- Category: Annie Mae Pictou Aquash
An interview with Richard Two Elk (Oglala Lakota)
June 16th, 2000
Native American Journalists Association National Conference
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Richard Two Elk - Its a hard thing to do I think, its been a hard thing, and I apologize, (voice breaks) for the power of it, it brings me to tears sometimes. I will start with the first statement, thats really the essence of where I stand right now and its all I really have, if you were to ask me what I have to say.
My name is Two Elk, Richard Two Elk, Im a Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. I took up the pipe when I was 17 years old, I sun danced for my brother in 1977, Im a combat veteran, I was in Wounded Knee.
My brother is Arlo Looking Cloud, hes also from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. We grew up together, I grew up hanging with Arlo over the years, many times we went many places and we participated in a lot of different AIM actions together. We went to Wounded Knee and we were always there supporting AIM in the Denver area, when an issue came up that had to be dealt with.
A lot of people in the country know Arlo Looking Cloud and they remember how active a supporter he was of the American Indian Movement. Arlos fathers name is Johnny Looking Cloud. Johnny Looking Cloud is the traditional treaty chief among our Lakota treaty headmen. Hes been around for a long time, I remember as a child, him coming to visit my house and my family. He would always bring his drums and his crafts and he would be talking and reinforcing the idea of who we were, and at that time, no one was doing that.
Johnny and Arlo Looking Cloud are the descendants of American Horse, and hes another of our traditional Lakota chiefs. So when we talk about Arlo Looking Cloud, were not just talking about, as AIM has suggested, some drunk Indian, who doesnt have a clue, were talking about a descendent of our Lakota headmen, (voice breaks) and if youll forgive me, were talking about a war chief.
Im here today to address the issue of my brothers involvement in the murder of Anna Mae Aquash. From the time of the murder and up until today, Arlo Looking Cloud has been associated with this case, and its also been clear to me that Arlo Looking Cloud, thats theres no doubt in my mind, that he was involved in the murder of Anna Mae.
He has always stated to me, consistently over the years, that he was only acting on orders. He further states, if people want to know more about where those orders came from, how they came about, then they need to talk to the AIM leadership.
So, I, my brothers, my sisters, and the relatives of Arlo Looking Cloud support him in his position, and we stand beside him in trying to bring this case to a resolve.
Over the past year, Mr. Robert Branscombe and I, have provided ample opportunities for American Indian Movement leadership to come forward and help our families resolve this case. Theyve responded with denial and finger pointing.
Given the history of this case and the interest of the Native families involved, given that it is a common knowledge among many Native people that AIM leadership clearly had it out for Anna Mae for their various reasons, given that there are hundreds of grassroots Native people who know the truth of this case and given that there has been a consistent effort on the part of American Indian Movement leadership to misdirect, confuse and avoid their role in the murder of Anna Mae and given that the families of the victim, desire, deserve at the very least the honor and dignity of knowing the truth, I am formally challenging American Indian Movement leaders, Russell Means, Vernon Bellecourt, Clyde Bellecourt, Dennis Banks, Carter Camp, John Trudell to come forward and own their part in this case.
Thats the essence of the statement that I would like to go out.
Minnie Two Shoes - How did you evolve the list of the AIM leadership that you just put forward?
Richard Two Elk -The list is, the individuals who shared in making the call, to go ahead and do the hit. I know this from my associations within the American Indian Movement and from my conversations with Arlo Looking Cloud. So those are the people that I know were critically and centrally involved in making the call. There were other people peripherally involved which I didnt name. Does that help?
Paul DeMain - Weve done a lot of detail work at News From Indian Country and weve talked a little bit about that stuff. Im wondering if you can talk about your involvement with AIM in Denver, what role were you playing in Denver Colorado and theres a series of questions that different people have submitted and come up with. Id appreciate if you could give some scenarios about what you were doing in Denver on behalf of AIM, your affiliation with certain people, connected and what those affiliations were.......
Richard Two Elk - O.k., I got involved with the American Indian Movement, in the fall and winter of 1970, I had returned to Colorado, I had left a foster home that I was in, I ran away and I returned to Colorado and I was living there, I lived in Denver, I spent a lot of time as a child in Denver so I returned to Denver and I joined up with my mother again and I was in Denver and me and Arlo, we were just working the neighborhood, if you will, making our life and our survival.
The way I got involved with the American Indian Movement, I was selling pot and I was going down Colfax Avenue one day with Arlo, and I saw these two Indian guys come up the street, they had braids, it was not too far from the AIM office at the time. So they came by and asked me if I knew where they could get some and I said, yeah we got some right here, so me and Arlo, we went and hooked these guys up. I discovered that those two individuals were Rod Skenendore and Vernon Bellecourt after I got to know them. After I got to know them we were going to the AIM office all the time, (read) Akwesasne notes and hang out and see what was going on in the country because we were intrigued by it.
So as we got more involved and we became more present in the community there with the AIM office, we started getting invited to participate in different activities that AIM was doing. Some of the most important activities that we were doing at the time had to do with community service, helping families, employment, prisoner services, things of that nature. So this is the large part of what we were involved with in the beginning.
I worked as an organizer, grassroots organizer, I assisted Vernon Bellecourt in a lot of degrees. At one point I was Vernon Bellecourts driver, along with being his body guard, I carried firearm and I almost used that firearm several times in defense of Vernon Bellecourt.
One of the things that we was involved in in Denver AIM that was most significant was in 1972, the last part of June, 1972, we were invited to Flagstaff Arizona to help them because they were having a pow wow down there, and the people who were putting on the pow wow, the city of Flagstaff were abusing and ripping off the Indians so, we went down there, Vernon and I and some other people went down there to help those Indians that were calling us. When we got down there, we organized and started looking at ways to stop the pow wow to correct what was going on, we finally came to the point that the only way to stop the pow wow was to physically get out there and stop the pow wow, so we did that, late one night, July 2nd I believe, 1972.
When we did that, we took over the announcers stand and we secured the arena and we were attacked by the non-Indian participants of the pow wow, they climbed up on the announcers stand and they were punching us, there were about 6 or 7 of us up there and we had a pretty hard fight with them. They ended up throwing me off the tower and we ended up all getting charged with two counts of rioting, inciting a riot and rioting, disturbing the peace, trespassing and I forgot what that third misdemeanor charge was. Twenty thousand, three hundred dollar bond and at that point Bellecourt called in Banks and Means and everybody came to Arizona to participate in this thing that we were doing.
