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Steve Hendricks, Author of "The Unquiet Grave:

The FBI and the Struggle  for the Soul of Indian Country,"

An Investigative Journalist or FBI Apologist and Provocateur?  

Quoting Wikipedia: The American Indian Movement (AIM), is a Native American activist organization in the United States … the group has led protests advocating Indigenous American interests, inspired cultural renewal, monitored police activities and coordinated employment programs in cities and in rural reservation communities across the United States. AIM has often supported other indigenous interests outside the United States, as well.

By Robert Robideau, Co-Director Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

dated December 4, 2006

In his book, " The  Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country,"  Steve Hendricks promotes himself as a supporter of the American Indian  Movement ("AIM") and the American Indian by creating the appearance of  attacking the FBI with respect to its conduct in Indian Country from the  1970s through the present. However, Hendricks attacks AIM and its members,  and does a great injustice to the cause of the American Indian, both by the  written expressions in his book and the oral expressions that he has been  making during the tour promoting his book. Hendricks both condemns AIM as  "thugs" than lauds AIM as victims. Hendricks' use of double speak methodology  in both his book and in articles promoting the book provoke jumbled emotions  about AIM. This razzle dazzle style of twisted and corrupted statements leave  the reader wondering about the veracity of Hendricks' stated purpose in  writing the book - to seek the truth.

In the first half of his book,  Hendricks adds little to the information already made public by, among  others, Peter Matthiessen in describing the "reign of terror," which existed  on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation from 1973 through 1976. In the second  half of his book, he primarily reports on the trial of Arlo Looking Cloud in  connection with the murder of Anna Mae Aquash, addresses the alleged murder  of Ray Robinson during the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973; and takes an easy  shot at a self-proclaimed Indian hater, William Janklow, as if to create the  impression that Hendricks is supportive of AIM and American Indians. But,  this veil of support is lifted and the true motivation of the book is  revealed when Mr. Hendricks reports favorably on the Looking Cloud trial and  even goes so far as to tout the fairness of the trial and the correctness of  evidentiary rulings which are virtually impossible to justify even to persons  unfamiliar with evidentiary nuances of the law. Then, based on nothing but  innuendo and the unsourced writings of Paul Demain, he smears AIM, its  leaders and members, by claiming that leaders of AIM and its members  participated in a cold-blooded murder of Ray Robinson during Wounded Knee and  their subsequent cover-up. Hendricks' attacks on AIM did not stop in the  book. They have continued in articles promoting his book, not surprisingly  creating incidents during the tour.

In a self promotional article  appearing in Indian Country Today on November 30, 2006, entitled, "Manhandled  by Russell Means," Steve Hendricks claimed to have been "manhandled by  Russell Means." I have known Russell Means for more than 30 years. If Russ,  who is in his 70s, "manhandled" Hendricks,Hendricks would today be carrying  on his book tour from a hospital bed.

According to Hendricks, Russell  Means threatened and insulted him during a speech at Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota because of Hendricks' accusation that AIM members had killed and  buried the black civil rights worker, Ray Robinson, during the 71 day  occupation of Wounded Knee
in 1973.

Russ Means properly insulted  Hendricks' shoddy journalism with respect to the death of Ray Robinson. If  anyone, it is Hendricks who has threatened and insulted AIM by using unproven  rumors to provoke and inflame dissension in Indian country. Hendricks is  promoting unoriginal accusations, first uttered by Paul DeMain, editor of  "News From Indian Country," which have never been shown to be true. Despite  the fact that no one has been charged with this alleged offense, Hendricks parrots DeMain's claims of the existence of unidentified "credible witnesses." But if such credible witnesses exist, we must wonder why indictments have not been issued.

Hendricks' call for an apology from AIM  for Ray Robinson's death is farcical. AIM has nothing to apologize for. If Ray Robinson died at Wounded Knee, then the accusations should be limited to  the individual or individuals responsible for his death, based on solid  evidence, not rumor and innuendo. It should be Mr. Hendricks who is castigated for his shoddy journalism, not Mr. Means for properly challenging him.

Hendricks erroneously claims that AIM engaged in violent actions in the aftermath of Wounded Knee. He then tempers this statement by blaming it on the FBI: ".it was the FBI's sabotage of AIM that provoked many of AIM's violent deeds." and "those deeds in turn led to AIM's implosion, as the FBI intended." It is well recorded that AIM did not carry out the "violent deeds," but rather the documented violence was perpetuated by the FBI, a corrupt tribal government, and it's hired vigilante force called  the Guardians of the Oglala Nation, known throughout Indian country as the Goon squad. The period between 1973 through 1976 became known as the "reign  of terror" which was propagated under the Nixon administration. Contrary to what Hendricks would have you believe, the 300 assaults and 60 murders  were AIM members and sympathizers, as investigated and reported on by two government civil rights investigators, Maldrow and DeWitt, and serves as the attestation as to who were responsible for committing these "violent deeds."

