in Anna Mae Aquash's murder
Tape 4: Last in Series: Final interview transcript of former AIM activist on Aquash murder.
What follows are excerpted portions of videotape 4 (of 4 total) of an interview with Richard Two Elk, conducted June 16, 2000 at the Native American Journalists Association conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tape 1 was excerpted in the July 14 edition of Press/ON, Tape 2 in the July 21 edition, and Tape 3 in July 28.
Richard Two Elk - ...Even after I talked to them and told them, they brought him [Aaron Two Elk] back in to the fold. He moved out of Colorado because everyone in Colorado knew and he couldn't hold his head up around Denver. He left and he went to Atlanta. In Atlanta, he gave birth to the mascot issue, and I sit there and I watch the first story come out of Atlanta about how Aaron Two Elk got up and challenged the Red Skins or the Atlanta Braves or something and I said to myself, that's really sick that this person could gain notoriety and be considered honorable, in spite of what he did. So I sit there and in a similar manner I watched that whole thing evolve, and I continued to talk to people and show them and nobody ever did anything. Last winter, it became very important to me because those children, and it just so happened that I had people, AIM people come to me and talk to me about my brother, because apparently he slipped into a coma. I didn't know that, but people started coming to me and saying, 'Hey, did you know your brother is in a coma?' ...They wanted me to go into ceremony and pray for him and I refused to do that. I said, from what I know, if I go in to ceremony, it's going to be for justice to be done for the crimes he committed against that child. So every AIM person that came to talk to me about Aaron, I said, I'm going to have to go down there pretty soon, and I'm going to have to confront him for what he did. I let him go for a long time, but I can't let him go anymore like that. And I started telling them and I started sending word with different people. Kenny Kane, Royce White Calf, different people like that I sent word. I told him, I'm coming down there pretty soon. We went to Sundance last year, the last part of June, we went to Sundance and I was thinking about that a lot during Sundance, watching the beauty of those people, the power of those families, the dancers, everything, the children, and I couldn't help think about that, his children and his crime and I have to be honest with you, I thought about it, I thought about it a lot, how it just wasn't right, while I did my other parts to help the Sundancers be safe. We came away from Sundance, and within a week he was dead. So I learned from that, and then right after that, this all started coming. So I sit there and I look at that. So I say o.k. Mato We-a, let's go, let's get em. So that's why I know I'm going this far. I don't know what happens after that, but this is what I know, I'm going to Sundance. I'm taking Mato We-a with me and we're calling for this, these things I said. And I'm not going to answer them if they challenge me, prove this, prove that, I don't have to prove anything. I know. Mato We-a knows. Everybody knows. What's to prove? They can only come forward now. And I'll stand and I'll say that and that's my essence to them, is you need to come forward now. And I'll stand behind the medicine to do that. What they want us to do is become tangled up and caught up in all their little political verbiage that goes no where. And I won't do that any more. So, like I said, if you look at what we have and see what you think about where we might go with it, and you let me know. Paul has my email and I can give my email to everybody who wants, and if you think there is something that needs to be stressed, then do that. I spoke because of what I had to say and what I had to offer and everybody will take a different part so we'll just go forward like that. And I don't know what else to do, but we can not play their game anymore and force the hand, and let the people be free and speak and give it back. So that's the best I can offer in that regard.
Paul DeMain - You'll be around for the next couple days if people want to sit and chat with you a little bit?
Richard Two Elk - Oh yeah, and I'm very open to that, there are many things, there are so many things that I have learned and understand, and I would like to be able to write about those things and I have the ability and I have the skill to write about those things from an analytical point of view. One of the most important thing is a work called foot soldier and it has to do with how AIM belongs to the little people. It doesn't belong to the big people. They don't have any authority or rights or anything. It can't be incorporated, AIM, you can't incorporate that.
Sheila Tousey - Richard, can I ask you a question? Do you fear for your own personal safety?
Richard Two Elk - Well, the likelihood of me being smoked by law enforcement is about 50 percent less than if I was with AIM. There's a very high likelihood that they would try to turn on me and try to rub me out.... They've already come into Denver and talked about coming after me and my boys, but our reputation in Denver and among Indian people there and at Pine Ridge is of such a nature that, you got to have your boots on if you're coming for us, because if you don't we'll blow them off, straight and simple. I'm combat trained. I'm expert with a 45 caliber. I started training my kids in weapons when they were very small. They're very proficient in all levels of firearms, in terms of combat, and they can have a hell of a gun fight if somebody comes for us, and they know that. I've taken enough AIM people to my property, put them out on the range with me and let them see my boys operate, purposely, and let them go back out and talk to people, so that they know. We're not playing, and that's the word and that's why they won't come directly and try to hit me, and try to set me up. But I'm not buying into anything. But there's a threat, it's very real and very dangerous.
