Anna Mae Aquash was a Native American activist from the Micmac tribe in Nova Scotia, Canada. She was a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the early l97Os as both a public speaker and a participant in a number of demonstrations, including a protest against the Mayflower II celebration in Boston (1970), the Trail of Broken Treaties (1972), and the armed reoccupation of Wounded Knee (1973).
The following document is a transcript of Aquash’s statement to the Court of South Dakota, made after her arrest and interrogation by the FBI regarding fellow activist Leonard Peltier, who was wanted tor the murder of two FBI agents. The FBI had arrested and interrogated Aquash a number of times throughout 1975, including one in which she was allegedly told she would not live out the year it she did not give up the information they wanted. Aquash claimed to have no information about Peltier. She was murdered in late 1975, and her body was discovered along a stretch of highway in South Dakota in February 1976.
As indigenous people we look at our relationship to the United States government and we look at our relationship to the land, our obligations to the land. Our obligations to our people are stronger than our obligations to the United States government. The United States government is barely 200 years old, the land and our people go back 100 thousand years. The federal government chose to prosecute us because we chose not to betray the People.
We are surprised the American public can sit back and accept the conduct of various agencies of the federal government such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. All we must do is look at the conduct of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the last 10 to 15 years, the attacks against the Blacks, the attacks against Martin Luther King, Jr., were of the same nature as the attacks against the so-called Black militant, Fred Hampton, the attack against the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party.
Look at the Congress, the elected government of the United States. They are thoroughly intimidated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation because the Federal Bureau of Investigation has investigated all of them. They are powerless to stand up to the lawlessness. They are victims of their own hypocrisy. Look at the burglaries and the murders and the suicide notes and the death threats. Look at the conduct of this activity. We watch a non-political election take place in 1976 when the politicians were saying that the public was apathetic and they didn’t know why. What could they do about this apathetic public? They claimed innocence, ignorance of the reasons.
Look back over the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the civil rights movement, that was a political alternative to racial equality economically. Coming from the people. The federal government through the FBI paid provocateurs infiltrated the civil rights movement and waged political warfare. The anti-war movement was again another political alternative to war. It was the people expressing themselves and the FBI chose to attack. The American Indian Movement is a religious political alternative to our people and the government chooses to attack.We view this as no more than repressive activity designed and implemented to prevent the growth of new political and social ideas from the people. To make the people afraid to stand up and speak their ideas and their minds. We take all things into consideration and we think it is time the people of the United States, the people of America to evaluate their position. It is time a decision be made as to whose rights are more important: the rights of the people or the rights of the government. It is time to be realistic about the future.
As the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere, we look at our land and we look at our technology, and we understand technology needs things like uranium and coal and oil and we know many of these things are on our land. We know this is a justification and a reason for the federal government to attack us, because by attacking us, they intend to get to these natural resources. They want to take them by destroying our resistance. They want to destroy our culture. They want to destroy the idea of freedom. They want to make us the same as the white people. They want to make us the same as the black people. They want to make us feel powerless. They want to destroy our spirit. They want us to not understand our natural relationship to the earth and our relationship to our spirit. They want us to continue to give respect and validity to their forms of power, their laws and their guns and their bombs. They do not want us to ever recognize that these things are not things of power, these are tools of repression. These are instruments of violence.
True power is natural. A blizzard is a natural true power, a tornado and a hurricane and an earthquake. These things of natural power that come from earth are powers that man cannot control. The federal government does not want us to recognize that as people we carry this natural power within us. They do not want us to recognize collectively our natural power is as strong as the artificial power they possess. They want us to be intimidated. They want to separate us by race. They want to separate us by class. They want to separate us by sex. That is why they put Leonard Peltier on trial and convicted him. That is why there have been 562 indictments from Wounded Knee. That is why every member of the American Indian Movement has been to court in the last five years.
It is time for the people to stand for what they believe in. It is time to bring a halt to the criminal practices of federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is time to bring back honor and respect. It is time to bring truth back into our daily lives.
