Richard V. LaCourse Letter Regarding Native Journalists & Ethics: Aquash Case

Editors Note by Paul DeMain: The issue of Native Journalists, their involvement in investigating a murder case and ethics have come up recently in discussions by members of the American Indian Movement, who claim "it is unethical" for journalists to be subpoenaed, consult with, or provide information to law enforcement officials. Some have pointed to the "Dean" of Native Journalists, Yakama writer Richard V. LaCourse in claiming he would never have "cooperated" with law enforcement authorities in investigating the case. While there are fine lines to the issue, LaCourse outlined his position, that written articles, documents in the public domain and books written and available to the public, and their back ground documentations, was sharable because it was part of the "public record." Here is LaCourse' 1999 letter to Detective Abe Alonzo of Denver, when LaCourse provided him with a compilation of documents LaCourse said were, or would be in the public sector.


March 31, 1999

To: Det. Abe Alonzo
Denver Police Department
Intelligence Bureau
1331 Cherokee St.
Denver, CO 80204

From: Richard V. La Course
Associate Editor
Yakama Nation Review

Re: Aquash investigation

Our newspaper published your Mar. 15 letter concerning the Aquash case
in its entirety in our Feb. 26 edition (see p. 10). DeMain had it
faxed to me from Hayward. Our paper has a fairly wide circulation in
various states. Our tribe also has a small number of persons who
joined AIM, participated in Wounded Knee and it aftermath, and
attended various trials. And they are among our readers.

A word of explanation concerning why, as a journalist, I am providing
this selection of documents to you in response to your letter. I have
decided that it is not a professional or ethical compromise to assist
indirectly in a criminal investigation in this fashion only, while not
attempting to wear two hats as a writer. Major portions of the
materials attached are in the public sector, and the balance will be
there when my current work is completed.

Since 1995 I have been a member of a Native American Journalist  Assn.
investigation team whose focus has been the Jumping Bull shootout
involving Leonard Peltier of June 26, 1975, and the unsolved death of
Anna Mae that winter.

I began my  research with the FBI's AIM papers released under FOIA and
now available on microfilm, together with voluminous data I have
collected as a writer on Native matters since 1970. As a result of the
waterfall of data, I decided to  write a new 30-year history of the
American Indian Movement in all its complexity, and have been busy on
that since 1996.

In 1997 I received authorization and a small grant to go through the
80,000-page collection of the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense
Committee at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul for my
historical purposes. DeMain, Minnie Two Shoes and I went through the
entire collection in a joint effort in September of 1997 and
reproduced everything we wanted.

From 1997 through 1998 Candy Hamilton of Oglala, S.D., a friend of
Anna Mae and an on-the-ground representative of the Wounded Knee Legal
Defense/Offense Committee from 1973 to 1976 there, provided thousands
of additional documents which I have copied and shared with DeMain.
Candy H. interviewed Anna Mae regarding various incidents in 1975 and
provided some original correspondence from that year. Candy was aware
as she supplied me this documentation that I was at work on a detailed
independent history of AIM.

In the spring of 1998 I  completed a chronology of Anna Mae's life
based on these accumulated materials. I am sending a copy of this,
updated to the present. DeMain posted it on his NFIC website in the
spring of 1998. DeMain described the inception and scope of your work
to me in the first months of 1998.

What I have mailed to you is a chronologically organized blend of all
these documents, year by year from 1974 forward regarding Anna Mae.
It's my best guess you will see connections and probabilities from the
perspective of your investigation that I will not know until your work
is complete. You may already have everything I'm mailing you.

Nowwhere have I found any claims or assertions about the individual
assailants involved and specific circumstances surrounding her death
leaked from any of the three grand juries over time.

The WKLDOC files are almost silent on the persons of Arlo Looking
Cloud, John Boy Patton and Frank Dillon.

If the Aquash kidnap-murder case is finally closed without charges or
prosecution, will the contents of the three grand jury proceedings
become public? And will the balance of FBI documents also be available
for public scrutiny through FOIA because of the final closing of the

Nowhere in any files from all sources have I located the text of
USvPictou from the autumn of 1975.

This work has been undertaken searately from my duties as associate
editor of this newspaper. but you may contact me at the address,
phone, fax or e-mail above during the workday.

Richard V. La Course
Associate Editor