John Graham with his daughters: Naneek (left) and Chusia (right).
In the ‘70s, traditional Lakota people opposed the leasing and selling off of reservation lands for mining operations. While the Elders of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation cried out for help to protect the Lakota’s sacred ground and traditional way of life, which was in jeopardy, the US government supported and funded the tribal government, headed by Richard Wilson who favoured uranium mining. It was clear that violence would be applied against any opposition; the FBI was supporting the tribal police with weapons and training.
On June 26, 1975, a shoot-out took place at Pine Ridge, resulting in the deaths of two FBI agents and one Native American man. Based on fabricated evidence, Leonard Peltier, a citizen of the Anishinabe and Lakota Nations, was extradited from Canada for the murder of the two FBI agents. The primary evidence against Leonard was provided by Myrtle Poor Bear, who, according to some sources, was mentally unstable and apparently tricked into it. She had never met Leonard Peltier.
Fast forward to 2003 when John Graham, a citizen of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations of the Yukon, Canada and a Canadian citizen, along with co-accused Arlo Looking Cloud, is charged with the 28-year-old murder of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Anna Mae Pictou. Graham and Pictou were friends and both had been involved in the struggle for Native rights. At the time of his arrest, John had been living in Vancouver for several years. Arlo Looking Cloud was convicted of first degree murder in a trial that lasted three days (The same judge is assigned for John Graham’s trial). Twenty-three witnesses were called by the prosecution, and one for the defence. One prosecution witness admitted she was paid $43,000 to cooperate with the FBI. Her testimony was mainly focused on Leonard Peltier’s case. The purpose of her testimony was to have on record that Leonard Peltier had confessed to killing two FBI agents in a shoot-out at the Pine Ridge Reservation on June 26, 1975. Leonard Peltier has always maintained his innocence.
The evidence in John Graham’s case is hearsay and an attack on the First Nations People. Having lied and fabricated evidence in the past (with Leonard Peltier), the US government should have to provide real evidence – forensic, date of death, credible witnesses (vs. hearsay or paid-off individuals) before any citizen of Canada is handed over to the US, ever again. This is not just a First Nations issue; it is everybody’s issue because the laws are set up to accommodate the US. All a willing (paid-off) person has to say is that they heard you did it and that constitutes enough “evidence” to extradite someone. In fact, all that is needed for the extradition to occur is a description of you.
With respect for Anna Mae Aquash and the 65 others who died in the ‘70s at Pine Ridge, a full, private investigation needs to happen. What happened at Pine Ridge must be recognized as a massacre. The rumour accusing Anna Mae Aquash of being an FBI informant originated with the intention of separating American Indian Movement (AIM) members and turning them against each other. Another rumour circulated that caused an even larger split: “Native man kills native women.” The struggle and separation grew larger and created a distraction.
On June 26, 2007, the BC Supreme Court denied John’s extradition appeal. At the same time, Cash Minerals Ltd. released a report about the amount of uranium found in the Yukon, where John Graham was born and raised. Cash Minerals is a Canadian-based company focused on uranium exploration in the Yukon Territory. The company released a report about its 2007 exploration program in the Yukon. As of June 26, 2007, Cash Minerals and joint-venture partner Mega Uranium Ltd. had drilled more than 4,000 meters, of which 2,700 meters were drilled at the Odie property, one of 19 properties under the Yukon Uranium project. Uranium mining contributes to the destruction of the planet. The killing of Anna Mae Aquash and the 65 others was to turn us against each other and start the finger pointing.
We are currently asking for permission to be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada. We are sitting in a position of not knowing if Canada will extradite another innocent man or not. We are preparing for the worst, which is extradition to South Dakota. We need all the help, support and interest that we can get.
John Graham is a political prisoner. I will fight until John Graham, my dad, is free to live his life in peace and to exercise his right to protect Mother Earth.
The John Graham Defense Committee would appreciate the public’s support in writing letters to government on behalf of John. It would also welcome volunteers and talent for a proposed fundraiser. More info at www.grahamdefense.org