April 4, 2003
Man held in 1976
death of Anna Mae Aquash
A photo on page 1 of the April 4th
issue of Press/ON
was incorrectly identified as Arlo Looking Cloud. News
from Indian Country generously provided the photo to Press/ON. News from Indian Country takes full
responsibility for the error in the previous photo.
Curt Tail View (deceased) is the person
whose photo was
inadvertently published in last week’s issue, and News from Indian
apologizes for any inconvenience to the family.
note: the published photo was cropped from an original [above] that
individuals, and it was explained to the NFIC editor that Arlo
Cloud was “to the left.” There was a
misunderstanding about whether this meant “to the left” from the
the other people in the photo, or “to the left” as seen by someone
note: the person to the viewer's right in the photograph above,
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a case that has haunted Indian Country for
nearly 30 years, police have arrested a Denver man in the slaying of an
American Indian Movement member whose frozen body was found on the Pine
Ridge reservation in 1976.
Authorities said Arlo Looking Cloud, 49, was arrested in Denver last
week. He pleaded not guilty Monday to a charge of first-degree murder
in the death of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, U.S. Attorney James McMahon
said Wednesday in Sioux Falls. McMahon said he could not comment on the
case or say whether more arrests are possible. The indictment of
Looking Cloud remained sealed.
Aquash, 30, disappeared in late 1975 from a Denver home where she had
been staying. Her body, with a gunshot wound to the head, was found in
February 1976 on the sprawling reservation 90 miles east of Rapid City.
The unsolved murder of Aquash has been the subject of television
documentaries, folk songs and books. The decades of accusations and
suspicion have torn apart friendships in the American Indian community.
"This is the break anyone who wants justice in this case has been
waiting for," said Paul DeMain, editor of News From Indian Country, a
publication on the Lac Courtes Oreilles reservation in northwest
Wisconsin. DeMain has written extensively about the murder.
Even after 27 years, said DeMain, emotions run high in the Indian
community about the case. "It was a group of people having someone
executed — the highest-ranking female person in the movement at the
time," said DeMain.
"She was a fund-raiser, a grant-writer, curriculum developer for
schools. She washed, cleaned, took grandmothers to get groceries," said
DeMain. While other AIM leaders were "media gorillas," said DeMain,
Pictou Aquash was an intellectual activist.
In 1999, American Indian Movement founder Russell Means, who had feuded
with Minneapolis AIM leaders, accused unnamed senior AIM members of
ordering the execution of Aquash. A statement issued by the Minneapolis
AIM office in response to Means' claim characterized the allegations as
"a continuation of the U.S. government FBI war against the American
Indian Movement leadership."
Looking Cloud worked as a security guard at AIM events during the
1970s, said DeMain. AIM was beset by internal disputes at the time,
Vernon Bellecourt, AIM's international affairs director, said from the
group's headquarters in Minneapolis that he didn't know much about the
specific allegations against Looking Cloud and hasn't seen him in 25
"I've heard the same scuttlebutt and accusations that everybody else
has heard," he said.
But Bellecourt was skeptical about why it took the government so long
to charge anyone.
"Why 27 years later?" Bellecourt asked.
Aquash, a citizen of Canada's Mi'kmaq Nation, was among the Indian
people who occupied the village of Wounded Knee in a 71-day standoff
with federal authorities in 1973.
Some speculated she was killed by AIM members because she knew some of
them were government spies.
Others said Aquash was killed because she herself was an informant.
Some Indian people believed she was killed by the FBI. Federal
authorities have repeatedly denied any involvement.
She disappeared from the Denver home of Troy Lynn Yellow Wood.
"She had been brought to my house as a place of refuge," Yellow Wood
said in January. "To hide, basically. That's about all I can say."
Several grand juries had investigated the case over the years.
A hearing was planned for Thursday to determine whether Looking Cloud
should be brought to South Dakota to face charges. If convicted, he
would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Bernice Bull Bear of Denver is Looking Cloud's cousin and grew up with
him on the Pine Ridge reservation.
"He's a very good person. He's a very gentle man. The children like
him, and he's really good with my mother. He helps her. He's not a bad
person," she said. "He's never harmed anybody around here."
Looking Cloud had been homeless in Denver, she said.
Aquash's daughters released a statement saying they were pleased there
had been an arrest. They said they were making contact with authorities
in order to be part of the case.
"We have known for a long time that people have discussed amongst
themselves the events that led up to her death, yet publicly have
remained silent," wrote Denise Maloney Pictou of Ontario and Debbie
Maloney Pictou, who lives in Nova Scotia.
"We are inspired with the actions of those who choose to courageously
stand on their own and honor our mothers' spirit with truth and
includes material from Bob Shaw of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the
Editor’s note: additional information about Anna Mae
Aquash can be found online at http://www.dickshovel.com/anna.html,
and at numerous