Russ Means holds press conference on Annie Mae's murder
Accuses Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt of ordering her Execution
Held Wednesday, November 3, 1999
Denver Federal Building Outdoor Plaza
[Transcript as published on News From Indian Country website]
Ted Roy - Denver AIM - Good afternoon and welcome. And I would just like to make an announcement too, the gentleman behind me is Russell Means, of Colorado AIM and here he is.
Russell Means - Thank you folks, it’s always curious to me, and thank you, it’s always curious to me why the federal authorities have refused to cooperate in the investigation into Anna Mae Aquash’s death, there’s been two federal grand juries and of course Denver police. They all know the names of the perpetrators of the murder, they know the houses that Anna Mae was taken to, they know the house in Denver where she was kidnapped from, they know all the things that, they know more than I do, and yet nothing has come about. So now I want to introduce the man, who has worked with these federal authorities and is going to explain the background and the heartfelt reasons why we’re here and this is Anna Mae’s cousin, ah, Robert Pictou Branscombe.
Robert Branscombe - Thank you Russell, the first thing, let’s get it clear, I have not worked with any federal agencies or any police departments. At this moment or this time, I will share of course, that I have shared a lot of information with the Denver police department, with detective Able Alonzo. Able Alonzo has done an excellent job for our family and our nation. O.K. and I say Micmaw nation and I say United States and Canada.
Thus far, he’s probably the only law enforcement officer that I trust on this case. Before and I’m sure most of you know that I gave a press conference with Debbie and Denise, Anna Mae’s daughters and of course Shannon Collins, our director of the Anna foundation and of course, my fiance, but the situation is that we felt, we had heard that the case was going to be transferred from the Denver police department, there was the possibility that the federal government, ah, word out there, rumor, whatever, that the federal government again was gonna take charge of this case. And needless to say folks, we’ve come a long ways in the last four or five years and it’s surely not been all my work, personal work.
We’ve had some ah, Paul DeMain, News From Indian Country for one, Richard LaCroix [LaCourse], Jordon S. Dill and I could go on and on and on. People have taken their time to help us and get to the bottom of this.
What I will share now is names, dates, some of you have already heard em, ah, this came directly from Arlo Looking Cloud, who has immunity, the federal government, approximately four or five years ago, already gave Arlo Looking Cloud immunity. Arlo was invited to be here today, he was advised six days ago to be here, and by, if I have permission, by Richard Two Elk, who happens to be his adopted brother and will be available for anyone who would like to discuss the immunity situation from Arlo and when Arlo was in custody.
So, what I’m saying here is we have two other people, one is John Boy Patton, who lives up in Whitehorse, the Yukon area in Canada, ah, he might as well have immunity. Approximately one month ago, when I went to Canada, my thoughts were to make a citizen’s arrest and guess what I was advised. Until the United States presses charges against him, I probably would have been arrested for kidnapping.
You must remember that I was born in Canada, I am a Micmaw member of the reserve of Nova Scotia, o.k., ah, Theda Nelson Clark is approximately my mother’s age, this case took, it’ll be 25 years, December the 12th of this year.
On the 10th of December, 1975, Anna Mae was kidnapped from Troy Lynn’s house here in Denver, not after she stepped outside, but while she was in that house. Is Troy Lynn here today? O.K., well, maybe Russell can add more to that later. The situation is, that apparently she [Troy Lynn] tried to help or stop the kidnapping, she tried to call the police, she couldn’t do it, they wouldn’t let her. She [Annie Mae] was taken north, she apparently was tied up, wrapped up in a blanket form or cheese cloth, and she was taken to Whydoc [WKLDC, the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/Offense Committee] headquarters in Rapid City.
At that time, she was sent from there, there’s witnesses to this, some people have already made statements to grand juries in regards to this. She was taken to Thelma Rios’ [Hill-Conley] house and then from there over to a house on Rosebud reservation, and I will, that was the morning of the 12th or the evening of the 11th and I’m going to apologize for the name of that house, to this gentleman standing here today, but that is Bill Means’ house.
A phone call was made from Vernon Bellecourt to his brother Clyde. And the situation is, from there Anna Mae was taken out to the ravine, north of Wamblee and shot in the back of the head. She was left in that ditch for approximately two and a half months. At that time, FBI agents, Roger Amolett [Amiotte] found her, she was brought in, her hands were taken off, they could not supposedly identify her body.
On numerous occasions, FBI agents had arrested Anna Mae, they questioned Anna Mae, they knew who she was. Her hands were taken off supposedly sent to Washington D.C., my personal evaluation considering statements made by people who saw pictures of those hands, and people that have saw Anna Mae’s body, basically was set up to scare the living you know what out of them, and that is sad.
