Happy Birthday Blog: Annie Mae Pictou Aquash

Happy Birthday Blog: Annie Mae Pictou Aquash

Annie Mae Pictou Aquash

Born: March 27, 1945

Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, Canada

Known For: Indian Rights Activist

The story of Annie Mae Pictou Aquash, a Canadian-born Mi’kmaq Indian activist, is one of those all too frequent stories where she is known more for her death, and the controversy surrounding it, than her life. Born in Nova Scotia, Aquash was a First Nations activist who moved to Boston in the 1960s to work with American Indian activists.

While in Boston with her first husband and two children, Aquash eventually met members of the American Indian Movement (AIM). This led to a more prominent role in their activism. In 1972, she joined the Trail of Broken Treaties protest where marchers eventually overtook the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office in Washington, D.C. 

In 1973, she travelled with her partner to Wounded Knee and joined the Pine Ridge Reservation protest. For the next few years, Aquash travelled the country working with various American Indian organizations and groups, and participating in further protests. With several early releases from prison following arrests, rumors began to spread within the AIM movement that Aquash was an FBI informant.

By 1974, she had started a relationship with AIM leader Dennis Banks. Following a harrowing police chase from CA to Washington with AIM leader Leonard Peltier, Aquash returned to Pine Ridge to work with the Elders and Lakota people.

We will never know what Aquash could have accomplished through her activism because she disappeared in December 1975. In February 1976, a rancher found her body on the side of the State Highway 73. Though an initial autopsy claimed she died of exposure, a later one revealed she was shot one in the head, execution style. 

The story of her murder, a vast conspiracy of characters from the AIM movement spanning the last 4 decades, is better told in this NYT article. In short, the two men who murdered her were convicted in the last 20 years. There is still a lot of anger and distrust from her surviving daughters. 

In researching this blog, I am again reminded how little we know about Indigenous history, politics, and stories.

We wish Annie a very happy birthday, and encourage you to learn as much as you can about histories and people that you don’t know or weren’t taught about in school.

Learn more about Annie’s life here.

In my brief search, here are some books that might be useful in your education:

The Life and Death of Anna Mae Aquash by Joanna Brand

Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee by Robert Allan Warrior

Who Would Unbraid Her Hair: The Legend of Annie Mae by Antoinette Lora Claypoole

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




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