The Covert War Against Native Americans [Against the Spirit]

Chegitz Guevara mluziett at
Mon Jun 10 16:15:33 MDT 1996

Marc, "the Chegitz," Luzietti
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The Covert War Against Native Americans

By Ward Churchill

     There is a little considered aspect of the covert means through which
the United States maintains its perpetual drive to exert control over the
territory and resources of others. It concerns, however, matters internal
rather than external to the geographical corpus of the U.S. itself. It
seems appropriate to quote a man deeply involved in the struggle for
African liberation, Kwame Toure (formerly known as Stokley Carmichael). In
a speech delivered at the Yellow Thunder demonstrations in Rapid City,
South Dakota, on October 1, 1982, he said: "We are engaged in a struggle
for the liberation of ourselves as people. In this, there can be neither
success nor even meaning unless the struggle is directed toward the
liberation of our land, for a people without land cannot be liberated. We
must reclaim the land, and our struggle is for the land - first, foremost,
and always. We are people of the land."

     So in Africa, when you speak of "freeing the land", you are at the
same time speaking about the liberation of the African people. Conversely,
when you speak of liberating the people, you are necessarily calling for
the freeing of the land.

     But, in America, when we speak of liberation, what can it mean? We
must ask ourselves, in America, who are the people of the land? And the
answer is - and can only be - the first Americans, the Native Americans,
the American Indian. In the United States of America, when you speak of
liberation, or when you speak of freeing the land, you are automatically
speaking of the American Indians, whether you realize it or not. Of this,
there can be no doubt.

     Those in power in the United States understand these principles very
well. They know that even under their own laws aboriginal title precedes
and preempts other claims, unless transfer of title to the land was is or
agreed to by the original inhabitants. They know that the only such
agreements to which they can make even a pretense are those deriving from
some 371 treaties entered into by the U.S. with various Indian nations
indigenous to North America.

     Those in power in America know very well that, in consolidating its
own national landbase, the United States has not only violated every
single one of those treaties, but that it remains in a state of perpetual
violation to this day. Thus, they know they have no legal title - whether
legality be taken to imply U.S. law, international law, Indian law,
natural law, or all of these combined - to much of what they now wish to
view as the territoriality of the United States proper.

     Finally, they are aware that to acquire even a semblance of legal
title, title which stands a chance of passing the informed scrutiny of
both the international community and much of its own citizenry, the U.S.
must honor its internal treaty commitments, at the very least. Herein lies
the dilemma: In order to do this, the U.S. would have to return much of
its present geography to the various indigenous nations holding
treaty-defined and reserved title to it (and sovereignty over it). The
only alternative is to continue the violation of the most fundamental
rights of Native Americans while pretending the issues do not exist. Of
course, this is the option selected - both historically and currently - by
U.S. policy-makers.

The Native American Movement

     It is precisely from the dynamics of this situation that overt
liberation organizations such as the American Indian Movement (AIM), the
International Indian Treaty Council, and Women of All Red Nations were
born. Insofar as their struggles are based in the reaffirmation of the
treaty rights of North America's indigenous nations, theirs is a struggle
for the land. In essence, their positions imply nothing less than the
literal dismantlement of the modern American empire from the inside out.

     The stakes involved are tremendous. The "Great Sioux" of Lakota
Nation alone holds clear treaty rights over some 5% of the area within the
present 48 contiguous states. The Anishinabe (Chippewa) are entitled to at
least another 4%. The Dine (Navajo) already hold between 3% and 4%. Most
of California has been demonstrated to have been taken illegally from
nations such as the Pomo and Luisano. Peoples such as the Wampanoag,
Narragansett, and Pasamadoquoddi - long believed to have been exterminated
- have suddenly rematerialized to press treaty-based and aboriginal claims
to much of New England. The list is well over 300 names long. It affects
every quarter of the contemporary United States.

Vast Natural Resources At Stake

     Today, more than 60% of all known U.S. uranium reserves are under
reservation lands, and another 10-15% lies under contested treaty areas.
Similarly, approximately one-third of all minable low-sulphur coal lies
under reservations, while the figure easily exceeds 50% when treaty areas
are lumped in. With natural gas, the data are about 15% under
reservations, 15% under contested lands. The same holds true for oil.
Almost all American deposits of minable zeolites are under reservation
land. Very significant strategic reserves of bauxite, copper, iron, and
other crucial minerals are also at issue.