It is time for us to understand the problems that confront us are not problems created by color of skin. Our race is a thing that is used. The problems that we must deal with, the problems that we must confront, are ones of values. It is the values that make us what we are. The white people have not practiced the manifest destiny mentality because they have white skin. They practiced thus and they believed it because their Christian values told them that it was alright. So it is time that we look at our values.
It is time that we think of liberation. It is time to pray for the People. It is time to make a decision on what we morally believe to be right and what we morally believe to be wrong. It is time to live by those moral beliefs even if it means we must be unpopular, even if it means we must be attacked.
It is time to show strength for what we believe to be right. We ask the people who read this, we ask that they support us. We ask that they be fair. We ask that they be objective. We ask that the people who read this help us find justice. For by helping us, they can help themselves, and by helping themselves, we can save the People. We ask the people reading this to help us free Leonard Peltier. We ask that the people reading this help us to free the Indigenous People.
I am part of this creation as you are, no more and no less than each and every one of you within the sound of my voice. I am the generation of generations before me and the generations to come. I was born and cut free from my umbilical cord. I was nurtured by my Mother. I learned to walk, run and speak. I have travelled throughout this Universe and have been only a minute part of this Creation. And from this I have learned what is my freedom.
For every agreement made between the societies of this Universe, I have made but only one to this Federal Court of Pierre, South Dakota, that being: that I shall return on the 3rd day of the month of October in the year of 1975 to enter my “plea,” which I consider is a belief rather than a “plea.”
I am being denied my right to participate in this Creation. That right being the freedom to come and go as I please in this Universe. The reason given for this being that I have violated a Federal Law which is the illegal possession of a firearm whose serial numbers have been obliterated and/or removed. I shall contest the Federal Government of the United States for I feel that there is no law of governing that I have agreed to in this country with anyone.
I refuse to accept any man-made governing laws that cannot be enforced with fairness to everyone and their freedom. I believe in the laws of Nature which are being enforced without man himself. I do not believe in having to succumb to social, state, federal, or national laws unless I agree to recognize them first. I recognize the laws of Nature put before me in this Universe. If I fail to obey these laws of Nature then I shall face my punishment. My greatest punishment forced on me today is to be denied my right to participate in this Creation. To restrict my travel within your cement “block” is severing my participation.
If I have gone against this Creation—no man on this Universe holds the power to punish me other than the Creator himself. I have but only one power and it is my beliefs, which will exist among the confines of your “blocks” and into a world beyond yesterday and today.
You have been confining me and allowing your servants to strike me since I was the age of 7 years old. Yes, I have been beaten, ridiculed, and restricted since that age. You are continuing to control my life with your violent materialistic needs. I do not realize your need to survive and be a part of this Creation—but you do not understand mine and therefore I refuse to and I will not issue a plea of “guilty” because you are in the majority. My Creator is not the majority.
I have disciplined myself for 30 years and have altered by participation in this Creation so that you can also exist. You have no discipline over yourself in allowing others to survive. I have travelled throughout this country and I have observed your undisciplined military servants provoke those whose rights are the same as yours. I shall continue to discipline myself and appear before you against my desire of unrestricted travel. I shall not ignore you but will face you and I expect the same guarantee that I agreed to before returning here again to settle this. I want to review the indictment passed by the GRAND JURY and to request that the Government of the Dominion of Canada in my court, if you are considering me a federal violator.
I am not a citizen of the United States or a ward of the Federal Government. Neither am I a ward of the Canadian Government. If I have taken from the United States or Canadian Government anything for my survival it was only in respect for the disciplinary restrictions I have maintained for 30 years to allow you to survive too. I refuse to be punished because of your inability to enforce a governing system that I have not agreed to. Your preconceived or premeditated acts of establishing power to control this Universe should never be enforced by weapons with serial numbers. I have a right to continue my cycle in this Universe undisturbed. l have never denied your right to survival.
Statement to the Court of South Dakota September, 1975