he knew of Janklow as early as 1970 from talks with then-Rosebud Tribal Council President Robert Burnette. Burnette, a highly respected man among his people, told Banks that Janklow had raped a fifteen-year-old Rosebud girl named Jancita Eagle Deer.  Eagle Deer, ashamed when the horrible story spread, fled the reservation and disappeared. Janklow refused to face the charges in Rosebud tribal court and was hence barred from practicing law on the reservation.

His eyes set on state politics, Janklow fancied himself an "Indian Fighter"-in the tradition of George Armstrong Custer-who left the reservation and became an assistant prosecutor for the South Dakota state Attorney General's office. Jancita Eagle Deer had disappeared, but the rape charge wasn't going to.

In 1974, Janklow prosecuted and jailed Sarah Bad Heart Bull, a Lakota woman whose son, Wesley, had been stabbed in the heart at a Buffalo Gap bar by a white businessman named Darold Schmidt. Despite witness accounts that Schmidt said he was "going to kill him an Indian," he was charged only with involuntary manslaughter.

Sarah Bad Heart Bull was beaten by heavily armed police on the courthouse steps when she attempted to enter a meeting between AIM leaders and county officials, who were ostensibly attempting to negotiate a heavier charge for her son's killer. After Bad Heart Bull was arrested, over two hundred Indians rose up in what has been termed the Custer Court House Riots. Bad Heart Bull was sentenced to 1-5 years in prison. Darold Schmidt, the killer, never spent a day behind bars. Janklow's prosecution of the Custer Riot cases elevated him to South Dakota's top agent in a Federal effort to disrupt and destroy the American Indian Movement.

AIM had been labeled a "terrorist organization" and targeted for extinction by the US Government because of its determination to prevent the
continuing resource exploitation of Indian land. In 1971 the Interior Department endorsed the North Central Power Study, a document declaring that the aquifers beneath the Black Hills could sustain the exploitation of their coal, uranium, and oil. The study concluded that the Black Hills, sacred land of the Lakota people, should become the nucleus of a multinational energy center, producing power in the mine fields and exporting it eastward on a network of lines running to St. Louis and Minneapolis.

Within a few years, more than one million acres were claimed by about twenty-five multinational corporations. The uranium rush, like the gold rush a hundred years earlier, was on. Companies were attracted to Indian Country because of the overlapping jurisdictions, which make regulation enforcement impossible, and the lack of laws requiring public health monitoring systems.

The companies began test-drilling for minerals on a grand scale. Uranium mines near Edgemont began operations. Leaking uranium holes soon poisoned the Black Hills aquifer, the only source of drinking water in the region. The drilling continued. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) six-thousand test holes alone were estimated to be worth a minimum of $500 million in uranium.  The unplugged holes emitted lethal levels of radon, killing cattle in the Southern Black Hills and spoiling the water supply for hundreds of miles.

Janklow succeeded in prosecuting
AIM leader Dennis Banks on charges stemming from the Custer Riots. This made Janklow a hero among the state's white population. As his star rose in the wake of the Custer trials, "Wild Bill" set his sights on the South Dakota Attorney General's office. He began making statements designed to endear him to the state's white and non-traditional Native voters. "The only way to deal with the Indian problem in South Dakota," Janklow said, "is to put a gun to the AIM leaders' heads and pull the trigger." Ranchers and Goons on the Pine Ridge Reservation took Janklow's words to heart as violent attacks against traditional people and AIM supporters escalated.

Banks was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, but, fearing for his life, fled the state of South Dakota as soon as he was let out on bail. "By the time I was tried in Custer," Banks said from California, two years after fleeing from South Dakota, "Janklow, was already Attorney General, but he left his post in Pierre and went all the way down there to spearhead the prosecution; he even accosted me in the hallway and said he was going to get me, and he did. I think the atmosphere of hate might fade in South Dakota if they got rid of Janklow," said Banks.

At a 1974 meeting of the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee (WKLDOC), representatives from the Rosebud reservation came forward with concerns about Bill Janklow, the soon to be Attorney General.
Douglas Durham, a member of the Banks-Means legal team who later admitted to being an FBI infiltrator, had located Jancita Eagle Deer. She was ready to testify that on January 14, 1967, when she was a 15-year-old student at the Rosebud Boarding School, she was raped by her legal guardian, William Janklow. The day after the alleged assault, Eagle Deer had reported the incident to her principal, who took her to the hospital. Hospital records indicate that an attack had occurred. The FBI's cursory investigation concluded that it was "impossible to determine anything," and that there was "insufficient evidence, allegations were unfounded; we are therefore closing our files on the matter."

