FBI Refuses to Open Cold Cases on Pine Ridge Reservation
US Attorney Johnson to Visit
by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents
April 20, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS – In a letter dated March 16, Tom Poor Bear, vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and James Toby Big Boy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, wrote a letter to US Attorney Brenan Johnson of the District of South Dakota asking him to "demand the FBI and BIA Division of Law Enforcement to reopen and (re)investigate the unsolved and largely uninvestigated murders" that occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Many of these murders date back to the 1970s. Soon after the conclusion of the 71-day siege of Wounded Knee, people began to disappear and never seen again. Many were discovered murdered. Low estimates of those murdered number in around 60; other maintain there were hundreds of Indians murdered.
Many of the individuals murdered were members or supporters of the American Indian Movement.
In a telephone conversation on Thursday with Kyle Levon, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis FBI Division, the Native News Network has learned that office has yet to see the letter from the Oglala Sioux officials and there will not be an investigation of the cold case murders that date back the 1970s and others that have occurred in recent years.
“Absent of new information, the FBI will not be opening any of the cases involving homicides cited in the 2000 FBI report,” stated Levon. "If new information or evidence surfaces, which is pertinent to the FBI, we will investigate it.”
The FBI report alluded to by Levon was released in May, 2000. The summary of the report reads in part:
In December 1999, the South Dakota Advisory Committee of the United States Commission on Civil Rights (Commission) held a community forum in Rapid City, South Dakota to discuss the criminal justice system and how it impacts Native Americans. These allegations were proffered during the hearings and the Commission was sufficiently impressed by them to incorporate the allegation in its findings. (See Native Americans in South Dakota: An Erosion of Confidence in the Justice System, March 2000; p.38)
Shortly after the forum, the FBI received a list of 57 names with allegations that their deaths had not been investigated. This list came from a number of media outlets and for the first time, provided the FBI with specific information to address. We reviewed our records of these deaths and found that most had been solved either through conviction or finding that the death had not been a murder according to the law.
This past Monday, the Oglala Sioux Tribe received a response from US Attorney Johnson, who indicated he would arrange a meeting with tribal officials in mid-May to determine what, if anything, could result in the reopening the investigation.
“There are more than the 57 some murders usually mentioned,” said Big Boy in a telephone call conversation with the Native News Network late Thursday night. “People have been missing for twenty-some years. I got a call just today from a tribal member who is calling for justice.”
Tribal officials are asking family members or friends of the murder victims to contact James Toby Big Boy at 605.454.6740.