Man Arrested in Death of Indian Activist
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) _ In a case that has haunted South Dakota for nearly 30 years, police have arrested a man in the slaying of an American Indian Movement activist whose frozen body was found on the Pine Ridge reservation in 1976.
Authorities said Arlo Looking Cloud, 49, was arrested in Denver last week. He pleaded innocent Monday to a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, U.S. Attorney James McMahon said Wednesday in Sioux Falls.
Pictou-Aquash, 30, disappeared in late 1975 from a Denver home where she had been staying. Her body, with a gunshot wound to the head, was found in February 1976 on the sprawling reservation 90 miles east of Rapid City.
McMahon said he could not comment on the case or say whether more arrests are possible. The indictment of Looking Cloud remained sealed.
Because Pictou-Aquash was Canadian, the long-unsolved case has been closely followed in Canada. AIM leaders often cite the case and other unsolved slayings to suggest federal authorities don’t aggressively pursue murders on reservations.
Looking Cloud worked as a security guard at AIM events during the 1970s, said Paul DeMain, editor of the bimonthly newspaper News From Indian Country in Wisconsin.
AIM was beset by internal disputes at the time, DeMain said.
Pictou-Aquash, a member of Canada’s Mi’kmaq Tribe, was among the Indian militants who occupied the village of Wounded Knee in a 71-day standoff with federal authorities in 1973.
Some speculated she was killed by AIM members because she knew some of them were government spies, while others said Pictou-Aquash was killed because she herself was an informant. Federal authorities have repeatedly denied any involvement.
She disappeared from the Denver home of Troy Lynn Yellow Wood.
``She had been brought to my house as a place of refuge,″ Yellow Wood said in January. ``To hide, basically. That’s about all I can say.″
Indians have said for years that federal investigators and prosecutors knew who kidnapped and killed Pictou-Aquash. Several grand juries had investigated the case over the years.
A hearing was planned for Thursday to determine whether Looking Cloud should be brought to South Dakota to face charges. If convicted, he would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Bernice Bull Bear of Denver said she is Looking Cloud’s cousin and grew up with him on the Pine Ridge reservation.
``He’s a very good person. He’s a very gentle man. The children like him and he’s really good with my mother. He helps her. He’s not a bad person,″ she said. ``He’s never harmed anybody around here.″
Looking Cloud had been living homeless in Denver, she said.
Pictou-Aquash’s daughters released a statement saying they were pleased there had been an arrest. They said there were making contact with authorities in order to be part of the case.
``We have known for a long time that people have discussed amongst themselves the events that led up to her death, yet publicly have remained silent,″ wrote Denise Maloney Pictou of Ontario, Canada, and Debbie Maloney Pictou, who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.
``We are inspired with the actions of those who choose to courageously stand on their own and honor our mothers’ spirit with truth and integrity.″