Revisiting the 1970s Murder of a Native American Activist

By Carla Murphy Apr 25, 2014

On my must-read list this weekend is a NYT Magazine piece about the murder of radical Native American activist Anna Mae Aquash. The body of 30-year-old Aquash, a mother of two and a leader of the Black Panther-modeled American Indian Movement (AIM) was found in early 1976 along the edge of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She had been shot at close range. Only over the last decade however have authorities determined that, "her killing was in fact an inside job, orchestrated by AIM members who believed she was working as an F.B.I. informer." How do you reconcile that?

And btw, here’s one telling description of Aquash, a Mikmaq from Canada, as taken from a letter she once wrote to her sister:

"These white people think this country belongs to them. The whole country changed with only a handful of raggedy-ass pilgrims that came over here in the 1500s. And it can take a handful of raggedy-ass Indians to do the same, and I intend to be one of those raggedy-ass Indians." On her first night in South Dakota, [AIM leader, Dennis] Banks told her that newcomers were needed on kitchen duty. "Mr. Banks," she replied, "I didn’t come here to wash dishes. I came here to fight."