So that was the most significant of the events that I participated in with AIM in the sense that I was charged with rioting. I was never convicted and I dont really know whatever happened with that case after that point because no one ever really told me, but that was one of the most critical events.
Back in Denver, with the American Indian Movement, it was at the time about when Vernon came up with the idea to do the Longest Walk or the Trail of Broken Treaties in the summer, when we were in Flagstaff, he came up with that idea to do the Trail of Broken Treaties and we talked about it when we were in the jail cell and the other people who were there, they remember that too.
And then I left Denver AIM and I went to Sioux City and I worked at the Indian Center that summer when they started to do the Trail of Broken Treaties and so I was working in Sioux City as an Outreach worker at the Indian Center, that's where I met Lorelie DeCora and Maryann and those girls out in Sioux City and so, later when Wounded Knee happened, I came back out to Denver, it was right after the Wounded Knee occupation started at the end of February just about the time of my birthday, March 17th, 73 that I returned to Denver and I started helping with support operations getting medical, ammunition and food to the people in Wounded Knee.
Right after Frank Clear Water got killed, one of the brothers from inside came out to Denver and he was pretty adamant that every able bodied who had the capabilities to go, needed to go into the Knee, so the rest of us who were doing support work gathered ourselves up and loaded up ammunition and supplies and food and we went to Wounded Knee. I went in Wounded Knee, I hiked in along with a team of people who were carrying in supplies, probably within a week from Frank Clear Water being killed. I remained there until about a week prior to the shut down, when I and my brother Arron Two Elk evacuated out, on the recommendation of some of the leadership.
So I was present at Wounded Knee for a pretty significant time, I saw a lot of things happen there. Many of the things I witnessed there are similar to the case of Anna Mae in that, there are events that took place, many people remember these things. Today I can talk to people in Wounded Knee on the reservation who remember the same things I remember about the Wounded Knee occupation, but its not public information and its not something many people know about.
The significant part of that is, on Easter Sunday in Wounded Knee, I and Arlo and Frank Blackhorse (DeLuca) and a couple other people were down towards the cook shack and somebody came over there and said, they caught somebody over at the, they got em over at headquarters, they said theyre a fed. So we went over there to see who it was and what was going on, so Dennis Banks and some of the other leadership had this Wasicu guy over there and they were interrogating him and they were trying to find out who he was with and why he was there and he kept denying who he was and denying that he was an informer and so they turned this individual over to us and they said take care of him. So as we were taking this individual we said what are we going to do with this guy, so we decided that since Little Big Horn was taking so much heat every time a fire fight broke out because it was close proximity to the Marshalls bunkers, that we would take this guy and we would post him over there by Little Big Horn. There was already a cross out there on the side of the hill and it was just up the hill from Little Big Horn.
So I and Arlo and Frank Blackhorse and must of been about twenty, twenty five other people, we took him out there and we tied him to that cross. And (when) we tied him to that cross, we were talking about how we needed to do something to send these guys a message and so we started beating this guy up, he was tied to this cross, we kicked him, we punched him, we hit him, we yelled at him and what we were trying to do is we were trying to piss off the marshals, because of all the heat they were putting on Little Big Horn.
It was an act of war of sorts, because that was the state of mind that we were at at the time. We did that, pretty much all afternoon, taking turns, finally the marshals got so pissed about what we were doing, they sent a message on the radio that if we didn't stop, then they were going to open up and so Banks sent out orders that we needed to stop beating this guy up, so then we just left him on the cross and we all left him hanging there, and we went away. I share this because this is one of the events that was discredited as untrue by some of the media, not official media, unofficial media and their discussion of Durham's testimony before the Senate subcommittee, they tried to discredit Durham's testimony on the basis of the fact that this event supposedly never took place. So Im telling you know that it did in fact happen and these were the people who were directly involved in that process because I was standing right next to them and doing it with them.
There are other stories and other things that happened during Wounded Knee and at Wounded Knee that like I said, a lot of people wont talk about. And thats important in the case of Anna Mae because it tells you something about who we are as a people, as Native people, that no matter what happens were not going to do that.
One of the things that was important about the time period when we came out of Wounded knee was that a lot of pressure was behind everybody about who was going to be charged, who had been charged, who was going to be hunted down and so the whole process after Wounded Knee became one of hiding and avoiding and trying to remain undetected, knowing full well that they had pictures of us and they had lists of our names and they had everything they needed to pull us in if they wanted to.
My brother Arron got some charges out of that, I was lucky, I didn't get any charges out of that. I think his charges were eventually dropped. After Wounded Knee and the American Indian Movement became an organization on the run I decided that that really wasn't what we were supposed to be doing. And it was in that same time window that everything started to get really complex, the war between AIM and the FBI, that wasn't the reason that I separated from active involvement with AIM, the reason I separated was because I felt like we needed to do constructive and positive things to represent Indian people.
That was at the point that I started to go into teaching and Indian journalism. As a teacher and as a journalist, I continued to maintain contact and involvement within the Indian movement not as an organization but as a movement of people and I would bring those things to my classroom and I would document and record those things as a journalist. But that was essentially the primary window, from 1970 to 1976 when I was directly involved with the American Indian Movement.
It was the same time window that my brother Arron was identified as a key element in the American Indian Movement by Doug Durham and targeted for elimination. It was the same window that my brother was essentially moved on and set up and taken out in terms of his ability to be actively involved within the American Indian Movement. In reference to that, in my effort to help him and support him I started doing a lot of research at that time, about the FBI, about FBI informants and about what they had done to infiltrate the American Indian Movement and the research and the conversations I had with my brother Arron Two Elk, I was able to learn a lot of particulars in reference to Douglas Durham's access to the American Indian Movement, and his role in the American Indian Movement of Iowa. His involvement with Harvey Majors and my brother Arron Two Elk.
It was also in that same time window that Harvey Majors was killed because of his positioning and my brother fled Iowa and relocated to Colorado for the safety of his family and his children. So thats the primary focal point of my direct involvement with the American Indian Movement.
