August 13, 2000

Paul DeMain's Editorial and the Publishing of
the Two Elk Interview Falls Short of Upholding
the High Standards of Journalism

Commentary by: WaBun-Inini, Ind-diz-Nikaz, Anishinabe Ojibwa Nation
aka Vernon Bellecourt
National Representative, American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council
President, National Coalition on Racism in Sports & Media

Submitted to News From Indian Country Editor, Gordon Regguinti, August 13, 2000

The publishing of what I, and many others believe to be reckless, inflammatory and defamatory accusations against myself and the various other individuals named in the articles demands that in the interest of upholding the high standards of fair and objective journalism that these persons accused, at least, be given an opportunity to respond to the charges before going to press. Obviously, that did not happen. Mainstream media would never think of publishing such articles without giving the courtesy of a phone call to those so accused. We must expect, at least, that much from Native journalism.

Had Mr. DeMain done that before he stuck his "mocassin in his mouth," he would not have attacked the leadership of the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council's decision as "ironic and obscene" to place on the agenda as a priority, the establishment of a commission to seek justice for Ingrid Washinawatok. This, during our 32nd Anniversary Conference held on the LacCourte Oreilles Ojibwa nation on the dates of July 11-13, 2000 previous to the LCO Honor the Earth Traditional Homecoming Powwow, July 13-16th. He circulated his editorial and the Two Elk interview during our conference and at the powwow, and broadcast the audio version on WOJB Radio. We do not think that this is a coincidence.

Had be called us before going to press I would have told him that following the memorial for Ingrid held on the Menominee Nation homeland this past May, I received a very emotional phone call from a young woman who stated that she was a cousin of Ingrid, and challenged me by asking, "What is the American Indian Movement doing to seek justice for Ingrid?" This prompted me to discuss her concerns with several people within the leadership of AIM and outside the Movement including representatives of the Indigenous Women's Network, as well as Ingrid's family and husband, Ali El-Issa.

I represented to all that the American Indian Movement during its 32nd Anniversary Conference would establish a Commission to Seek Justice for Ingrid Washinawatok. Furthermore, we would put out a communiqué worldwide demanding that the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) agree to a face to face meeting with family members of the three people murdered in which both should accept full responsibility for the murders. We would demand that the government of Colombia and FARC pay considerable reparations to the three families of the victims. We would also call on all churches, religious organizations, trade unions, peace movements, sovereign Indian (tribal) governments, and all people of goodwill in the United States to join us in demanding that the United States Congress and Government reverse its decision to send $1.3 billion in military aid to the government of Colombia. This aid will continue to victimize the very U'wa Indian people that Ingrid was attempting to help. We call on these same people to support these demands by withholding all support and solidarity to both the government of Colombia, and FARC.

We would call, as well, all churches, religious organizations, trade unions, peace movements, and all people of good will worldwide to support these demands by withholding all support and solidarity to both the government of Colombia, and FARC.

While Ali El-Issa sent his regrets that he could not be present during the 32nd Anniversary Conference, he supports the establishment of the Commission to Seek Justice for Ingrid Washinawatok. Attached is his statement, which was read into the record of the Conference by the Executive Director of the Indigenous Women's Network, and a prominent member of the American Indian Movement, Lisa Bellanger Under the United States Constitution, which is imposed on Sovereign Indian Nation Governments and people, one is to be cloaked with a mantle of innocence until proven guilty. What is known is that there has been, at least, three to four Federal Grand Juries convened to investigate the death of Anna Mae Aquash. None has been called to investigate the deaths of Vietnam veteran and Oglala Patriot, Buddy LaMont; Frank Clearwater; Jeannette Bissonette who were murdered by snipers in the employ of the United States government law enforcement agencies during Wounded Knee 1973. Nor has any Grand Jury been impaneled to investigate the murders of Anita Wilcox, Pedro Bissonette, Byron DeSersa, or Jancita Eagle Deer who was last seen alive in the company of Doug Durham who I and others in AIM security exposed as a FBI agent/operative. These are a few of many deaths that have gone uninvestigated by Federal Grand Juries.

