Revenge Served Cold

The Rape of Jancita Eagle Deer

Even if revenge is a dish best served cold, then Jancita Eagle Deer's was long overdue. But she got it, as much as she's ever likely to get, when a jury of his peers convicted Wild Bill Janklow of manslaughter for running down a white man improbably named Randolph Scott (in fact, after the movie star). Everybody, it seems, knows that story. The "defense" that he is a diabetic and hadn't eaten for eighteen hours, for example. As the jury said, if you are an intelligent, educated diabetic and you don't eat for eighteen hours, you are responsible for the result, especially if you are so negligent as to drive a car in that condition. Case closed. He was, after all, a white man.

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The case of Jancita Eagle Deer will never be closed, though. She was just an Indian, a fifteen-year-old girl whose white guardian raped her at gunpoint in 1966. The Indian family and friends who took her for medical treatment and provided what support they could urged her to file charges, but they also knew, as they told people later, "A white man raping an Indian girl is not news." Her mother Delphine attempted to get charges filed; Delphine was beaten to death and found in a field.

Jancita did, finally, file charges, encouraged by Dennis Banks and the leaders of AIM. A few months later, she too was dead. She had been beaten and, the autopsy suggested, thrown from a moving car. Staggering in the road, she was hit by another car and killed. The 1966 guardian's name was William Janklow, and he parleyed the rape charge into a successful bid for the attorney general's job in Mitchell. Such is the state of racism in South Dakota.

Whether Janklow raped Jancita Eagle Deer can't be proven, but the circumstantial evidence is strong. She "named him as her assailant," according to Dr. Kent Bergh, who was a physician at Rosebud and reviewed the medical records of her medical examination. (The affidavit filed by Dr. Bergh can be seen at Ishgooda.ORG, linked to a thorough discussion of the story.) She bore medical evidence of rape, and she had no reason to identify her white "benefactor" falsely in 1966, whatever her motives for reviving the claim in 1974.

As for South Dakota Assistant Attorney General Janklow, he was a few weeks from the election, running against the incumbent, who had just dropped the intended bombshell that Janklow had been accused of raping a teenaged white girl in 1955, when he was sixteen.

Janklow: "It wasn't rape; just the preliminaries."
Because he was a juvenile at the time of the case, the records were sealed, but Janklow's denial of the charge is interesting: It wasn't rape, he explained; "just the preliminaries to that sort of thing." This, along with his public suggestion that the solution to "the AIM problem" was "to put a gun to the leaders' heads and pull the trigger," swept him into the Attorney General's office, and he became the person responsible for enforcing law and ensuring justice in South Dakota. Such is the state of racism in South Dakota.

Eagle Deer waited eight years to file a formal complaint against Janklow. She actually disappeared from the reservation, unable to endure the social aftermath of the rape. There was no official interest in pressing charges. When the other rape rumor surfaced, Dennis Banks, the leader of AIM and a target for both Janklow and the FBI, found out about Eagle Deer and someone tracked her down. Banks and her stepmother, Delphine Eagle Deer, the sister of AIM spiritual leader Leonard Crow Dog, urged Jancita to come forward. Banks' motives may have been political, but there is no evidence that the charge was trumped up, and considerable evidence that it wasn't.

Federal and state authorities still refused to deal with the problem, but Rosebud Tribal Court Justice Mario Gonzalez ordered Janklow to appear in Rosebud Tribal Court for a disbarment hearing. This was similar to the Federal government intervening in murder cases in the South because the victim's "civil rights" had been violated. A disbarment proceeding against Janklow was the only punishment the Indian courts could make stick on a white man. The only penalty they could impose on a white man for raping an Indian girl was forbidding him to practice law on the reservation.

Janklow refused to appear, and Gonzalez issued a warrant for his arrest, charging him with assault and "carnal knowledge of a child." The warrant was issued three days after he was elected Attorney General. Two weeks later, Jancita Eagle Deer was dead.

Janklow had been arrested for a DUI on Crow Creek Reservation in February of 1973 (affidavit posted at Ishgooda.ORG). According to the arresting officer, Janklow was extremely drunk and naked below the waist.

Given Janklow's vigilante attitudes toward Indians and the risk Jancita Eagle Deer threatened, it is not idle to speculate whether he killed her or had her killed. Her death was one of dozens that occurred in the half-decade leading up the FBI confrontation at Wounded Knee.

Jancita Eagle Deer

Eagle Deer

Numerous web sites list the casualties of that period.

Jancita Eagle Deer was no crusading activist. Like Anna Mae Aquash, she was last seen in the company of an FBI informant. Unlike Aquash, who was also murdered, either by the FBI or by her own AIM comrades after the FBI convinced them that she was an FBI informant (she wasn't, but this was a standard FBI approach to getting rid of people they were unfortunately unable to prove anything against), Jancita was just a girl who got in the way of one of the more celebrated of South Dakota's racist immigrants, a white man destined for a stellar career representing the people of South Dakota. The white ones. A man with chits he could call in if he needed the help of his FBI friends.

Here is a thorough presentation of the events described above. In the death of Randolph Scott, Janklow was found guilty and sentenced to 100 days, time to be served in a county jail, and with permission to wander around outside after 30 days served. While he was in jail, the Republican National Committee handed him $900,000 to tide him over during his hard times. When his "punishment" was finished, he filed with the South Dakota Supreme Court to have his record expunged (after all, felons can't vote or hold office, even in South Dakota). The court was unable to find an excuse to accommodate him. Today, as far as I know, he is a free man. And Jancita Eagle Deer is still dead.

If only Randy Scott had been an Indian; it all could have blown over. Such is the state of racism in South Dakota.

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