Paul DeMain - Richard, do you believe that your brother was framed as an FBI informant? Was that part of the process that occurred?
Richard Two Elk - I believe my brother was given the opportunity to become an FBI informant and that he declined that opportunity but, because of the nature of paranoia within the organization at the time, he was looked at as being a possible informant by AIM leadership. Because when he was charged, and I went to Dennis Banks and I went to Russell Means and I went to Vernon Bellecourt and asked them for support and backing in my brothers case, their only response was, keep us informed. So they had at that time already taken a removed posture toward my brother. And I didn't understand at the time, why and it wasn't until I got a better grasp of what had happened with Harvey Majors and Doug Durham and AIM that I began to understand why they separated themselves from my brother.
Minnie Two Shoes - Id like to ask two questions, if I may. How old were you when you were in the Knee?
Richard Two Elk - Lets see, 19, Id just turned 19.
Minnie Two Shoes - And how old was Arlo?
Richard Two Elk - I think he was about the same age, if anything he was maybe one year older or one year younger. It was just one of those things that we never talked about that.
Minnie Two Shoes - The second question I would ask, did you witness any other events of the interrogation of any informants? I have knowledge of a particular incident, I dont want to bring forward this persons name, but there are other people who are involved in this incident in which they held a gun to this persons head, there were several of these incidences, as you well know, I know you from that time period and I knew Arlo and I've always heard that this guy was an innocent bystander that was sucked in, thats why Im asking about the age, any 19 year old kid is going to be very impressionable.
Richard Two Elk -Yes, very much. I can say that, and I think the important thing to say is on your comment that there were many instances, and the many instances I guess from my point of view was that the interrogation process was standard form for the American Indian Movement. Any time that someone was out of line, presented an opposing view or raised any questions about the activities of the American Indian Movement.
I myself, along with Arlo participated in several of these types of interrogations. As foot soldiers, it was our primary responsibility to flush these things out. So yes, many of those things happened of that nature, sometimes they would be executed on other elements within the movement. In Ajo, Arizona, in the summer of 72, Bellecourt and I and all the people that were with us, had a armed, guns drawn, fingers on the trigger face off with Russell Means at the Child's ranch. And the face off had to do with who was making the decisions and who was making the calls for our Arizona campaign during that time. There was challenge and confusion between Bellecourt and Banks and Means as to who was going to make all the final decisions as to who was going to do what, where and how. We were in a conversation of that nature at the Childs ranch outside of Ajo, when Russell and his boys drew on us, so we drew back and we stood there.....
Minnie Two Shoes - When you say we, are you talking about?.....
Richard Two Elk - Vernon Bellecourt, myself and other people that were with us, and I dont want to name these other people because its not necessary. They know who they were and they remember and they will validate within the communities everything that I say. But, we had a face off and it was long rifles and hand guns and I truly thought at that point that there was a possibility that I might get shot, but I didn't hesitate because of that, but it was just one of those things that happened then.
Everybody ended up backing down and together we rode into Ajo. So that was kind of an interesting process. After that we broke up into different elements and moved throughout the state as different elements rather than one united element within the American Indian Movement.
So those things did happen, the interrogative processes and, today I call it thuggery. I call it thuggery because, they've come after me the same way. They've come after Arlo the same way. (voice breaks) They beat him up, four or five guys come and they catch him when hes drunk and he fights em, but when theres four or five, its harder, but he doesnt quit or give up. When I found out about that, I took my boys and we took Arlo and we went around Denver and we visited different families and homes and I told people, this is my brother, I know what he did, it doesn't matter that he did that, no ones going to terrorize him now and I did that because I wanted to be able to help my brother come forward and speak out the truth. So in answer to your question, thats the best I could offer.
Brian Wright-McLeod - Were those interrogation tactics necessary and what was their success rate at weeding out informants?
Richard Two Elk - Its a hard challenge because you have to understand that the American Indian Movement emerged out of the framework of an Indian community that had been borne into resistance. Having been borne into resistance, a lot of us grew up admiring, if not, idolizing gangsters of history. We know were outlaws, Indian people were born to be outlaws, not by our own choice, but by the way the system was and the way things happened, so we inherently identified with outlaws in a particular way, a lot of that remained within our mental perspective when the American Indian Movement came about, and so when the American Indian Movement came about, and issues of security and issues of confidence came up, our response was to apply tactics that we had learned in the hood, if you will, no one ever said, go take this guy and interrogate him. Ask him questions, do this do that, there were no direct orders like that.
There were questions, someone would come and say, hey, do you know about so and so? And wed say nah, he came around lately but we dont really know, well check it out. And on that alone, we would move. Because anybody who couldn't be secured or couldn't be defined as secure, needed to be removed from the circle of the American Indian Movement. So in that way, theres no clear line of authority or command that could be traced, such as you might be able to do with a military action.
Brian Wright McLeod - Was there a success rate in weeding out informants with that kind of tactic?
Richard Two Elk - I dont think that the success rate was in weeding out informants incredibly enough, I think the success rate was in alienating people from the American Indian Movement, because whether or not somebody was an informant was never really validated, you see? It could have been anybody. Maybe they raised a question, maybe they challenged, maybe they didn't buy in easily, and so the question would be raised, who is this person?
Brian Wright McLeod - Did it ever enter into your mind that there was something wrong with that kind of thinking?
Richard Two Elk - Not until later on when I began to I guess mature beyond a state of being just an outlaw and understanding that we had a movement of people that was trying to go somewhere, versus a kind of a gang if you will.
Brian Wright McLeod - You say there were no direct orders, but how does that tie into the Anna Mae killing?
Richard Two Elk - It ties in with Anna Mae killing in that, what happened with the Anna Mae killing was that there was no direct command given from one individual to Arlo to go out and do the hit. By the time that word came down, there had already been at least two or three different types of interrogations of different types of Indian people who had been suspected or accused of being an informant. That was often a rationale that was put forward against somebody who didn't buy into the program.
It ties into the Anna Mae case in that, when Arlo got word that this had to be done and he and John Boy knew that they were the ones who were going to have to carry it through, it wasn't somebody who said, Arlo and John Boy go and do this, first do this and then do that and then do this other, it was more like it was a common consensus among the members of Denver AIM and AIM members in general that Anna Mae was under suspicion, and so they were essentially looking for somebody to take that to another level.