The American Indian Movement, as recently as December 6, 1999, testifying before the United States Commission on Civil Rights in Rapid City, South Dakota, called for Congressional Hearings on all of the uninvestigated deaths just mentioned. We again call for Senator Orrin Hatch the Chairman of the U. S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary to conduct Waco/Ruby Ridge-type hearings on the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota to investigate what role U.S. law enforcement agencies played in many uninvestigated deaths in the 1970's including the death of Joe Stuntz, FBI agents, Ron Williams, Jack Coler, and the death of Anna Mae Aquash.

Neither I, and to the best of my knowledge, none of the others accused by Two Elk and Paul DeMain have ever been summoned to appear before a Grand Jury or, for that matter, questioned by any state or federal law enforcement agency which includes the FBI. Neither, has anyone been indicted for the death of Anna Mae. Yet, Paul DeMain goes from investigator, to grand jurist, prosecuting attorney, accuser, judge and jury on the basis of secret interviews with various persons that Mr. DeMain says choose to remain anonymous, yet DeMain makes his accusations mainly on his interview with Richard Two Elk. In reading Mr. Two Elk's interview and accusations, many, including John Trudell state that it appears to be based on one-third vague recollections and hearsay by Mr. Two Elk, and in turn based on vague recollections of Arlo Looking Cloud who, regrettably like so many people, is consumed by the effects of chronic alcoholism; the other one third for self-grandiosity to have his day in the sun, and one-third based on statements, misinformation, and accusations uttered by Russell Means, Ward Churchill and Robert Branscombe on November 3, 1999 during a press conference held at the Federal Building in Denver, Colorado. (See our website, Ministry for Information, U.S. War Against the American Indian Movement and Council on Security and Intelligence).This, on the day that Leonard Peltier's Defense Committee began the latest campaign to free Leonard Peltier. Mr. Two Elk attended that press conference, and in his interview admits to working with Robert Branscombe. To attack Leonard Peltier at this point in time during efforts to free him plays into the hands of the FBI' campaign to keep Leonard in prison. There needs to be a retraction of the accusations directed against Leonard as well as an apology.

For Paul DeMain to say that there was no U.S. government intelligence agencies, such as the FBI/CIA and other law enforcement programs directed against the American Indian Movement that led to the many deaths including those at the Jumping Bull residence, and Anna Mae goes in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Let me point out a few of the many misrepresentations made by Two Elk in his accusations. Contrary to this account as to how he met Rod Skenandore and me, both of us being co-founders of the Denver Chapter of the American Indian Movement along with respected elders, Alice Black Horse, Wallace Black Elk, Jesse Bordeaux and family, John Holy Elk Face family, Virginia Reeves, Angie Begay, Cindy Largo, and Roberta Two Elk (the sister of Richard Two Elk) to name a few of hundreds who were all part of the spiritual renaissance sparked by the American Indian Movement. We all walked with our elders and the Sacred Pipe, and to our knowledge no one ever carried any guns or weapons as Richard Two Elk states. Neither were there any "foot soldiers." All we ever seen Richard carry was a cassette tape player. Rod Skenandore and I did not meet him and Arlo Looking Cloud on Colfax Avenue where in his interview he admits to dealing drugs. We first met him when he walked into our office on Colfax Avenue in Denver in the early 1970's. This office was moved to another location shortly after I moved back to Minneapolis, and then back to the White Earth Ojibwe Nation in 1973 of which I am an enrolled member.

Two Elk and Arlo Looking Cloud after a time declared their membership in the American Indian Movement. Two Elk was one of seven of us who was arrested in Flagstaff, Arizona for demonstrating against the exploitation of the sacred songs and dances of the Hopi and Navaho people. Two Elk never carried a gun, that I know of, to protect me, nor did he, as he stated, serve as my "body guard." That is strictly a figment of an overactive imagination.