Though Hendricks details the widespread violence and terror on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in his book, he seeks to revise history  by somehow blaming AIM and its members for the killing and terror, another example of the double speak methodology utilized by Hendricks. This  wide spread violence and terror is what caused the Elders and Traditionals of  the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to request protection by AIM which in turn  is what brought Leonard Peltier, myself, and other warriors to join the  communities of the Oglala Nation. We were at the Pine Ridge Indian  Reservation to serve and protect our people whom the United States Government  and the tribal government were trying to wipe-out to further their own  economic gain.

Our presence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and our  purpose of protecting our people is what led the Oglala firefight of June 26, 1975, and the deaths of two FBI agents and Joseph Stuntz, a young American Indian. Hendricks portrays this as an act of AIM violence when in fact we acted in self-defense in what can be best characterized as a war zone. In fact, I was tried and acquitted by an all white jury in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the summer of 1976, on self-defense grounds contrary to what Hendricks wants his readers to believe.

The FBI thereafter targeted Leonard Peltier, who was unfairly tried, convicted and sentenced to two life sentences. The  United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals called  his conviction "a clear abuse of the investigative process by the FBI" and  gave credence to the claims of Indian people that if the FBI is willing to  fabricate evidence to extradite a person in this country, it is willing to  fabricate evidence to convict those targeted the enemy. As recently as 2003, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit acknowledged: "Much  of the government's behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld  evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed."

The  Eighth Circuit discussed this critical evidence which was withheld by the FBI  as "newly discovered evidence indicating [that the government's ballistic  expert] may not have been telling the truth," and that the evidence withheld  by the FBI created "inconsistencies casting strong doubts upon the  government's case." Under our system, if there is a reasonable doubt, then  Leonard Peltier is not guilty, yet he still remains in prison after 30 years  for a crime he too should have been acquitted and freed.

After Leonard  Peltier's attorneys discovered that the government fabricated the ballistics  evidence, among other things, the government has had to admit several times  in open court that it had no credible evidence Leonard Peltier killed the  agents, that it could not prove who killed the agents, and speciously claimed  it never tried to prove he shot the agents and that the conviction could be  upheld on aiding and abetting grounds. But no one has ever explained who Leonard aided and abetted which is a prerequisite to such a charge. He could  not aid and abet Dino Butler or me who were acquitted. Hendricks fails to  inform the reader of these issues, and essentially affirms that Leonard  Peltier should be imprisoned which is a farcical presentation of the facts  found by the Courts.

Though Hendricks is correct that the FBI tried to  destroy AIM by dirty tricks and lies, the so-called "implosion" of AIM never  has happened as reported by Hendricks. AIM has, as most other political  groups in their history, gone through struggle and re-alignment. AIM remains  alive and well to this very day. Besides the many AIM chapters that actively continue challenging racism, desecration of our scared places by multi-national corporations, environmental issues, AIMs International Treaty Council, and the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee have all shown that AIM is very much alive and well.

The government prosecuted unsuccessfully  hundreds in the aftermath of Wounded Knee in hopes that it would destroy the  strength and resources of the Movement. Yet, even before these trials failed,  the FBI concluded that this approach was insufficient. As one FBI document  stated, "There are indications that the Indian militant problem in the area  will not be resolved or discontinued with the prosecution of these  insurgents."

Mr. Hendricks presentation of the case of Anna Mae Aquash  was very disappointing. Instead of aggressively pursuing the case based on the FBI documents that were produced to him, he essentially reported on the farcical trial of Arlo Looking Cloud which revealed nothing about the  FBI's misconduct in the murder of Anna Mae Aquash and its after math. A recently discovered foia document in the form of a FBI report shows that the FBI knew 30 years ago who killed Anna Mae. It appears that the FBI decided not to expose or use their findings in the case of Anna Mae Aquash because there was a greater need to protect and hide their informant/ provocateur, than in resolving the case. In this regard, Hendricks has adopted much of the propaganda propounded by people such as Paul Demain and John Trudell. Moreover, despite producing its Anna Mae files to selective people, the FBI has engaged in a continuing effort to block production of informant files pertaining to the Anna Mae and Leonard Peltier, despite the passage of  30 years, based on the ludicrous basis that such production would hamper the "war on transnational terrorism."

