THE STRANGE CASE OF WILD BILL JANKLOW
By Ward Churchill
"Covert Action" Summer 1985
"...joining the marine corps, he learned the tricks of his trade, to walk around quietly, and carry a hand grenade, so all you tourists who are south dakota bound, remember wild bill janklow just might turn you right around."--Jim Page 1979
William "Wild Bill" Janklow is the current governor of South Dakota. In 1955, at the age of 16, he was convicted of the sexual assault of a 17-year old woman. As a juvenile offense, this conviction carried little weight under U.S. law.
However, in 1966, while working as the tribal attorney for the Rosebud Sioux, Janklow--aged 27--was accused of raping his children's 15-year-old babysitter, Jancita Eagle Deer. Adult sexual offenses being more grave than this earlier recorded exploit, Janklow used his capacity as head of reservation legal services to stave off the (illegible) of formal, federal charges. He then resigned his position and left tribal jurisdiction.
Having progressed through the "mainstream" South Dakota legal system during the intervening seven years, Janklow achieved status as the state's Deputy Attorney General by the time of the 1973 American Indian Movement (AIM) occupation of Wounded Knee. Opting to run for Attorney General the following year, he undertook a campaign of hardline prosecutorial assault upon AIM members designed to win him the advantage of local headlines and support of South Dakota's virulently anti-Indian white citizenry.
AIM countered this offensive when organization member Douglass Durham discovered the old Rosebud rape files. AIM leader Dennis Banks secured the filing of charges and brought the case before tribal judge Mario Gonzales. Durham, meanwhile, had located Jancita Eagle Deer in Iowa, where she had resided since dropping out of high school shortly after the 1966 incident.
Durham was able to persuade Eagle Deer to return to the Rosebud in order to testify at the upcoming trial: Janklow refused to enter tribal jurisdiction either to stand trial or even to answer questions concerning the charges. Gonzales then issued a warrant for the arrest of the South Dakota Deputy Attorney General on charges of rape and obstruction of justice. Durham and Eagle Deer apparently became lovers; in any event she became his traveling companion. And, South Dakota being South Dakota, Janklow won his election by a landslide.
In his new capacity as Attorney General, Janklow introduced his anti-AIM campaign, winning a good deal of federal approval for his efforts and focusing his most lethal attentions on Dennis Banks (who had showcased the rape charges), rather than on Douglass Durham (who had discovered and pushed them). Said Janklow, "The way to deal with Dennis Banks is with a bullet between the eyes."
Regardless of his political stance, Janklow was and is a trained attorney, possessed of the usual legalistic logic accompanying the profession of law. His omission of Durham from his personal "hitlist," particularly given Durham's close relationship with the only witness who could categorically link him to the act of rape, seemed odd at the time. It was soon to be less so.
During the January 1975 AIM takeover of the Alexian Brothers Abbey in Wisconsin, it came out that Durham was a paid ($1,000 a month, cash) FBI informant. Since 1973, based largely on his superior performance in sniffing out the information about Janklow and in locating Eagle Deer, he had been selected to serve as head of AIM security. In this capacity, he had been privy to many of the private defense team meetings during the so-called "Wounded Knee Trials" of Russell Means and Dennis Banks.
Although the AIM leadership was acquitted in the trials, it remains true that no effort has ever been made to bring the prosecutors or responsible FBI officials to court on what amounted to flagrant perjury and contempt of court, as well as obvious attempts at miscarriages of justice. Both the government lawyers and the FBI denied under oath to the trial judges they had infiltrated the defense team.
Meanwhile, Durham dropped out of sight, with Eagle Deer in tow. Her body turned up in a roadside ditch in Nebraska in March 1975. While the official Nebraska State Police account lists cause of death merely as "hit-and-run," even their autopsy report indicates she had been beaten sometime shortly before being run over. Douglass Durham was never questioned in the matter of his companion's death. Rather, he was called as the sole witness before the House of Representatives' Internal Security Committee' "investigation" of AIM during the summer of 1975 to provide evidence that "the American Indian Movement is a terrorist organization." From there, he went on a national speaking tour arranged by the John Birch Society and endorsed by William Janklow, who had decided to run for governor.
Freed of the spectre of Eagle Deer's possible testimony against him in court, Janklow proceeded to secure a conviction against Dennis Banks--before an all-white jury--on charges of "rioting" in the face of a police assault upon AIM in Custer, South Dakota in 1973. Faced with a prison sentence under Jankow, Banks went underground. When he surfaced again, it was in California where the circumstances surrounding his case were deemed enough to warrant Governor Jerry Brown's granting of a sanctuary from extradition to South Dakota. (See sidebar.)
