Authors: Joseph H. Trimbach and John M. Trimbach
Publishers: Outskirts Press
ISBN: 978-0-9795855-0-0

Click Here To Purchase the American Indian Mafia: An FBI Agent's True Story about Wounded Knee, Leonard Peltier, and the American Indian Movement (AIM)

Many books, articles, documentaries, movies etc have been written concerning some of the events associated with American Indian Movement (AIM), however, with American Indian Mafia: An FBI Agent’s True Story About Wounded Knee, Leonard Peltier, and the American Indian Movement (AIM), John and Joseph Trimbach may have positioned themselves with contributing one of the most comprehensive texts pertaining to the controversies surrounding the topic.

Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt and others founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) in 1968 as an offshoot of a government funded anti-poverty program in Minneapolis. Its primary focus was to deal with the sovereignty of Native American Lands and peoples; preservation of their culture and traditions; and enforcement of all treaties with the United States.  It is doubtful if anyone at the time of its creation would have believed that AIM would eventually become involved in law breaking, murder, vandalism, and murder. Moreover, it is interesting to note that most of the criminal activities of some members of AIM were excused as being inextricably linked to the Native American struggle for survival. Challenging such behavior was not politically correct, particularly among the media where in most instances reporting was not exactly balanced and where it was common to fall back on arguments invoking warrior bravery versus government oppression. 

From February 1973 to June 1975, Joseph Trimbach served as Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the three-state area of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. As he and his son John state in their book, this was Joseph’s most emotionally and traumatic draining period of his FBI career. 

Joseph had the misfortune of having his tour of duty coincide with two of the most cataclysmic events in FBI history. The first was the gunning down of two FBI Special Agents, Ron Williams and Jack Coler, whom the book is dedicated to, and the second was the invasion, pillage and occupation of the Wounded Knee Village where eleven residents were taken hostage. The occupation lasted seventy-one days and was to become one of the most controversial incidents in American history.

The American Indian Mafia is divided into two books comprising fourteen chapters. Basically, its contents are combative and provocative presenting a unique and insider perspective pertaining to these historic events. In fact, each chapter can probably be best described as a stimulating standalone essay that commences with the murder trial of Arlo Looking Cloud in 2004 who was found guilty of aiding and abetting in the first-degree murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash in 1975.

What is noteworthy about the trial and which sets the tone for the rest of the book is that for the first time in thirty years secrets were revealed that had a profound effect in understanding what exactly the AIM stood for which was quite contrary to how the media had made it out to be. As Joseph states: “For many of us in the courtroom, the story of a young woman murdered in the prime of her life was a chilling reminder that she was not the only casualty from that period of violence. Indeed, some of the sworn testimony went far beyond the murder of the spirited 30-year old Anna Mae.” 

The second chapter explores the creation and duties of the FBI as well as setting the record straight pertaining to some of the misconceptions that were plentiful at the time of Wounded Knee at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Joseph argues that if J. Edgar Hoover were alive at the time of these catastrophic happenings, he would never have permitted his Agents to become bogged down in what amounted to a paramilitary operation.

From here readers are taken to the scene of Wounded Knee with detailed exposition spread over three chapters where we learn how a group of militant Indians and members of the American Indian Movement seized this small village. Hostages were taken, fires were set, homes and businesses were looted, and shots were fired at responding emergency crews and BIA policemen. At the end of it all, two occupiers were killed and two law enforcement officers were seriously injured. Homes, buildings and most of the village lay in shambles. 

The resulting trials and in particular those of Russell Means and Dennis Banks are subsequently given considerable ink as the authors persuasively describe just how the presiding judge, Frederick J. Nicol was incompetent and not quite fair-minded as some individuals would have us believe.

In their summation of the aftermath the Trimbachs convincingly argue that the AIM confrontation had become officially sanctioned by virtue of all three branches of government’s failure to hold the leaders responsible wherein the executive branch believed in appeasement, the Congress fail to deal with the abhorrent conditions on the reservation and the Judiciary’s misconduct with the behavior of Judge Nicol.  The remaining part of Book One deals with the real heroes. 

Book Two begins with a summary of some of the books that have been written about Wounded Knee and why they have failed to tell the true story. In addition, the authors take to task the government’s failure to record the events for posterity and sponsor legitimate study.  An entire chapter is then devoted to Leonard Peltier, who according to the authors has over the years enjoyed an almost cult-like following from people who should know better.

The ending of the book includes a comprehensive Timeline together with an Epilogue and an Appendix. 

One of the shortcomings of the book is its lack of content editing that would have addressed some of its unnecessary and long digressions. Nonetheless, I was still swept along as the authors elaborately touch on many important issues wherein they effectively capture the mood of the times as well as some of the misleading stories and distorted facts of the day.

At heart the book is an extraordinary intense chronological account of the major happenings that surrounded Wounded Knee where we have true reportage interwoven with history.  By the same token the authors have taken great pains in trying to educate readers about the complexity and intricacies of an era in history that seems to have all been forgotten. 

Click Here To Purchase the American Indian Mafia: An FBI Agent's True Story about Wounded Knee, Leonard Peltier, and the American Indian Movement (AIM)