Paul DeMain - They can't find you in Denver right?
Richard Two Elk - Yeah, that's essentially it. They're starting to move in. I've had a few situations over the past few weeks where I think they got a location on my house, but I have iron bars on my windows. I keep Rottweilers.... They'd have to be a fool to walk up and try to take me out. They'd have to try to catch me at a pow wow. They'd have to try and catch me at a party. They'd have to try and catch me at a place that I probably won't go. So it makes it real hard, and I'm real good at that, making it hard for them to come after me. We've had some walk ups over the past few weeks where people come up to our house and do things that didn't make any sense.... So, yeah, they're trying to figure out what they can do about it, but I don't think they can do anything, quite frankly.
Matt Kelly - To what extent do you think that the work that News From Indian Country has done on this case has prompted you to come forward or made it easier for you to come forward at this point in time?
Richard Two Elk - I guess it was timing and I figured that's where the medicine came in is that it kept it alive, all those years, and all that time, people wouldn't talk about it, they'd talk about it in the communities, but they put it in print, and they brought it out and that's the same thing I'm talking about now in terms of people being able to express themselves. What made me get up and come forward, was that I felt that it was going in the direction that AIM was getting ready to discredit Bob Branscombe and massively discredit him in terms of any validity of his claims. That's why I contacted him and said I got your wild card. I didn't contact Jordan S. Dill, in spite of all these announcements on his web pages, 'If anybody knows Arlo Looking Cloud, John Patton or Theda Clark,.' I never contacted him because when I read his pages. I felt that he was an AIM advocate and I knew if I stepped forward, and I told him, anything of what I had to say, I was going to get snuffed. You know, there was no way it was ever going to go anywhere right.
Paul DeMain - Do you know who Jordan Dill is?
Richard Two Elk - I've only heard of him, I've never met him, I don't know anything more about him than that. I've read his, in the beginning of his pages where he's really anger and I saw in the fall where he started to give a lot of exposure to a lot of these things on the internet. They started attacking him to determine, they were challenging him, why are you using the AIM logo? Who authorized you to talk about these things? He came back and said, hey, I'm authorized. Don't mess with what I'm doing. But I don't know about him other than that. What I felt was the most important thing was that they had assembled all these things and they were just missing this one little part that I was holding on to and I knew that if I put this with the rest of it, it would make a complete picture. So that's when I started stepping out... And what NFIC and all the journalists have been doing over all the years has brought all that, has brought all that to a central place, opened the door for me.... And that's what I was able to do, come in and shift them [AIM] to the point where they couldn't get up and lay their political line and people would just accept it and then, say, 'Well good thing for Anna Mae. We'll honor her, but it wasn't AIM.'
Paul DeMain - How does John Boy play into this...(unintelligible...)
Richard Two Elk - I think John Boy and Blackhorse are questions that have to be answered. ...I know them both personally. I've worked with them both personally in a very significant way. If they would be willing to talk about what they know, it would be other parts of the story. If I could get word out in Canada, to John Boy to come back, I would do that.
Paul DeMain - You used to work with John Boy?
Richard Two Elk - Oh yeah, him and Blackhorse. I would go to Canada and sit down and counsel with them personally, given the opportunity. Because I know these guys personally. I worked with them. We did stuff together. I have no problem going up there and saying 'Hey, look man, for those girls and for that family, you got to help me and come down and we're going to take care of this.' That's the same thing I told Arlo. John Boy knows. He's the other part of it. If I could get John Boy to come forward, I think Arlo would break and come forward too. Maybe not in terms of criminal charges and the FBI but in terms of that family. What I, ultimately, where I want to go, is those two girls, can have a counsel, they're seated at the head of it and everybody else has to come and answer to them.
Paul DeMain - You're talking about Debbie and Denise Pictou, Maloney.
Richard Two Elk - They're free to ask whatever they want of these people in a private counsel session and those people have to respond to them and that counsel doesn't have to go any farther than that. We can have medicine present. We can do it in ceremony. That's what needs to happen.
Richard LaCourse - Do you not care if it ends in criminal indictments or prosecutions?
Richard Two Elk - No.