There’s reports of people on the Navajo nation, tribal chairman out of the Navajo reservation, that have seen pictures of my cousin’s hands. O.K., Anna Mae was then dug up, not to go too fast on this, W.O. Brown did the pathology, he missed the bullet hole, there was reports of blood dripping on the floor of that medical center at Pine Ridge, O.K., it took a second pathologist with the help of AIM and primarily Mary Ellen Pictou, my great aunt and Anna Mae’s mother..............excuse me............what I’m saying folks, most people don’t know where the Maritimes are, most people don’t know where Nova Scotia is, and a lot of folks never heard of the Micmac Nation, but anyway her and her two other daughters, Mary Pictou and Becky Pictou, they came west to Pine Ridge and of course, attended the funeral, but through their requests with the help of certain factions within AIM, actually had the second autopsy done.
The problems that I have at this stage, I’m gonna say Richard Two Elk, approximately a month and a half ago, even though I’ve known about Richard for almost two years. I didn’t know about, I was here in Denver, I had no where to take Richard, I had no law enforcement person for his witness statement, ah, with Russell on the 17th of July, if you don’t mind, on the 17th of July Russell went to U.S. Marshall Robert, well excuse me, former U.S Marshal Robert Ecoffey, who’s a superintendent of the BIA at Pine Ridge, is trying to be reinstated as a U.S. Marshall, but at that time, Russell made a statement, o.k. in regards to what he knew about this case, he has not had the opportunity to be, to ah, talk to a U.S. attorney.,
I feel that he probably would if he had that opportunity, and ah, folks, what I’m saying is it looks like a major cover up and if it looks that way to me, for a guy that’s actively involved in this case and has been for nine years every continuous day, what does it look like to our family, to our nation in Canada and most folks in Canada were absolutely shocked to hear the way I talked in Parliament in regards to this case.
My nation, my people, stand behind Abe Alonzo, we want him back on this case, we want it finished, if a new officer takes over, guess what, we gotta start and do five years worth of work again? No, we’re not gonna have that and we’re not going to tolerate it.
And that’s about what I had to say folks with exception of Clyde and Vernon Bellecourt, I feel that they have some questions to answer for and my advice to them, they were also invited here today, and I don’t want to hear anymore jibber jabber and all due respect, I’m Indian also, and I think racism and mascots and all these things are very important, but we’re talking about a murder case and if this lady had a been white, my cousin, I feel that this case already would have been resolved.
As far as I’m concerned, by March of 1976, Dennis Banks, John Trudell, Clyde and Vernon Bellecourt and yes, LeonardPeltier, were exactly aware of what happened to Anna Mae. And I’ll stand for it and if anybody wants to sue me or whatever, knock themselves out, but that’s where I’ll stand on it and we’re not going to quit and we’re not going to go away.
Thank you all for being here and it means a lot, we will have statements from Anna Mae’s daughters today we also have a copy of a resolution signed by the Assembly of the First Nations, and that will be read by Shannon M. Collins.
The reason I called for this press conference for my participation is to tell the world, about the leadership of the American Indian Movement at that time, was well aware of what happened to Anna Mae, and two of the leaders ordered her death. Vernon Bellecourt made the phone call to the house on Rosebud, which.....[Means gets emotional].............is my brother’s house.....................and Clyde Bellecourt took the call from Vernon and then issued the order for her death, for her murder, in 1974 and 1975. The American Indian Movement, 19 chapters of the American Indian Movement held a tribunal on treasonous activities by the Bellecourt brothers. After one hearing in San Rafael, California and a second hearing in Rapid City, South Dakota, the tribunal, the American Indian Movement tribunal convicted the Bellecourt brothers, and on one of the prominent newspapers of the time, Indian Country Today published out of Rapid City did a headline, AIM bans Bellecourts or words to that effect.
We banned, that’s the severest penalty that we could come up with according to the Indian tradition and we banned the Bellecourt brothers in 1995 from the American Indian Movement. And that’s as far as it went, but in that testimony, in that proof that we collected, we know that Vernon Bellecourt has been at the center of dissension every time there’s been dissension within the American Indian Movement since 1972, in fact that first center of dissension that he caused got his bother Clyde Bellecourt shot.
From that point on Vernon has been at the center of dissension, we’ve proven that fact, and, also in 1974, in 1975, he ordered the interrogation, and if those interrogators were satisfied, and those interrogators were Leonard Peltier, Bob Robideau and this is all testified to under sworn testimony, and ah, Dino Butler, interrogated Anna Mae Aquash at the Fairchild plant takeover in New Mexico, the AIM takeover,. [the interrogation took place at the AIM National Convention in Farmington according to NFIC sources].