They had already gotten Leonard Peltier, Butler and Robideau to do an interrogative process with Anna Mae and, but they needed somebody who was cleaner and not associated with the whole process. So what they did is, they passed word through the moccasin telegraph, that this had to be taken care of, and Arlo was chosen and selected and John Boy was chosen and selected by Troy Lynn Yellow Wood (Williams) out of Denver to complete the process. They were chosen because of their allegiance to those people, Troy Lynn and some of the others and they felt that they could be secured enough and not let anybody know.
Brian Wright McLeod - But why Anna Mae?
Richard Two Elk - They felt, Vernon Bellecourt suspected Anna Maes involvement with the FBI since the Trail of Broken Treaties. In my conversations with him, and in fact I did an interview with him and I didn't talk about the FBI or AIM in that way, but I did talk about the history of AIM and it became apparent to me in my conversations with him both on the record and off the record, that Anna Mae was one of the people that he suspected clear back to the Trail of Broken Treaties as possibly being an FBI informant. O.k? The other element was, that Dennis Banks was notorious for processing women if you will. I say it that way because of the way things happen. He was notorious for getting young Indian women involved and getting involved with some of the women who came around to support AIM and our different actions. One of the women that he was involved with was Anna Mae, and in essence, he had arrived at that point where he basically threw her away. Thats the best way I could describe it. And so, it was a shared call and of all the people that were in the American Indian Movement, Anna Maes name kept consistently coming up over a period of years, particularly with Vernon Bellecourt. Thats how I figured she got involved in so crucial a point. She wasn't alone, there were a lot of other people who were almost at the same standing as she was. They didnt get taken out because she got taken out. If she would have gotten taken out and it had been successfully done with no press, no media coverage, no attention, then there would have been others. And there probably were others that never got any attention, that nobody every talked about, so.....
Brian Wright McLeod - Do you think that it was easier for them to take out a woman instead of taking out a man?
Richard Two Elk - I know that for sure, I know that for sure, because the whole nature of it is, everybody who was involved with AIM were involved with AIM because were not afraid, were involved with AIM because we wanted to go to the front line and stand there and so, you know that if you go against another AIM guy, hes not going to go down easy, hes going to go down hard and chances are, youre probably going to get hurt in the process see.
Richard LaCourse - Richard, Id like to turn the calender back to the Wounded Knee take over and then on to Mr. Majors. On the suspected fugitive who was tied to the cross and then finally abandoned and left there, what happened to him, was he rescued from outside the perimeter, and then number two, what were the conditions of Majors death?
Richard Two Elk - As far as I know in reference to the first question about the guy on the cross, the marshals, after we stopped beating him, the marshals demanded that he be released, taken off the cross, released and turned over to them at I believe it was RB1, that was the southwestern roadblock coming in from Pine Ridge. So, later on, somebody went out there and took him down, I didn't do that, and they took him out to RB1 and turned him over to federal authorities, so that was my knowledge of what happened to him.
Harvey Majors death was determined to be a car accident, a faulty brake line was supposedly the cause of his death. There was never any investigation into the cause of his death because of the fact that it was determined to be bad vehicle, and so, when my brother saw that happen, he knew it wasn't just an accident and he knew that he was next on the list.
The most significant element there is that Douglas Durham came into the American Indian Movement in Des Moines, Iowa, he worked very closely with Harvey Majors in the early period of his access to the American Indian Movement and he worked very closely with my brother Arron Two Elk in his access to the American Indian Movement. My brother Arron Two Elk was in fact, the person who introduced and vouched for Douglas Durham when he brought him into the American Indian Movement and when he introduced him to Dennis Banks, and so were it not for my brother Arron Two Elk bringing Douglas in and vouching for him, he probably wouldn't have had access that he got into the movement and my brother being who he was among the Oglalas if you will and who he had been as a younger man and if he vouched for them, then they had to be good.
He knew that that was one of the worst things that he ever did and we talked about that in 75 and 76 because he explained to me how he brought him in and how he was the one who took him all the way up and that was the primary reason why when I went to AIM leadership to ask for help with my brother, I didn't get any positive response because Durham had just come out, he had given his testimony and there were a lot of things going on and they were highly suspicious of my brother as the one who had something to do with that.
Paul DeMain - How early on were you aware of the accusations of Anna Mae, you said you were aware of the Farmington interrogation... when were you aware of that taking place?
Richard Two Elk - I was aware of it in 75 and 76, when I guess we set up the AIM house in Denver on Emerson Street and I was an active part of Denver AIM and the Colorado Warrior society with Frank Dillon and Arlo Looking Cloud and John Boy, there were others but those were the primary people that we can name now. And the question in Denver, because Anna Mae came into Denver quite a few times with Nogeshik over the period since Wounded Knee, and shed come to the office and theyd give them money and there was an association there so some of what was happening had a lot to do with the women in the community in Denver at that time.
There was and is still an incredibly level of jealousy that exists within women in AIM in Denver, not only jealousy in terms of attention of the leadership but jealousy in the ability to influence actions and decisions and to be a part of AIM in an tangible way, so what happened when Anna Mae came in was I would say, one of the things that we've always had as a problem as Indian people is we have some people that have what the Lakota might call, Chuntay washtay, (sp) its a good heart, and the good hearts do what they do because its something that they believe in and theyre such a good heart that theyre almost naive about that maybe somebody doesn't want them to do that. The good heart believes that we all share the same values and ambitions and purpose and so they go forward to do something and they share their ideas and they offer their ideas in such a way that they do that very freely and openly.
Thats how Anna Mae was. She come into the community and she had a million ideas about how to do this or how to do that, and because she was pretty, the AIM leadership and a lot of the guys had an interest in trying to hook up with her or be her friend. None of the foot soldiers or little guys ever really entertained that, but the AIM leadership was constantly toying with it. As a result of their attention that they gave to Anna Mae, they pissed off some of the other women in Denver. And some of the women had the capacity to rally opinion within the group against Anna Mae. So that was essentially what happened that took it beyond a level of suspicion and put it into a realm of danger in Denver.