Richard LaCourse - Or do you separate those?
Richard Two Elk - I separate those, because the charges and prosecution is something Bob is adamantly pushing for. ...I believe that he has the right to call for that and he should call for that, and I support that in spite of the fact that my brother might have to go to jail for that additionally. Because, I just believe that that has to be done, but I won't facilitate that. If I'm called to testify, I'll probably plead the fifth. I can talk to you and I can tell you what I know, but I don't need to get up in a courtroom and do that. Because that isn't where it needs to go. Because if we can solve it on our own, among ourselves, we're going to beat the shit out of the enemy something terrible. Because we will have proven as Indian people that we have this capacity to call to accountability any and all of our leadership, and that's important as Indian people. If we can't do that, we don't have nothing. But, yeah there's a possibility that somebody could be charged. But this isn't about trying to destroy the American Indian Movement. This isn't about politics. It's about law enforcement and criminal investigation.
Marley Shebala - I had a question. When you talked about Leonard Peltier, he has a lot of support... [H]ow are you going to deal with that, with Leonard. Have you talked to him?
Richard Two Elk - I'm going to write Leonard a letter. I'm going to write him a hand written letter, and I'm going to sign it with my thumb print, so he can validate it if he wants to through law enforcement. That I, in fact, wrote this letter. The question I would put to him is to talk about his involvement of the interrogation o f Anna Mae in Farmington, and his involvement in the last month or two or Anna Mae's life and his knowledge of and involvement with the final decision to take her out. I believe from what I've known and seen, and this is the most dangerous position that I've taken on that, is that, I don't know if Leonard had anything to do with killing those FBI's, o.k.? What I know is that Leonard interrogated Anna Mae. And what I know is that he probably shouldn't have done that, and I think that his incarceration has more to do with the persecution of Anna Mae and her death, than the killing of those FBIs. Medicine works like that. It's not going to let you get away. And there were two circles of people, maybe three, within the American Indian Movement. The closest inner circle that was all those people that I named, a second peripheral circle, which Leonard was a part of and then a third circle beyond that, where Troy Lynn and the other people fit in. So he knows, he knows a lot, and if he refuses to talk about it, because of an old sense of loyalty that existed when he got in. But ... I believe that that medicine talks to him in his dreams and I believe that that medicine is telling him what he needs to do. So I'll go by and open the door for him to do that thing, with my letter, and he'll either do it or he won't and it doesn't really matter to me. In the end it's more on him what he does or doesn't do than it has to do with me.
Richard LaCourse - Excuse me Richard, what would be the means and method of his answering?
Richard Two Elk - He could write back to me, or he could express a willingness to participate in that closed counsel. If he was willing to share that information with those girls, they could go there and talk to him and he has to answer to them, the same way any of us have to answer to them. So it's the same thing, the only thing that I'm concerned about is that those two girls are satisfied when we're done. If they're satisfied when we're done, that's the highest degree of honor we could give their mother, see. Lakota ways of doing things. So I know it's hard for him because he's been in there for a long time, but I don't know about the FBI case. I don't know about that. I do know that he did something that he probably shouldn't have done and maybe that has something to do with why he is where he is. I don't know.
Marley Shebala - Did Arlo ever talk to you about Peltier's interrogation of Anna Mae at Farmington?
Richard Two Elk - He didn't know. He didn't really know what he did,. That was Butler Robideau and Peltier. I did a pretty extensive interview with Robideau and it's on reel to reel and I can't find it. It must be a two or three hour interview. I've been looking and looking for it. He asked for a copy of it a few years ago, but I couldn't find it so I told him I lost it, but when I found it, I'd give him a copy. I've got to find it, but it involves all these boxes and looking through all this tape and listening to every one, because they're not labeled, but if I could find that, it would be another piece.
Paul DeMain - Bob Robideau has said that Vern Bellecourt ordered them to question Anna Mae and interrogate her. That she was taken off to the mesa was also confirmed by Mark and Mickey Aquash, who were with Anna Mae and Nogeshik when they went to Farmington. And I've spoke to at least two of Anna Mae's female friends in the last couple years, who have confirmed that Anna Mae said that Leonard was part and parcel of her interrogation out on the mesa.