I did not see either of them again until 1982-83 upon my return from Nicaragua as a member of the International Indian Treaty Council delegation, the international political and diplomatic Corp of the American Indian Movement. They were present at my lecture at the University of Colorado in Boulder where I exposed the United State's CIA role in the manipulation of Indigenous people of Nicaragua as part of the U.S. Contra War against Nicaragua, and the collaboration of the then fledgling college professors, Ward Churchill and Glen Morris, and their puppet, Russell Means. Glen Morris staged a walkout during my lecture. Following my lecture Richard and Arlo Looking Cloud came to my hotel room for a social visit only. The visit ended with me giving an interview to Two Elk who produced a cassette recorder. That was the last time I saw either of them.

Following the Raymond Yellow Thunder murder and AIM's march on Gordon and Alliance, Nebraska in 1971, and just before the Trail of Broken Treaties March on Washington D.C. in 1972, a meeting was held on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Nation attended by approximately one-hundred AIM members, which included much of the leadership. Two major decisions were made by those in attendance. One was the National Directorship was offered to Clyde Bellecourt and Russell Means, both declined. At this time the position was then offered to me and I gladly accepted the responsibility. The responsibility to serve as Director for Internal Security was given to me and others in the Movement. In that capacity, I along with others were instrumental in exposing Doug Durham, Bernie Morning Gun, and Blue Dove. Many others came to us and revealed that the FBI and CIA attempted to recruit them out of the military, college campuses, prisons, and off the streets. Some, no doubt were recruited, and our continuing investigations show that some of these agent/operatives were doing their job on the periphery of the Jumping Bull incident as well as the death of Anna Mae Aquash.

As Director of Internal Security, we heard from different sources of suspicions about Anna Mae being an agent. We ascertained that some of these rumors originated from, and was in fact the method of operation of suspected FBI agent/operative, Doug Durham, the rumors about Anna Mae were rejected as irrelevant.

At the center of the continuing disinformation campaign to discredit our work is Ward Churchill and his co-conspirators. Simply put, they are attempting to discredit the messenger so that people will disregard the message. In the meantime, they continue to be a part of the United States War Against the American Indian Movement with their misinformation campaign that Paul DeMain and News from Indian Country, as well as other Native journalists, publications, and radio stations have seemingly become unknowing players.

The false accusations leveled by Richard Two Elk are too numerous to mention. Paul DeMain's apology to John Trudell is a start, but it does not go far enough. We are demanding a total retraction of the Two Elk article, and Mr. DeMain's editorial. In the meantime I welcome the opportunity to be interviewed by any journalist, newspaper, radio station, WOJB and/or American Indian radio on satellite, AIROS, or any news outlet that carried the Paul DeMain/Richard Two Elk story. As for Mr. DeMain's parroting the handlers of Two Elk's disruptive demands for AIM leadership to step down and turn the leadership over to the women, Native women are involved in the national leadership of the American Indian Movement. AIM leadership continues to carry out our responsibilities in developing alternative schools, job-training centers, legal and economic development programs, and are continually responding to the problems of Native people nationwide. Our work continues on the exploitation of spiritual cultural and intellectual property rights, racism in sports and media, product labeling, advertising and marketing schemes. There are many Native AIM women who have done this work and are leaders in their communities.

I should mention here that Paul DeMain's further embarrassment to himself shows up again in his latest comments in the mid-August issue regarding the "Letter to the Editor" from my wife of twenty years, Janice Denny. He dedicated one of his recent issues commemorating Native women, and when a Native woman decided to write him and to disagree with him, her thoughts are shunned as "Vernon Bellecourt's dirty tricks," and dismissed as "Vernon's girlfriend." Janice is a respected education director, a college graduate who also follows her Native traditional ways, and comes from a well-respected family of the Oneida, Potawatomi and HoChunk Nations, and is quite capable of thinking for herself.

In closing, Paul DeMain and News from Indian Country in his reckless and defamatory attacks does a disservice to the memory and families of Ingrid Washinawatok and Anna Mae Aquash, the work of the American Indian Movement, himself, and Native journalism. His decision to step down is timely.


Vernon Bellecourt
National Representative

contact: Vernon Bellecourt 612. 889.0796

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