Paul DeMain - In other interviews that I've conducted, its been said that those women include Lorelie DeCora, Madonna Gilbert, Troy Lynn and to some extent, Theda, though Theda is quite a bit older, are those names some of the names that are affiliated with your scenarios?
Richard Two Elk - Yeah, I would say thats pretty much on the money. Theda had a more direct involvement because being the older woman she was able to exert a significant amount of influence and control, not only over the women that were there but also over the young men, and I know for a fact that she was very closely associated and influenced very heavily the actions of Arlo and Frank.
Paul DeMain - Ive often been told, and in fact Troy Lynn has made statements to that effect that Anna Mae was taken (captive) from her house when she left (it). More recently some other people have said that Anna Mae was staying in another house about two blocks away from Troy Lynns but was in and out of the Emerson Street AIM house. Can you confirm that and can you tell me if you were involved in Anna Maes first interrogation in Denver?
Richard Two Elk - With the house on Emerson Street, there were a lot of different people that stayed in the house that were a part of Denver AIM at the time.
Paul DeMain - The person that oversaw the house and stayed at the house most regularly, from my knowledge was Rod Skenandore?
Richard Two Elk - Thats right, Rod Skenandore lived at the top floor of the AIM house of Emerson Street and he was in essence the on site over watch in the house. He was the older individual and everyone else in the house was my age and that would have been in the early twenties at that time, and so he, everything basically had to go through him and he had knowledge about everything that went on within the Emerson Street facility.
Since I came forward, and Ive came forward several years back, long before I started becoming public about my role in this case. Since I came forward, I started first among the Oglalas asking questions and talking to people and representing my brother. In the process of doing that, I went to all the people that I know were present at the time and I asked them directly and personally, what they knew, what they might have seen and what they could tell me. Most people were very apprehensive about what they wanted to tell me, but they did talk, and they did tell me different things, but they did ask me not to divulge their name and they asked not to put them in a position where they would have to testify in this regard.
And that goes back to some of the guiding principles that we have within our community where we wont turn over our own to the enemy. And so, one of the statements that was given to me was that, this young woman had come into the house unexpectedly, looking for someone and everybody was in the kitchen and they were talking and getting kind of hushed and there was quite a few people there. And so they came in and they started to go out the back door to get something off the porch and when they opened the back door, the people in the room, started yelling at them and trying to stop them from going through that door, but they managed to open that door a little bit and they saw a woman back there and she was tied up and she was gagged.
But all they caught was a glimpse, but they recognized her and they knew it was Anna Mae. But right away the people in that room closed that door and they hurried that girl out. So she left and she never said anything about it and thats kind of how it is with Indian people and thats why I say theres hundreds of witnesses out there in the grassroots community who know what happened.
And so it isnt a case of having to prove something. Maybe for the FBI and maybe for charges, it has to be proven and evidence comes to play, but these were some of the things that were told to me and my personal recollections were that Skenandore was there and he had an active involvement in the abduction and murder of Anna Mae Aquash, not only because of his presence and his awareness as an older member who was in charge of things at the time. But, after Arlo was taken into custody in 94 and interrogated by the FBI in reference to this case, I began to actively challenge people within Denver AIM concerning this case and that was before I ever went public.
On the moccasin telegraph I put the word out that I knew what had happened and that I was taking an active interest in the case. Within a week of my putting the word out, Rod Skenandore came to my house. He came from Montana or Wyoming to visit me. He invited me in essence to come back in the fold. He asked me why I had to go out there and do things on my own and why couldn't I work with, the other people within Denver AIM. And I told him very clearly, that there was a distinction in my mind and in my heart between my brother and the other people in Denver AIM and the truth in the case of Anna Mae.
At that point he started arguing with me and challenging me in my house, in front of my children and my family and my son witnessed that. I then invited him to leave and I told him again that I wasn't going to go away from this case and I wasn't going to break from it and that he and the others needed to get ready because we were going to move in on them. He started insulting me and telling me to quit barking around, so I basically just went to my soldiers mode and started barking at him until he drove away.
Thats why I know, from his reaction to me hitting buttons, he came all the way from Wyoming to personally counsel me and he relied on his personal association with me and other people within Denver AIM to basically get me to back off and be quiet. He knew I was a journalist and he knows that I had been doing radio for a long time and he knows that I have the inside track on Denver AIM and what had happened and what was going on. Thats why he was so adamant about wanting me to come back into the fold.
Richard LaCourse - Richard I want to again, turn the pages back a little bit. In all the review of records and interviews and including the Wounded Knee papers, I have never, ever seen Anna Mae being bad jacketed with the informer thing clear as far back as November 1972..... and since you'd talked to Vernon about it, what did she do that turned on Vernons warning lights? This is really early for being fingered.
Richard Two Elk - I think what happened with Vernon was that he at the time didn't have a suspicion of her. He acquired and developed this suspicion in retrospect, because....
Richard LaCourse - Excuse me, and this was not something that she was ever aware of herself?
Richard Two Elk - Right, she was never, never aware of, until probably within 6 months of her death she was not aware of the magnitude of the allegations against her and it wasn't until six months of her death, and from the summer of 75, that she started to begin to realize that its real, that she was highly suspected.... Never suspected that the American Indian Movement was going to be involved directly until probably about a month after she got arrested in November, then she knew it was coming down, and it had nothing to do with the FBI...
Paul DeMain - The first time she was arrested was in September at Crow Dogs?
Richard Two Elk - Crow Dogs, right. It wasn't until after she got arrested in Ontario and she was being extradited to South Dakota that she knew that it was basically closing in. She had acquired that sense by that time, but by then it was too late because she knew there were Indian people involved, but what she didnt know was that the two people that she had accepted into confidence, John Boy and Arlo were the ones who were supposed to do that.
And she didnt know, she trusted them. She thought that they were helping her deal with the other AIM guys, and that they were going to back her because they were foot soldiers, she had no idea that they were the foot soldiers who were marked to take her out.
Paul DeMain - And that all occurred after the Marlon Brando motor home bust.
Richard Two Elk - Right.
Discussion regarding events in the Marlo Brando Motor Home bust in Oregon and subsequent flight of Banks and Peltier.
Richard LaCourse - Do you think the city, the phone messages was Rapid City?
