John Graham

John Graham, native of the Yukon and father of eight who has been living quietly in Vancouver for several years, was charged in the U.S. on March 30, 2003, along with Arlo Looking Cloud, 49, with the first-degree murder of Anna Mae Aquash twenty-eight years ago.

Background (from John Graham Defense Committee)

There are many tragedies which resulted from the shootout on the Pine Ridge reservation and subsequent events of nearly 30 years ago. These include the deaths of Lakota people, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Canadian activist Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash.

In an effort to gain convictions for the deaths of the FBI agents, a continuing abuse of the justice system by the FBI has ensued, involving the fabrication of evidence and the use of false testimony and fraudulent affidavits. Perhaps the most infamous result of these tactics was the illegal extradition of Leonard Peltier from Canada to face charges for the deaths of the two agents.

Amnesty International has condemned the fact that the FBI knowingly used false evidence to obtain the extradition of AIM activist Leonard Peltier from Canada in December 1976.
~ Amnesty International – Statement on the arrest of John Graham, December 12, 2003

 "I'm haunted by the fact that I now think we seized an innocent man, with no valid Canadian arrest warrant, based on false evidence from the U.S."
~ Former police officer Bob Newbrook, referring to the extradition of Leonard Peltier

Warren Allmand, a former justice minister, and the judge who extradited Peltier later said they would never have agreed to his extradition had they known some affidavits and evidence presented by the U.S. were false.
~ As reported in The Province, December 05, 2003

While John Graham was not present at the actual Pine Ridge shootout, he was in the area at the time working with AIM as a junior security guard and assisting with routine activities. In the months following, AIM activists and other aboriginal people were regularly rounded up and interrogated, causing many to fear for their safety.

Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash was a friend and fellow activist from Canada. A Mi’qmak aboriginal woman from Nova Scotia, Anna Mae was also experiencing continued harassment by the FBI who believed she knew the identity of the shooter responsible for the FBI deaths. Several months after the shootout, after having expressed concern for her own safety to friends and family, Anna Mae was found dead on the Pine Ridge reservation, having suffered a fatal bullet wound to the head.

There are many questions that surround the death of Anna Mae, including the failure of the FBI agents to identify her while examining her body — even though they had interrogated her just weeks before. She was buried in an anonymous grave, and her hands were ordered cut off and sent to FBI Headquarters for identification. The FBI-led autopsy also failed to detect a bullet wound and bullet lodged in her cheek, blood-matted hair and blood stained clothing — prominent features which were immediately detected in a second independent autopsy — stating only that she had died of exposure.

An FBI-sanctioned pathologist missed the bullet hole in the back of her head and said she died of exposure. Still unable to identify her, Norman Zagrossi, an FBI regional supervisor based in Washington, DC, ordered her hands chopped off.  "Our experts in Washington suggested and told us that the proper procedure was to cut off the hands, put them in jars with formaldehyde and send them to Washington, which we did.  I never had before…"
~ As reported by the CBC's Fifth Estate,  November 08, 2000

It was a mutilation that even twenty-five years later outrages the native community.  A second autopsy with a different pathologist showed a bullet still lodged in her head. Zagrossi knew it looked like an FBI cover-up attempt, and he angrily phoned the first pathologist.  "It looked like we were involved, it looked like we were trying to cover something up when in fact we weren't," said Zagrossi.
~ As reported by the CBC's Fifth Estate,  November 08, 2000

Over the past decade, members of the FBI and BIA have made four trips to the Yukon to visit John Graham, asking him to identify Anna Mae’s murderer while offering him immunity from any related charges. They also warned that if John did not comply, they would in turn bring charges against him for the crime. During their fourth and last visit to the Yukon, the agents informed John that it would be the last time they would come to see him — the last chance to accept their offer of immunity. Living up to their promise, and after questionable interrogations of John’s co-accused, Arlo Looking Cloud, the FBI charged John Graham with the murder of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash.

Extraditing John

On December 1, 2003, John was arrested in Vancouver and will soon face an extradition hearing to stand trial for the charge of first degree murder.

The family and friends of John Graham, including numerous supporters, human rights and First Nation organizations, as well as the Honourable Yukon Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary Larry Bagnell, are calling on the Canadian government and all involved with this process to provide great scrutiny to the evidence presented in the extradition hearing.  

Amnesty is urging Canadian authorities to ensure that there is rigorous scrutiny of any evidence brought against him. If Graham should be brought to trial in the US, Amnesty International will seek assurances that his right to a fair trial is fully respected.
~ Amnesty International – Statement on the arrest of John Graham, December 12, 2003

We are deeply concerned about the safety of Mr. John Graham and the legality of the procedures in Canada.
~ Günter Wippel, Menschenrechte (Human Rights) 3000, Germany, December 14, 2003

 "My greatest fear is that the U.S. will use the same kind of flimsy and trumped-up evidence that they used against Leonard Peltier to justify the extradition of John Graham, a Canadian citizen, to the U.S.," said Amnesty International member Bob Newbrook, a retired police officer who arrested Peltier in Alberta in 1976.
~As reported in The Province, December 05, 2003

In the wake of the experiences of Maher Arar and comments by the American Ambassador Paul Cellucci that the United States will "do what it has to do" to protect U.S. national security — and that homeland security comes first even before respect be given to the Canadian passport — there is strong sentiment that Canadians do not receive the proper respect and consideration by the U.S.

