Cherokee elder and urban Indian activist Jess Sixkiller, 78, was murdered at around 3 a.m. on September 25 at his home in Phoenix. His 79-year-old wife, hearing a disturbance, locked herself in another room and called 911. When police arrived, they found signs of forced entry and Sixkiller dead of a gunshot wound.
Janell Sixkiller, one of his four children, told gathered television reporters “This man was just a visionary…that was my dad…” She went on to say that her mother—married to her father for 58 years—was in palliative care for pancreatic cancer. "They gave her until December.”
Jess Sixkiller attended Yale University and Channel Five in Chicago reported he was "the first Native American officer in the (Chicago Police) Department.” Sixkiller went on to become the first Indian detective in Chicago.
He was the founder of the National Urban Indian Organization, and in that capacity he briefly got crosswise with some leaders of the American Indian Movement, as related in a narrative sympathetic to Sixkiller by Russell Means in Where White Men Fear to Tread.
Commenting on his passing, Dennis Banks told Native News Online, “Jess Sixkiller was a sincere man who wanted to help the movement.”
Sixkiller’s major contribution was to force open a conversation about the differing needs of urban Indians and to point out that the U.S. government’s goal of assimilation was being obstructed by discrimination. His history of ruffling official feathers when necessary led to online speculation about whether Sixkiller had been assassinated, but the Phoenix Police Department described the home invasion as “random.” Two days later, the police had no suspects.