Part 1: AIM history
- Dec. 29, 1890 — U.S. Army 7th Cavalry soldiers massacre nearly 300 Lakota men, women and children on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, marking the end to the Indian Wars. In the decades that followed, Native people would be forced onto reservations, and Native children would be removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools.
- 1968 — The American Indian Movement is formed in Minneapolis by Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt and George Mitchell to address issues of police brutality against Native Americans. AIM was also fighting for treaty rights, the reclamation of tribal land and preservation of Native culture. In the years that followed, AIM staged demonstrations and takeovers throughout the country.
- 1971 — AIM members demonstrate at Mount Rushmore on July 4.
- Jan. 21, 1973 — A Lakota man and AIM supporter, Wesley Bad Heart Bull, was stabbed to death in Buffalo Gap by a white man, Darld Schmitz.
- Feb. 6, 1973 — Angry that Schmitz had been charged with second-degree manslaughter rather than with murder, AIM leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means arranged to meet with Custer County officials to discuss the charges. AIM members converged on the courthouse, a riot ensued, and the courthouse was set on fire. More than 20 AIM members were arrested.
- Feb. 27, 1973 — AIM members take over the village of Wounded Knee in an effort to bring attention to alleged corruption in the BIA and in tribal governments and to spur talks with the government on violated treaty rights. The armed standoff with U.S. government forces lasts 71 days and results in the deaths of AIM supporters Frank Clearwater and Buddy Lamont and the partial paralysis of U.S. Marshal Lloyd Grimm. The protesters inside Wounded Knee include Annie Mae Pictou, a Mi’kmaq from Canada who marries Nogeeshik Aquash during the occupation.
- 1973-1980 — People who lived on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during this era describe it as a “reign of terror” with widespread harassment and violence creating an atmosphere of fear for AIM supporters and opponents alike. Dozens of people were killed or assaulted, and many cases were never solved or prosecuted.
- 1974 — AIM leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means go on trial in Minneapolis on federal charges related to the Wounded Knee occupation. After a nine-month trial, U.S. District Judge Fred Nichols drops all charges on grounds of “government misconduct.” Nichols found the FBI had altered or suppressed key documents and committed illegal electronic surveillance, among other things.
- March 1975 — Douglass Durham, who had joined AIM at Wounded Knee and later became so trusted by AIM leadership that he provided security for Banks, admits he is a paid FBI informant and is ousted from AIM.
- June 26, 1975 — FBI agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams are wounded in a shoot-out at the Jumping Bull Ranch at Oglala, then killed at point-blank range.
- October 1975 — Aquash, Leonard Peltier, Banks, Banks’ common-law wife Kamook Banks, and Kamook’s sister, Bernie Lafferty, are stopped by police while traveling through Oregon in a motor home owned by actor Marlon Brando; Banks and Peltier escape. Kamook Banks (who now goes by the name Darlene Ecoffey) would later testify that while they were in the motor home, Peltier confessed to killing FBI agents Coler and Williams.
- November 1975 — Peltier, Bob Robideau,
Jimmy Eagle and Dino Butler are indicted for the agents’ murders.
December 1975 — Aquash is brought from Denver to Rapid City, where she is taken to the Wounded Knee Legal Defense/ Offense Committee (WKLDOC) office and allegedly questioned about being a government informant. She is eventually bound and taken into the Badlands, where she is taken to the edge of a bluff and shot in the head.
- Feb. 24, 1976 — Rancher Roger Amiotte discovers Aquash’s body
while checking his fence lines. An initial autopsy shows that
Aquash — who had not yet been identified — had died of exposure.
Federal agents cut her hands off and send them to the FBI lab in
Washington, D.C., for potential fingerprint identification;
according to federal officials, this was common
practice at that time in cases involving partial decomposition.
- March 2, 1976 — Aquash is buried as “Jane Doe.”
- March 3, 1976 — Fingerprints identify the body found in the Badlands as that of Annie Mae Aquash.
- March 10, 1976 — Aquash’s body is exhumed, and a second autopsy reveals she died of a gunshot wound to the head.
- March 14, 1976 — Aquash is laid to rest again, this time in Oglala.
- July 1976 — Butler and Robideau are acquitted of murder charges in connection with the FBI agents’ deaths. Charges against Eagle are later dismissed.
- April 18, 1977 — Peltier is convicted of murdering the agents and sentenced to life in prison.
Part 2: The case
- January 2003 — A federal grand jury indicts Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham on murder charges.
- March 2003 — Looking Cloud is arrested in Denver.
- December 2003 — Graham is arrested in Canada.
- Feb. 6, 2004 — After deliberating for seven hours, a federal jury finds Looking Cloud guilty of murdering Annie Mae Aquash. He is later sentenced to life in prison.
- April 2004 — Aquash’s body is exhumed from her grave in Oglala and taken back to her native Nova Scotia, where she is laid to rest.
- August 2005 — A federal appeals court upholds Looking Cloud’s conviction.
- June 2006 — The Canadian Minister of Justice orders Graham extradited to the United States to face murder charges.
- Dec. 7, 2007 — Graham makes his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Rapid City. His trial is set for June 17, 2008, then moved to Sept. 23, 2008, then rescheduled for Oct. 6, 2008.
- Aug. 25, 2008 — Richard “Dickie” Marshall, a Lakota man from Allen, is indicted on federal charges of aiding and abetting first-degree murder in connection with Aquash’s death.
- Oct. 2, 2008 — Days before trial, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol dismisses the indictment against John Graham, saying federal prosecutors have not proved they have jurisdiction over him because neither he nor Aquash — both of whom belong to tribes in Canada — belongs to a tribe recognized by the U.S. government.
- Oct. 10, 2008 — Graham and Marshall are arraigned on three alternate counts of committing and/or aiding and abetting first-degree murder. The trial, originally scheduled for December, is moved to February 2009, then to May 12, 2009.
- April 30, 2009 — Two weeks before trial, Judge Piersol dismisses a count of aiding and abetting against Graham, saying again that federal prosecutors have failed to show they have jurisdiction over him. U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley appeals the dismissal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the trial is postponed.
- July 2009 — The federal appeals court upholds Piersol’s dismissal.
- August 2009 — Marty Jackley is appointed South Dakota attorney general.
- September 2009 — A Pennington County Grand Jury indicts Graham and Thelma Rios on state charges of felony murder in relation to kidnapping and premeditated murder. Graham is also charged with felony murder related to rape. The charges involve incidents that allegedly happened in Rapid City.
- November 2009 — Rios’s trial is set for March 1, 2010, and later moved to July 6, 2010. Graham and Marshall are still scheduled for trial in U.S. District Court in February 2010.
- Feb. 3, 2010 — Federal prosecutors file a motion to dismiss charges against Graham.
- Feb. 11, 2010 — After an evidence box labeled “Aquash” is discovered in the basement of the Denver Police Department, Judge Piersol grants another delay in Marshall’s case to give defense attorney Dana Hanna time to review the new evidence. The trial is moved to April 13.
- April 23, 2010 — A federal jury acquits Marshall of murder charges.
- May 2010 — The Graham/Rios trial is rescheduled for Nov. 29.
- Nov. 8, 2010 — Rios pleads guilty to accessory to kidnapping and is sentenced to the maximum of five years in prison, with five years suspended. She will spend five years on probation.