by NAV Staff


[Today is 12/19/03.]

A Canadian mother, kidnapped, raped and murdered on 11-12 December 1975, allegedly by members of the American Indian Movement (AIM)

They say it is hard for dead people to defend themselves. That being said Anna Mae Pictou Aquash has not had the voice to defend herself in 27 years. Nor has anyone stepped up to aid in defending her rights in 27 years. This February will mark the 28th year since a farmer in South Dakota found her frozen lifeless body. Initially thought to have died of exposure her body was desecrated by severing the hands for identification and she was given a hasty “Jane Doe” burial. Shortly thereafter family intervention brought on an exhumation and a second autopsy that would reveal a gunshot wound at the back of her head.

Anna Mae Pictou Aquash was a human being, a woman, and her death was not a consequence of political unrest or warfare. Anna Mae was killed because she had moral ethics, because she chose to stand apart from the masses and denounce behaviour that would compromised her morality on all levels by all people surrounding her. She is revered in native communities and among her peers as being one of the most innovative and intellectually evolved human beings of her time. Passionate about human rights and the preservation of tribal communities she would not back down and accept her fate or her peoples ethnic cleansing as a matter of consequence. She would end up representing women’s rights and human rights in a way that unnerved and threatened representatives of the very group of people that she died trying to protect.

When our family first learned that it was probably, her own people that murdered her we were in disbelief and a great deal of pain. How could the people she sacrificed her own family for take such actions on another human being? She spoke incessantly on the moral standings of the organization she dedicated her last few years of her life to. She spoke of traditional ways and preserving the rights and traditions of all indigenous nations. I am not that familiar with all the traditional ways in all nations but I am pretty sure that taking one of your own out and shooting them in the back of the head is not a common traditional practice. It appears to me that the individuals who held office in those days, the same individuals who were supposedly mandating their causes to prevent the western world from poisoning their traditional cultures allowed just that to happen to them.

They became victims of their own cause. I have heard comments like “we will not sell out our brothers” But they would kidnap, rape, and murder a sister? This is not a Non-Indian against Indian issue. My mother was a victim of violence. Her family will not accept her death as a matter of consequence. We are hurt and insulted by the lack of involvement both governments have exhibited. All any one has to do who reads this is ask themselves what they would have done if this was their mother or family member. Recent statements by our Canadian Dept of Justice stated, ” Mr. Graham should have a fair trial and that his rights should be taken into account.” Am I to assume that after death we have no rights? That being said, what about the rights of her surviving family?

Our mother was a Canadian citizen; a woman and her rights have never been taken into consideration. She was tossed aside continually like a bag of garbage from bureaucratic desk to bureaucratic desk. Cloaking things in political propaganda still does not excuse or justify another human being killing another human being not to mention a mother, sister, and wife. . After what we have had to endure with my mothers death including the level of ignorance we have had to contend with of people who continue to support and protect those that murdered my mother there is no doubt that we will be there to make sure no one has their rights violated. Regarding concern that individuals get a fair trial, we ask the question – How can that happen if the person is not brought to trial?

There has to be an example set that we can have some form of faith in our current justice system to undue 27 years of injustice and begin the healing. This is 2003 not 1976. Living in a past that is 27 years old does not allow us prove that we have evolved as a society. Yes, the ugliness of our reality still exists but how are we to overcome that if we continue to mistrust and be suspect of the very institutions who can bring us resolve? Moreover, for those that believe Mr. Graham is not guilty then what information do they possess that would prove otherwise. Why is it that they are not stepping forward publicly to defend him? I am sure any person who has had 27 years to bury the truth or protect those that know the truth can accomplish a level of martyrdom in any person’s eyes.

If Mr. Graham is not guilty of murdering my mother then he must have had enough involvement or know information to prove who did. Our fear is that if Mr. Graham is released on bail and if he is a victim of “scape-goating” then those that have killed my mother will make sure that the information he does know does not make trial. Only two people know if Mr. Graham is guilty or not, Mr. Graham himself and my mother. It is our hope that Mr. Graham is kept in Protective custody until his trial date to prevent any further delay in a case that has already gone way past due process. I pray daily that the knowledge of the pain, sadness and regret we have had to endure as her family in the last 27 years fills those with the insight that is necessary to step forward to absolve their spirits and to honour and respect not only a woman in death as much as they revered and honoured her in life, but a concept of thinking and consciousness that is greater than us all. The truth unconditionally!

In the spirit of our mother, Denise and Deborah Maloney Pictou