We believe that should an extradition occur under questionable circumstances, the public reaction would be swift and highly critical of the Canadian government for allowing it.

Jennifer Wade, the founder of the Vancouver branch of Amnesty International who was at the extradition hearing of Leonard Peltier – another man connected to Pictou-Aquash – says Canada will make the same mistake if it extradites Peltier's friend, John Graham, for the murder of their colleague, Pictou-Aquash.
~ As reported by the CBC NEWS, December 04, 2003

Our Position

Given the history of documented judicial abuse by the FBI in numerous cases directly related to the case against John Graham, we call upon all those involved with this matter and all those who believe in truth and justice to oppose the proposed extradition of John Graham.

The evidence and testimony to be presented is largely circumstantial and may well be the result of continued coercion and fabrication. Given the results of the Arlo Looking Cloud trial (see "The Four-Day Trial of Arlo Looking Cloud" for more information), it is our belief that John Graham will not receive a fair trial should he be extradited to the United States.

We all grieve the tragic loss of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, and we do hope the truth about her death and many others will someday be known. 


Native Youth Movement – Statement on the Arrest of John Graham

February 7, 2004

On Monday, December 1, 2003, John Graham was arrested in Vancouver, Canada. He is charged by the FBI with the 1975 murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, a Mik’maq from Nova Scotia whose frozen body was found on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota.

Presently free on bail, John Graham faces extradition to the US.

At this time, the Native Youth Movement (NYM) Vancouver feels it necessary to state its position in regards to this case.

Anna Mae has been an inspiration and example to our movement for many years. She symbolized the warrior spirit and our people’s determination to resist. This is also the legacy of the American Indian Movement, to which she belonged.

It was because of this spirit that AIM was targeted by the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTEL-PRO) in the early 1970’s, and why so many AIM members in South Dakota were killed during this period, including Anna Mae Aquash.

If, as alleged, her killing was ordered by AIM’s leadership (under the pretext she was an informant), those ultimately responsible for her death are US government officials, including the FBI — for it was under their orders that a deadly counter-insurgency campaign was waged against AIM, which included portraying genuine movement members as informants.

This strategy was used to create paranoia and division, to turn members against one another (just as the FBI had done against the Black Panther Party). Anna Mae was herself the target of an FBI “bad jacket”. FBI agents had threatened to kill her in the year prior to her death. When her body was found, despite being on an FBI wanted list, agents had her hands cut off for fingerprint analysis. During the first autopsy, the government coroner determined the cause of death to be exposure, somehow missing the bullet hole in the back of her head.

Leonard Peltier, we recall, was extradited from Vancouver in 1977 under false evidence provided to Canadian courts by the FBI. He was subsequently tried and convicted for the 1975 shoot-out at Oglala, South Dakota, in which two FBI agents were killed. During this same incident, the FBI shot and killed AIM member Joseph Stuntz Killsright.

A basic principle of any resistance movement is non-collaboration with our enemy. As Peltier recently stated in regards to the arrest of John Graham:

“When we talk of sovereignty, we must be willing to solve our own problems and not go running to the oppressor for relief . . . We have been and still are at odds with the most dangerous, well-funded, strongest military and political organization in the history of the world [the US government].”

We must therefore oppose the attempt to extradite John Graham to South Dakota by US authorities, and denounce the efforts by certain individuals in our own community to facilitate this process.

In particular, we must clarify that Kelly White, a local (Vancouver) Native radio show host who has conducted an ongoing campaign against John Graham, has never been a leader, member, or advisor to the NYM. Furthermore, NYM Vancouver does not consider information provided by Ms. White to be credible.

In conclusion, no member of NYM was involved in the conflicts of the 1970s. We weren’t there. We cannot say with certainty that John Graham did — or did not — kill Anna Mae. We have neither the information nor witnesses at our disposal to make such a decision.

What can be said is that Anna Mae Aquash, along with many others, died as a direct result of her commitment to the struggle for her people. She is an example of all we aspire to be as a resistance movement. She was a warrior, a veteran of the 71-day siege at Wounded Knee in 1973, a community worker who helped set up schools and camps. She promoted traditional culture and spirituality. She gave her life for us, knowing all along the consequences. That is why she is called a Brave-Hearted Woman.

Whatever the result of any trials conducted in the court rooms of our oppressor — the same ones’ ultimately responsible for Anna Mae’s death — we will continue to advance in our movement towards victory, inspired by her memory and her spirit.

Native Youth Movement
Vancouver Chapter