Richard Two Elk - I would say more than likely because the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/ Offense offices were there and everything was, that was a central hub at the time, Minneapolis was not a central operational area in that period, it was Rapid City. Does that help?
Paul DeMain - The credibility of Russells, and I guess weve already elaborated on that a little bit, Russells saying that theres this real direct phone call from Vernon to Clyde at Bill Means home, theres other people that are telling me that John Boy and Arlo and Theda were at Bill Means that morning, that Arlo was lit up, that John Boy never got out of the car, that it was only Theda and Arlo that came in the house. Is that basically how you understand from talking to Arlo the occurrence that there was some kind of a phone call made there?
Richard Two Elk - Well there was a word, you know, I dont know if it was a phone call, and I wasn't certain whether it was a word that somebody was there and said go ahead with it or they had gotten a phone call. When Means came out and did the discussion on the phone call at the Denver press conference, I was highly suspect of that.
The nature of the containment program that AIM runs down is that theyll give you a fish to try to catch and when you catch the fish it vaporizes, o.k., and thats how they control the flow of information, so if they focus everybodys point on a phone call and who made the phone call in this communique, then everybody's going there and then later on, you pick up something and say well, we know the phone call and then ha, the phone call never existed, then youre standing there holding a blank piece of paper, wondering what the hell happened, right, o.k., so thats significant in the way that they tried to handle the whole situation and the sense that I got from Arlo was that word was given.So I didn't know of a specific phone call that took place and who made the phone call and passed the word, the sense that I had was that it was not a specific person who gave the authorization, but that it was several people who signed off on it, if you will, o.k. because it wasn't, Arlo didnt, the chain of command if you will, within the organization at the time, places Arlo getting directives from Russell, more than from Vernon, Troy Lynns association with Russell, the Oglala click that existed in Denver at that time and the people who were part of that click....
Paul DeMain - Including Theda?
Richard Two Elk - Including Theda, has more to do with the chain of command and the route of an order, than Bellecourt would play, Bellecourt wasnt in Denver at the time.... he wasn't someone that wed really be dealing with at the time, but he could sign off on something, if enough of the different leadership agreed on a given point, then all theyd need to do is hear that and then we could go forward with it, o.k., but the sense that I got from Arlo was that somebody had sent word, but I didn't know that that word was in the form of a phone call. When Means was talking about a phone call at the press conference, I started to suspect it because it had one of those curious, why dont you come chase this one, things about it, o.k. and I didn't really, I didnt feel thats what happened, it wasn't my sense of what happened o.k.
Richard LaCourse - ....We find people in the area that are asserting are true, but they conflict with FBI reports that we have, not necessarily with the autopsy, which is, was she wrapped in a blanket? And then, maybe, physically moved to the edge of the canyon and then dropped in, do you know anything about that, separate from federal government reports.
Richard Two Elk - The sense that I have is that.... they got out of the vehicle, somebody at first said they had to go to the bathroom, then they got out and they were going to go off the road, they were walking off the road, the three of them, she had a blanket on and thats when Arlo gave the gun to John Boy and nodded at Anna Mae, then he just put the gun beside her and pulled the trigger. She went down, they turned around and ran back to the car, o.k., so, they left her where she fell. I dont think she was dead, I think she was still alive, and in the process of being still alive, she pulled the blanket and tried to go, you know, what the hell do you do at that point, you know?.....
I figured that she probably crawled, trying to get there, she was trying to get to somewhere, you know, you can imagine the state that youre in, if youre still alive, you know, what are you trying to do? Youre either trying to get up or get some help or get somewhere, and thats as far as I can tell, and I do have a background in criminal investigation, I do have a background in medical, I was a combat medic in the Army. I worked in the EMS system in New York City and Ive been in crime scenes. Thats the best that I could formulate from the case, was that after they left and she fell, that she tried to move and inadvertently went over, o.k.
Paul DeMain - ....I've had people tell me that the reason she was executed was to protect people at the Jumping Bull compound, because someone became convinced that she was going to go to the FBI and tell them who actually shot the agents.
Richard Two Elk - Right. Well, you had to look at different people, I think that there is a foundation to that and thats the whole purpose of it, the foundation, because the role of Butler and Robideau in dealing with her and a role of her situation in Denver AIM, clearly what it does is it demonstrates, and there were a lot of people at the time, wed get pissed about they were doing this, or not doing that or whatever, and then wed speak out on that and I think that it was her general consensus was that things were not right and they needed to be made right and thats part of what was getting her in trouble with Denver AIM because she wasn't just going with the program, and that was the opportunity that presented itself that allowed the women to zero on her, because of her nature of saying things, whereas they might feel (th)em but they wouldn't say them, she would say them and then they could kind of, you know, whisper to each other and it kinda like snowballed, everybody didn't just have a sense of who she was or what was going on, and she was outside the click.
So I know that Butler and Robideau, and I know both of them, I know Butler and Robideau were interested in containing the information about the FBI shooting. I dont think, from what I know, that Peltier was directly the one who shot or hit the FBI, but a fire fight is a fire fight. They say Peltier was the only one with the AR15, but if you were in South Dakota at the time, thats so far off the line of thought of what was going on, a lot of people had AR15s. A lot of people had AR15s, I had a 223, you know, it doesn't work like that.
Minnie Two Shoes - Where were you when Jumping Bull went down?
Richard Two Elk - I was in Denver.....thank you......(laughs) no, Im serious, I got married the day before in Denver and then the next day and then it was like the next day that Arron came to me and said, hey man, this shit went down.
Paul DeMain - Was Arlo at Jumping Bull compound?
Richard Two Elk - No, no, he was in Denver.
Paul DeMain - ....My question has to do with the relationship between Dusty Nelson and Theda Nelson, I have basically said from time to time that there were people acting in regards to this to protect certain people at Jumping Bull compound. Dusty Nelson is Theda Nelsons grandson as far as we know?
Richard Two Elk - I dont know what the exact specific relationship is, what I do know is that Dusty was always one of Thedas boys. They were so connected, they were even more connected than Arlo or any of the other guys that worked with Theda, so I didn't know what their specific relationship was, but I knew that he was a Nelson and he was part of that family. I remember Dusty and Dusty knows me.