     Giving all this up - or even losing a modicum of control over it - is
an obviously unacceptable proposition to U.S. policy makers and corporate
leaders. In order to remain a superpower (in both the military and
economic senses of the term), the U.S. must tighten rather than relax its
grip upon its "assets". Hence, given its priorities, America has had
little choice but to conduct what amounts to a clandestine war against
American Indians, especially of the AIM variety.

The Propaganda War

     In pursuing such a policy the U.S. power elite has replicated the
tactics and conditions more typically imposed on its colonies abroad.
First, there is the matter of "grey and black propaganda" through which
U.S. covert agencies, working hand in glove with the mainstream media,
distort or fabricate information concerning the groups they have targeted.
The function of such a campaign is always to deny with plausibility public
sympathy or support to the groups in question, to isolate them and render
them vulnerable to physical repression or liquidation.

     As concerns AIM, grey propaganda efforts have often centered upon
contentions (utterly unsubstantiated) that the "Indian agenda" is to
dispossess non-Indians of the home-owner, small farmer or rancher type
living within the various treaty areas. [This flies directly in the face
of the formal positions advanced by the AIM and associated groups working
on treaty land issues. AIM has consistently held that it seeks lands held
by the U.S. and various state governments (such as National and State
Parks, National Forests and Grasslands, Bureau of Land Management areas,
etc.) as well as major corporate holdings within the treaty areas. Small
landholders would be allowed to remain and retain their property under
"landed immigrant provisions" or, in some cases, naturalization.]

     In terms of black propaganda, there have been a number of highly
publicized allegations of violence which, once disproven, were allowed to
die without further fanfare. This has been coupled to "leaks" from
official government sources that AIM is a "terrorist" organization. [This
is based on testimony of a single informer at a hearing at which the AIM
leadership was denied the right to cross-examine or to testify.]

     The propaganda efforts have, in large part, yielded the desired
effect, souring not only the average American citizen's perception of AIM,
but - remarkably - that of the broader U.S. internal opposition as well.
The latter have been so taken in upon occasion as to parrot the
government/corporate line that Indian land claims are "unrealistic", "not
feasible", and ultimately a "gross unfairness to everyone else".

Repression And Liquidation

     With the isolation of Native American freedom fighters effectively in
hand, the government's clandestine organizations have been free to pursue
programs of physical repression within America's internal colonies of
exactly the same sort practiced abroad. At one level, this has meant the
wholesale jailing of the movement's leadership. Virtually every known AIM
leader in the United States has been incarcerated in either state or
federal prisons since (or even before) the organization's formal emergence
in 1968, some repeatedly. This, in combination with accompanying time
spent in local jails awaiting trial, the high costs of bail and legal
defense, and the time spent undergoing a seemingly endless succession of
trials, is calculated both to drain the movement's limited resources and
to cripple its cadre strength. [To cite but one example of this principle
at work: Despite a ceasefire agreement assuring non-prosecution of AIM and
traditional Indian people relative to the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation,
the FBI proceeded to amass more than 300,000 separate file entries for
judicial use against the people in question. Russell Means, an occupation
leader, was charged with more than 140 separate offenses as a result; his
trials encumbered the next three years of his life, before he went to
prison for a year. There are many such cases.]

     Even more directly parallel to the performance of U.S. covert
agencies abroad is physical repression conducted at another level, that of
outright cadre liquidation. For example, in the post-Wounded Knee context
of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation, independent researcher
Candy Hamilton established that at least 342 AIM members and supporters
were killed by roving death squads aligned with and supported by the FBI.
(The death squads called themselves GOONs, "Guardians of the Oglala
Nation.") This was between 1973 and 1976 alone.

     In proportion to the population of the reservation, this is a rate of
violent death some 12 or 14 times greater than that prevailing in Detroit,
the so-called "murder capital of America". In a more political sense, it
is greater than the violent death rate experienced in Uruguay during the
anti-Tupamaro repression there, in Argentina under the worst of its
succession of juntas, or in El Salvador today. The statistics are entirely
comparable to what happened in Chile in the immediate aftermath of
Pinochet's coup.

     As is currently the case in El Salvador, where the Reagan
administration contends that the police are understaffed and underequipped
to identify and apprehend death squad members, the FBI-which is charged
with major crimes in reservation areas-pleaded "lack of manpower" in
solving the long list of murders involving AIM people. (The FBI saturation
of the Pine Ridge area was greater on a per capita basis than anywhere
else in the country during this period.)

