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The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country

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In 1976 the body of Anna Mae Aquash, an American Indian luminary, was found frozen in the Badlands of South Dakota—or so the FBI said. After a suspicious autopsy and a rushed burial, friends had Aquash exhumed and found a .32-caliber bullet in her skull. Using this scandal as a point of departure, The Unquiet Grave opens a tunnel into the dark side of the FBI and its subve In 1976 the body of Anna Mae Aquash, an American Indian luminary, was found frozen in the Badlands of South Dakota—or so the FBI said. After a suspicious autopsy and a rushed burial, friends had Aquash exhumed and found a .32-caliber bullet in her skull. Using this scandal as a point of departure, The Unquiet Grave opens a tunnel into the dark side of the FBI and its subversion of American Indian activists. But the book also discovers things the Indians would prefer to keep buried. What unfolds is a sinuous tale of conspiracy, murder, and cover-up that stretches from the plains of South Dakota to the polished corridors of Washington, D.C. First-time author Steve Hendricks sued the FBI over several years to pry out thousands of unseen documents about the events. His work was supported by the prestigious Fund for Investigative Journalism. Hendricks, who has freelanced for The Nation, Boston Globe, Orion, and public radio, is one of those rare reporters whose investigative tenacity is accompanied by grace with the written word.


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In 1976 the body of Anna Mae Aquash, an American Indian luminary, was found frozen in the Badlands of South Dakota—or so the FBI said. After a suspicious autopsy and a rushed burial, friends had Aquash exhumed and found a .32-caliber bullet in her skull. Using this scandal as a point of departure, The Unquiet Grave opens a tunnel into the dark side of the FBI and its subve In 1976 the body of Anna Mae Aquash, an American Indian luminary, was found frozen in the Badlands of South Dakota—or so the FBI said. After a suspicious autopsy and a rushed burial, friends had Aquash exhumed and found a .32-caliber bullet in her skull. Using this scandal as a point of departure, The Unquiet Grave opens a tunnel into the dark side of the FBI and its subversion of American Indian activists. But the book also discovers things the Indians would prefer to keep buried. What unfolds is a sinuous tale of conspiracy, murder, and cover-up that stretches from the plains of South Dakota to the polished corridors of Washington, D.C. First-time author Steve Hendricks sued the FBI over several years to pry out thousands of unseen documents about the events. His work was supported by the prestigious Fund for Investigative Journalism. Hendricks, who has freelanced for The Nation, Boston Globe, Orion, and public radio, is one of those rare reporters whose investigative tenacity is accompanied by grace with the written word.