More discussion about event at the Jumping Bull Compound
Richard Two Elk - It may or may not have been, I remember that Lester Jones statement. I dont know, he (Dusty) definitely had a lot of firearms, he was definitely moving back and forth and he was definitely involved in the process. I've had people from the rez come forward and tell me that Joe Stuntz did the hit, was the one that killed the FBI agents and its kind of like, well, youll never know, they can do that forever and then some and thats the whole strategy thats important to understand is the security that exists within the Indian community and the nature of the way things are done.
We really never will know for sure, all we can do is take what we have and run with it, so thats why I've taken the position that I've taken, because I know from the people I've talked and from what I've seen and experienced and witnessed myself, what this case is, I cant sit there and argue some of the particulars of the case from an evidenciary point of view, but I can say, I know that this woman was killed, I know that she was killed by AIM and I know that AIM leadership made the call and I know that they need to be held accountable and responsible for it, and what I've done is I've taken my pipe, my feathers and the medicine and I've moved forward with that. Because if I had a political agenda, if I had a philosophical agenda, they would literally eat me up, because I couldn't operate at the level that I need to operate at to be able to survive the barrage.
So what Ive done, because it was my brother, I've taken my pipe, Ive taken my medicine, and because of some of the appointments that I've been given from the grandmothers on Pine Ridge as Chink-sa-lou-ha and A-kee-chi-ta then what Ive decided is we need to take these actions to help, so what I've done is, I've taken my pipe and my medicine and I've gone forward and Im making these calls and saying, I dont know about the FBI, I dont know about evidence, I dont know about charges, I dont know about proof, what I know is that you guys were involved in this and you need to come forward and help us deal with this, thats all.
Richard LaCourse - Richard, you told us something here today which is the very first time I've heard this, for as long as I've tried to concentrate on this in detail, which is the FBI interviewed Arlo in 1994. Thats very recent, thats after Robert Ecoffey at Pine Ridge did all his work with the marshals and then the BIA and became superintendent at Pine Ridge and then the beginning of the active work by the Denver detective, Abe Alonzo. What do you know about that interrogation, is it subject to Freedom of Information act?
Richard Two Elk - Excellent. I dont know but if you could make it that I think it would be very valuable.
Richard LaCourse - Has he talked to you about it? The path of the inquiry and so forth?
Richard Two Elk - Well, Ill tell you what happened. He did time and Id have to look at the record, and you could see when he did time. He did time in CDC, Colorado Department of Corrections and he was in prison in Colorado for vehicular assault or some other charge, and when he was in prison, he used to call me collect and wed visit. I dont know if I was the only person he called collect or if I was the only person that would accept collect calls from him and talk to him for half an hour just because I was his brother. We had this ongoing relationship and then he finished his sentence and they let him out, and I believe that probably was 93, 94 something like that.
When he got out of prison, Id have to get out a calender to do a time run to see how long, but he was out of prison for quite a while, he came up, we visited, we talked, we hung out and did a lot of stuff and then all of a sudden, I believe it was the summer of 94 and again the record would demonstrate the specific dates but, he just disappeared and hes always disappearing so people didn't really think that much of it. I run checks on him on an ongoing basis and I've always been doing that for as long as I can remember. I started running checks on him and nobody could tell me anything and about a month went by and I didn't hear from him, nobody had heard from him, so I couldn't figure out where he was.
He had come down to Panama City Florida one time and he got in trouble over here and I dont know if you were aware of that but he got arrested and did time in Panama City for a weapons charge and so I thought maybe hed done something like that again, went some where and got crazy and got thrown in, so I wasn't sure what was going on, I just knew that he was gone. And then I got another collect call, you know they say somebody from department of corrections wants to make a collect call and it gave his name Arlo Looking Cloud and I said yeah, I took the call, I said what the hell, whatd you do, did you get busted again or what. He was kind of quiet for a while and he said, well you know, he says, you remember Anna Mae? I said yeah, yeah, I remember. He said, they got me in on that, I said what? He said, they got me in on that charge, they want to charge me with her murder.
I said wait a minute now, they want to charge you with her murder. He said yeah. I said, well how the hell did that come about. Over a process of about 3 or 4 month period, he made phone calls to me of a similar nature, even though the phone calls came from a different location each time he called me. He called me one time from El Reno, he called me another time from Lompoc, he called me from McCalester, he called me another time from Jefferson county jail out in Golden where the FBI has one of their regional detainment offices. Each time he called me, they were doing this interrogative process with him. Because of, he knew that Id been in the military, he knew that I have a security clearance, he knew that I knew something about how these things worked.
And so he called and asked me for help and so our conversations over the period first, he asked me well, what should I do, after I thought about it a while, I asked him for myself, to tell me what he knew and to tell me as much as he could about the case. So wed be talking and hed have to go back in to holding or something and I started developing a sense of where we were going in terms of this whole conversation and I started going for particulars in terms of the case and what happened and thats when I started reading all the information and trying to lock in, getting him to divulge as much as he could, from an inside point of view. He also would ask me about lie detector tests, he would ask me about the interrogative process, he would ask me about the likelihood of charges, and at that point I basically advised him and I feel that thats how he arrived at where he is, because I advised him that he needed to be straight forward, he needed to think about his overall statement, he needed to be truthful and tell as much as he could, as much as he knew, without divulging a whole lot of other peoples names.......
Paul DeMain - And hes been granted some kind of immunity?
Richard Two Elk - As the result of that process, he was given immunity but a very restricted immunity, only in the context of of the specific statement that he made on record at that time. So the extent of his immunity is on that and nothing beyond that, so he doesn't have immunity and thats where it gets, thats why he isn't going to talk anything beyond, because if he goes out and he does anything else or says anything else, theres a high likelihood that he will get charged based on the information that he divulged, so hes on very hairy ground in that sense, so what happened was. I knew of the investigation, I knew the particulars, I knew what had happened, but the magnitude of it was so unsettling and mind boggling that all I could do was just walk away and try to digest it for a while, thats when I went to him after he got out of jail and said stay away from my, stay away from my kids, my family, I gotta figure this out. It was hard for me to sit there through those years and try to handle that information and sort through the information and try to figure out as much as I could and find out as much as I could and to watch the larger investigative process going on, without stepping forward. And so, thats why I didn't share that information with anybody until last summer when I established contact with Robert Branscombe. And the whole reason I established contact with Robert Branscombe was because I was watching the whole thing play out, and I knew what the next step was that they were going to flush his ass down a big commode, and they were going to set him up.
