Daughter of woman killed by Indigenous activists pleads for truth
Published Tuesday, March 13, 2018 10:00PM EDT
The daughter of an Indigenous woman murdered by fellow Indigenous rights activists spoke out Tuesday to confront persistent lies about the nature of her mother’s death.
Anna Mae Pictou Aquash was born in Nova Scotia and, in the early 1970s, joined the American Indian Movement, or AIM, a well-known native civil rights group. Pictou Aquash was a vocal participant and took part in protests such as the standoff at Wounded Knee in 1973.
Aside from her strong political convictions, Pictou Aquash was a loving mother, her daughter, Denise Pictou-Maloney, told the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“She was the centre of our universe,” she said. “She was the sun, the moon and the stars.”
In 1975, Pictou Aquash suddenly vanished. Months later, her body was found by the side of the road. Her death launched several botched investigations and inspired conspiracy theories that FBI agents -- who were present at Wounded Knee -- killed her.
Those theories were not true. Two former AIM members, Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham, were eventually charged and convicted of killing Pictou Aquash. The two men had wrongly believed that Pictou Aquash was an FBI informant, and sought to silence her.
Despite the outcome of the trial, it has been difficult to undo those years of misconceptions, her daughter said.
“For decades, Indian country thought the FBI shot my mother,” Pictou-Maloney said. “American Indian Movement members kidnapped, interrogated, beat, raped and executed Anna Mae Pictou Aquash.”
Even so, Pictou-Maloney says some Indigenous groups continue to support AIM activists that she believes had a hand in her mother’s death.
In an emotional plea, she called for Indigenous leaders to take a hard look at those they endorse.
Commissioner Qajaq Robinson agreed that there is no place for lies when it comes to moving forward.
“Truth cannot be polluted by politics and greed and corruption,” Robinson said.
For commissioner Michele Audette, Pictou Aquash’s story appeared to strike a chord.
“I learned something today. I was supporting something without knowing,” she said.
Both Graham and Looking Cloud received life sentences in connection with Pictou Aquash’s death.
With a report from CTV’s Montreal Bureau Chief Genevieve Beauchemin