     [To date, of the murders documented by Hamilton, *none* has been
solved. On the other hand, the FBI experienced no such personnel problems
in identifying and "bringing to justice" AIM people accused of murder. The
most famous example is Leonard Peltier, accused of killing two FBI agents
on Pine Ridge in 1975; pursued in what the Bureau itself termed "the
biggest manhunt in history", and convicted in what turned out to be a sham
trial, Peltier is currently serving a double life sentence. (See, "The
Ordeal of Leonard Peltier", by William M. Kunstler]

     More to the point than this transparent rationale for inaction is the
case of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. A young Micmac woman working with AIM on
Pine Ridge, Aquash was told outright during the fall of 1975 by federal
agent David Price (who was involved in the assassinations of Mark Clark
and Fred Hampton [Black Panther leaders] in Chicago in 1969, and who has
been involved more recently in paramilitary operations against the
Republic of New Afrika) that "You'll be dead within a year". Aquash's body
was found less than six months later, dumped in a ravine in the northeast
quadrant of the reservation. A pathologist hired by the government
determined her death as being due to "exposure." An independent
pathologist readily discovered she had died as a result of a .38 calibre
slug entering the back of her head at a pointblank range. [ATS Note:
Recent events and allegations have implied that Anna Mae Aquash's
murderers were AIM members. See August 1995 interview with Robert Robideau
for more information. Of course, FBI involvement in her murder is highly
probable but likely of a different nature than what is described above.]

     Nor is Pine Ridge the only locale in which this clandestine war has
been conducted. Richard Oaks, leader of the 1970 occupation of Alcatraz
Island by "Indians of All Tribes", was gunned down in California the
following year. Shortly thereafter, Hank Adams, a fishing rights leader in
Washington state, was shot in the stomach. Larray Cacuse, a Navajo AIM
leader, was shot to death in Arizona in 1972. In 1979, AIM leader John
Trudell was preparing to make a speech in Washington, DC. He was told by
FBI personnel that, if he gave his speech, there would be "consequences".
Trudell not only made his speech, calling for the U.S. to get out of North
America and detailing the nature of federal repression in Indian country,
he burned a U.S. flag as well. That night, his wife, mother-in-law, and
three children were "mysteriously" burned to death at their home on the
Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada.


     What has been related here is but a tiny fraction of the full range
of events-facts intended only to illustrate the much broader pattern of
covert activities directed against the American Indian Movement for well
over a decade. It is hoped that the reader will attain a greater
appreciation for the similarities between the nature of U.S. clandestine
operations abroad and those conducted at home; the parallels are not
always as figurative as is commonly supposed.

     Further, it is hoped that the reader might become more attuned to the
"why" of such seemingly aberrant circumstances: that the liberation of
Native Americans fits well within the more global anti-imperialist
struggles waged elsewhere, as the quotation from Kwame Toure indicates.
AIM presents the same sort of threat to the U.S. status quo as do
land-based movements in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

     This situation, so little known in America, has been recognized in
locations as diverse as Nicaragua, Vietnam, Libya, Iran, Cuba, Mozambique,
Ireland, Palestine, and Switzerland, through the work of the International
Indian Treaty Council. It is high time that it was fully realized by those
among the broad progressive [sic] opposition within the United States

     For those who desire further and more detailed information, the
following are recommended as excellent additional readings:

Brandt, Johanna, "The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash", James Lorimer
and Co., Toronto: 1978.

Churchill, Ward, and Vander Wall, Jim, "Agents Of Repression: The FBI's
Secret War Against The Black Panther Party And The American Indian
Movement", South End Press, Boston: 1988.

Churchill, Ward, and Vander Wall, Jim, "The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents
>From The FBI's Secret Wars Against Dissent In The United States", South
End Press, Boston: 1990.

Johanssen, Bruce, and Roberto Mastas, "Wasi'chu: The Continuing Indians
Wars", Monthly Review Press, New York: 1979.

Mathiessen, Peter, "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse", Viking Press, New York:
1983. New release with epilogue, 1991.

Messerschmidt, Jim, "The Trial of Leonard Peltier", South End Press,
Boston: 1983.

Wyler, Rex, "Blood of the Land: The U.S. Government and Corporate War
Against the American Indian Movement", Everest House Publishers, New York:

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