30 review for The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country

  1. 5 out of 5

    Pabgo

    I remember the unrest of the Pine Ridge Sioux inhabitants as something I followed as a young person back in the nineteen seventies. The occupation of the Wounded Knee historical site prompted me to subscribe to AIM newsletters, as well as delve into American history. The more I learned about the history of the treatment of Native populations, (as well as African Americans) the more I wanted to acquaint myself with non-western philosophies and history in general. This book is a riveting tale of I remember the unrest of the Pine Ridge Sioux inhabitants as something I followed as a young person back in the nineteen seventies. The occupation of the Wounded Knee historical site prompted me to subscribe to AIM newsletters, as well as delve into American history. The more I learned about the history of the treatment of Native populations, (as well as African Americans) the more I wanted to acquaint myself with non-western philosophies and history in general. This book is a riveting tale of a long unsolved murder of one individual, (one story, of many) that spiderwebs outward to connect to all of that history. That is not the end of the story though. It continues today. Read this book, as well as other reporting of the treatment of the indigenous populations of this continent. Then go to “Democracy Now” and listen to Amy Goodman’s voice in the wilderness reporting of how the Keystone Pipeline has effected this same group of people throughout the Drumpf years, and how the current COVID emergency continues to decimate the people’s culture, language, and, indeed, their physical existence. It started when Europeans first set foot on these lands hundreds of years ago, and continues to this very day. For those already familiar with these histories this is just another piece of the giant puzzle of the Judeo-Christian inspired, European-Imperialistic blight on this planet itself. For those who are not, read the book, turn to any page, find a name of a person, place, or organization, do a search, and read up on that topic; it might take you a lifetime, but eventually you will come to a cohesive world view of what the last two thousand years hath wrought, and why this book is relevant. The more things change...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    This is an excellent successor to Matthiessen's "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" and breaks ground well beyond that book. First, despite the most arduous FBI efforts to fight his every FOIA request, to do CIA-level blackouts on what it did release and more, Hendricks has more information at hand. He's got enough to make the quite proper judgement that what the FBI did to the American Indian Movement was unarguably part of the notorious COINTELPRO. And, it worked far better than against black civil r This is an excellent successor to Matthiessen's "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" and breaks ground well beyond that book. First, despite the most arduous FBI efforts to fight his every FOIA request, to do CIA-level blackouts on what it did release and more, Hendricks has more information at hand. He's got enough to make the quite proper judgement that what the FBI did to the American Indian Movement was unarguably part of the notorious COINTELPRO. And, it worked far better than against black civil rights group or the antiwar movement. That's because American Indians were and are a smaller demographic, and vis-a-vis black civil rights, AIM was the only "pot to whiz in" for Indians vs. multiple black groups. It's also because of the thuggish, illegally empowered tribal government at the Pine Ridge Reservation, the BIA that was in cahoots with it, and the white "hang em high" judges, state and federal alike. More than Matthiessen, even, Hendricks details that white thuggishness, while not looking quite as much as Pine Ridge. More than Matthiessen, Hendricks then looks at the results of all of this. AIM populated with a mix of snitches and agents provacateur, for whom he's got a lot of FBI-related info. A growing paranoia from all of this, that lead to other people being presumed to be snitches. And ultimately, the apparent AIM-condoned assassination of an Anna Mae Aquash. He also doesn't polish the apple of AIM leaders like Russell Means and Dennis Banks as much as Matthiessen. COINTELPRO-induced paranoia aside, and Hendricks' allowances for their pre-Wounded Knee prison time also aside, Hendricks shows both as relatively unsympathetic figures. That includes how, parallel to other liberal protest movements of the era, other than (obviously) women's liberation, sexism was fairly rampant. He also, without throwing him under the bus, does less apple-polishing of the central character of Wounded Knee II, Leonard Peltier. He still says that he should be freed, but indicates he has no doubts Peltier fired the coup de grace shots on both FBI agents.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ami Sahl Nicholson

    This novel covers the great many civil rights violations experienced the Native Americans in the 1960's and 1970's. In the early chapters, Hendricks discussed the murder of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a member of the AIM movement who was later feared to be an informant for the FBI. Aquash was a freedom fighter, and joined the movement to try to put an end to the injustices that plagued the people of South Dakota and the Pine Ridge Reservation. She was not an informant, and the FBI's role in her deat This novel covers the great many civil rights violations experienced the Native Americans in the 1960's and 1970's. In the early chapters, Hendricks discussed the murder of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a member of the AIM movement who was later feared to be an informant for the FBI. Aquash was a freedom fighter, and joined the movement to try to put an end to the injustices that plagued the people of South Dakota and the Pine Ridge Reservation. She was not an informant, and the FBI's role in her death is chronicled in the pages of this novel, along with many other deaths and wrongs that the FBI had a hand in covering up. Hendricks mentions the activities of Bill Janklow, an accused rapist and murderer who went on to become the governor of South Dakota. He also covers the murders of several people within or affiliated with AIM, including Ray Robinson, a civil rights leader from the 60s, who went to Wounded Knee in '73 and was never seen again. There are many pages dedicated the period in the early 70's when Dick Wilson was the president of the Sioux (for their sake, I'll say Lakota) of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and the government-protected corruption, greed, and theft that occurred during his term in office. Hendricks sued the FBI and other organizations within the government to gain access to the records that he built his book around, and there are nearly one-hundred-and-fifty pages of endnotes. It is thorough and intriguing journalism. There are a great deal of first hand accounts in this novel, and it is written so well that it is easy to feel like you were there. It will really make you think about the way our government functions - both now and in the past, and how our legacy as Americans is built on the death and cultural genocide of an infinite number of people. Anyone interested in stories of government conspiracy or the American Indian Movement will appreciate this book, and I highly recommend it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jo Stafford