Further discussion about current events and what brought Two Elk out publically.
Paul DeMain - Whats our next step. What are you expecting us to do and how do you want us to, I mean this is on tapes, on video, were journalists, were ready to publish and print. What do you want out of this from us?
Richard Two Elk - Well, from what I understand about the process here is that when I started to put it together and understanding, why the hell I ended up standing where I was standing, in essence, o.k., I began to realize that it was something bigger than a political process, it was something bigger than an investigative process, what it really had to do with, is it had to do with the medicine and so thats when I basically picked up and started carrying forward and I've been able to take the actions that I have and make the statements that I make because of the fact that I hold that medicine in front of me and I stand firmly behind it.
So, what I've done now, Ive been given the position of being in charge of security at one of the most traditional Lakota sun dances at Pine Ridge and I've been given this task for two years already and this will be my third year and so a lot of the people that are at that sundance are relatives of mine, a lot of the people that are there are relatives of Arlo and they know Arlo. I've talked to a lot of them about this and what Im doing this year.
Im going back to that Sundance and Im presenting this, to the medicine there. Tree Day is 4th of July, so Ive talked to Frank Dillon, I havent told Arlo directly but I've sent word to him that both he and Frank are called to come to that Sundance to help me with security and thats my way of telling them that they need to come and face the medicine.
And so, what I've told them is that they need to come and help me with the Sundance, the option that they have is to come, if they come, then I put them before the medicine and we surrender them to the medicine.... So I've given them the opportunity for them to face the medicine, in the same way for the past year, I've created ample opportunities for national AIM leadership to come forward and deal with this.
And so, having given that, I know that with the medicine, Im going to go to the Sundance and present this regardless of whether they come or not. Im going to present that from the context of my initial statement that my brother is a Lakota war leader, who wasn't supposed to be a criminal, he was supposed to be something else.
But because the American Indian Movement used him and then cast him aside, he became established as a criminal and not the war chief that hes supposed to be known as, and so thats what Im presenting to the people and thats what Im presenting to the medicine. Id like to take a recording of my statement, if I can get a copy of it, and Im going to also have it translated into Lakota. Im going to take my recorded statement along with the translation and were going to run it on KILI, o.k. Tree Day is the 4th of July, Im going to arrange to run it on KILI prior to Tree Day, so that Ill be there on the reservation at that Sundance within seven days of this word going out, and so, what I understand is, that I believe that the medicine guides us all and I believe that Anna Mae knows the truth of it and guides us all and as much as we might not want to, know some of the things that are truths in this case, we have to arrive at that point regardless.
And I believe that if we stand behind the medicine and we take these kinds of steps, that it will take care of it all, o.k. So what Id like to do is, if you could take and look at everything that we have and let me know what each of you think, because we each have a different perspective on how things go, if you see something about what we've talked about that you think is a point of emphasis or a strong point or a focal point then Ill follow you, o.k. because it isnt about one person or any group of people, its something that belongs to us all, and thats how it should be in the end, it belongs to us all.
Somebody has to be able to go forward with that and thats what I have accepted as my part, and so whereas, Im able to do that, then the support that Im seeking is that we allow and we open the door and create the opportunity for Indian people to freely express what theyve known for at least two decades in reference to the American Indian Movement, in reference to AIM leadership, and in reference to the crimes of the American Indian Movement and AIM leadership, o.k.
Because, thousands of Indians have experienced that in one way or another, most of them are incredibly terrified because of the thuggery thats characteristic of the American Indian Movement. Most of them are incredibly terrified of ever saying anything, they wont. If someone is willing to get up and publicly acknowledge and state, that these things exist, that these conditions are present, then the people themselves will affirm that, I know that.
So it isn't anything different than you might do at a ceremony, where the people who are direct participants are there and theyre participating in a ceremony and I am part of the support element and so facilitate their ceremony and so thats all I do in this regard, is facilitate the ceremony that heals.
The American Indian Movement belongs to the people, it doesn't belong to Vernon Bellecourt or Russell Means or Clyde Bellecourt or Dennis Banks, its preposterous, to use one of Vernons words, that one person in AIM leadership could say another person in AIM leadership is or is not AIM, none of them are AIM. None of them are.
The grassroots people have always been the American Indian Movement and we continue to be the American Indian Movement, we dont have an official organization, we dont have an official capacity of officers, we have what I call AIM heart and AIM heart is what moves us forward against those things that would threaten or harm us and its already become popular opinion on the Pine Ridge among the Oglalas that the AIM leadership should have been turned over long ago, to the young people and I've heard from several youth who have expressed their desire for this leadership to remove them self and surrender that to them.
Thats a part of what were doing. A part of what were doing is were restoring our self to the point to where we got cut off. When Anna Mae came, what was supposed to happen with the evolution of Indian Movement in this country was that, the women, we were supposed to hand the staff to them. All of our societies, all of our tribal governments, all of our counsels were governed by women, were matriarchal by nature.
It was the Wasicu that came and created the patriarchal mentality. We were blessed with the golden opportunity in the 70s to recognize that and realize that and to surrender the power to who it belonged to, which is the women.
Incredibly enough, because of the insanity of the times, the women, turned on themselves and each other, and the men tried to destroy that one opportunity we had as Indian people to go forward. And so the whole purpose of bringing resolution to this case and bringing an end to the question, is to do that.
So not only do I call for them to come forward, but I call for them to step down, and to surrender on a national level the control of the American Indian Movement to Indian women.
Further Questions and Clarification
Paul DeMain, News From Indian Country, Richard LaCourse, Yakama Nation Review, Matt Kelly, The Associated Press, Marley Shebala, The Navajo Times, Minnie Two Shoes, Native American Journalists Association, Tony Brown, Brown Eyes Productions, David Miller, Menominee Nation Communications, Lori Townsend, Native Voice Communications, Sheila Tousey, Cloud Productions, Brian Wright-McLeod, Renegade Radio.
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