Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Decades of Deceit: Graham's Life Sentence

Jan. 24, 2011 Infoshop News

by antoinette nora claypoole

Jan. 24, 2011. An old hotel where "movie stars" have stayed, an Indian Reservation where women are still found frozen to death. A fancy bronze sculpture of an "Indian warrior". Bars and Courtrooms. That's Rapid City, South Dakota. In a line: a colonizer's town where the Indian Wars were never quite ended.

Today, after years of fighting Extradition from Canada for the murder of his friend Anna Mae Aquash, John Graham faces sentencing in South Dakota State Court. He was found guilty in Dec.2010 of "kidnapping leading to murder", found not guilty of pre-meditated murder. And sentenced, today, to "life in prison", without parole. His daughter, his friends and family have always believed his innocence. And today John Graham, spoke, after not having taken the witness stand during his trial. According to witnesses, John Graham faced Anna Mae's daughters, in the courtroom today during sentencing. And explained. What had said to me in my interview with him. What his family and friends know. He never murdered Anna Mae Pictou Aquash.

When I attended his 2005 extradition hearings in Vancouver, B.C., stayed at a "support house" in the city, I learned alot about John Graham, the love his people have for him, and about the man himself. A gentle demeanor, his was not accusation nor anger, vindictiveness nor hate. It was sorrow at having been targetted by people he considered his "friends". "Once in the 80's", he told me in a funky coffee shoppe not far from where he checked into parole each day, " Once John Trudell and Dino Butler were facing some heat in the States. THey needed to hide out. I gave them a safe shelter here in B.C. until things cooled off. Why would Trudell turn on me?? And tell lies." Graham said this over coffee, in a near whisper. Perplexed. "I cared about him. He was my brother". Shaking his head, looking for the creamer as a distraction to the pain.

Trudell, in fact, had "identified" Graham for the FBI, and his statement was KEY in the extradition of John Graham. In Court, before I left back for the States, the Judge confirmed reliance on Trudell as key in the decision to uphold extradition. (search this blog and you'll find the details).

It is not only the loss of a father, activist and friend which has struck Vancouver, B.C. and White Horse Junction up in the Yukon, but also the deep scars of betrayal which were ripped open as not one old AIM person defended John Graham. With neither a statement nor a testimony, a letter or a song. In fact, when Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman was still alive, he HAD planned a great benefit/event in San Francisco for John Graham. That was during the Looking Cloud trial, back in 2004. Trudell was initially going to be there, with Floyd. But the day after i broke the news on KPFK Pacifica Radio, Westerman "cancelled" the event. When asked why he/Trudell claimed "it was just too controversial" to support John Graham.

Today, Graham's daughter Naneek, a strong and devoted woman, was quoted in the Rapid City Journal as standing by her father. Naturally. "Believing his innocence." Anyone who has met John Graham, talked with him and considered the circumstances of his arrest stood with Naneek in that courtroom, awaiting another mandate by "justice".

Graham's lawyer plans an appeal, Anna Mae daughters--their vendetta persisting-- continue to call for more indictments of old AIM they claim "ordered her murder". And I. Wonder at all the people I have met in the American Indian Movement (AIM) over the past three decades. Feel all those I have known. Some dead. Many whom I have loved. I feel the heartbeat of lying as a way to save one's life. I read and re read the FBI affadavits about "Annie Mae Aquash" alive in Jan. 1976, a month after people claim Graham Killed her. I recall the first person who told me about Paula Giese, a friend to Annie Mae, how Paula saw Annie Mae after the date people say Graham killed her. And how Giese died, how Annie Mae's husband Nogeeshik died after "finding out who killed her".

In my mind. Many AIM lives have been destroyed. Because the United States has yet to cease the Indian Wars. And all these murdered. And all those alive, but dead, nonetheless. Are now joined. As a song around the "old days" drum. Variant shrills of war woven with love of the Earth. Pounding into our hearts. To become One was the dream. To connect with all things truth. These ways are all but gone. Otherwise, John Graham would not have been sitting in a white man's courtroom. With Indian "children" looking to big daddy "justice" to dish up mercy. Something in the entire fates of Nations. Of Human Beings. Has gone terribly wrong. John Graham's "sentence" and conviction are the mirror within which we all must face "the truth of the lie".

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