    I've just finished this book and I'm seething with anger at the events Hendricks describes. This is a searing indictment of the FBI's creation of a poisonous atmosphere of paranoia in the American Indian Movement that had fatal consequences (as did the FBI's practically identical attacks on the Black Panther Party). In this fast-paced narrative, Hendricks combines his skills as an investigative reporter with his intense sympathy with the Lakota people to produce a work that details the injustice I've just finished this book and I'm seething with anger at the events Hendricks describes. This is a searing indictment of the FBI's creation of a poisonous atmosphere of paranoia in the American Indian Movement that had fatal consequences (as did the FBI's practically identical attacks on the Black Panther Party). In this fast-paced narrative, Hendricks combines his skills as an investigative reporter with his intense sympathy with the Lakota people to produce a work that details the injustices visited on the Lakota, particularly on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation. He is damning of the FBI, and with good cause. This book is an essential follow-up to Peter Matthiessen's magisterial In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rena Jane

    This is a great follow up to Peter Mathiasson's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. It goes into more detail about the FBI and BIA coverups of Anna Mae Aquash's death as well as the poorly conducted trial of Leonard Peltier, and brings all the unsolved murders and political machinations up to date. Steve Hendricks is a very brave and courageous writer, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for exposing the corruption of many of the leaders and politcal powers in Indian Country. This is a great follow up to Peter Mathiasson's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. It goes into more detail about the FBI and BIA coverups of Anna Mae Aquash's death as well as the poorly conducted trial of Leonard Peltier, and brings all the unsolved murders and political machinations up to date. Steve Hendricks is a very brave and courageous writer, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for exposing the corruption of many of the leaders and politcal powers in Indian Country.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kate Walsh

    Reads fast, with some absolutely hilarious moments, but overall, a bit frightening and depressing. Schizophrenic CIA agents, rogue BIA bureaucrats setting up their own roadblocks, citizen's arrests, shootouts, deception, and proof positive that the FBI is completely out of control. Reads fast, with some absolutely hilarious moments, but overall, a bit frightening and depressing. Schizophrenic CIA agents, rogue BIA bureaucrats setting up their own roadblocks, citizen's arrests, shootouts, deception, and proof positive that the FBI is completely out of control.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Rutledge

    Important info before you read this book... So, I've learned over the last few years that I really enjoy true crime. Which is what this is, but instead of a linear narrative, it's many smaller events that point to a much larger issue. It does not follow a single narrative, and it clearly states that on the cover. But I was always the kid that skimmed the directions before a test or assignment and if I would've actually carefully read them, I would have had an easier time completing the assignment Important info before you read this book... So, I've learned over the last few years that I really enjoy true crime. Which is what this is, but instead of a linear narrative, it's many smaller events that point to a much larger issue. It does not follow a single narrative, and it clearly states that on the cover. But I was always the kid that skimmed the directions before a test or assignment and if I would've actually carefully read them, I would have had an easier time completing the assignment, possibly even earned an "A." It's not a bad book, just not really my style (amplified by the fact that it wasn't until I was maybe three quarters of the way through before I realized these were all different events [some related to each other and certainly supporting what Hendricks is attempting to expose] that didn't follow the typical beginning middle and end narrative that I expected. Sort of like I was waiting for all the people to meet, but their stories remained separate).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    So far, this is the best book I've read on AIM, the FBI, and Wounded Knee II. Steve did hard research for all parties involved. He didn't vilify any groups, but told the story based on his many interviews and research, and also let the reader know who rejected interviews, who withheld important information from him, etc. He has a nice writing style that brought the story to life. So far, this is the best book I've read on AIM, the FBI, and Wounded Knee II. Steve did hard research for all parties involved. He didn't vilify any groups, but told the story based on his many interviews and research, and also let the reader know who rejected interviews, who withheld important information from him, etc. He has a nice writing style that brought the story to life.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Estelle