They were satisfied she was not an informer and exonerated her, but they were told by Vernon that if they were convinced that she was an agent, that they were to kill her. So this is the second time, he ordered her death.
And according to an AIM leadership meeting we had in 1982, we were supposed to in the American Indian Movement, not go to the external press, as you see here and the non-Indian press especially, and not allow them to find out about our dissension, so in 1995 after they were convicted, we did not announce it to the world in the non-Indian news media. We kept to our axiom made in 1982, that we would keep it to ourself. So we banned them.
The feds know the names of the three murderers, that Mr. Branscombe has told you, two grand juries [three] and now an investigation by Denver, nothing.
So we are calling on Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, minority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and the other senator from South Dakota, Tim Johnson, we are asking them to bring forth a hearing, to investigate the FBI, cause we are convinced the FBI has hired Vernon Bellecourt according to our evidence in our tribunal and according to what I’ve been told by one of the murderers. That it was Vernon Bellecourt who ordered her death.
One of the three that took Anna Mae to her death has told me that it was Vernon Bellecourt and that’s why I’m coming forth, now up until April of this year, I was out of that loop about what went down with Anna Mae and I do not know why, except the fact, they knew I would do something to clear AIM’s name.
And if AIM is the perpetuator of this grisly murder, in collusion with the FBI, then I want it brought out, I want AIM’s name, ya know, people make mistakes, and if AIM made a horrendous mistake, then it should be brought to justice. I am still a member of the American Indian Movement, I will remain a member of the American Indian Movement, but it’s going to be an American Indian Movement, that does not murder its own..........and a woman at that.......that is the most cardinal sin in my heritage......thank you.......any questions?
Where are the suspects you mentioned today?
Robert Branscombe - John Graham, Canada, we’re gonna say he lives in Whitehorse, Yukon right now, he’s being somewhat watched, O.K. The other two are Theda Nelson-Clark, and Arlo Looking Cloud, Theda lives in Crawford, Nebraska, Arlo Looking Cloud, and what I understand is he may be trying to get out of town right now, street person, I could give you some addresses but these people aren’t directly involved and that wouldn’t be a good idea.
Russell - First of all, let me say this, on July 17th, as he mentioned, I told a former federal Marshall now a BIA superintendent, he asked me at the time, he wrote it down, my testimony and he said, would you be willing to testify in court to this and I said of course, as yet I have not been contacted, three and a half months, and no one, no federal agent has contacted me, to me that spells complicity by the FBI and Vernon Bellecourt, they’re protecting him, and themselves, as you heard, there was no reason to have cut off her hands, now I promised that person, one of the three that told me about Vernon, that I would not divulge their name, I’m gonna keep my word.
Few questions from reporters about where the grand juries were held.
Branscombe - Although contradictory to what Leonard has just released a statement that I’m a FBI agent, but trust me folks, I’m not and I’m not affiliated with the CIA or anything like that, but the situation is that Anna Mae was aware who killed those agents, you gotta remember that she traveled with Dennis and Leonard and in November of 75 they were all together up in Ontario, Oregon, the statement of course by Leonard that Anna Mae signed a statement that she didn’t know, that’s clearly possible, but Anna Mae knew.
And I do know that the first part of Anna Mae’s visit here in Denver that Anna Mae was trying to obtain funds, see you all gotta remember that Vernon Bellecourt was in charge of this AIM office back in 1975, Anna Mae went to Vernon requesting funds in regards to Leonard’s defense and of course, they said no and she said, well, if I don’t receive some help here, I will be talking a lot more in regards to activities that these guys were involved in.
(Question from reporter about Leonard and Anna Mae saying Leonard did not kill the agents.)
Branscombe - No, I’m not gonna mention, I got my own personal beliefs on what took place. You gotta remember that there’s an... Allan Webster [Lester] Jones, if anyone has looked at my web pages, there’s an affidavit put on there by a former police officer from the Denver police department. His mother, family lived here in town, he received a phone call one day, the latter part of June, 1975 or the first part of July, but anyway he came to his house and his mother said someone was outside watching it.
Apparently, at that time they were watching a house across the street, where Dusty Nelson’s mother lived, or aunt, excuse me, what I’m gonna share here is, on that affidavit, it’s blacked out, we’re at a stage here, where we want to help everybody we can, we wanna be sure we create an opportunity for a fair trial, even though today we’re using names, but the situation is, this has to come to a head, we all know too much about it, it’s time to start talking about it, but anyway, when Allan Lester Jones found out who these people were, they were FBI agents, they were looking for Dusty Nelson, [John Star Yellowwood] they were not looking for Leonard Peltier, and if they were it was only in regards to questioning, they were also looking for a 44 caliber weapon, and not an AR15, but besides that, I’ve met Leonard on four occasions, he states that he is innocent.