Richard Two Elk - ...Everybody knows and I remember, instances in the grassroots community, when Leonard Peltier came and either beat the shit out of somebody or was going to beat the shit out of somebody, that's how we remember Leonard Peltier in the community. No bullshit. Then all of a sudden he became a martyr and he became idolized and all this other stuff and anybody who had been beat up threatened or terrorized by Leonard Peltier all of a sudden had to just dummy up and bite the bullet. So that was kind of hard. So stuff like that happens and you have to put it into the context that war is hell and it was a war and all those things happened within the context of the war between the FBI and AIM.
Paul DeMain - It doesn't change the evidenciary record that was used against him which has been discredited.
Richard Two Elk - No it doesn't. I find that I've seen a lot of mind boggling things in my time, and that's one of them, and if everything about his case is so bad and the evidence against him is so wrong, then why the hell is this guy still in prison? I think it's bigger than the injustice of a system. I think it's much bigger than that. I've stated that, and I've stated that to him, indirectly, and I need to do that directly, in a hand written note, saying this is who I am, and this is what I know and this is what I would like you to do to help me out on this and I sign it and I give it to him. He's got to figure out where he's going to go from there, see. That's how that medicine works. That's a hard one.
Richard LaCourse - Excuse me Richard, you said, maybe 10 or 15 minutes ago that maybe it wasn't the shooting of the agents but it was definitely something, right?
Richard Two Elk - Oh yeah, that's what I believe and you know. I think he probably didn't kill those agents you know, but something reached up in to Canada and yanked him out of there and locked him in that house and said, you're going to stay there 'til we're done. And I think it had a lot to do with Anna Mae.
Richard LaCourse - You know, you, this afternoon have really brought me back to loose ends and a question that I've never really seen before for some odd reason, and the question is, how did Leonard and Blackhorse ever meet in sanctuary?
Richard Two Elk - Thank you, thank you. That's a critical and important question, because Blackhorse was in South Dakota and Peltier headed west into Oregon, ok, but Blackhorse evacuated across the border into Canada and preset the situation for Peltier before he got there. So he had first-hand knowledge of the command decision that came back. That's why I'm after Blackhorse, because I brought him in. There's been an implication that he may have been an FBI agent. I truthfully and honestly don't believe that he was an FBI agent. I believe that he was just there. ...We weren't a part of the American Indian Movement when he started to hang out with us.... He learned a hell of a lot of old Indian tricks. [H]e got it down. This guy, I'd have to say I'm proud of him, because every time they busted him, he has the same set of relatives, but this time instead of being a brother, they were a cousin. They just kept shifting and flowing and the FBI had to bend over backwards just to try and figure out who this guy really was to begin with, right? They did NCAI checks, they did finger prints, the whole nine yards, but if someone would have come and asked me, I would have told you, yeah, we were down on Colfax and he had just booked out of Illinois somewhere and he told us about that home he was in and he called himself Cherokee, and he wasn't Indian. He never claimed to be Indian when he was with us. He came in and he was like Al Cooper in Wounded Knee; he was just a white guy who decided that he was going to be adamant about supporting Indian people.
He was a little crazy. Him and I and Arlo, we were known for our level of insanity and so that's how that happened. And he was such a crazy white boy that when he came up in the AIM office, and he started hanging around and one of my aunts, grandma Blackhorse, she looked at him and she just sat there and watched him for the longest time and she said, 'Boy that little white boy, he's really nuts, yeah, shoot, whatever you want, he'll come with us,' and she said, 'I like that,' so she said, 'You're going to be my son' and she adopted him, right there on the spot and they did ceremony and so then what he did was abandon his other identity completely. He even abandoned being Cherokee, and he suddenly became Frank Blackhorse, Oglala Lakota Warrior! And we said calm down, you're cool, but. I remember when the Knee went down and I was in Hawkeye bunker with him and we put that guy on the cross, and after Wounded Knee, it made a lot of sense that he would gravitate to the people that he did, because he was willing to go down. He didn't care, if it was going to get hotter he'd say let me get in the middle of it. That's how those guys were. They were soldiers and that's why when it went down on the ridge, he was right there among them. That's how he ended up being in Canada and being with Peltier and being able to set that up and you see the multiple play that was going on that many people were not aware of.
Paul DeMain - Do you have any contact with him at all?
Richard Two Elk - No not since then. That's why I want to contact him and sit down with him and say, 'Let's take care of it man.' Him and John Boy. That's why I think we could resolve this as foot soldiers a lot better than the national leaders, because we understand the laws that govern our existence a lot better than the national leaders do, because our very survival depended on our ability to know those laws and how they work and what they do. That's why I'd like to establish contact with them, if I can. I'll go there, I don't have any problem with that.