    Eye Opening.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lance Richardson

    Essential reading.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stew

    The left-wing slant sometimes is distracting, but overall, Hendricks did a good job showing that there weren't many "good guys" in the sensational battles and incidents between the American Indian Movement and federal and tribal authorities in the 1970s. Journalists really aren't "unbiased." But they do have to be "fair" and Hendricks did his best to get everyone's point of view even though he clearly has no love for the FBI. He also did important work prying FBI documents out of the bureaucrats The left-wing slant sometimes is distracting, but overall, Hendricks did a good job showing that there weren't many "good guys" in the sensational battles and incidents between the American Indian Movement and federal and tribal authorities in the 1970s. Journalists really aren't "unbiased." But they do have to be "fair" and Hendricks did his best to get everyone's point of view even though he clearly has no love for the FBI. He also did important work prying FBI documents out of the bureaucrats in Washington. This book deserved more attention than it got when it was released in 2006. Now that a paperback version is out, readers interested in contemporary Native American history should seek it out. Stew Magnuson Author of The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder

  12. 5 out of 5

    Xarah

    I'm an archaeologist and have a lot of respect for Native Americans and their history. This book was hard to read and quite sad. While I knew that Indians have hard lives with trying to keep their culture while assimulating into the majority, it was surprising (though not very) that they still have been treated badly so recently. I find is hard to believe that people can treat others of a different culture in such a way. I can only hope that those who read this begin to understand that different I'm an archaeologist and have a lot of respect for Native Americans and their history. This book was hard to read and quite sad. While I knew that Indians have hard lives with trying to keep their culture while assimulating into the majority, it was surprising (though not very) that they still have been treated badly so recently. I find is hard to believe that people can treat others of a different culture in such a way. I can only hope that those who read this begin to understand that different cultures and backgrounds are not some to discard and treat without respect.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melle

    While the book's writing style did not match my reading style, I appreciated the author's honest and solid journalism, his decision to delve into a very important topic concerning modern Indigenous American history (and, indeed, all American history), and his utmost respect for the Lakota people and nation. While the book's writing style did not match my reading style, I appreciated the author's honest and solid journalism, his decision to delve into a very important topic concerning modern Indigenous American history (and, indeed, all American history), and his utmost respect for the Lakota people and nation.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Iroquois

    very informative. i din't even know that the govt had the laser technology to listen into conversations and spy even in the 70's. crazy. this book does areally good job of explaining the issues w/the govr, the BIA, and the tribal tragedies at wounded knee. it gets a bit convoluded in about the 3rd quarter, but overall it's very educational. very informative. i din't even know that the govt had the laser technology to listen into conversations and spy even in the 70's. crazy. this book does areally good job of explaining the issues w/the govr, the BIA, and the tribal tragedies at wounded knee. it gets a bit convoluded in about the 3rd quarter, but overall it's very educational.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lorna Rose-hahn

    Good writing, meticulous research. If you've ever wondered what happened on Pine Ridge Indian Res in the 1960s, what AIM is, why the Indian population continues to struggle today, or simply want a good nonfiction piece, read this. Good writing, meticulous research. If you've ever wondered what happened on Pine Ridge Indian Res in the 1960s, what AIM is, why the Indian population continues to struggle today, or simply want a good nonfiction piece, read this.

  16. 4 out of 5

    John

    Not very well written but informative about an engaging subject.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides

    Decided that the topic doesn't interest me enough right now to compete with all the other stuff on my list. Some other time, maybe. Decided that the topic doesn't interest me enough right now to compete with all the other stuff on my list. Some other time, maybe.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Youngblood

    Not a bad read. However its typical Indian propaganda against the FBI. Full of contradictions. The author uses his interpretation of events to suit his anti FBI agenda

  19. 4 out of 5

    Acacia

  20. 5 out of 5

    TR Aguilar

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shirli

  23. 4 out of 5

    William Cochran

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Perry

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maree

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kimber

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heather Sharfeddin

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tina Matuska

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brett Irvin

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