A widely respected Indian rights advocate has called for a congressional investigation of South Dakota's only House member, William J. Janklow.
Hank Adams (Assiniboine-Sioux) wrote to House leaders on Jan. 7, asking for "an inquiry into the moral Constitutional qualifications of William Janklow of South Dakota to sit as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives."
A member of the Frank's Landing Indian Community in Washington, Adams was an architect of the treaty fishing rights victories and other key policies. When Congress established the American Indian Policy Review Commission in the mid-1970s, he was selected to chair its premiere task force on treaties and trust responsibilities.
Adams requested that Speaker Dennis J. Hastert, R-Ill., Majority Leader Thomas DeLay, R-Texas, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seat Janklow in the 108th Congress, but only provisionally, pending an inquiry. His request has not been acknowledged and the Republican representative has been sworn in with the other members.
Janklow was state governor for the past 16 years and attorney general for four, and began his career 30 years ago as a legal aid lawyer on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation.
He clashes with most Indian advocates over his efforts to limit tribal sovereignty and do away with tribal court and law enforcement jurisdiction over non-Indians. He is not without Indian friends, most notably Oglala actor Russell Means, who shares Janklow's Indian policy views and whose felony conviction Janklow just pardoned.
Adams asked the House leaders for a qualifications inquiry into four areas:
1. "Did Mr. Janklow rape or sexually assault Jancita Eagle Deer, a minor and legal infant in his custody and care, on or about January 13, 1967, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota?"
2. "Has Mr. Janklow persistently misrepresented to the public the nature of his offense against another minor female, as charged in juvenile criminal proceedings against him in Moody County, South Dakota, preceding his premature departure from high school and his floater enlistment in the U.S. Marines?"
3. "What was the nature and complete record of actions of Mr. Janklow, as state Attorney General - including police communications under his custodial care and purview - on June 26, 1975, in Pierre, Hot Springs and Oglala on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota - and under what varied claims of authority did he act? Did Mr. Janklow subsequently abuse his office and records control to effectually deny due process and equal protection of the law, as well as a fair trial and justice itself, to a citizen of the United States: Leonard Peltier?"
4. "Did Mr. Janklow, successively as Attorney General and as Governor of South Dakota, derelictly fail in official duties for acting to secure justice for a foreign national, Anna Mae Pictou Aquash, whose murdered remains were found on February 24, 1976, in the state of South Dakota - and whose murder is yet unprosecuted to date?"
Adams noted the existence of "previously withheld documents and records" that should come under House jurisdiction "for a caring review in adjudging Mr. Janklow's qualifications."
Independently, a law student at Catholic University in Washington has launched a campaign for prosecution of Janklow. David J. Harris, a Yale graduate in American Studies, grew up on the Rosebud Reservation and is adopted into the extended family of the late Jancita Eagle Deer.
On Jan. 2, Harris wrote to U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, suggesting that he "prosecute Mr. Janklow for the crime of assault with intent to commit rape and carnal knowledge of a female under the age of sixteen years and all crimes concordant."
He submitted "evidence relating to the alleged rape of Jancita Eagle Deer by William Janklow on January 13, 1967, for which he was disbarred in Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court on October 31, 1974 by Judge Mario Gonzalez." Gonzalez (Oglala Lakota) now serves as Tribal Attorney for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, whose Pine Ridge Reservation touches Rosebud.
"In his disbarment order of October 31, 1974," continued Harris, "Judge Gonzalez writes that Ms. Jancita Eagle Deer Sheldahl testified under obvious emotional difficulty that she had been raped by William Janklow, and that he threatened her life with a gun. Portions of her testimony were corroborated by her high school guidance counselor, her foster parents, a rape examination and a BIA investigator." All that leads Harris to believe that "we are well beyond the islet of uncorroborated testimony of a ravished woman."
Earlier, Harris wrote to Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg, on Dec. 23, 2002, "suggesting that an investigation into Jancita Eagle Deer's death commence forthwith." She was "struck by an oncoming car near Aurora, Nebraska, while outside of a vehicle on April 4, 1975 and died. This was hundreds of miles away from where she lived, and only a few months after she had testified in Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court that she was raped at gunpoint by William Janklow."
Harris informed both Ashcroft and Stenberg that he has "additional recently executed affidavits, which are stored in a bank vault and with friends of mine in the media and legal academy and will be turned over to your office, provided guarantees can be made by you for the witnesses' safety."
Stenberg declined to investigate by letter of Dec. 31, 2002: "We are concerned that you are attempting to use our office to instigate an investigation based on rape allegations which were long ago thoroughly discredited. Moreover, none of the materials which you provided to us even begin to establish that any crime was committed in the State of Nebraska by anyone."
Harris is seeking support from members of Congress for an investigation based on the new evidence. He also has notified the Clerk of the Supreme Court that Janklow was disbarred by the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court and, in accordance with the high court's rules for recognition of any court of record's disbarment action, "should be suspended from practicing before the Supreme Court of the United States."
Harris says he "will not be satisfied with anything short of federal prosecution."
Adams says he wants Janklow "to know that he enters my Congress with Jancita and Anna Mae seated with him - and that neither has pardoned him at all or in any degree - nor have I. Of course, I don't have authority for pardoning anyone, but I do have a right to petition the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives."
Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, is president of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C., and a columnist for Indian Country Today.