Delphine Eagle Deer, Jancita's stepmother, vowed to prove that William Janklow had raped her daughter. She never got her chance. Mrs. Eagle Deer was found dead in a winter field after she had been severely beaten and left by BIA police.

On April 4th, 1974, Jancita Eagle Deer was also killed when she was struck by a young white driver as she was walking unsteadily down a deserted stretch of road near Valentine, Nebraska. The coroner told an AIM investigator that she may have been beaten, or injured by jumping from a moving car, prior to her death.

Rosebud Tribal Judge Mario Gonzalez found enough evidence to charge Janklow with "assault with attempt to commit rape and carnal knowledge of a female under 16."  Janklow failed to appear on his court date and, for want of a more severe measure, was disbarred from further legal practice on the Rosebud Reservation. As a white man, he was outside the jurisdiction of Tribal law.

Janklow denies the charges, but because he failed to appear in court, and because the FBI had a compelling interest in protecting this particular white man, many remain convinced that he is guilty. After AIM publicized the rape charges, Janklow's popularity soared. He coasted through the election to the Attorney General's office.

On June 26th, 1975 the FBI took Janklow's advice when two of its agents trespassed onto an AIM encampment (on land owned by the Jumping Bull family) on the Pine Ridge Reservation with guns drawn. They are believed to have been sent in as a pretext to military intervention against AIM and the traditional people on Pine Ridge, who sought to protect the land, water, and air for generations present and future. The Indians, believing the lives of the women and children in the camp were in peril, held the agents at bay with gunfire. After a drawn out firefight, one Indian, Joseph Killsright Stuntz, and two young FBI agents, were dead. The agents had been killed by gunshots at close range.

In one of the most obviously rigged trials in American history, an all-white Fargo, ND jury convicted AIM member
Leonard Peltier on two counts of first degree murder for the agents' deaths. Amnesty International has published an analysis of the case which condemns the US government's role in the trial and ensuing imprisonment of the political prisoner. Millions of signatures have been collected worldwide demanding freedom for Peltier, twelve million in Russia alone. Even the Federal prosecutor in the case, Lynn Crooks, admitted in court that the government doesn't know who killed the agents. The death of Joseph Stuntz has never elicited investigation.

On the afternoon of the firefight, while the AIM people fled from the Jumping Bull compound followed by the largest manhunt in US history, Attorney General Janklow arrived at the scene with a group of well-armed vigilantes in officewear. Janklow and his assistant had loaded .223 caliber ammunition, M-16s, and AR-15s from Janklow's residence into two airplanes. They flew from Pierre to the Hot Springs airport and distributed the weapons to a sheriff's posse of about 20 men.  Janklow went to the scene, he later said, because he heard lawmen were in trouble.

Speaking from Leavenworth Federal Prison, where he is serving his [eighteenth] year behind bars, Leonard Peltier says of the recent election, "I am disheartened not only by what happened in South Dakota, but also what happened around the country. The vocal minority went out and said their piece, while my people, and people who care about social justice, didn't go out and make themselves heard. We're going to be feeling the effects of these changes really quickly," Peltier said.

The counties that encompass the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservation reported the lowest voter turnout in South Dakota.

In the winter of 1976, after the mysterious death of
Anna Mae Aquash, a Micmac woman who was deeply committed to the struggle for the Black Hills, Janklow boasted to a crowd of reporters, "Some of the best AIM members and leaders are our informants. They would be surprised to learn who our informants are and how many we have." At present, the American Indian Movement still struggles for unity as paranoia over FBI infiltration has fingers pointing in many directions.

In 1977, Janklow tried unsuccessfully to force Dennis Banks' extradition from California. Jerry Brown, then California Governor, was largely responsible for keeping Banks free while Janklow fought for his extradition to South Dakota. Janklow described Brown's efforts to aid the AIM leader as "absolutely absurd," and said he felt "frustrated and disgusted."

