Ghost Dance

Activists still wonder if Standing Deer died in a plot by the feds or Indian foes or for no reason at all

It was Standing Deer and the ancestor, the slain man's loved ones believe. It was a signal that he had finally made it to the spirit world.

Standing Deer's friends and family are convinced that someone sent Smashed Ice to kill him. Some believe it was the work of the feds, others believe it was Indians. Inside prison, they say, he was protected. Outside, he was an easy target.

Krull was one of the last to see Standing Deer before he died.
Krull was one of the last to see Standing Deer before he died.
Smashed Ice left for Houston without even a change of socks.
Smashed Ice left for Houston without even a change of socks.

The FBI denies any involvement.

"I can say categorically that the FBI has not been involved in any plot to murder any individual as part of any conspiracy to either kill Leonard Peltier" or Standing Deer, says FBI spokesman Bill Carter. "The FBI does not operate illegally."

Paul DeMain, the editor who believes Peltier is linked to the Aquash execution, wonders if there isn't another reason behind the Deer's death.

"The light that goes off on my head is a security breach, to tell you the truth," he says. "Somewhere in this story…Standing Deer talked to someone and said something about the wrong thing."

DeMain says all of the AIM leaders who were once together in the '70s have enough inside knowledge about Wounded Knee and the agents' murders to destroy each other's reputations, or even threaten each other's lives.

"There are spiritual alliances, there are warriorhood alliances," DeMain says. It boils down to the Lakota word for extended family, tyopse. That plays "a huge role in what people are willing to do for other people," DeMain says. "It's got to do with family honor."

Unlike Peltier, Crow Dog and Iron Moccasin, Standing Deer was not Lakota. But he always backed Peltier. He signed an affidavit and went public with his story about the blue-eyed stranger in Marion. After his release, he joined Peltier's committee and continued the fight to overturn the conviction.

That's what makes his reported comment to a friend so strange, shortly after his release from prison. The associate, who asked to remain anonymous for saying something akin to treason, once asked Standing Deer if he thought Peltier really did kill those agents.

Standing Deer's quoted response may mean nothing -- or may explain a lot:

"I don't know."

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