In the meantime, Janklow was possibly repaying certain debts to his clandestine benefactors by utilizing a federal ploy to dispose of other AIM thorns in the government's flesh. Notably, this centered upon the utilization of one of the FBI's "all purpose witnesses," a clinically unbalanced Lakota woman named Myrtle Poor Bear.
The major gambit was to bring AIM leaders Richard Marshall and Russell Means to trial for the 1974 slaying of a Lakota named Robert Montileaux in a (illegible) Scenic, South Dakota. The feds provided Poor Bear to "identify" the assailants as Marshall and Means while Janklow's prosecutors duly built a case around her "eyewitness" testimony. When it came out in court that Montileaux himself had stated, shortly before dying, that his killers did not include Rissell Means, Means was acquitted. Marshall, on the other hand, is now serving a life sentence in a South Dakota state prison.
Poor Bear was also used as an "eyewitness" in the federal cases brought against Bob Robideau, Dino Butler, and Leonard Peltier, the AIM members accused of killing two FBI agents on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation in June of 1975. Robideau and Butler were tried first, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They were acquitted, based upon general FBI misconduct in their case, including the fabrication of virtually all of Poor Bear's testimony (she turned out to have been 50 miles away at the time of the shootings, and never to have seen either of the slain FBI agents or any of the defendants).
Nonetheless, the FBI was able to utilize affidavits signed by Poor Bear (as an eyewitness to the deaths of its agents) in securing extradition of Leonard Peltier from Canada. The credibility of these affidavits was directly reinforced by the earlier showing of Poor Bear as a witness against Richard Marshall in South Dakota. Later it was revealed that the FBI held another affidavit signed by Poor Bear, not submitted to the Canadians, contradicting everything she said in the affidavits which were (sic).
Poor Bear eventually went on record recanting everything she had ever said regarding AIM's "criminal activities," including not only her testimony about Means, Robideau, Butler and Peltier, but about Marshall as well. In her later version of what happened, she asserted that she was held incommunicado for an extended period of time in a motel room near the Pine Ridge Reservation by a pair of FBI agents named Price and Wood. The agents explained to her taht she would "end up like Annie Mae" (Anna Mae Aquash, the Micmac woman assassinated on Pine Ridge in 1975, reputedly at the behest of agent Price) unless she testified to certain things in court. The agents then informed her of the details about which she was to testify, including those involved in the testimony she was to provide in the non-federal Marshall/Means trial.
First as Attorney General, and then as Governor of South Dakota, William Janklow has been successful in blocking a retrial of Richard Marshall, and forestalling inquirires into the nature of his office's relationship to FBI misconduct during the critical period. (For recent developments in the Peltier case, see "The Ordeal of Leonard Peltier," by William M. Kuntsler, in this issue.)
Over the years, the purposes of the secret war waged by the FBI and the Attorney General of the state of South Dakota against AIM have become clearer. For example, during 1975-76, the head of the federally imposed puppet government on Pine Ridge, Richard Wilson (head of the local death squads, known as "GOONs"), signed over approximately one-eighth of the reservation--without tribal consent--to the U. S. Park Service. The ceded area is believed to be rich in uranium and is suspected of being used to accommodate a high-level nuclear waste dump. The AIM people would have resisted such a land transfer. It was therefore necessary to tie them up in other matters or simply liquidate them.
Similarly, as governor of South Dakota, William Janklow has proved most accommodating to the sort of corporate penetration of the state which its inhabitants--red and white alike--have historically resisted. Only in appearing as the whites' savior from the "red menace" has Janklow been able to achieve a status which allows him to convert the area into what has been termed a "national sacrifice area." Under his handling, it has been estimated that a combination of energy extraction and the demands placed upon South Dakota's feeble ground water resources by industry will have rendered the western half of the state uninhabitable by the turn of the century.
William Janklow is the only known sex offender (and accused rapist) now occupying a U. S. governor's office. Had it not been for the intervention of the FBI in the form of its undercover agent, Douglass Durham, it seems possible that Janklow would have gone to the state prison rather than to the state capitol. Conversely, had it not been for the unabashed cooperation of Attorney General William Janklow, the reign of terror perpetrated by the FBI against the American Indian Movement would have been much more difficult to pull off.
On the basis of such symbiosis does the success of covert action depend. Not only the Indians, but the citizens of the entire state of South Dakota are now paying the price of this situation. Increasingly, however, we must all pay unless something is done, and done quickly, to prevent a recurrence.
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