Yet, while giving credence to  the ramblings of those like Demain and Trudell, Hendricks wrote in his book  and continues to state to the media that David Hill, "has long been accused  of being a spy - perhaps entirely unfairly." The qualification shows  Hendricks lacks the evidence that David Hill is a spy, but does nothing to  cure the charge once made. Such an unsupported accusation which attacks the  reputation of a man in the front lines must be strongly condemned as pure  mumbo jumbo and is befitting the work of a provocateur. I have spoken with  Hendricks on many occasions in regard to these unfounded accusations, and he  has at no time provided any proof that would withstand the simplest of  scrutiny. Yet, without a scrap of evidence, Hendricks perpetuates the attacks  on David Hill.

In the face of Hendrick's attacks on David Hill, he leaves  unscathed John Trudell, the major proponent of the unsubstantiated rumor that  David Hill is an agent He does so even though there are many unanswered  questions about John Trudell and his role in the death of Anna Mae Aquash,  who has stated that he became a witness in the Anna Mae case "only after  meeting and talking with the FBI." The part of John that should concern  everyone is how easily he has cooperated with the feds and his total support of Kamook. After all that the FBI has done to the American Indian  Movement, one must question why he would ever meet and talk with the enemy, let alone testify on their behalf.

John always wanted to be a  celebrity. Wives and children were ruined for the price of fame. His love  songs are full of abuse, "that's the way I run, baby." He is true and violent  to his women. All the stuff that features real big in his bio, the fire death  of his family stands out the most and has come to serve him as tools in his promo kit. He often says in his interviews that if we can't change our  behavior at least we should be honest about it. I would rather hear him say  that if we can't change we should seek medical help.

Over the years,  Trudell's behavior is typical of being a provocateur, particularly his  eagerness to snitch jacket people such as David Hill, and many others in AIM  and it supporters, as being "FBI spies," and how easily he testifies for the  various prosecutions. I think he is playing to many ends against the middle.  Russell Mean's challenge of Hendricks in defense of David Hill is testimony  to AIMs long standing position with Hill who has always been a dedicated,  committed and honorable man to AIM and Native struggles.

Michael  Donnelly, a friend of Trudell, wrote an article "Getting Away with Murder  Killing Anna Mae Aquash, Smearing John Trudell," in the January 17, 2006,  issue of Counterpunch, defending him despite the landslide condemnation from  AIM. Michael Donnely's article again highlighted that Trudell's accusation of Dennis Banks being a party to the Anna Mae killing, to which he  testified at my trial in 1976: "Dennis (Banks) told me she (Anna Mae) had  been shot in the back of the head. He told me this in February, about the  25th or 26th of February. He told me this in California. I was sitting in the  car with Dennis and he said, 'You know they found Annie Mae.' No, he said it this way. He said, 'You know that body they found? That is Annie Mae.' I didn't know about a body. Then he said that."

Why did Trudell plant  this seed against Dennis Banks in my trial? Such testimony had no relevance  to my trial, so why did he say it. John must have anticipated bad days ahead  after Anna Mae was killed. These are the brazen actions of an informer  setting the stage for the trial for the killing of Anna Mae, albeit that it  was delayed for too long for some reason that has not yet been discovered.  So, we must ask again, who is John Trudell and what does he have to do with  the FBI, and just what role has he played in the smearing of Leonard Peltier  which took place in connection with the trial of Arlo Looking Cloud.

Given that there has been no credible evidence presented by either Demain or Trudell, why has Hendricks given so much credence to them. Both  have been publicly exposed for their relationships with the FBI. Some, including myself, believe that Trudell labels others to divert suspicion from himself. Trudell's behavior creates the strong impression that he had more to do with the FBI provocateur activity that lead to Anna Mae's death. Jim Page once wrote me, in regard to this, "I think about this every time I sing my Anna Mae song. Mr. Hendricks fails to explore lingering questions about John Trudell's role in her death.

Hendricks' book reads like a dime  novel. He plays a cat and mouse game throughout, leaving most all he says  suspended, empty of the veracity of truth and proof. This is best shown by his own statement to me where, even though he acknowledged that there were  errors in the book, it was published nevertheless. After sending Hendricks my  Book Review of his book, ''The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for  the Soul of Indian Country.

''Hendricks wrote, "Thanks, Bob. No doubt I got  as many things wrong as right, but hopefully it'll do more good than harm."  And, I am not the only person to whom he acknowledged the existence of  errors. Just what type of investigative journalist with any integrity would  allow the publication of a work he knows has errors.

I submit only a  person with an agenda would do so, an agenda offensive to the people he  purports to support Those of us who have dedicated our lives to right the  wrongs waged against us strongly condemn Hendricks' campaign to smear and  degrade the many sacrifices made in the course of our struggles while  pretending to be a friend of native American struggles.

Robert Robideau  Co-director Leonard Peltier Defense Committee  e-mail:  robertrobideau@yahoo.com

 

 

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