1979, the Department of the Interior released its final environmental impact statement, endorsing the North Central Power Study's plans to turn the Black Hills into a "national sacrifice area." This came despite an acknowledgment that 188,000 acres would be devastated, while inflicting irreparable damage on the air, land, water, and life on the Great Plains. A toxic smog of nitrogen, sulfur, and ash would cover the big skies of the mountain states, and thousands of square miles of creeks and prairie ponds across the country would disappear. The impact statement specified that Indians would lose their "special relationship to the land," as the land shifted to "mineral extractive use." The TVA's environmental impact statement for its Edgemont uranium mining operations went on to say, "There will be a temporary change in land use from forest and rangeland to mineral extraction during the life of this is unlikely that reclaimed communities will closely resemble existing species composition and diversity."

The energy companies prepared to move forward with their plans. They already had their candidate, Bill Janklow installed in the Governor's Mansion. Next they would encircle the Black Hills with thirteen coal-fired plants, producing ten thousand megawatts apiece, with an additional sixty plants under consideration. There would also be a "nuclear energy park" with up to twenty-five reactors.

Working together, AIM, its sister group,
Women of All Red Nations (WARN), and the Black Hills Alliance (a white-red alliance composed of Natives, farmers, and ranchers), contested the right of Union Carbide to dig up Craven Canyon in the Black Hills without an environmental impact statement. The company pulled back as the matter was being straightened out in the courts. Other companies followed, slowing development of the planned sacrifice zone, as controversy heightened and uranium prices fell. Tennessee Valley Authority and Union Carbide, however, continued their uranium explorations, in expectation of a healthier uranium market in years to come.

"My own gut feeling," says Mary Witter, head of the South Dakota Chapter of the Leonard Peltier Support Group, "is that Janklow will open up mining again."

On an October 1994 pre-election edition of
South Dakota Public Television's "Buffalo Nation Journal," Janklow ended a debate with his opponent Jim Beddow, by giving a five minute closing statement in the Lakota language. Witter said Janklow's message to the Lakota people was "he was with them, he was one of them. His whole campaign was run on his support and caring for the Indian Nations, and how much he's done for the Indian people. Janklow was dropping names of all the Indian people he knows and all the reservations he's been to. Yet here he was in a suit and tie. It was pathetic, and people fell for it. You could see the white middle-class sitting in their homes thinking, 'This guy's going to do alright by those poor Indians"

Witter says Janklow spoke throughout his campaign about economic development on the reservations, doing this through proper channels, by setting-up funds, and hiring contractors.  "He never said what kind of economic development he had in mind, it was always very general. I didn't get the feeling that he was at all genuine to the traditional people. I'm concerned he'll make a bigger push for assimilation."

Discounting Janklow's Lakota language speech, Rick Powers says, "Custer spoke well too." Powers was sixteen during the Wounded Knee takeover in 1973. He recalls seeing Janklow from a distance on the other side of the battle line. "I've got nothing good to say about him," he says.

In early 1983, Bill Janklow filed suit against author Peter Matthiessen for $24 million. Among other things, Janklow was upset about being portrayed as a "racist and bigot" and "an antagonist of the environment" in Matthiessen's book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. In 1988, the South Dakota Supreme Court dismissed Janklow's suit against the author, but Janklow has vowed to pursue the case as long as he lives.

As Bill Janklow returns to South Dakota's top office, everyone who remembers the
bloody Pine Ridge civil war of the 1970's is bracing themselves once again to defend the Black Hills. When asked on Buffalo Nation Journal what he thought about the possible reelection of William Janklow, Russell Means took and deep breath and paused, "I just pity the people of South Dakota if he gets in."

]on Lurie is a new writer for The Circle. Lurie has been a staff writer since 1989 of The Firefly, an independent social justice paper edited by his wife, Jane Kirby, who also joins The Circle.
Procedural History of Censorship:

1.  Wounded Knee Legal Defense, Offense Committee v. FBI, 507 F.2d 1281 (8th Cir. 1974)
2.  Janklow v. Newsweek, Inc., 759 F.2d 644 (8th Cir. 1985)
3.  Janklow v. Viking Press, 378 N.W.2d 875 (1985)
4.  Janklow v. Viking Press, 459 N.W.2d 415 (1990)
5.  Price v. Viking Penguin Inc, 881 F.2d 1426 (8th Cir. 1989)
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