Ernestine Chasing Hawk: A vendetta in the death of Anna Mae

Family members mourn at the gravesite of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. Photo courtesy of Denise Pictou Maloney

Vendetta for unrequited love?
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Editor

RAPID CITY –– When two young men were bullied into becoming accomplices to murder, did they realize they would become scapegoats in a much larger scheme to frame the leaders of the American Indian Movement in a vendetta for unrequited love?

An elaborate plot implicated an organization known as CoIntelPro (United States Government’s Counter Intelligent Program against dissent groups in the United States) run by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the assassination of a Mi’kmaq Native from Nova Scotia.

However, details about how Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, whose body was found in February of 1976 near the community of Wanblee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, died and who was responsible for her murder began to surface.

In 1994, Angie Begay, the ex-girl friend of Dennis Banks and also the 1975 girlfriend of John Boy Patton aka John Graham, convicted as the trigger man in death of Anna Mae, gave inside information to the former Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Law Enforcement Services, Robert Ecoffey, who at the time was the lead investigator in the Aquash murder case.

That information led the FBI to Arlo Looking Cloud, Troy Lynn Yellow Wood, Thelma Rios and several others who were identified as being present during the last days of Aquash’s life, and who were summoned to testify before a 1994 Federal Grand Jury.

An interesting twist to the saga is what Darlene “Kamook” Nichols, (ex-common law wife of Dennis Banks) tells Eric Konigsburg for his New York Magazine article titled “Who Killed Anna Mae.”

In 1999, when Nichols realizes the details of Annie Mae death are surfacing, she said she goes to the FBI. Fascinatingly she requests the presence of a man who once bequeathed his love for her, U.S. Marshall Robert Ecoffey.

“Basically, I needed the emotional support,” she tells Konigsburg. “He used to throw paper airplanes at me that said, ‘I love you,’ ” when the two were in grade school together.

In 1972 when the leaders of the American Indian Movement first came to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and the 17 year old Nichols is swept off her feet by the strikingly handsome Banks, perhaps young Ecoffey was still enamored with her.

In 2000, after agreeing to help Ecoffey, Nichols wears a wire, is given the code name Maverick and interviews about 10 witnesses, including Dennis Banks, Arlo Looking Cloud and Troy Lynn Yellow Wood. However there is no mention of her ever interviewing her aunt Theda Nelson Clark, who she grew up with in Scotts Bluff, Neb.

Read the rest of the story on the all new Native Sun News website: Vendetta for unrequited love?

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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